I'm about to explain the scariest moment of my life to this date. The moment lasted a whole night and brings shivers to me even now.
Last year I went to the Amazon jungle. I chose to go to the most pristine part of the interior (interior= jungle) in Guyana, to get the full Amazon experience.
I was to first complete a survival course then I'd leave with two Amerindian tribe members for a hunting trip that would take me deeper into the bush.
I was nervous about the nighttime in the jungle. I'd heard horror stories about the nonstop noises that would be so loud you couldn't sleep. It wasn't like that though.
Let me first outline the nighttime sound:
The noises at night are specific. There's an ongoing insect hum but after that, layers of other sounds make up the total jungle orchestra.
Howler monkeys that sound like screaming madmen go on for hours, huge branches of trees crash down making even the tribe men anxious, thunder cracks, frogs ribbert, fish splash, birds sing and tapirs plod.
All of these you begin to get used to.
I'd lay in my hammock and try to shut off my ears to these sounds.
One sound I hadn't anticipated before I'd left was that of a jaguar. I didn't even know what a jaguar looked like before I'd left.
Thinking back, I was naive.
A jaguar is not a puma (as I'd originally thought) the majority have leopard print but a small percentage are all black. They are the third largest cat after tiger and lion.
They are unique because of their sound and their killing strategy. They use their sabourtooth teeth to attack from behind. They then rip off their prays scalp or insert straight into the brain. This is unlike the usual cat killing method of going for the throat.
Their sound is similar to a leopard. A groaning noise (note the image used on here looks more like a leopard I think. (Not sure though):
Scared yet? That sound makes me sweat.
After finding all this out the day before heading out into the bush, I googled the sound to know exactly what they sounded like.
Jaguars are rarely seen and like so many creatures, they are more scared of us than we are of them. I knew that nothing in the jungle was out to get me so I repeated this in my head whenever I got nervous.
The first night came. The darkness was pitch black. I'd drank a small amount of rum with some of the tribe and survival team in the hope that it would help me sleep.
I cautiously made it back to my hammock and on the way passed a snake. I ignored it, just as it did to me.
I got into my hammock confidently. I zipped up the mosquito net, pulled the blanket over me and switched off my head torch.
I heard others stumble back. They'd drank more than me and would for sure sleep well tonight. They slept about fifteen metres away.
I began to drop off. Proud of myself being calm in the jungle.
Then I heard it for the first time.
The same sound I had heard the night before on YouTube. The sound of a jaguar.
"No, it can't be" I thought to myself. I was convinced it was my mind playing tricks on me. Then I heard it again. This time, closer.
"It will be a frog" I kept saying this to myself, but felt myself getting hotter and short of breath.
Again. Louder. It was coming closer.
"No way, no fucking way is there a jaguar a few meters from me on my very first night in the jungle. Not. A. Chance."
Again. This time, at a different angle. Was it... Circling me?
I felt sweat on my face as I tried as best as I could to logically think through what was happening.
The sound was not a frog, monkey nor a bird. This was a cat. A big scary saber tooth cat.
My bow and arrow and machete were outside of my hammock. The only weapon I had to defend myself was a small Swiss army penknife in my trouser pocket.
I slowly reached for it, trying my best not to move in the hammock as it would be like teasing a cat with a string.
I opened it up and placed it pointing behind my head. If the cat pounced from behind as I had been told, then maybe, just maybe I'll stab it in the mouth. Ha, unlikely but worth a go.
The sound went on every so often. Making me shake. I couldn't scream. No sound would come out of my mouth. My throat was dry but my cheeks wet from tears. I was terrified of what was about to happen and felt cowardly as I waited to be pounced on.
I held my torch in one hand. I couldn't see anything because of the thick mosquito net. I didn't want to see anything. If I had seen eyes pointing at me, I don't know what I would have done.
I remained still as the creature outside moved around my hammock making occasional growls.
I started to say goodbye to my mum and dad and accept that I had had a good life and that it was about time something bad would happen. It was my turn now. My luck had run out. I just hoped it would be quick.
I shivered for hours. The tears stopped as I accepted my death. My hands still above my head holding the knife tightly.
Then, a kerfuffle. Just meters away. Movement and animal noises. A growl and a loud yelp followed by creatures running into the bush. I waited.
No more cat sounds. It was gone. It had caught something near to me (probably what it had been stalking the whole time). It had ran off. I was safe.
The sun came up just an hour or two after. The leafy floor was disturbed. I had got away... Or just been in the way of a kill.
Either way, I felt so lucky to be alive. I was also absolutely petrified as I still had a months worth of sleeps in the jungle to go.
I later described this to one of the tribe and they agreed that there had been a large cat there.
Never have I appreciated bedroom walls as protection so much in my life.
The rest of my time in the jungle, I slept with my machete inside my hammock, and made sure I was as close as possible to the tribe.
Video of the Amazon can be seen HERE