In the first part of the traveler’s story, he had just had lunch of mud fish and bread with some friends he’d met on the journey. The story continues…
“After the lunch, it was time for a siesta. I opted to survey the environment a little bit. I wanted to see whether I could recognize some familiar sports ahead, maybe I could have been here before as the old man had said. As I went to the higher ground up from the valley of the river bed, I could see more area as if from an aerial view. On the opposite side of the path where I had come from I noticed one more traveler coming to the point of watering. I figured out that since I was coming back I could get to meet her/him then.
The higher I went up the path, the further I could see. I started noticing that valley where the river flowed during the wet season had marked itself in a way it could be traced. There was a bit of vegetation and so it stood out darker than the surrounding area. I started having thoughts about implications of following the river bed. From my geography lessons, I figured that if I followed the valley downstream, there’s no way I’d go back to where I had come from given that a river cannot flow upstream.
Without going back for my backpack, I started following the river bed downstream. I did not have anything to loose for I figured that since I had exhausted the packed food I had and there must be water downstream, I could survive somehow.
I started looking for a path parallel to the river bed, but some distance away , all the time keeping the river course in view. There were evidences of some others walking the path before , but obviously less than there had been before crossing this side of the valley.
As the journey continued, something drastic happened; I realized that the motivation started becoming less and less the departing from the city I had left and more and more, the prospects of where the river led to. From the distance, I could see the river bed becoming darker and darker downstream and I figured there could actually be a flowing stream down the course.
I started getting thirsty and decided to go to the valley to check whether I could get some water. At the point I got to the river bed, there was actually some water, a little more than the previous pool, with some actual attempt to flow down. I refreshed myself, with a good drink and a splash on my sun baked body and went back up the path with a good view of the river course downstream.
I did this for a couple more times and by the time I did the third one, there was an actual stream flowing. By the fourth time, it was big enough to be referred to as a river.
All along the watering points, our paths crossed with other travelers far and in between. Some we joined and walked together for a while, others had set camp at some points and would encourage fellow travelers with their experiences.
In all these, I had learnt my lesson from the first watering point, i.e. not to build permanent abode until I had gotten to my destination. I had increasingly gotten persuaded that this journey would lead to another city. A city that was unlike the one I had departed from. I had increasingly imagined that the city must have been made not by human hands, but rather the hands of the unseen one whose voice kept urging me on. In my conversations with other travelers, I had detected similar inner convictions of the city to varying degrees and was becoming sure by the day that that city exists somewhere down where the river leads.
The longing for the city grew increasingly with the persuation so much so I could not stay too long at any of the watering points. At some point I actually figured that I don’t have to move away from the river and just come when I needed water. If I walked along the river bank, I could drink water and take a bath whenever I needed or even wanted, while at the same time follow the river to its destination.
Walking along the river, I kept fantasizing of what I’ll find out . I’d imagine the river opened up to this beautiful port city, but even as I did that, I kept remembering that the city is of a different kind than I had seen before.
By the time I decided to walk along the river bank, the vegetation had increased significantly. Green bushes with tall trees flourished all along the river and this provided not only some shade from the scorching sun, but also plenty of fruits on some of the edible trees.
This however posed a different challenge to the travelers; the bush was thick and getting a path to walk on along the river bank was not easy. One could also not be too sure about safety from creeping creatures and wild animals at night as they came to enjoy the cool of the river.
Movement became slower, and the abundance increasingly became a temptation to settle down. There was some particularly tempting location where the fruits were so many lying so low and a couple of people had settled there making it safe from animals. Further, just nearby, the river had some formation that was trapping some fresh water tilapia making it very easy to get a meal of fish.
Despite all the comforts promised at that spot, the thought of the city ahead could not allow me to stop there. I figured that the city must be far better than anything else found along the way.
To overcome the challenge of slow pace because of the bush, I improvised a raft from a dry log, using it to float down the river, only disembarking where the river was too rough or at a water fall.
At one point I was not fast enough to get off the makeshift boat before going down a waterfall. I found myself tumbling down the waterfall being hit everywhere by the rocks around and being chilled by the water splashing all over me. I actually think I know what happened; one of my foot got stuck in a groove at one side of the log/raft I was using.
Eventually, I found myself under the waterfall where there was a rock the water landed. There was some kind of cave under the waterfall where the water was not going to where I landed. Were it not for the fact that it was in the afternoon and the sun was shining bright, the place would have been dark and I know I’d have really struggled to find my way.
Fortunately,I could see my surrounding well because of the daylight. I had company in the form of crabs all around me, but I guess they were too scared, arguably more than I was to come near me. I think the drama with which I intruded into their turf must have been one without precedence. They were all crumbled up the furthest possible from where I was I imagined they were asking, “what on earth is this creature? It must be an alien.”
I had never seen so many of those creatures in one place I wondered what they eat there. However, that was of of a lesser concern than getting out of that scary place. Fortunately, as far as I could tell at that point there were no fractures, so I tried to use my arms craw out of that place.
There was pain all over my body I could not tell where I was hurt and where I was not. As if that was not enough, there were some very thorny shrubs at the edge of the river where I was getting off.
By the time I got to some semblance of dry ground under the thick bush, I had enough pricks from the thorns in addition to wounds obtained while falling down the water fall. For the first time in my journey, the same commodity that had been a source of nourishment and direction became the cause of my pain.
With that thought, I dragged myself a bit further from the river bank where it was completely dry and some sun rays were sipping through an opening on the top of the thicket.
The sun on my wet and numb body felt quite refreshing. where the sun previously scorched and the water refreshed, the sun now brings relief from what the water had chilled. The warmth from the sun was so nice on my exhausted body I soon drifted to a deep sleep.
It was as I slept that I had a dream…
We’ll pick up from there in part III.