It was just a number,

like many of its kind.

And like all numbers its

attraction was in its daring

us to climb it, conquer

its peak, ascend to the

top. So with full packs

we started, around thirty

of us. The climb, at

first, was easy enough and

a cooling breeze helped to

blow away the steaminess of

the morning. As the climb

grew steadily steeper, our

breathing more raucous,

and limbs burned and

begged us “stop!”, we pushed

on, circling to keep that

beautiful cool breeze in our

faces. A little after noon,

we arrived at the top,

an overgrown crest that was

pock-marked in places, making

ideal bunk-downs. And

so we nestled down and

made camp. Night was peaceful

for us all. We dared

not break the spell as

we passed that first night

in heaven among this jungle

hell. But come the morn,

with business as usual the

mantra, a call came up

for escort and patrol. Chosen

by our fearless chain-smoking

leader, a bean stalk of

a young man, barely old

enough to grow a decent

moustache without a learner’s

permit, my team was tasked

with the mission. And so

we started, not long after

breakfast, the morning as crisp

as the air before it

grows stale like a compost

heap in that place. And

as we descended that green tangle

we could easily smell its

wafting perfume, “like Perfume

Gardens back home,” said one

of the boys. I laughed.

Nothing smelt like Perfume Gardens.

Downhill we slowly moved, looking

for sign, hoping we’d

find none (who goes looking

for trouble on a beautiful

day like this, I wondered).

By mid-morning, our clothes

already wet and dripping, we

arrived at the bottom of

that hill. No sign. Just

a lot of steep underfooting

which all led to the

stream rustling beneath us. How

we all secretly wished just

a moment to spare down

there. And I would have

if we didn’t have an

observer with us, watching our

every move. Reluctantly, I

ordered a start back up.

Back up that steep hill.

An hour and a half

later, feeling as sore and

as exhausted in a well-done

sort of way, we reported

to the boss. “Nothing. Not

a soul we found down

there on our morning stroll.”

That night we slept soundly

once more, free from the

heat, the mossies, the other

creepy giblies that plague those

not native or accustomed to

this place. The next morning

loomed larger than bright;

it was another glorious morning

shared by us; and we

all agreed. Then the order

came: we need an LZ.

Here? In this canopy-covered

crest of uneven ground? The

boss asked again, just to

verify. Indeed. An LZ was

required by that afternoon. We

kind of laughed and had

good reason; we had no

tools other than our

gollocks and individual folding saws

to cut down healthy limbed

trees. Our mission to clear

this ten-metre by ten-metre

pad was a challenge though

we sort of embraced it,

after much complaints to

the boss at the serious

horseshit idea it was. He

agreed but we couldn’t refuse.

So we set about our

new task as a team.

What was left of us —

a few had left to play

sport and represent us in

cultural activities. Not that really

minded as we all wished

we were so lucky. The

LZ was soon done, after

much exertion and the discovery

of two bike chain type

saws in someone’s pack. But

barely had we time to

finish enjoying our achievement

when the message came through

to send out another patrol.

And, yes, you guessed it,

I got the honour and

privilege of leading that downward

journey in the late afternoon.

By the time we returned it

nearing dusk. Boy, did we

sleep soundly that night, apart

from the regular sentry duty.

Thrice we climbed you, Rambut.

Not Everest for sure, but

still it was a challenge.

We left sweat upon your

green thick-jungled tangled slopes.

Made for a memory I

cherish still long after its

happening. Ka ki te ano!


© 2017 L. Tafa



Author: b20f08

I enjoy solo wargaming and writing. The first caters to the boy that never grew up; the latter satisfies a deep desire to communicate. Cheers.

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