GG and Kate sat down, and we just stared at each other for a few minutes, lost in thought. The heat was unbelievable, it felt like somebody had opened an oven door. The only saving grace was the breeze coming up the beach.
“So where are the cameras and sound equipment then, you reckon?”
I looked at GG, and couldnt help but smile. In the days we had been able to get to know each other, I knew that he was at this moment in time more concerned about how he would look on camera, than the current predicament we were in. I smiled, and listened as he and Kate discussed the possible places a camera could be hidden, up trees, in bushes, in rocks…I closed my eyes, and placed an arm across my face to block the blinding light that wanted to melt my brain from the inside or so it seemed. The last thing I remember is the combined music of the sounds of the jungle from behind me, the surf in front of me, and the conversation beside me.
I woke, unsure at first where I am. Then the memory hits. ‘oh yeah…….I'm on an island ….’. I looked around, and couldnt see anyone. Still on the beach where it had been landed was all the gear we had been left with. I sat up, crossing my legs like a little schoolboy in assembly. The bag containing my gear, was a military backpack type. I decided that now would be as good a time as any to see just exactly what we had been given. I unzipped the side and top, and upended it, letting everything fall out. For someone like me, it was like Christmas came early. A quick scan of the contents of the bag told me that I had everything I could need, and then some. The first thing to get my attention, was a wooden case. When I opened it, I was surprised to find a watch. A very military looking affair, complete with black face, luminous hands and numbers, rotating bezel, the full works. I slipped it on my wrist and closed the clasp, wondering if the solid feel and look meant it was expensive or not. There was a 2foot long machete in its scabbard. A survival knife 7.5inches long. I looked at it closer, and realised that the screw-cap in the handle had been replaced with one with a compass built into it. Looking inside the handle itself, more treasure! A flint-stick and striker, fishing hooks, needles, thread, a small lens. On the sheath of the knife, was a whet-stone surface to keep the blade sharp. And what a blade. Razor sharp along the cutting edge, the cutting edge ended with a serrated section just before the hand grip. I put everything back into the handle, and screwed the cap back on. The rest of my ‘treasure’ spread out before me. 12metre bundles of paracord, sheets of water-proof fabric. A hammock. A drinking canteen, complete with cup/cooking pot that attaches to the base. A larger compass, more fishing equipment, even a divers mask for swimming….. I sat there, and despite everything, I couldnt help but grin. I was in boy-scout mode already.
I looked up, and saw Cammie and Father Flynn walking across the beach. She seemed to have calmed down in the couple of hours I had been asleep. I packed up my stuff, and shouldering the rucksack, walk down the golden sand to them.
“Hi both. Where is everyone? Do you know?”
Cammie shrugged her slender shoulders, and Father Flynn shook his head.
“I’m sorry lad, after we landed, I took young Cammie here for a walk to gather her thoughts, and when we came back, you were sleeping, and everyone else had gone. We were hoping you would know to be honest.”
As he had been speaking, I couldn’t help but look at Cammie and wonder why she had decided to do this island experience. Petite and waif-like were words that could have been created for her. For all intents and purposes, she looked as fragile as a fairy. Fairies were certainly something she believed in and embraced, that was for sure. Maybe she was looking for some sort of spiritual revelation here, in a new age kind of way…she met me gaze and gave a hint of a smile.
“What are you going to do And’?”
“Well, to be honest hun, I was gonna drag this stuff up to the edge of the tree line, then I was going to make a shelter for tonight, and after that, think about a fire and food. Remember what we were taught? ‘Basics first!’ wasn’t it? You feel like giving me a hand later?”
She nodded her head, and with a nod to Father Flynn, I started to shuttle the gear from off the sand to the edge of the beach. Within a few minutes, the sweat was pouring from me in torrents. Without realising, I drained a litre of water in less than 2 trips across the beach. Thankfully, aside from our rucksacks, there were 2 small pallets, one of cases of bottled water, the other of survival ration packs in long transportation cases. At least we wouldn’t starve.
Within an hour, everything was moved. Forgetting where I was, I laid down exhausted in the sand, and immediately regreted it. Sweat and sand do not mix well…..I drunk a few mouthfuls of water, and decided that the surf looked very inviting. To think is to act, to act is to do. Within seconds, I was swimming through water as clear as any swimming pool, but much warmer. The curve of the bay that we had been landed in was a natural lagoon. For the next hour, I spent my time playfully chasing fish around the rock outcroppings, watching what look like lobsters scurrying across a sea floor that looked close enough to touch, but would probably be about 15 to 20 foot down. I couldnt help but wonder if pirates had once been in this bay, or, more recently, if the Island had seen any violence during World War 2...
Floating around on my back, and looking back at the island, I couldnt help but want to thank the location people for picking this place for us. From where I floated, I could see the mouth of a stream a few hundred metres down the beach. Rising from the island itself, was the peak of a mountain, that seemed to rise up to the heavens. Lush green jungle stretched from the beach to the highlands areas, slightly further inland. Above everything, birds swooped and soared. I looked over my right shoulder, to where the sun was starting to make its journey down to the horizon. According to my new watch, it was 16:30, and from what we had been told, the evenings come quick in these parts of the world. Just as I was thinking I should go back and make my little camp for the night, I spotted Casper, Mary and Ash walking back up the beach. With regret, I started to slowly swim back in.
