Fear of the Unknown

9 Sep

written by the side of a lake. gas is leaking and food supplies dwindling. its miday and there;s one more day to go.

last night, if i had a pen in hand and had attempted to write, the only words I probably would have mustered are I’m Scared.

Jose slept with one eye open and had a knife clutche in his hand all night.  We had agreed to take turns at watch.  My shift would start at midnight and last until about three.

What had scared us so?

We met a fellow traveler, the first and only one of the week, whose story just didnt add up.  I was having a hard time crossing a river when a backpacker in the distance motioned to me that he knew of an easier place to cross.  I was alone with my guide a long way off.  He was wearing a gringo sweater and pants and I was a bit disappointed when I learned he was Peruvian, supposedly from the coast.  I had been looking forward to speaking some English.

I was grateful that he had come to help me out but it creeped me out the way he changed his direction to come and camp alongside of us.  Jose confirmed my suspicions when he grilled him with questions.  The traveler attempted to explain he knew people in the area but I could tell Jose wasn’t buying it.  He didn’t like strangers he didn’t know.

When we arrived to a campsite, Jose and I looked at each other as if to say, let’s let him camp here and we’ll keep going.  After days of my guide trying to cut the day short, he was finally ready to keep on hiking if it meant getting away from the stranger.

The traveler wasn’t happy with our decision, but when it became obvious that we wanted to continue on without him, he really had no choice but to stay.  After we walked away, Jose explained to me just how strange his answers were, and I sensed just how uncomfortable my guide had been.  With a penchant for getting scared as is, it made things considerably worse to have my guide  freaking out as well.

In the darkness of the night, with sparing use of our flashlights, we saught out flat ground that was close enough to water, but would also coneal us from the strange traveler lest he decide to look for us.  It was one cold, uncomfortable, and scary night.  Every noise, every movement, every shadow meant the possibility of death.  I vowed to never go hiking without a knife of my own again.

As it turned out, a few locals informed us in the morning that the lone traveler had packed up his gear in the middle of the night and went on ahead in our direction.  Why he would continue walking with the sun gone during the frigid night is anybody’s guess but it remains a mysterious in my mind: was he simply getting an early (or late) start or was he looking for us?

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