I woke the next morning with a groan. It was early and I could hear the rest of the Delos crew moving about. I prayed to God that they wouldn’t wake me. That they would leave me in bed so I could rest up from the past five days of partying, staying up late and basically being a bit of a vagabond.
No, no, no!
I wrapped myself further in the covers.
Play dead. Play dead. Play dead!
My curtain twitched but I kept my eyes closed.
“Would you like some porridge?” It was Karin. And I knew then that I would not be spared.
I would have to go on the epic hike the Delos Crew had planned.
Rising up, I drank as much water I could muster in my body and sat with the others in the cockpit, slowly eating the oats Karin had prepared for me. I glanced at the cups of tea in everyone’s hand and shook my head in defeat.
I didn’t even have the energy to muster up to boil the kettle. Managing to only eat half of my breakfast, I threw the rest overboard for the fish to consume. I watched it fall into the blue waters, only for a swarm of tiny black fish to immediately gobble it up.
There was no escaping today.
Packing as much water I could carry and shoving food into my backpack, including the sandwich Karin had made for each of us, we set out. The sun was beating down on us immediately and I suddenly wished I could jump into the saltwater pool one more time.
The shades I had picked up constantly kept slipping off my nose and I had forgotten a hat. I saw Karin, Lisa and Brian with their wide sunhats and felt a pang of jealously. Walking up the steps from the docks was a labour in itself, and I sighed, looking back out onto the ocean.
I felt quiet today.
I had just had one of the most amazing set of days and I wanted to find a quiet space to process everything.
But not today.
I felt numb in a way. To have to go back to being how things were without Edouard. To going back to being alone. To go about things as I always had. But something felt different.
I had changed.
We started up the path towards the mountain ahead. The two French men from Malin, Jack and Philip had done the walk in six hours.
“If two old guys can do it, Lizbef, so can you,” Brady and Brian joked with me.
I remembered Edouard’s keenness to do the walk despite not getting round to it and told myself I would have to try, hangover or no hangover. I didn’t want to let anyone down- least of all myself.
We walked for hours up the hill in the blinding sunlight, sweat pouring from my body as the alcohol and cigarettes slowly seeped from my body. I was disgusted with myself. Each day I always tell myself that I’m going to be clean. That I’m going to have a day without these things. Thait yes will be the push that I need. I thought about how disgusted I was with myself, but then equally so, I remembered what I said to Edouard about having those things you enjoyed. That life was too short. I knew passage was coming up soon and that we would abstain from all alcohol and cigarettes. There was plenty of time to cut out those things. Whilst we were on land, we would play.
I would not allow myself to feel guilty.
I would allow myself to be.
Daydreaming about lying by the pool as I took one step after another, we met Raymond, the guy who had given Edouard and I a place to stay, at Two Boats- the halfway point.
“You’ve passed the pool,” he informed us. “Hey, would you like a cup of tea?”
I would have very much liked to have stayed for a cup of tea, a rest and a chit chat, but my crew had already started walking again.
“I can’t right now, mate,” I said reluctantly. “Maybe on the way back down. I can’t leave my crew.”
I wanted to go back. I wanted to go back and lie by the pool, to sit and read my book and wait for the others to return. I told myself it would be a good day. A relaxing day. That I had tried. No one would judge me.
But I would judge me.
Just get a little further, Elizabeth, I told myself. Just a little further…
Pausing for a snack, we continued the journey as I told myself and the others around me that I would probably head back. But each time I did, I imagined Edouard there, as if he was listening to me.
I know he wouldn’t want me to quit, so I took another step.
I drenched my head in water every now and again, my thick hair piled on top of my head making everything seem that much hotter. The walk became more steep suddenly as the road twisted upwards. Three hours had passed and we still had a long way to go. Bowing my head down, I knew I would have to do it, forcing one step in front of the other.
“I’ll be so disappointed in myself if I don’t,” I told Karin. “But I’m really struggling.”
