So this is all that life is about?
There is always second chance!
Once I was confident about what future holds for me. Does it mean that everything I dreamed of and planned has been diluted?
With these journal entries I was hoping to transmit people many messages, but I haven’t accomplished even half of what I thought of!
Old people in Mongolia say that parents can intuitively sense whether their offspring is in trouble.
Do my parents know that their son is lying alone in midst of African jungle and waiting for his final hour?
“Dad, Mom, Grandma, Brother, Sister, friends, sorry!
I did what I could and I failed this time!
I tried really hard, but I can’t!”
27th of March 2008
Mongol Badarchin 1st mission. 32nd country.
Republic of Gabon. 10 km from Republic of Congo boarder.
In the morning, noise from local kids playing outside of my tent, woke me up; I was planning to get some more rest before the big journey but it appears I have to get up now.
When I emerged from my tent, I found same men who were there yesterday.
Although there was no lit fire, I could guess that they were planning their business for the day while hoarding off flies, which were clinging to their bodies, with broomstick.
I asked for some water to drink, with rest i washed my face.
The old man was taking small and regular sips from liquid that was stored in a vodka bottle. I assumed that he was drinking KaiKai, type of alcohol produced in this region.
Again I disassembled my tent, deflated my sleeping mat and packed my backpack.
To live everyday like a nomad can be wearisome.
It is compelling how nomads in my country manage to move home many times a year.
Locals didn’t have any meal to sell. I guess I just have to stick to my leftover Kasawa dough.
The village guy sad-“Eat it with fish!”, and lend me fish, different one from the previous day. It was a small chunk, only half side of fish. One bite and it was gone, but because it was over-salted I decided to mix it with my dough to make it last more. After fueling my stomach little bit I finished little what was left of my water.
When I inquired with the old man about water, he ran the little boy into his hut to fetch me water stored in a Martini bottle. I realized that it was water that old man was drinking previously.
Why they store water in a bottle rather than in a 1.5 liter container?
When I stocked the water into my 1.5 liter container it filled only through half.
When I asked if they have more: “We are out of water, but soon we will go to get it!”
They don’t speak English and I don’t understand French, but we managed to communicate through signs and gesture.
When the hot African midday approached I started perspiring.
I resumed lazily the packing of my tent, mat, and my backpack.
I was hoping for some transportation to pass.
When I asked about a route to Ndindi:
-There are two paths leading to Ndindi, one is 12 km long and the other one 17km. You may go through the shorter route, but it is not safe as it is full of elephants and other wild animals. The other route is obviously long by 5 more kilometers. Extra 1.5 hours, I reckoned. There should be some reason for the local people advised to take only the right hand side path and hence I decided to follow the road marked by tire thread.
I didn’t have any souvenirs to give to the village people.
When I stood with my backpack on panting, I saw them gathering all the empty bottles from dark rooms preparing to go for water. The old man put 5-6 bottles in a bowl and mounted them on his son’s head and then taking some more on his back he was about to leave the village. I was suddenly overcome with guilt for having accepted their last 750 ml of water. Because they do not have plastic containers they have to gather water in these bottles. I felt sad for them. I wished I had spare container to get rid of these two martini bottles!
Together three of us set out to walk.
I dissolved my vitamin into the water and started drinking assuming that I would fill in on the road.
After about a kilometer walk they stopped and said:
-We shall go from here through the bushes, but you need to follow those tire threads.
After walking for a while I saw a village. There were about ten shanties and at closer distance they look old and abandoned except that in the middle there was old man sitting. However, I felt ashamed to ask for water and after having rested for 10 minutes on the stool I resumed my journey.
The heat stood still and no clouds.
I sipped on my water as I continued walking and thoughts of reaching next village slowly took over. I was slowly running out of water. Since I don’t wear a watch I was trying to determine time by snapping photos from time to time. An hour passed already. 4-5 kilometers probably, I estimated.
I panicked for the first time after realizing that there were only 100 ml of water left.
What if there aren’t really any villages until that Ndindi?!
The sun started burning more intensely.
Because of the heavy backpack I started losing body fluid faster. My clothes were covered in sweat.
On the road I found path made by ants. Thousands and thousands of ants crawling through narrow channels, just like in the city of New York.
Approximately an hour late since I last checked the time my water subsided to 50 ml. Because of the intolerable heat I started asphyxiating.
-Don’t stop! Keep on walking! If you won’t reach the next settlement your water won’t last! I kept reminding myself.
Since no one passed for the last three days through this road I abandoned the hope of finding water from passers.
Soon I started feeling dizzy and losing focus.
In addition a noise of approaching truck kept ringing in my ear.
