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danger

Jungle Jaguar Jeopardy

Jungle Jaguar Jeopardy

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.

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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.

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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.

Silence.

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

About Lucy

About Lucy

So you've found yourself on my 'blog'. I never thought I'd set up a blog but after having written a few entries now, I am rather enjoying the release aspect of it. Take a look top right at the menu and widgets for the blog entires.

I am 22 going on 23 come July this year (2015). I grew up in the beautiful countryside of Suffolk as an only child. I found myself climbing and exploring the countryside as the best way to spend time. This has been amplified into what I essentially do now.. I am, I guess, an adventurer in training..

I don't like that word adventurer, it's rather 'showy offy' and a self given title for many. I don't think I am qualified to call myself it just yet but I use it with lack of a better word. Over the last few years I've found myself consistently going on more and more extreme and adventurous expeditions and referred to as the adventurer by friends and family who I guess are just being supportive or using it as an excuse for my dangerous and odd habits.

I trained at university to go into film and television production, which I do in the weekday. I want to incorporate my love of adventure into film as there's so much to show and inspire once both feet are out of that door and a 'can do' attitude is put in place.

Past expeditions, to name a few, have taken me to the Arctic (several times), the Haute route, Bolivian high peaks, the Hardangervidda, Finnsmarkvidda, the Amazon rainforest, Nepal, NZ, OZ, Vietnam and many hundreds of miles trekked across Spain - alone. 

My next big trip will take me to an exclusive (and extremely hard) expedition race in Patagonia.

These trips have provided me with stories and lessons learnt that I intend to use this blog to share. I will use it as a way of reminding myself of where my roots really are.

Some of my adventure films can be found on my Vimeo page HERE

People are Nice

People are Nice

People are nice. We forget this and assume the whole world is out to get us.

My faith for humanity was restored to me on the first day of my Spanish 500 mile hike that began and ended at the coast. I went through the Picos mountain range and into some very remote areas where people were sparse.

I had been walking for 8 and a half hours and my body wasn't acclimatised at all. My pack weighed 26kg (more than it should've because I'd decided to self support as well as bringing all my camera equipment.)

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It rubbed my hips with each step but it didn't seem to bother me until I took a glance at them the following evening- red raw and lumpy.

The weather was scorching and I dreamed of my next self inflicted break so that I could take a swig of water and search for shade. I never realised just how much I loved the taste of water. Every step I'd imagine it on my lips and think why had I taken it for granted in the past?!

At 6pm I still had 6 miles to go to a small hostel. I was on a quiet road that trailed alongside the mountain slope.  I took a break to sip the now very appreciated water. I sat on my bag exhausted and in my dehydrated and rather confused state, I decided to hitch hike.

I've only ever hitched with guys before and never alone. There's a lot of bad stick about hitch hiking that the only person that would pick you up would be the village murderer. I took my chances. I was hot, dehydrated and my feet couldn't take the pounding that the tarmac road brought.

I sat on my pack waiting. Nothing came. My feet throbbed with the release of my weight from them. The blood rushing back, making them swell. My leg and back muscles began to seize up thinking that they'd stopped for the day.

To get up now would be agony.

I tried to think what I'd do if I saw a car but I wasn't sure. Try and look the driver in the eye was the best I could come up with.

Around the corner of the mountains side: a car and my chance . I stood up with my map in hand. I knew I already looked haggered and desperate so I wasn't acting.. I raised my eye brows in an innocent 'please help the poor blonde girl' kinda way.

He didn't even slow down. Bastard. He looked sketchy anyway so I wasn't too fussed.

There was another car soon after his. I did the same thing, expecting for the same reaction but this man slowed down and opened the window.

I hobbled over and poked my head through the window. I asked if he spoke English. 'A little' he replied. Fantastic- the first person I had met today who could say even a word.

I pointed to where I wanted to go on the map and he signalled to jump in. I heaved my rucksack into the boot of his car. It just about fit.

His car was clean and the kind of car one buys when they've retired with their partner and only share one car between them. He was obviously married.

We shared minimal conversation on the way to the destination. He really wasn't lying when he said 'a little English'

We arrived and I felt so impressed with hitch hiking. I'd be sure not to let this be the last time.

I waited by the car as the hitch hike man went to ask about the hostel. Closed.

