Survival in the Nile

February 20, 2012
It all started On the Nile River in the city of Abydos, Egypt. A couple of friends and I were fishing for the elusive Nile Perch on a wood raft given to us telling us it would stay afloat. After seven straight hours of nothing, my friend Peter gets a huge hit. Except it isn’t what he wanted. “It’s a croc!” I remember telling him just let go, you can never win this battle. But by then it was too late. He was taken by the crocodile into the murky waters of the Northern Nile River. He doesn’t come up to the surface. I recall my friend James and me weeping like babies who have got their toys stolen. But this was just the start to the adventure that lied ahead.

On the raft, traumatized of what just happened, James and I decide it is time to call it a day and head for base camp. But as soon as it ended, it started again. We were flung into the air by something that hit the raft from underneath. “The croc must be back for another round”, James says. As he takes out a knife, the beast that flipped the raft over appears. James gets within close range and stabs the eye of the monster out. But it’s not the crocodile, but instead a hippo drawn to the area of where the crocodile attack was. The hippo though does not go easy though. Even though half blinded, He opens his huge jaws with his muscle piercing teeth and closes on James’ foot. “Help me! Please help me!” After the hippo takes off its next meal, it descends back into the dark water of the Nile. As I drag James to the shore I realize the true damage of the hippo attack. I can’t say anything to him about his injury for his survival because he might have went into shock. But all I could think was where his foot was? Survival was just made tougher. He told me to leave him that he would just bleed out on the bank of the river. I was applying pressure on his leg, hoping the bleeding would stop, but something has picked up the blood in the water. Another crocodile at least 20 feet long, pops out of the water onto the shore and grabs James by the head and brings him into the water. I try to hold onto him, but His face is engulfed with blood, so I had no choice but to let him go. He was already dead on the impact of the blow to the head, so why try to save his corpse by risking mine. Survival in Africa by myself, impossible.
Abydos, there couldn’t have been a worse place to be stranded in. Dangerous animals and plants, and thick forests that will make you walk in circles and make no progress. Living in this environment would be tough with the only weapons being a pocket knife about the size of my thumb and the hooks and rods that got me in this situation.
Staying away from the shadows of the night is not going to be the hardest part of surviving is. First I have to set up a camp spot where I can live and support myself in the wilderness. Second, I have to think of ways to find food. I can’t eat any of these tropical plants because I don’t know what kind of danger I’ll be in if I eat one. And my last problem is the small creatures of the night that you can’t see until they get you. Malaria struck one of my friends when he was here once. He was bit by a mosquito while in a hunting exhibition in one of the game reserves in Botswana. With no hospitals within 1,000 miles of where he was, he passed away after a week on a raft heading towards the nearest hospital. I could just imagine what would happen to me if I was bit. The African wilderness was truly stronger than me in every aspect.
Regret and guilt was kicking in. If I wouldn’t have went I wouldn’t have been in the situation and my friends would still be alive. And I felt it was my fault that they died because if I wouldn’t have came up with this great idea, they would still be with their families instead of on the bottom of the Nile River or in the stomach of a crocodile. You can never truly win the game of life. Proven by my friends, no matter what, you are going to lose to death eventually, which kind of helped get a little bit of the guilt off me. But I still feel that I ruined the lives of many because even though everyone eventually dies, James would’ve been able to say good-bye to his wife and see his new-born daughter who was born a month after the accident. And for Peter, he had a person somewhere in the world that he was never going to meet. And this was all because of me.
But if I want to survive in Africa, I have to stay strong and forget about them. I know it’s sad to say, but I had to. I have to just focus on myself because they are already gone. First, I decide to set up my camp site. I use the amount of fallen trees and brush to my advantage and make my tent very strong with a grass roof and a tree base. Not only will I stay hidden but now I could stay in there and wait for animals to walk by and I can stab them with my mini pocket knife. But after 6 hours of just sitting there, at around midnight, I need food. I get the raft and rods from earlier today and go fishing out on the Nile. I use some worms that I extracted from the ground with my pocket knife. And this had proven to be a good strategy to use. I caught about 5 Nile Perch, but all juveniles. But these were better than nothing. I had to truly be a savage and eat the fish raw because there was no way to produce fire in this environment without risking burning down the whole forest. I remember back in San Francisco I would come home form my job as a lawyer to the smell of delicious turkey or chicken and great homemade bread. Those were the days, but I guess I had to focus on what I had then, not what I wanted.
While eating one of the fish, I make a horrifying discovery. Tracks. Lion Tracks. Six pairs of them. Who would’ve known I was right in the middle of a favorite lion hunting zone. They looked fresh, couldn’t have been any later than 10 minutes before I got back. I follow the muddy prints all the way down to a swampy area. And then, I see the pride of lions that just took out a monster water buffalo. One of the baby cubs notices me on the other side of the swamp. We make eye contact and then he’s off. He goes around the swamp and stars chasing me into the forest. With the lion’s parents following behind, it pounces on me, and knocks me over. As he is about to bite my leg, I get the pocket knife and stab the cub. This all happened in a rush of adrenaline. I bring the lion carcass as a prize for me to eat and run back to the camp, hoping that the rest of the pride doesn’t catch up.