She nodded and kept the same slow pace as me. It helped.
Eventually we got to a building near the peak called the Red Lion, still with another 30 minutes left to get to the top. We climbed a track with banana trees and bushes full of berries as we moved, Brian and I grabbing whatever we could find to shove into our mouths.
“It could be poisonous,” Brady pointed out as he chewed.
I knew a raspberry when I saw one. And besides from that- I simply didn’t care. The burst of refreshing fruit in my mouth relived my parched mouth in a way the warm water from my bottle couldn’t. We climbed further and further until eventually we found an old building surrounded by fields and bewildered sheep.
A couple tried to convince us to take a different path that would take an extra hour, but I scowled at Brian as he thought it over, a devilish smile tickling his face.
“We could do this walk and then that one after?” he suggested to me.
I glowered at him and he laughed.
Taking a moment to find our specific path, the hills stretched out around us as we advanced to the top. The clouds were now rolling over the landscape as we walked through mist, our bodies instantly cooled by the damp air and shade. The trees bowed over our heads until they changed into a bamboo forest.
Bamboo? I thought in bewilderment as my body became swallowed by the darkness. What the hell is bamboo doing here?
We learned later that Charles Darwin and his Assistant Mr Hooker (Brian had giggled at this name) had come here for three days and spread a wealth of unusual plants that were not indigenous to the island- creating a man-made creation to successfully create water at the top of the island for emergencies.
At least, that is what I gathered from my skill of 50% listening and 50% daydreaming.
My vision was full with the colour green as I treaded carefully, my body exhausted and wanting to do nothing but lie down on the grass. I was taken aback at the ever changing plants around me, the wind whistling through the bamboo as I stepped along a wooden path. It was a surreal experience walking first up a seemingly desert road, to then woodland, across fields to another forest that turned into bamboo. It was a lot of detail for my hungover brain to process, but I was well on my way to sweating out the toxins.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe what I had achieved. Here I was, on top of the world on a random island with a hangover from hell in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. I used to be merely a girl from England whose adventures had been confined to one off holidays and an impromptu road trip.
And here I was now, with the SV Delos crew, climbing a mountain.
I was a different person.
Am a different person.
I staggered up the last few of the steps with Lisa to the top, a simple path still in the middle of the bamboo forest with a sign simply reading, “The highest point of Green Mountain.”
And that was it.
I was here.
I did it.
I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that I couldn’t get any higher. That all that I could have achieved had been achieved. Despite everything- I had done it. And I don’t know why I keep doubting myself whenever I go on hikes. They’re always a huge challenge to me for some reason. But the euphoria I get from accomplishing that journey mesmerizes me and suddenly I am surprised.
Why did I ever had any doubt in myself?
Of course you were going to smash it, Elizabeth, my mind tells me. Of course you were!
It astounds me how my way of thinking has changed. It wasn’t so long ago when I had a cruel voice in my head. A voice that didn’t believe in me.
Now a huge kindness has descended upon my heart towards myself.
I feel as though as soon as we left Africa, I left all of the sadness behind, all of the pain and finally forgave myself.
And here I was- on the top of a mountain, congratulating myself.
You fucking did it, Lizbef! You did it! You are worthy! You are so worthy!
I don’t know how I managed it- and I don’t think the crew did either. It had taken us five hours just to get this far. We stood at the top, squeezing in as we took a selfie and high fived each other in celebration.
We did it!
We walked away from the bamboo forest with a renewed vigour. It was time for a break.
After taking pictures, doing some filming and capturing some drone shots, we finished the rest of our lunch on a random bench in a clearing.
We muttered out admiration of the countryside, the awesomeness of the bamboo forest and took more pictures. I sighed, thinking of the very long way down. Each day I spent with these people I felt closer to them. We were all so different. And yet we were the same. We were one exhausted spirit, ready for a burger and a lie down.
“Are you ready to walk back?” said Brian. “I’m proud of you, Lizbef.”
