The new camping spot was idyllic, a few short metres from a slowly moving stream from which the guide could be found fishing day and night. Trails in all directions. There was nothing to complain about. Except the ants…MY GOD THE ANTS!!!
A typical day as follows:
1) Get up out of the hammock and put on clothes. “Son of Bitch!!!”- as I run around trying to put out the flames of the hundreds of ant bites on my back and arms. My guide tries to stifle his giggles to no avail. Though I reciprocate the sadistic laughter moments later when its his turn to get up.
2) Take an early and unanticipated bath – Fortunately we had a ready source of water nearby to douse ourselves with as we waged constant war against the ants.
3) Eat breakfast – Holding the cutlery in hands that looked like gnarled tree roots from the pain of so many bites, we haltingly ate while moving every few minutes as the ants got a new whiff of food and reorganized their battalions. With a casual nod of the head or a wince, me and my guide would look at each other and without a word stand up as one and shuffle over a few steps.
4) Trail walking- A blessed reprieve from the ants we stayed out as long as possible until crippled by hunger or harassed beyond reason by mosquitoes. “You want to go back, are you hungry?” I would ask my guide. I hear the growl of his stomach which had been evolving gradually from a timid purr earlier in the day to the howl of a creature that needed to be put down…”Not too hungry” he said, cradling his stomach and trying to massage out the ache. Then with a defeated sigh we knew it was finally time and we would head back to camp.
5) Dinner- The ants had by now covered the dishes and the food, so before even starting to eat we had to somehow get rid of them, though they formed an impenetrable barrier 1 metre in diameter around the food. I readily admit, I took the coward’s way out. “You know” I would say, “you are MY guide”. He looked at me suspiciously with narrowed eyes and a look that said “you had better be tipping me extra for this” and then walked bravely into the enemy ranks like the last of the doomed Spartans at Thermopylae. This illusion was shattered however when he yelped at the first of the bites and ran back to cover or is it cower behind a tree a safe distance away? Inevitably we would eat a cold dinner of my preserved food that the ants had not yet found in silence…(Nb. silence is the sound of a thousand ants cheering)
6) Going to bed- Like champion athletes we measured up our tiny competition, eying them with suspicion and hatred. Then with a few deep breaths we ran headlong into the waiting hordes. We danced and pirouetted to avoid the densest populations and jumped into our respective hammocks, hastily shining our flashlights on our legs and flicking off the ants that had managed to catch hold. Ripping bodies from heads that refused to let go of flesh caught in their sharp little mandibles.
7) Sleep- A troubled affair whereby we were awoken from dreams of being molested by ants by actually being molested by ants. They would enter through the finest crevices between the lining of zippers, crawl onto flesh, pink with sleep…chuckle their malicious ant chuckle and then bite us. The occasional curse and slap the only sounds to perforate the night.
8) Night hikes- Much like getting out during the day, only you don’t see the enemy. They are stealthy ninjas hidden in the darkness. We get out of our hammocks as quickly as possible, praying that we have not left anything behind and if we did, it has become a casualty of war, there is no going back…for me that is, I sometimes asked my guide to venture back, which to his credit he sometimes actually did. It was a toss up between the ants and the mosquitoes. We were like Poland, a frightened and weak nation beset by the Germans (Ants) on one side and the Russians (Mosquitoes) on the other. Sometimes we would bravely charge into the ranks of ants but it was like cavalry against tanks. Tiny fucking tanks! We were pummeled and crushed until we withdrew, bleeding and licking our wounds.
9) Haggard and sore we do it all again…