“Well, around that headland, is more beach and island, and trees. There is definite animal life here, because we could hear things moving in the undergrowth. We didn’t see any fresh water though, although there are plenty of coconuts…”
Casper, for all his rich exterior, was a decent enough bloke. He was the only person to thank me for moving everyone’s gear off the beach, and when I mentioned the fact that the bay was teeming with fish, it was his idea to see if we could catch some for dinner.
Within a few minutes, everyone present (myself, Father Flynn, Cammie, Casper, Mary and Ash) agreed that it would be best to make some sort of sleeping shelters for the night, just basic ones, and that tomorrow we could begin the whole process of ‘moving in’ to our new home.
I tried to remember the most basic yet comfortable shelter that I had been shown. A ‘hammock with a roof’ I think it was called. Picking two sturdy palm trees close to the beach, I started to begin the process of tying the hammock to first one, then the other tree, remembering to keep the hammock only a couple of foot off the ground…
“Can we put ours up by here too please And’?”
Looking over my shoulder I saw that GG and Kate had finally returned, and are stood with Cammie. Hell, the area I had picked was big enough, and nodding a yes, they quickly put their hammocks up too. We stretch paracord from the trees above the hammocks, and hang mosquito netting over them, suddenly turning them into semi-gothic looking sleeping quarters.
“Do you reckon we need to build a fire?” Kate asked when her ‘tent’ was done.
“I would. We don’t know how cold it could get later, and besides, it’ll be nice to have a log fire going. Who'll help me look for some?”
“We already beat you to it my friend….” replied GG from somewhere inside what looked like a jumble sale gone wrong. “…when you were getting your beauty sleep, me and Kate went beach combing. We got loads, and its all out on the sand. I would show you, but I think I am trapped…….”
From nowhere, Cammie burst into fits of giggles, enjoying the way GG had resigned himself to his fate and had just sat on the ground. Her laughter became infectious, and within a few minutes, we are all in hysterics. It probably had more to do with sleep deprivation and exhaustion than anything else to be honest, but, it was funny…
They had been right. By about 18:30, what had been a gradual dimming of the light suddenly became a race to get everything sorted before pitch blackness overwhelmed us. Bear had once told me, that in the wild, you should ALWAYS keep your knife to hand, and now I could see why. Having it strapped around my waist reassured me greatly. Knowing that everything I needed to make a fire was in the handle was a great peace of mind. The first strike against the flint-stick was nerve wracking, with everyone looking at me. Within seconds though, a small flame became a large one, and after a few minutes, water was being boiled, and the ration packs were being handed out. Like moths, the flames attracted the remains of the group. From wherever they had been hiding, Lilly and Darren returned, and from the way that they were looking at each other, it was soon obvious that at least they had spent their time since we arrived doing something other than something beneficial for the group…
I found myself, laying back on the sand, hands behind my head, completely at peace. For the first time in years, I had practically no worries. I wasn’t concerned about bills, or work, needing to be anywhere at a certain time. My only concern was getting too much sunburn, or running out of loo roll. The flow of the conversation around the fire was one of polite posturing. Casper was playing down how rich he was, Darren was making out that he was the ‘big man’ and that a year on an Island would be nothing. His new found best friend Lilly agreed with everything he said, getting to the point that she was rapidly becoming annoying. Cammie, sat on my right, was noticeable by how quite she was. Mary and Ash were having a discussion about classic films, and although I knew the answer to a couple of the things that they were confused about regarding facts/dates, I just couldn’t be bothered to get involved in that chat. GG and Kate, sat on my left, were trying to remember the places that they had seen cameras when they had been exploring earlier. The ever present little red dot of a camera was winking away a few meters away. It was weird, the way that I couldn't remember seeing any of the cameramen all day after we landed. With a grin, I wondered if they were trained to become invisible, and that the only time we would see them was at night, when the red light would give them away.
Looking straight up at the night sky, I was amazed at how I had never appreciated it fully before. Without warning, or any sort of query if it would be ok, Cammie placed herself next to me, and put her head on my arm, in the crook of my elbow. I didn’t know if my intake of breath had been audible or not, but there was no mistaking the way GG stopped in mid sentence….he was as shocked as I was. Moving my head very slightly, I looked over at him and Kate, and in the firelight, could make out two huge grins looking back at me…
“Are we allowed to do this?, you don’t mind do you?”
I was too taken aback to say anything other than a Chandler-esque “Yuh-hnn-uhhh…..”, prompting giggles from GG somewhere off in the darkness.
“….So, Andrew……when is bedtime for you then?”
If I could have, I would have thrown something hard at GG, because surprisingly, I was enjoying the fact that Cammie was laying there with me, and I didn’t want her to go. I couldn’t help but think ’oh crap, don’t become attracted to her..’, but, on a paradise island, under a sky that looked like it was sprayed with flecks of silver, with the sound of waves a few feet away, that thought may prove hard to adhere too….