Maybe I could survive here. I thought I was doing quite a good job at staying alive, but I guess that the first day is always the easiest. After a tiring and intense day, I go to sleep with a full stomach and a good feeling that I will survive.
Day 2. I wake up at 8:30 A.M. feeling alive. I had a lot of energy since the good night of sleep that I had and the full stomach I had after that lion. But one thing I realized is that I need to make a different weapon. My only weapon is the pocket knife, but that is good for close range kills against small animals but not good against adult lions or water buffalo. As I walk through the thick brush that cuts my legs open every movement, I find a wonderful stick. It is long enough to kill big animals at a long enough distance that it is not dangerous for me and strong enough for it to not break in the inside of the victim. But the peculiar thing was that the stick was already sharpened into a deadly spear. II didn’t take it as odd at the time so I walk back to base camp. As I’m walking through the forest back to camp, I feel a sharp pain in my knee. I look down and there is a dart in the back of my knee. I look back and see what appears to be a tribe that has never been discovered before. They all appear to have blow darts and Bow and Arrows. They were a group of 5-10 people, but I really couldn’t count due to the brush and me panicking. I stealthily climb into a thick leaved tree as they walk right under me. Did they not even notice? I didn’t know the extent of my wound until I checked it out in the tree. They have put poison to release into the victim after the dart pierced there skin. I can see the swelling and discoloration due to the poison. But I’m flexible enough to be able to suck the poison out of the wound because I was the U.S.A’s best gymnast. It appears to me that most of the poison is out since I sucked a lot out and how much could fit in that tiny dart. I decide to get down from the tree and it seems that the coast is clear, so I hobble back to my camp on my one leg. But when I get back, I found my tent burnt down and what appears to be a puddle full of blood. What could’ve happened? As I investigate a little bit more, I notice a foot sticking out of one the bushes. I see one of the tribe’s men laying on the ground, stone cold and pale. I was thinking that they might have killed the guy who let me get away. Not only are the lions and all the creatures of the night dangerous, but so are the killers I found there.
As dawn approaches, another night of horrors comes my way. With no protection from the outside world that night I’m left vulnerable to nasty mosquitoes and vicious predators. It was about 3:00 in the morning when I hear something overhead. It sounds like a plane or helicopter of some sort. This is the first I’ve heard since the accident. I yell out, but the object flies into the night. They must know have disappeared and they are sending in people to find me. But there is such a wide range where I could be on the Nile; I do not like the chances. I need to find a way to attract the helicopter and spot where I am. But first I have to get a good night sleep so I can think of something in the morning.
I wake up to more helicopters flying overhead. This was the perfect time for attracting them over by where I was. I go about 5 miles down into the forest when I reach a cave. I go in the cave and find numerous sticks and rocks scattered across the ground. This was perfect in the situation I was in. I took all of the sticks and stones and put all the sticks in a pile next to some dry leaves and dense forest. I rub two of the rocks until sparks fly. It took me fifty minutes but I just got fire. As the fire moves from the sticks to the leaves, I think if this is a good idea. I could burn down half of their forests and kill a couple of people for just my survival. Was it really worth it? But it was too late to stop it then, because it had already reached three of the trees. I have started a forest fire. As it spreads very quickly, I see the helicopters coming back by the spot of where the fire started. I run as fast as I can to outrun the fire. After about 30 minutes and some intense heat, I reach the bank of the Nile River. I’m waving my hands and yelling at the top of my lungs. Finally, the helicopter spots me. But the fire is getting to close, they can’t land. They hover over the surface of the water and I jump on to the helicopter barely grabbing on to the landing base of the helicopter as the fire reaches the bank. A couple of the people from the back of the helicopter grabs me and lifts me up into the helicopter. I now have that feeling that is it over and I am safe. The first question I was asked when I got onto the helicopter was “where are the others?” As I was asked this, I break down in tears. I don’t even need to answer the question for them to already know what happened. About 20 hours later, I reach my home. My wife is waiting at the door, for me. When we see each other, we cry and hug each other. As I walk in, the TV is on and I see the forest fire on the news that I started. Not only was I the cause of my friends death, but they also found 7 other bodies from the fire, who I might think have been the tribe that I saw in the forest. Full of despair, I think I could’ve been that eighth body if they wouldn’t have come in time. Thank God that I’m still alive to tell my story, but I have that feeling that my friends would be with me and that tribe would still be alive, living in seclusion. Was the struggle worth it, yes because now before I die I can say good-bye to my family. But I still wish I could have saved my friends, but you can’t go back know. It is the past and you can’t live in the past, you have to live in the present no matter how bad the past impact you right now, you have to try as hard as you can to forget it and live life in the moment. Rest in peace, friends.

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