At once I tried to breathe through my nose only as keeping my mouth open could potentially dry it up.
Another step and I collapsed in the middle of the road thus exhausting last drop of energy.
To escape from the sun I pulled myself with my backpack into the shade of a tree.
-Where to find water? Where to find water? I started mumbling to myself.
I tried to recall how the coconut tree look liked, the one that I saw few days ago.
Of all these green vegetation which one could nourish me with drop of dew?
Are there any water wells here? Such thought kept formed whirlwind in my head.
A person left without water in the middle of desert has more peace of mind compared to a man who has ended up in humid tropics of Africa because the latter one would be constantly haunted by thoughts of rain and therefore possibility of close proximity of water.
Even thought I stopped moving my body heat was still on the rise.
Due to dehydration and last few days of malnutrition my body was momentarily losing its energy. To lower down the body heat I dug through the sand of the road under the shade and once the moist layer was revealed I lay down on my back. The moist dirt slowly cooled down my body. If someone happens to pass by car they could practically squash me without noticing first.
I heard a car full of people approaching. I could hear their loud conversations.
I navigated through this forest for the last three days and yet I have never had chance to observe it from such low angle. How beautiful is this forest that cast its infinite edge along the road!
Furthermore the noise in the forest subsided.
My pulse slowed and I fall.
-I often strive to make strong, rational, and well-balanced decisions, but I have no control over present circumstances. I always tried to do things in a right way, is there any outcome to it? I went through war ridden dangerous zones, endured troubles otherwise one would not normally encounter, and here I am lying on the road waiting for the finality to it, because of water?
On the first day of my journey I remember coming upon a fish swarmed by ants and I wondered how it was possible that fish so far from river was getting devoured by ants? I realize now, that I didn’t take such thought as a possible sign! I shrieked. I never imagined that I will be eaten alive in Africa!
I lost a lot of energy and I felt exhausted to even ward off ants. They knew I was not capable to even think about it and hence were swarming on my body. In such woods no space is left uncovered and soon ants were streaming through me and began biting. Probably sensing that I was dog tired all those flies and crawls clustered around me. I started feeling bites everywhere. I am being eaten alive, I thought.
People do not think of death, they are able to conceive its full extent only when they are at close proximity with it.
I struggled to hoard off insects and managed to pull out my camera out of my belt. When I was lying on my back I noticed two trees, in a direction where I came from, which I decided to snap.
If I happen to die here at least people will know where I was last. I snapped a shot. I instilled a shot of myself as well to register my current condition.
I asked myself if I carried my contact address in case someone happens to recover me here.
I suddenly remembered having met one Korean traveler who showed me last page of his passport, an entire section dedicated to contact address relevant to the traveler. I wonder why Mongolian passport does not carry such section? Why didn’t I write my address? I wish I had mobile phone, then I would have chance to get some sort of assistance.
I closed my eyes and I waited.
I started almost suffocating due to the heat.
Suddenly I overcame with desire to survive.
In films we never see people giving up fight with death from dehydration or suffocation with peaceful appearance. Truly in such moments the survival instinct is strongest. Even those who cannot swim would start to swim.
Although there was no energy left in my body and no courage left to continue, I felt sudden a wild kick of desire to survive. I could not move my hands to ward off the flies but because of the rush of adrenaline I lay there shaking. I looked around for possible solutions; a thought of drinking own piss passed through my head, but it was quickly abandoned, as there was no fluid in my bladder.
-I can’t believe that there is no way out of this situation!
-It should not end like this! Is that all?!
-The whole journey had no meaning at all?
-What would happen to people who had faith in me?
-Dear Tengri, Spirits of ancestors if you are there please, send some rain down, I prayed.
Soon after my bidding out of nowhere rain clouds appeared in the horizon and eclipsed the sun.
I took that as a sign of support and feeling encouraged by it I gathered all my last strength and I got up.
Because I lay on bare back on the damp land my muscles became stiff.
I drew out small purse from my back pack along with passport, album of travel photos, wallet and started following the road with my cane. I understood that now I should not worry about the back pack I was leaving behind.
If I survive I can always recover it.
Thus I followed the road.
My mouth was really dry. I recalled how much water I poured on myself while showering in Konkouti before the journey. Also, I tried to console myself with thoughts of having crossed once from village of Ndindi the 90 km river on a boat.
The thoughts about water did not help; on the contrary it made me thirstier.
As I was almost mechanically moving my feet I saw near the road amongst bushes something that resembled a shack. I was thrilled. Feeling thrilled I approached the shack and I shouted- Bonjour! I shouted few more times, but there was no answer. Inside of the fence I found three bottles and when I shook them the total amount did not even comprise 100 ml. After having smelled the water I stored it in my container.
