A few years ago, I went with a bushwalking group on an overnight hike in the Cathedral Ranges State Park in Victoria. I had never been camping before and was excited by the prospect of it. Although I was pretty fit, climbing the steep inclines was challenging. They seemed to last for an eternity. I struggled under the weight of my enormous backpack and wished I hadn't crammed so much stuff in there. Because I am blind, I held on to a fellow walker's elbow for guidance.
Finally we arrived at our destination. After cooking dinner over a camp fire we settled in for the night. Late in the evening I was comfortably snuggled in my sleeping bag when I felt the need to go to the toilet. Reluctantly, I left the shelter of my tent and ventured towards a clump of trees.
On my return, I dropped the toilet roll and stooped to retrieve it. The toilet roll, however, had a mind of its own and meandered off into the night. After searching unsuccessfully for a few minutes, I resumed walking hoping I would soon arrive at my tent.
A long night
After a short time I began to worry. The clump of trees I had gone to had been very close to my tent. I realised that I must be heading in the wrong direction. Becoming increasingly anxious, I wandered around for a while, arms outstretched, calling out for help. My only reply, however, was the howl of the wind through the trees. My mobile phone was also in my tent.
At last I collapsed on the ground, exhausted, miserable and afraid. Thunder crashed overhead. The sky opened up and heavy drops of rain pelted down. Fortunately, I was wearing a jacket and plastic pants over my jeans.
It was a very long night. My muscles ached from the day's intense exertion but somehow I managed to doze off.
When morning arrived, I heard voices calling my name. They sounded far away. I got to my feet and yelled out.
Eventually my fellow campers found me and relieved hugs were exchanged. They guided me back to the camp site. I was surprised to discover how far I had wandered. Half an hour later, I was cradling a steaming mug of coffee and feeling significantly cheered. I had changed into dry clothes. The group were very kind and looked after me well.
Today, bushwalking continues to be a hobby of mine. I enjoy exercising and being among nature. My experience of getting lost, however, taught me some valuable lessons. When venturing alone into the bush, I ensure my mobile phone is always with me. My camping gear now includes a long coil of string to attach to my tent if I go out alone. If I lose my sense of direction I can follow the string back to the tent. Oh, and instead of toilet paper, I now take a box of tissues.
By adopting these measures, I hopefully will never get lost in the bush again.