By Aaron Aroriza:
“A journey is like a marriage. A certain way to be wrong is to think you control it”, John Steinbeck's words kept echoing in my mind. I had embarked on this trek into the wilderness assuring our designated driver that I would be back on the second day. He had only smiled and told me he hoped I would come back in one piece. Three days later and there I was; clueless about where I was with no idea where I was going – literally wondering in the wilderness.
Joseph's continued accusations didn't help much either. He was now claiming I had disrespected the mountains by appearing to be in a hurry to bid them farewell. Therefore, the mountains were holding me and my crew captive to teach me a lesson. The two porters nodded in agreement and suggested I stop thinking about home.
Home! I wasn't thinking about home. I was recollecting my boy scouting days.
“Be prepared,” says the scout motto and yet we were always never fully prepared. I guess it's just a male thing. No wonder Mr. Burden Powell had to remind us through our motto. On one of the jamboree camps, we arrived at Kaazi camping site ready to set up camp only to realize we had forgotten one of the most important essentials. We had travelled 300km from Mbarara to the jungle at the shores of L. Victoria without firewood and food supplies – someone had forgotten to load them onto the truck.
Our scout master was so angry with all of us. He got us some other food supplies but insisted we would have to fend for firewood on our own. Into the jungle we went – all eight of us – scouring the bushes for dry branches. It wasn't long before Bob and I got completely separated from the rest of the patrol and failed to retrace our steps back to them.
We wandered in the bushes for a few hours before we found ourselves on a trail near the girl guides' camp. The boy scouts and girl guides were separated for obvious reasons. The sites were at least 2km apart and there was a twenty four hour patrol program along the path that joined the two. Bob and I had, in our aimless wander, unknowingly beaten that security!
We could see the girls going about their business around their tents. The adrenaline and testosterone hormones in our adolescent bodies shot through the roof, taking us with them to a very high place of little reason.
No one in our Patrol had ever come this close to the girls' camping site. Everyone knew it wouldn't be a good idea trying to go there in the first place any way but we were so close and we weren't about to leave without talking to some girls. I've always admired the guts of adolescents and the lack of analysis of consequences that quite depicts them as daring. Being the archetype dare devil adolescents we were, we just confidently, as if we were official visitors, walked to the nearest tent we could see!
The girls were as surprised as they were exhilarated. We were in our boy scout uniforms but we had unbuttoned our shirt s to expose the school t-shirts we were wearing underneath. These girls knew our school and they loved it. We instantly hit it off! They invited us into their tent and for about thirty minutes we were in there talking about things only boys from a boy's school and girls from a single sex school could talk about!
Maybe it was more than thirty minutes – you know what Albert Einstein said about his principle of relativity. Suddenly three mature men in scouts' uniform yanked us out of the tent, asked for IDs and asked us to walk with them back to the boy scouts' camping site. We spent the night under detention (Scouts' headquarters' verandah!!).
In the morning they called for an assembly and announced that two boys had swum 2km across the lake to go visit their girl friends on the girls' camp site. They just couldn't believe that anyone would beat their security on land. If only they too knew that Bob and I couldn't even float on water, let alone swim even two meters.
They didn't get the reaction they had expected. All the boy scouts screamed in excitement, heralding us as heroes. The officials, avoiding giving us our five minutes of fame, decided against parading us in front of our peers. A few hours later they let us free but kept our IDs demanding that we keep reporting to head quarters every morning till the end of the jamboree.
Back at our camp all the patrol members were anxious to hear our story. They too had a long story to tell on how they had covered for us. They held us in high esteem and we almost became scouting legends – very daring skillful swimmers.
I was lost again in a jungle, this time not fending for firewood but fending for bread, this time not in the company of my good friend Bob but in the company of three strange men I had never seen before three days ago.
They say all roads lead to Rome. Well not this trail I scouted. I had taken it three days back and ended up in the middle of nowhere. The only way I could be heading to Rome is if Rome is close to nowhere!
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