While taking short rest I sipped on the small amount of water.
Except some shoes, cloth, and a bag there was nothing nearly drinkable in the shack.
I decided to wait for the owner and he would definitely bring some water because there was practically no water left here.
Squirrels were gathering food on a tree trunk in front of me.
All of a sudden I feared for myself.
What do I know about the person I was waiting for, whether he is nice or bad?
Who knows what thoughts may overcome the man who sees a lonely traveler with photo camera and stash of money. Moreover, nobody knows of my whereabouts. While such thoughts were hurling inside me I recalled one tale, a story of three bears.
A girl was lost in a forest and after a while she found a bear house. Because she was hungry and tired she ate the bear’s food and fell asleep on baby bear’s bed. The bears arrived home . . . and I couldn’t remember what happened afterwards.
Nearby I saw a bucket purposefully placed to collect rain water coming down from tent roof. When I peeped into the bucket I saw small amount of accumulated water with mosquito bugs swimming inside.
Raindrops came down one by one reminding me that it was time to go.
Since I realized the origin of my water I thought that it is best not to wait for the arrival of the hut owner.
Again I kept walking.
When I came upon some trees that were cut down I got excited thinking that people might be processing trees, but they were cut just to clear the road.
I couldn’t feel my muscles anymore but I knew that rhythmic movement aided my walk.
I was running out of water again. Although I was sipping on it to make it last longer I knew that my body needed much more fluid.
As I kept walking I saw small puddle. I bent down and I saw that it was fully occupied by insects. I passed it hoping others would be cleaner.
-I should have filtered that puddle water, full of mosquito eggs and drunk from it, I regretted.
The next puddle appeared more or less cleaner I decided to rip sleeve of my t shirt and sift the water through it.
Where’s my t-shirt? I realized that I left it in the shack. This was the first time throughout my journey that I left my clothes behind me. In the past I always burned my old attires.
To drink dirty water is way too much.
I resumed my walk without abandoning hope.
All of a sudden I saw footprints. I followed the prints but they led me back to the bushes. Although I was tempted to follow the footprints I decided to get back on the road in hopes that car might pass.
I lost track of how much distance I covered so far.
Because I was lying on that road for a while I could not estimate anymore how much lay in front.
I kept walking.
After having walked a while I came upon small pond near the road.
I dropped my cane and small backpack. I ran to the water. I saw small fish swimming in it and when I felt the water it was cold. These were all signs of spring water. It should be clean! I bent down and I started drinking. I kept drinking. I ignored all the thoughts about tropical bacteria and disease were
-If I get sick it can be remedied with medicine, but at this moment only breaking the thirst matters! I thought.
I jumped into the water fully dressed. I lay down and tried to absorb the pleasant feeling of cold water.
If I ever go back home I would jump into the shower and I shall think how once I found water at the verge of dying from thirst. I lied there like that for a while.
-I wonder if there are any predators around here, ones such as alligators. It’s a jungle.
Just few moments ago I had been thinking about water only, and now I was thinking about wild animals and elephants. I rose from the water, mounted my backpack and resumed the walk.
-Oh, forgot the cane! I fetched the cane from nearby the water. Again I kept walking! This time I had container full of water and therefore I started drinking. Even though I had water now, my body was not at ease at all.
Eventually I could not lift up my cane.
I decided to drag along it till the end, for self-defense purpose in the wilderness.
At the end of seemingly infinite road I saw an electric pole and village shanty.
When I approached the village swaying right and left, an old man who was sitting under a tent took notice of me and exclaimed
-Oh, you should sit here.
Because I could not sit upright anymore, I sat there all hunched in.
Another old man who was chopping wood after noticing me, dragged a mat out of his house and put it directly on land.
-Here! Lie down here! Are you all right? He asked in French.
I collapsed on the mat.
When the old man was tucking something under my head I barely brought myself to ask:
-Until Ndindi, how many more kilometers left?
-This is Ndindi
-I reached it! I reached it! I did it, yes! I did it! I did it! I was mumbling in Mongolian
When the old man saw how bizarre I acted he jumped and ran around the corner.
I could not whisper anything except the phrase, “I did it”.
After few moments an emergency vehicle pulled outside of the tent and a doctor approached me.
-What happened to this man? He asked the others in French. Few years ago there was outbreak of deadly disease called Ebola, in which a person bleeds from all the outlets and die.
That’s why no one dared to approach me.
-Is there anyone who speaks English? I started inquiring from gatherers.
I tried to give account of what happened to me, but tears started rolling down.