I scanned the area for a place I could put my tent, there was none.

The man told me to wait as he got on the phone. I was passed the phone to speak and there was a man who said hello. The hitch hike man had phoned his son who could speak good english. I was told by his son to 'Follow his father'.

I put my trust in the man on the phone and got back into the car. We drove back on ourselves.

I hadn't a clue where we were heading, but I didn't mind. I trusted this stranger but had no reason to. I had no reason not to trust him either.

We arrived at a small village. Mountains towered over the village covering half of it in shade.

A 30-something man with a beard approached on a very small bike and began circulating the car. I had a single thought; 'hitch hike man has brought me to a Spanish gang and I'm about to be sold.'

He hadn't and I wasn't.

The man on the bike was the hitch hike man's son, Juan. He introduced himself with a smile. Juan told me that there was accommodation in the village but that it was expensive.

Things progressed and it was decided I was to stay at Juan's house and he would cook me dinner and breakfast and in the morning, take me to my original starting point for the day. I couldn't believe it.

I got back into the car and was taken to Juan's house. A cute, small, wooden house. Juan and his cousin were painting the house so dinner wouldn't be until late.

I met Juan's mum. She greeted me like a long lost daughter. She had no english but persisted to make conversation and take photos of me.

The village elders sat across from the house, watching us. Juan told me they'd lived here all their lives and never had they seen a hiker walk through their village. Especially not a young english girl.

I was told to treat the house like my home. I took the main bedroom and flung myself across the bed, trying to come to terms about what had just happened.

That night, Juan shared stories and wine with me. I was so taken back by the kindness of the family and the willingness to help.

It put a smile on my face and reminded me just how kind us humans can be. I won't let myself forget that again. People are nice.

Short video of my Spanish adventure: 

I just have to

I just have to

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Forward motion is bliss. Pulking along an Arctic plateau is not hard. There’s really not that much to it. I am not a particularly skilled individual, born with Arctic-ninja skills that allow me to enjoy and make progress in the Arctic. I wasn’t in the army nor was I born with parents who taught me how to make fire and survive in extreme environments, no. I was a normal child, yes with a little adventure spirit, but I was also pretty damn good at watching Disney films whilst enjoying fish fingers and ketchup. I loved Nintendo 64 as much as the next person.

The point I am trying to make in my not very well constructed paragraph is that it doesn’t take an extraordinary person to do extraordinary things. (Yes I know that’s a well-known quote used on motivational posters at the gym)

We are all capable of learning and our genetic material helps with that – human beings are very good at adapting. The modern person just doesn’t put his or her self in enough extraordinary situations. It’s easy to understand why. Too easy is it to go along with what life naturally throws at us. It is so much easier to stay in our known lives than to put everything up in the air and explore the complete unknown.

Thing is, once you’ve done it once, it’s hard to shrug off and make it the one story that you tell at dinner parties or the fun fact that you’re introduced with by a friend to a new acquaintance.

For me, adventure is an itch I will never scratch. I know that there will never be that one expedition or experience that I come back from and think ‘enough’. But I continue to do it knowing all too well that it will not fulfil all my needs.

I do have doubts before doing these things. I am heading off on my own the day after tomorrow for a rather spontaneous solo walk across the Picos mountains in Spain before joining the well trodden Camino walk to the coast.

I was just brushing my teeth, looking at myself in the mirror. I’d had a pleasant day here in London, the first pleasant day in a while. Why did I feel the need to go off and have weather and terrain battle me? Why leave my friends and house here in the city?

There was temptation and questioning for a brief moment but you see, I don’t have a choice. I have to go, to leave and be tested.

There may be a fear of the challenge that’s coming, hell even the possibility of failure, but it’s so much less scarier than staying here carrying on with an okay and comfortable lifestyle, knowing that I am not being put to my full potential or at least trying to reach it.

That’s just it; I think I want to know how far Lucy can go. This DOES NOT mean I want to keep going until something tragic happens, I mean I want to know that I’m taking advantage of this life and this World.

If it’s these situations that make me feel most like me, then surely I should be doing them often. Adventure is waiting so I better go and look for it then. (It's not that hard to find if you want it.)

A moment of panic

A moment of panic

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I was gripped into the ice wall by just the front two spikes of my crampons that were tied as tight as I could get them to go on the outside of my red plastic boots.

