The jungle was alive with noises as we paced along the overgrown path, filled with anticipation. There they were! The first set of slightly slippery, almost vertical wooden ladders. We eagerly rushed up, excited and ready for the next challenge. I felt my heart race wildly as I spotted the old wooded ladders scaling high above. They clung to the sheer cliff face of the mountain. Despite the danger, I couldn’t wait for the climb. However, as we got closer, excitement turned to disappointment. The 100ft high challenge was just not meant to be. The bottom 12 rungs of the ladder were completely missing and a wire fence had been pulled across the entrance, preventing us from skipping over. Feeling gutted, we turned back down the crumbling slippery trail.
“Fancy a smoke?” drawled a gruff voice.
“Sure, why not”
I hadn’t had a cigarette in my whole time in Peru. Plus it was about time we started making some friends. There’s nothing like bonding over a shared love of tobacco.
I soon realised we were not just going to be smoking a cigarette. As random guy expertly rolled up his spliff, I began to wonder if smoking drugs with a complete stranger up the side of Peruvian Jungle Mountain was really such a good idea. But I did it anyway. The crazy mind-fuck had began…
Those clouds kind of look like little sharks, that’s pretty cool. Oh my god. Im tingling. Why are my legs tingly? Have I got cramp? Oh shit Im up the side of a mountain and now I cant walk. How the fuck will I get back? I can’t stand up. I’m sure we’ve been here about an hour now. And nobody is talking. WOW this is awkward. Surely we should go now? Shall I try and stand up? Jesus I only had like 2 drags how has this happened?? Does anyone know? God how embarrassing. Ok I seem to be stood up. How did that happen? Well this is good. Other than there is no feeling in my legs. Woo I’m literally floating down the mountain. This is no effort at all! Ha! Brilliant! I’m like a big floating cloud!
“So…Bruno from Brazil….what do you do when you’re at home?”
“I’m a psychologist”
I’m skipping in front and I feel kind of OK now. Am I snapping out of it? Flash-forward- a visual of me in a hospital bed. Back to the jungle. I can hear Don and Bruno whispering about me.
“What the fuck did you give her?”
“OK this is very typical. This is the normal stage where she thinks everything is back to being ok”
Shit! How long will this last? It better wear off before Machu Picchu! We’re walking through the village. They’re trying to hide me? Or trying to keep me safe? I can see the reflection in people’s eyes. Oh shit I know now! I know what this is! It’s all a psychology experiment! Am I in a hospital bed somewhere? Is any of this real? I’m walking through the village streets. The street names feel vaguely familiar, yet they’re not supposed to be here. I’m sure I recognise these people. Why don’t they recognise me? Didn’t we already pass the corner? This shop? This person? Oh my god, its a trap! A trap down memory lane! If I go deeper into the memories I’ll get stuck and I won’t get out again! Don and Bruno are in on it. They are trying to make me go the wrong way. I have to turn around!
“It’s this way!!!” I insist, dragging Don away from the darkened depths of my memory.
I walk blindly into nowhere but I can’t escape the memory lane. It’s everywhere! I’m trapped!! Bruno goes to the hot springs.
Don finds us the hostel.
“I need to go to bed”
“But you’ve been fine! What’s up?”
I don’t believe him. How is that possible? It seems that hours have passed. If the clock moves to 38 I’ll know it’s real and not a dream. The screen goes blank before I can see. It’s a test. It’s not ready for me to know yet. I can’t move again. Don leaves to shower, but something creeps into the room. I can hear it snuffling in every corner, trying to find me. It’s a huge grey wolf about to pounce. NO it can’t be. It’s just a dog. A rabid dog. I can hear it panting, snuffling, barking. Pools of saliva drip from its menacing jaws. If I close my eyes, I’ll never see it. It won’t exist. I close my eyes. The ceiling is going to collapse. It doesn’t.
I’m up at 4.30am. Ready for Machu Picchu. We see Bruno again at breakfast. Is it real? We step into the cold damp darkness, feeling the pouring rain on our shoulders. We wait in a colossal que. It must be real now! On the bus, another que, we pace through the foggy ruins towards the mystical Huayana Pichu. I thought this was real but…now he’s there again! How can Bruno be here again? Isn’t that too much of a coincidence? Am I about to wake up for real?