We’re having a mini lie in on Delos. I don’t know why but I haven’t been sleeping too well. My nights have been filled with unpleasant dreams and I can’t seem to snap out of it. I yawn as I finish my tea and wave Karin and Brian off as they head out in Maggie to explore. Brian’s excited about another adventure and was ready to go first thing. The rest of us are still trying to wake up.
We all get ready whilst we wait for Brian and Karin to return, Alex and Brady deciding to head over to the shipwreck via their paddle boards.
I watch them, a little annoyed at myself that I don’t know how to paddle board yet but unwilling to do it in poop infested waters. I’m looking forward to giving it a go in the future in any case and tell myself I’ll learn it soon enough.
They head out, keen to get a head start whilst Lisa and I board Maggie upon Karin and Brian’s return. The heat is intense- a huge change from the previous night whilst we were entertaining our new friend Reon.
The waves aren’t as boisterous as the previous night, however they’re big enough to force Brian to go faster than normal in the dingy. We skip over foam and stretches of blue, laughter spilling from my throat as I’m unable to keep it in any longer.
Ahead in the distance are the two silhouettes of Brady and Alex and we eventually pull up next to them. The water is teaming with life, seals diving up and down in confusion as they check out the strange humans invading their territory.
I’ve never experienced anything like it. Everywhere we turned there was a splash and a pair of curious dark eyes, staring at us, checking us out in mid dive and snorting bubbles beneath the boat. We went on ahead, the waves getting bigger and decided to explore around the other side of the island.
We could see the shipwreck, surrounded by the colony of seals. There didn’t seem to be a safe place to land Maggie without squashing one of the animals, so we decided to investigate further.
A long stretch of perfect beach welcomed our sight as we turned the corner, a wave hot on our heels.
“Hold on, crew!” Brian shouted, revving Maggie’s engine.
The wave towered behind us and I gripped the safety rope tightly, trusting him completely. The wave came and the dingy rose high and over the treacherous waters, yet another burst of laughter and whooping erupting from my lungs. We continued like that as we surfed the waves and I wished we would never stop.
Eventually came the time to land Maggie. We anchored her out on the shore, but on second thoughts dragged her onto the beach, worried that a wave would come and flip her over.
We knew you couldn’t take the ocean for granted.
We stepped onto the sand, our eyes tracing across the images that we naively hoped we wouldn’t see again.
Bones, rib cages and spines littered the beach as a silent graveyard of death. I know that it’s the power of nature, but a part of me was repulsed and fascinated by it.
I picked up a skull, and lay it flat in my hand.
“To be…or not to be…! That is the question!” I looked up expectantly with a grin, my smile falling almost immediately. My Hamlet impression had gone unheard, drifting off into the wind as the rest of the crew discussed how to better secure Maggie.
Awkwardly standing with a skull in my hand, I sighed and unceremoniously dropped it, muttering that it had been a damn good impersonation.
“No one appreciates Shakespeare anymore…” I mumble.
We walked onwards around the towering cliff face, spotting some animal tracks leading upwards through the rocks.
We followed it, trying to avoid rocks and bones from crumbling beneath our heels and failing miserably.
“This is how you get peasant feet,” Karin said, trying to keep her balance.
I made a sound of agreement, my own already destroyed from our barefoot antics from the past three months. I remembered the time when my feet used to look nice, presentable- appropriate. Now they were bruised, cut, hard and no nail polish in sight. I could probably walk across hot coals and not feel a thing.
I was a long way away from my modern day presentable English self.
I had gone medieval.
It was nice how my way of thinking was beginning to change. There were things that made a hell of a lot of sense on Delos that I knew I would continue doing. I mean, canned chicken made a lot of sense, why shower every day? Did my hair really need washing all the time? Why wouldn’t I bulk buy food? Why would I ever go back and work for someone else? Why wouldn’t I want to wear whatever I wanted all of the time? Why would I feel the pressure of eating things I didn’t really like just to stay skinny? Why is being naked bad? Why wouldn’t I want to carry on travelling? Why would I take chemicals to fix my body when everything I needed came from plants? Why wouldn’t I eat organic food? Why wouldn’t I buy more natural things to put in my body?
I felt like I was just waking up.
So many things came into my mind every day and I felt like each day I was getting closer to being a true form of myself.