At this moment I really regretted not buying my own top of the range shiny new crampons. It was so unlike me; I almost always go for the gear with the best reviews from all of the gear nerds who like to refer to numbers and weight to give their review a little bit more gut than the last nerd. At least if I’d bought new crampons, there was nothing more I could’ve done if I did happen to hurtle down the side of the 6100 metres mountain. Instead I’d decided to save my money and rent out some rusty, worn out and half blunt crampons that were loose at the best of times.

It was freezing. I mean bloody freezing. I’d been freezing before, I’d spent plenty of time in the Arctic before. Arctic Lucy I’m often called. But that’s a different kind of cold to the one when you’re at the top of a mountain, after climbing for 8 hours and unable to breathe.

My body was shivering uncontrollably as the morning sun began to rise which made the crampon-gripping situation even worse. We'd set off at midnight and had climbed all night. Now the ice was warming up with the sun's rays. I could feel myself grinding down the only contact I had to the mountain wall but there was nothing I could do. My feet would move and with it, move some ice below and to the side of the spikes. I was standing up right, about ten metres from the summit. These ten metres didn’t feel comprehensible to me. I was saying goodbye to loved ones in my head. I looked beneath me; hundreds of feet below were rocks sticking out from the snow blanket. Not even the most skilled mountaineer could save themselves with an ice axe arrest here. So I had no hope.

Either side of me were my teammates whom I had come up with. I was roped to Juan but he was half the size of me, spoke very little English and had even worse gear than me. Perhaps I’d fall and he’d attempt to dig himself into the ice to save us.. Then he’d be pulled off and overtake me as I fell, then we’d fall in a chaotic mess down the mountain to our deaths. ‘Think positive’ I thought. ‘You’re Lucy, you can do this like you’ve done everything that’s been thrown your way.’ But what if I couldn’t do it? This thought rarely entered my mind, which some may think of as an empowering attitude, a ‘This Girl Can’ motivational way to live one's life.

At this point, my mind was half on ‘can’ and half on ‘you’re not superwoman.’ My legs and arms were just about to give way when a feeling of desperation to live came over me. I might not be Superwoman, but I might as well try. So I held on.

I used the little energy I had took one foot cautiously out of the hard ice and took one big kick into the ice. The spikes penetrated the wall and stuck firmly. I was secure.

We were stood still chilling our asses off due to a mountaineering traffic jam. Little to our knowledge, there had been a French team who’d camped a little further up from us and they’d left earlier in the night to get ahead. I couldn’t tell if they were pros or just simply tired from the exhausting climb but they were acting like jerks I thought. The wall that we stood on… Well, clung to. Could only manage one person. The French had already summited so needed to pass us in order to get down. They could’ve waited on the summit but instead they had fled down as if there was a clock on the matter. They spoke abruptly and sounded frustrated as they looked at us in the way of their escape. No one tried to pass any word, instead the French were soon coming towards us. My concern was that they’d use us as human steps. One French man had managed to climb above Juan and now I was in the way.

Juan put out his hand as if we were just in the street crossing over a man hole. Juan gestured down. I know now what he wanted me to do. I looked at the French man and he gestured the same thing. They wanted me to take steps down this vertical wall so that he had enough space to climb above. My legs were so weak. Usually I’d be able to rely on my arms to take my weight but even they were numb. I looked at them both. I was probably pale as a ghost with water in my eyes and jaw clenching because then they came up with another solution. The French man took hold of my rucksack as Juan put his arm out again. I was being passed over like a bag of luggage in an airport. My life was in their hands I thought. I didn’t mind this actually; there was nothing more I could do. Why not allow a man whom I’d never met and the other who I wouldn’t even trust to water my house plant. Surely they didn’t want me to die. That would be hassle. So I released my ice axe from the snow then one foot, I felt the rucksack go up as my weight went down on it. Juan violently took hold of the arm strap and dragged me towards him, until I could get my axe into the snow and ice next to him. The French man released his grip as I dug my feet in place as quickly as I could with the energy I had miraculously found in the depths of my body. I looked up and saw the summit so close, gleaming in the early morning sunlight.

Then came the next fear, I had to get down after I’d got to the top. Shit.