The final fling of the Comquat year was to pick a destination and have a group trip there. It was a last chance to spend time with classmates, forge lasting bonds, explore new horizons and just have some fun. Our class of 50 chose the planet of Cleardon50, as the name seemed fitting. We set out for two weeks of exploration on what was a populated planet, deemed travel safe and close enough for limited time wasted on travelling to and from the destination.
On arrival we were paired up with classmates randomly, further giving us the chance to get to know each other. We had the options of where we would spend the two weeks. These included an easy tramp from the staging place to the nearby beach, all the way to access routes that were steep and would require teamwork for success. Our leaders journeyed with us but they also had the same choices and could mingle with us or be separate.
I was the classic book worm. I had gone through my studying cautiously and taken limited, if any risks. My form showed that, I was over weight and sluggish on ground movement, having focused on exercising my brain at the cost of my form. I chose this moment to be my breaking out one and seduced my equally rotund partner into the ascent route, the most challenging of all, with words of being triumphant and proving ourselves. In the end, some leaders and a few other classmate pairs also chose this and we numbered 30 as we set off.
What started as a nice stroll in lush woods with a high canopy of trees devoid of other people. Soon became an arduous climb, on an exposed cliff face. I lost sight of my partner and in my determination to achieve this ascent did not bother to support her or ensure we remained united. There were places where one of us would slip and we would all bear the strain in preventing serious injury or death, being tied together on the major ascent. No one else seemed to notice I was alone.
We got to a particularly tricky place and two classmates fell heavily before we could arrest their descent. One was conscious and able to walk, while the other was not and had to be carried by six of our group. She was a rather large woman and while I was envious of the ride she was now on, I felt bad for that envy in the face of the effort her bearers had to exert. We carried on, into the descent to the beach that lay out before us, a sparkling blue jewel waiting for us to enjoy.
It was a heady moment. One side of our resting spot showed the work we had put in to get to this spot, while the other had the allure of the reward. It had been a long 4 hours, and at times many of us cursed our adventurous side that led us here, rather than onto a simpler route. But the vista made it all worth while and in that moment our aches and pains melted away. We began the descent, more precarious with the weight of the unconscious classmate that we now sort native aid from to get back to the staging place.
Halfway down we discovered an awful and aggravating fact. The “fall” had been a set up to enable the woman to be victorious but not put the effort in herself. The male had helped out of love for her. She was unceremoniously dumped on her butt. The group fractured for the first time, with those who supported or at least professed to understand her choice and those who were just pissed off. Physical and philosopical distance grew between the two groups, despite the shared destination
We came to a fork in the path, demarcated by a sheer drop. Before we could decide which side to continue on, we were hit with a hail of bullets, instantly killing two of the group I was with. In our scramble to safety, the two groups went different ways. After much hushed whispers between the leaders now scattered between each group, that separation was cemented, with the plan that each would seek help, in the hopes one would succeed and lead to the rescue of the other. To aid rescue, each group made notches in trees as they journeyed further apart, common to each but barely detectable to our enemy.
We had lost communication capability and were on our own till we found refuge with the natives. Over time, the shooting stopped but it was an ever present fear. We lost the comforting sound of the other group, their hushed whispers or the sounds of their movement through the bush. This was both comforting, in that we would not both be hit in another ambush and scary, as we dd not know what might happen to them.
We did approach people we saw along the way, for help. But more often than not were greeted with a raised gun and guttural sounds we could not interpret. We continued on. The vista that had one been a sign of victory was now a barrier to where we could walk for help. On one stop, to share our water and catch our breaths, I saw a tractor – like vehicle with a flag flying from the rear. It was only a glimpse but I knew that flag, it was ours.
I shared my sighting and we elected to go towards that tractor and seek help from what we hoped was a fellow adventurer. It took hours but we had a beacon of hope to follow, my sighting of our beloved flag. When we reached the land that seemed less wild and more purposeful in its plantings, we came to a farmhouse. We all saw our flag twisting in the breeze and while approaching cautiously we were optimistic.
The owner was a fellow planteteer and we were able to get the aid we needed to return safely to our staging area and arrange help for the group that we had separated from. I felt the guilt of losing my partner, recede in sighting her and we caught up on our separate adventures. I felt redeemed in breaching the pairing rules by being instrumental in our rescue, all because I knew the flag of our ancestors and that anyone flying it would be an ally.