How did I get here? In fact where the fuck even is here and where the hell am I? All I know is that I am here and now and that right now Now + Here = Nowhere.
Dream states fade into reality and lucidity returns. The voices of torment recede and regular vision resumes. I catch my breath and dry spit into the earth trying to expel some strange & bitter taste from my mouth.
I am naked, totally fucking naked save for one, single white converse all-star trainer & a coating of mud which covers my entire body.
Full consciousness steadily resumes & the realisation sinks in, I am naked somewhere (but God only knows precisely where) deep inside in the Colombian jungle. Disbelief and panic subside, quickly kicked into touch by sheer pragmatism as the survival instinct kicks in;
“Come on Aiden, you are naked, lost and alone in the Colombian jungle and now you need to deal with this”.
The jungle around me is quiet and still. I savour the serenity using it as a canvas on which to sketch my plans for escape. I listen for sounds by which I can try to establish my location and the distant hum of a rickety, motor-chiva engine tells me that the road is behind me up the hill. I survey the sky and see the light fade as evening draws in. This close to the equator one can pretty much set their watch by the ascent and retreat of the sun from the sky so I deduce that it must be around 6.30pm.
I decide to hang on 20 minutes and await nightfall so that it’s cloak of darkness can conceal my nakedness as I creep home.
As the last embers of light fade I climb the hill towards the road. The jungle is dense here and my footing unsound. I struggle and stumble and even completely fall on a few occasions landing on twisted brambles and piercing nettles as gravity forsakes me.
I reach the dirt track of a road and stop to ponder the eternal, universal, great existential question of left or right? In the distance I see the silhouette of the huge, black granite rock for which Guatape is famous and this tells me that I need to head right towards town.
So how did I get here? Well I will tell you as best as I am able. Today was a glorious, sunny sunday a few days before Christmas. My hostel friends and I decided to celebrate by heading up to the hills and taking LSD.
The acid had come on strong and fast. The forest around me became a vision of Eden, a paradise of endless beauty and splendour. We descended deeper into the jungle and further into the trip to the point where I had forever transcended the mortal realm and into a higher heaven. Then the trip had turned bad, real bad and heaven quickly collapsed into hell. I was consumed by unimaginable malice and afflicted simultaneously by every conceivable torture; I was tired in a world without sleep and thirsty in a world without water. I begged for oblivion and that’s all I can really remember.
I’m now on the road, my usual quick pace is slowed by the great fatigue of my body and the heavy caution with which I make every laboured step.
At each grunt of an approaching motor engine I dive for cover behind a convenient fence, wall or bush until the headlights safely pass. Yes, I really could use a ride back to town but how the hell do I explain myself in a second language when I hardly even know what happened?
Eventually, after a micro eternity, I cross the bridge that leads into town towards safety and salvation; but of course I firstly have to pass through the whole fucking town in this condition.
With each hamlet and farmstead I had passed thus far I had eagerly eyed up the washing lines looking desperately for clothes which I could borrow. Each time I thought my luck was in, my fledgling, criminality of necessity was curtailed by the wretched braying of guard dogs whose infernal choir threatened to betray my situation by tempting out a curious owner.
On the very edge of town though I was in luck as I arrived at a breezeblock outhouse with wide open grounds and no dogs anywhere. On its washing line hung a pair of blue trousers dangling dry. I took them off and strained into them; they were several sizes small, cold and heavy with damp and chafed badly. Nevertheless they would serve to protect my body from the fast cooling night and my modesty from a potential indecency charge in the event that I be discovered.
Eventually I arrived back at my hostel to find it locked up and the lights out. I gently rapped on the door and eventually Juan the landlord answered. His shock at seeing me in such a state was apparent. “We were so worried about you man...we went looking for you”.
I slowly and silently climb the stairs and enter the bathroom. I run the shower and stand beneath the fountain not even caring that the water is cold. As the water refreshes and soothes me I even indulge in some wry laughter at myself and the sheer absurdity of my situation.
Minutes pass and the water which had initially soothed me now stings as I realise that the dry coating is bound to my body with blood that has caked dry. Scrubbing clean burns so I merely dry myself the best I can and retreat towards my room.
I catch sight of myself in the mirror and discover that my entire body is lacerated with cuts and scratches which zig zag across my torso and back. I crawl into bed finding that it hurts to lay down and hurts to sit up. Eventually though I fall into a sleep.
The next day I was awoken early by voices outside. My trip buddies were relieved that I was alive and also quite evidently plagued by guilt that they had left me quite possibly for dead.
So how did I get there? Well I’m still none the wiser. The last my companions saw of me I was having a bad trip, they were unable to calm me down or move me so left me sat by the roadside. I was still fully clothed at that point. Oh and I had attempted to eat stones which may explain the strange taste in my mouth.
Later in the morning the police called and I found myself surrounded by 9 officers. I had been reported missing the previous afternoon and their patrols had been told to keep a look-out for a confused foreigner. They asked me what happened and I answered to the best of my abilities except for replacing the word “LSD” with “alcohol”. They seemed satisfied and genuinely sorry for me. My clothes had been found but my pants had been stripped of $40 cash, my MP3 player and Samsung Galaxy.
I was hardly able to move for days and remained intensely thirsty for a week. Colombia certainly can be a very dangerous country but who needs to worry about cartels and kidnappings when the biggest dangers are those which we pose to ourselves by being very foolish and a just little bit unlucky? I don’t really know how I got to that particular place that day; to that other realm of terrible anguish or to that particular patch of jungle. I just know I never want to go back there.