We continued to climb, the sun beating down on us, our lungs heaving and livers regretting having the moonshine and wine from the night before.
“Why do we always do something like this at the hottest point of the day?” Karin demanded.
I didn’t have the breath to answer her, seeing Brian happily skip further and further up as the girls stayed together. The fear of finding a pack of hyenas or jackals at the top scorched through my mind.
“If you see one, stay absolutely calm,” Karin said. “And then look for something big for a weapon.”
The idea of fighting a wild animal didn’t appeal to me. Part of me hoped that they would be happy enough with Brian and would be too full to worry about three little women.
Eventually we get to the top of the cliff face.
Brian is grinning from ear to ear, still alive with no hyenas in sight.
“Take a look at this, Lizbef.”
I take the last couple of steps to the top and swear.
Below lay a step trail to the beach, perfectly enclosed by cliffs, baring off the rage from the sea. Further up was a bright green pool shimmering beneath the sun and around that was a mass of wriggling brown shapes.
But I looked further ahead and that was when I saw it.
I stared at it, feeling the sun burn my skin and my throat constrict with lack of water. Greedily taking a slug from my bottle, I take in the sight of even more bones as Brian starts to walk down.
The wind hits me, carrying a thick scent of rot, but I continue my descent.
The walk is difficult as I wave my arms in the air with the effort to not slice my feet up even more than they were. Stepping down sideways, I make it half way when Brian shouts up, pointing behind me.
I frown, unable to hear and look up back at Karin and Lisa, further up than me. I see nothing, shrug and continue my walk downwards, eventually getting to Brian.
“Dude, there were two jackals behind you guys!” Brian said excitedly.
My eyes widen. “Whaaa?”
Shocked that they had gotten so close and I hadn’t even seen them, I wrinkled my nose.
“Oh my God…” I gasped. “It stinks!”
I cannot tell you how bad the smell was in that beach enclosure. It has far been the worst smell I have ever witnessed in my life. It was the mixture of rotting meat, ammonia, fish, seal poop and the unmistakable scent of death.
We approached the bright green pool to see it resembled more like a pool of slime. We gave it a wide berth, jumping over even more spines of dead seals, their fur scattered across the ground in torn clumps.
The seals ran away from us immediately despite our slow movements, waddling their huge weight up and down as they shuffled away. We felt really bad about frightening them, but we were desperate to get a closer look at the shipwreck. It loomed over us as a black and orange rusting giant, waves crashing through its starboard side and throughout.
We took pictures, filmed and explored the area, the smell so intense it was making me feel nauseous. Karin climbed a little way back up the cliff just to take a break from it.
I gazed through one of the holes in the portside of the boat, gazing into the intricate metal workings of her belly.
Black, green and grey stared back at me, twisted metal, levers, knobs and switches still wet from the previous wave. The boat was completely snapped in half, the bow about 30 feet away. I peered around the opening of the centre of the boat to be greeted by more waves pounding against the side and rushing within. I jumped back before I got soaked, noticing that there was a five second window between the blast of the ocean to get inside.
It would make a great story… my mind whispered.
“Do you think it’d be cool if I went inside?” I asked him.
He took a long moment to reply, weighing up the odds. “I wouldn’t do it,” he said at last.
I nodded in understanding. It wasn’t safe. That much was true. But it didn’t stop me from going over to Karin and asking exactly the same thing.
“You do what you want,” was her answer with a smile and a laugh. “But don’t take the 4k- take the GoPro.”
My mind was decided. Turning back to the boat, I crept towards the split belly yawning open to the crashing waves. They diminished eventually, five seconds of clear sand freeing the way until the next one came.
I waited, taking a step forwards too close to the portside of the boat. My foot started to sink in the sand immediately. I wrenched my foot away and took a breath, wondering whether I should or not.
The darkness beckoned within, the last wave had crashed and the way was now free. The GoPro shook in my hand as I counted myself in.
I dived inside, holding my breath as the darkness surrounded me, echoes from the water of the ocean drowning out everything else.
A strange feeling pressed down within my core as I walked around, knowing I didn’t have long left before it started to fill with water and that I would have no choice but to stay within.
My body tensed as the first wave came, washing over my feet, ankles and halfway up my calves.
