Death March on Wulai

For reasons not worth going into right now, I once had to climb a mountain with a group of Taiwanese special forces. I was assured that I would be in perfectly safe hands, as I was accompanied by some of the toughest men in the world, whose final examination supposedly comprised being dumped naked into the Taipei sewers and forced to subsist for three days on whatever came to hand. They were the ultimate survivalists, able to stay alive with hardly anything. It was only later I realised that this wasn’t good news for me.

They couldn’t light a fire. Nobody had brought matches or a lighter. None of the commandos knew how to rub wood together or use flint and steel, because… well, they had never needed to. Far from preparing them for the world at large, the Taipei sewer experience had left them utterly cavalier in their attitude towards survival. Nobody thought to bring a tent; they could just sleep under the stars. Food, they had decided, was an item only suitable for lazy schoolgirls. Instead, they planned on munching on any bugs that were unlucky enough to wander into their path, or possibly strangling an incautious squirrel and eating it raw.

This wasn’t much help to me. Two hours into our journey, we were hit by a typhoon. It then rained continuously for seven hours, in a relentless, pelting storm that caused mudslides and rock falls. It cut off the road back into town. The river also flooded, somewhat to the detriment of the camp site we had pitched on the bank. I was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and a pair of flip-flops. Somebody finally managed to get a fire going in a cave, and, during my ten minute shift in the dry before I had to stand outside again, I ate something in the dark that later turned out to be a pig’s small intestine.

And that’s why I don’t like camping.

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