How I switched myself on, by turning the lights off in the Amazon
We stood naked, lost in the vastness of the Amazon Rainforest. Up above, the milky blue moonlight filtered through the distant canopy, momentarily infused with a purple hue by a far-off flash of lightning. Down below, there was nothing but darkness.
Ok, so we weren't naked in the literal sense, but rather a more metaphorical one. For two minutes we turned off our headlamps and flash lights and stood in almost complete darkness. But I did feel naked in the sense of being vulnerable at least. Nor were we lost. We had gone some 15 minutes on a trail leading from the safety of our lakeside lodge. But now this could be anywhere. There was no frame of reference, no familiarity.
Removing sight immediately heightened my other senses. But rather than a sound or smell, what arrived first was the aforementioned sense of vulnerability, a loss of control. A dose of adrenaline elicited fearful messages from my brain as it slipped into survival mode; what on earth are you doing? Don't you know there are jaguars out here? Turn the lights back on at once and return to the confines of your comfort zone.
I disobeyed my brain, dismissed its concerns and allowed the high-pitched call of a thousand tree frogs and the low hum of an army of cricket to take my attention.
All was still, suspended in time. Then an owl hooted a familiar, reassuring hoot. It took me back to a campsite in Kent. The faint tickle of a tiny bug and a clap of raging thunder brought me back.
There are many ways to feel more alive than ever when travelling; crashing down furious rapids, trudging up an active volcano, one oxygen-starved step at a time, or standing in the middle of the jungle with the lights off. What links them all is one truth - that we come alive by submitting ourselves to the forces of nature, relinquishing control and challenging ourselves to face it in its rawest form.
It must be something primeval, something deep inside us, a facet of human spirit forged on the plains of the Serengeti, with no barriers between us and nature. It's why people climb the world's highest mountains. It certainly must have something to do with a 60 year old mother and her daughter deciding to spend six months walking across the lonely snow-covered hills of British Columbia, from Vancouver to Alaska. I suspect you too might have lived your own adventure to which you can relate such an idea.
As if to confirm this notion, let's return briefly to the jungle. All was dark, the frogs and crickets had blended into the background, the thunder was moving away and my two guides had fallen silent. A sense of calm reigned. It's not so scary after all.
And then... CRASH!
Off to our left, some 15 metres away behind a cluster of shadowy trees, came the most startling, powerful and unnerving of commotions. It shook me to my core, causing me to stumble clumsily. Before I could articulate my shock and bewilderment, the unmistakable splashing of water placed the scene in the adjacent lake. Perhaps it was a particularly large paiche, or maybe a stealthy caiman moving in for the kill.
Fright turned to amazement and we roared with laughter. The jungle had given its best shot and I'd just about kepy my composure. My senses were sharpened, my mind on high alert and my heart was beating a powerful beat. As I stood ensconced in the Amazon I felt as alive as if I were on top of a snow-covered mountain, or a distant ancestor discovering a hitherto unknown world.
To travel is indeed to live. If we can help you feel alive, let us know.
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