That sentence made it all worthwhile. The sweating, the panting, the almost throwing up at the side of the road, the constant trying to keep up, the overheating- all of it.
I could never disappoint my captain.
I never wanted to let him down.
I smiled and nodded, standing up from my bed of grass and rabbit droppings.
“Ready when you are, bro.”
Karin, Brian and I went ahead whilst the others were content to enjoy the scenery a little longer.
“If you can hitchhike, do it,” Brian said. “Hopefully someone will pick us up.”
Within half an hour a truck went past. I stuck out my hand to stop it and frowned.
A man looking very much like Mr Brady waved from the passenger side.
“Wait… that is Mr Brady!”
“Alright guys?” he greeted as the truck pulled over. “Hop in!”
We climbed over the back immediately, pausing when we saw Alex and Lisa huddled inside holding a whole branch full of bananas, covered in dirt.
It was a cramped affair, our filthy and sweating limbs poking someone or other in the ribs or face as we made our way back down to Two Boats.
“I have to leave you here,” the driver explained. “I don’t want to lose my job!”
We left the bananas inside after he promised to leave them at the docks for us. I don’t think any of us fancied carrying them the entire way back anyhow.
We walked into the near deserted town, no one in sight except for-
He was sitting on a rock eating a sandwich in one hand with a cigarette in the other. He gave us directions to the pool and encouraged us to talk to the people there about using their van to get home.
“Are you out tonight?” he asked me.
“No, mate,” I said shaking my head. “I’m pretty hungover. I think we’re just going to have dinner on the boat and chill.”
He nodded in acceptance. “When you’re next out- you come see me!”
I nodded of course, unable to keep a pang of sadness from my chest. I was really missing Edouard. Seeing Raymond reminded me of him. It didn’t seem right to talk to him without my Frenchman at my side.
It was a bittersweet moment, wishing to be able to go back in time and do it again.
We walked to the pool eagerly, finding it open but there was no one present. That meant no van to take us home. Resigned to that fact and pretty sure that we could still hitchhike, we stepped into the bathing area with a loud sigh on all of our lips.
The blue water glittered brightly at us as we all quickly started to strip from our sweaty clothes to five under the cold showers. Knowing it was full of chlorine, I was content to shower and then sit at the side of the pool with my feet in. I was a new lover of saltwater, not wanting the chemicals to seep into my skin and coat my hair. I felt an allegiance to the pool in George Town, had associated it with memories already. I didn’t want to betray it, in a childish sort of way.
We spent about 40 minutes there, resting, cooling down and swimming in and out. Soon we packed up our things and continued our long walk down the hill, sticking our thumbs out to the passing cars.
But they just smiled and waved at us, driving well away from where we were walking.
But we didn’t give up, after about six cars passing us, the seventh tiny car stopped.
“I can take three people,” he said, strictly. “Make sure you wear your seatbelts!”
Karin, Brian and I jumped into the first car. I glanced over at Brady, Alex and Lisa and knew if I was a better person, maybe I would have offered my seat. But I was too hot, hungry and exhausted.
“They’ll have better luck being picked up as a three,” Brian pointed out as we drove down along the dusty and blinding road.
Sure enough, as soon as we pulled up to the shops, the other three stepped out of a school bus. We laughed at seeing each other, so grateful that things had gone our way.
“See?” Brady said with a grin. “It always works out!”
Returning to the boat, Karin and Lisa collaborated on dinner, making us an amazing feast of chicken burgers with chips. It was a peaceful evening, and as I crawled into bed alone, I stretched out and stared at the ceiling, wishing that I wasn’t so alone in that moment. I wanted to be held. It was a strange feeling getting accustomed to someone being there.
But there was a peacefulness at the same time. I was achieving great things each day. I was having an adventure of a lifetime. I knew that the Universe would provide and look after me. I had faith in it.
And although Edouard had been on my mind all day, I knew that if it was meant to be it would be.
One thing was for certain though.
I would always have my Delos family.
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