Think of the story…
My body rushed with adrenaline as I walked around the wreck, only moving when the water had died down around my feet. I didn’t want to risk falling against the boat and making it fall on top of my head.
I stood still, taking in the presence of the boat. I imagined what it would have felt like when it had crashed against the rocks. I imagined what it would feel like to anyone to be on a sinking ship. A panic rose up in me as another wave started to fill inside and I allowed myself to feel the full force of experiencing it from another person’s perspective.
There was a primal urge that was beginning to shriek within me:
“You are not supposed to be here! Get out!”
I was all too happy to oblige, the water rising higher and higher. I waited, forcing myself to be calm and waited for the tide to retreat. As soon as I saw my path was clear, I darted outwards.
The current crashed behind me, the foam licking my heels as I ran.
I had made it.
Euphoria hit me as sunlight hit my eyes as I waved the GoPro around victoriously.
What a story! What an adventure!
We retreated from the island, hot, hungry and maybe a little overwhelmed by everything we had seen. As we got to the top of the cliff again, we saw a jackal down by the shore, investigating Maggie.
We all started to howl as one and the wild animal quickly ran away at the sound of our pack. Laughing, we returned to Maggie to haul her back into the water and to surf the waves back home.
Returning to Delos we found Alex and Brady freshly showered, drinking beers in the hammocks and listening to country music.
Lisa and I showered naked outside, keen to rid ourselves of sand and sweat. It’s our first shower in a week and suddenly we don’t care who sees at all.
The Naked Dune Day was a huge step for me and I didn’t even appreciate how. I continued to lounge and relax in just my undies, feeling a comfort in it around these people. No one cares. Alex is swinging on her hammock in the same fashion, a big smile on her face.
And in this moment we’re happy.
I stare out into the horizon, my heart beating hard in my chest. I’m finding despite my tiredness that I can’t settle. I can’t relax even though that is the epitome of what should be right now. The sun beams down on my skin, my burns and scrapes forgotten. I turn around and around, blinding skies of blue burning in my eyes.
I’m trying to process it. But it overwhelms me.
The crew are spread out on deck, happily swinging their feet to music and sipping on their beers. As soon as I sit down I need to stand again. As soon as I stand I need to walk.
I find a beer in my hand, the music cranked up. Some cowboy singing about being in paradise.
Hey, I know that feeling, buddy, I want to say.
I’m overwhelmed suddenly how I almost missed out on this opportunity. How I almost missed out on this life experience.
There had always been the chance that I wasn’t able to join. It all depended on how well I sailed and if six people didn’t feel like too much.
The magnitude of that stuns me, sobers me and twitches my body into a never-ending set of movements. Words seem too bulky and clumsy to ever explain the magnitude of this experience on my shoulders. So I sit in silence, not knowing what to say except:
“This is it.”
I repeat myself to Alex several times and she nods in a simplistic understanding that says: “no more needs to be said.”
Maybe we’re all feeling it in our own way. Maybe I’m not alone in this sensation of being overwhelmed by the direction my path has suddenly turned. I’m trying really hard to better myself and to grow. The time I’ve spent on here has made me realise that I need a lot of self-healing. And sometimes I don’t know where to start. Sometimes I feel incredibly down- maybe that’s frustration. I’m surrounded by these incredible humans who have achieved so much, who have grown so much and I know I have a lot still to learn.
I want to be a good person.
And I want to be good to myself.
And although we all have our low moments for whatever reasons- (we’re all on our own paths after all) I feel incredible and so very lucky.
It’s like a huge relief or a huge weight being taken off my shoulders. A knowledge that I am living an adventure I can tell when I’m old. But it’s not just that. I’ve had an eternal fear of not living my life. I was so scared that I would end up in an office where I would spend the rest of my days in order to get that mortgage. That I would waste my days with grey skies and concrete walls.
The knowledge that I have escaped that and will never return to it has given me a huge sense of peace. Relief. Gratitude.
I feel saved.
So that is the reason why I am twitching, unable to stand, unable to sit.
That is the reason why I feel overwhelmed.
I have been saved.
I recall the sensation of what it was like stepping inside the ship one more time and smile. I think of the Ghost Town, of Naked Dune Day, of the Penguin Man and of all the other adventures we’ve had together in the past three months.
My smile widens.
What a story to tell.
Read more from Elizabeth here! www.earlewrites.com