South Africa in Winter. By Charlie
I was abandoned on the shore. I trod the wet sand, never to see a fellow human being again. Looking into
the schlerophyll forest, the green belt encircling the beach I pondered that this would be home forever more - if
I survived .
The thought occurred to me. Is this meant to be? And am I not free to be who I am, to choose my
own destiny within the limits of chance and my own effort?
To tame this wild place, I felt a certainty inside. I would be tried, but I would survive. I wouldn't
be the first but I had some pride, and I aimed not just to survive but to thrive.
I rose on my feet as yet another wave rolled over me. The incessant waves gave me a sense of constancy and in a strange
way likewise a sense of security. I knew I could not change things but at the same time I sensed that things themselves could
not change, and I determined to adapt. The English have always said "If you can't beat 'em join 'em." and I was
certainly about to do that.
The channels cut in the sand by the tide on either side of me seemed like a good place to start my search for food. I
walked over to the channel to my right and dug for food - anything so long as I had something to put
in my mouth, that night.
The various molluscs that I found and crabs were plentiful.
Relieved that at least for now I would not starve, I had a raw treat, breaking open the shells with my knife which
together with a dozen boxes of matches in a watertight bag were all that I posessed, apart from the clothes that I was wearing.
I treasured them now, my sole posessions, and my sole source of distinction between myself and raw nature.
But all in all it made a difference, and I saw markedly that there was a difference. I was after all a human being,
which raised me to a higher plane than the natural order and I did not have to descend to the purely natural plane to
survive. Indeed my survival depended on my maintaining my fully human functioning and this I set out to do in my mind and
ordained it as the sole basis of my interaction with nature. I determined from the start that I would not be an apeman.
The night was approaching, my first night on this deserted shore.It was preceded by a crimson sky which intensified towards
the western horizon as the sun set.
With the brightness of sunset keeping aglow my will, my soul, like the red hot embers of a fire long
after it had died down, I placed all my cares in the hands of fate and, tired from the days and months of ordeal and uncertainty
culminating in my complete abandonment and loss of civilization, I slept.
The weather was warm, the sea breeze gentle. I had a comfortable night and slept peacefully.
I was to need that sleep. the next day I awoke to the sound of branches crashing
as they broke and a shudder of earth. It came from somewhere far off to my left and within a moment I was running as
fast as I could, to the farthest part of right my legs could carry me. I ran for about fifteen minutes before stopping
from exhaustion. I listened, all was quiet. I sat down under the protection of what looked like a large oak tree covered
in a densley foliated vine. It was like a room or temple inside and I was comforted after the immediately preceeding
ordeal by the silence and the seclusion.
I was alone, all alone. An inexpressible, sad, sad situation to be in. There was nothing to be done, and I knew
that for the moment at least, I was safe. But I had to eat. I had to stay alive no matter what. The time had come for the
reckoning and inwardly I knew I could withstand this lonliness, and would withstand it for a long time to come. I had to eat.
There were natives, I knew, a long way from here, a hundred fifty, maybe two hundred miles inland. Did I prefer their
barbaric company, their backward, what I thought to myself degenerate society to my own? It was a decision I would make
in time I guessed.
I decided this tree enclosure would make a good temporary home. I might not find another like it. It was superb in a
sense. And I gave thanks for it. I was dependant on the mercy of God not only for sustenance, shelter, and freedom from harm
in this frightening, unknown land, but also for keeping me from despair, from panic and from barbarism. To this end, no day
was to pass without a prayer escaping my lips.
I stood there for a half to one hour unable to move for fear.
Then I summoned up courage and left the enclosure. I was in a thick wood and found my bearings only by the shafts of
light which penetrated various sparser places which I could see through the woods. My first priority was to eat.
I made up my mind to face whatever it was out there. I found my way back, partly by instinct and by the disturbance I had
made to the surrounding bush and on the ground during my initial flight. Before I left I marked several trees with an arrow
so that I could find my way back to the oak tree. I needed water. My plan was to get to the shore and walk along the coast
about a hundred yards inland looking for fresh water. I made my way quickly. The sound of the waves took me in a different
direction to my tracks and I marked the larger trunks with arrows pointing in my direction of travel. I reached the shore
quickly and began walking southward along the shoreline. There was a mountain range off to my left. I headed for it with ernest.
I arrived at the base after about an hour and after a further half an hour I came across a stream.I gulped down about a litre
of water as a few fish scattered. Then I saw a large crab which had stood motionless on the bottom. I grabbed it and
quickly killed it by dashing it against a rock. As I walked upstream I managed to catch two more and dispensed with each
one in the same way. I cut away the shell and ate the flesh raw. I then searched out some vines and worked furiously at intertwining
them so as to prevent the larger fish from escaping once trapped.
This took two days and at the end of the two days sleeping once again in the open, I had two nets which could be fastened
across the stream in two places to prevent fish escaping. This took up my third day, adding to the twine when necessitated
by the depth of the water and the shape of the river. It was fixed in place by sticks driven into the bottom of the
stream and sides. The sides of the net were strengthened with thick twine I found in the jungle. I then made a net about two
feet square and three feet deep and attached to a stick about four feet in length. Together with my barricades
I managed to catch sufficient fish and gaining in confidence that I would not starve I had time on my hands to light a fire
of dry twigs and leaves and cook my catch.
I was now too far from my 'temporary home' to-be to warrant going back there each night and slept in the warm, gentle
breeze. Instead of snakes which I feared, I was attacked by insects. Some, such as spiders instilled in me such fear that
I could not enjoy my surroundings once night fell and it was without comfort of covering of any kind that I bore
up in misery each night between the few snatches of sleep that I was able to aquire on the nights of that first week. After
that I built myself a makeshift platform in a sprawling tree out of branches tied together and covered over with twine
and I slept in relatively better peace of mind without the insects that appeared to infest the ground. But of course not entirely.
There were still mosquitoes and other flying insects up here but thankfully no spiders and other creeping insects which were
about two to three inches long. They resembled beatles, bugs and other creatures which were measured in millimetres in civilization
rather than in inches.
After the first week it rained and I was forced to seek shelter greater than that afforded me by the tree I was
sleeping in. I found it in a tree covered so thickly in vines, not unlike the "oak" I had previously discovered, that little
water penetrated through. There was nothing to stop me getting wet when I ventured out to get food and there was no way I
could get dry artificially which made life more difficult.
It was some time before I ventured far enough to find edible fruit and berry bearing trees and some almost cost me my