Sumatra | IndiaNorway

 

In 2015 I spent 2 months walking coast to coast across South India from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. We lived on 75p a day, slept in fields frequented by tigers, and faced the monsoon with no tent (my fault). 

Extract from Sidetracked Magazine

Head swimming, I lay flat out on the floor of the bus shelter, drenched in rusty, lukewarm water that reeked of chlorine. For the second time in three days I had been hit with heat exhaustion. I felt nauseous, my legs and back were cramping painfully, and my head was attempting to explode. I began to question the sanity of my life choices. Angus and I had left the sweltering shores of the Bay of Bengal just seven days ago, wincing from fresh jellyfish stings. We were setting out to walk across Southern India: from the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea, via Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala.

A fortnight later and the monsoon had conclusively arrived. Dark clouds loomed on the horizon as we fumbled our way down the side of one of the scattered sandstone hills that broke the otherwise flat landscape. Lightning flickered across the plains and paddy fields below, and the sun was dropping behind the tall stones above, plunging us into shadow. The situation was entirely our own fault. Not content with a full day’s walking in tropical heat, we had decided to spend the evening climbing the hill to photograph the surrounding landscape. Upon reaching the summit we realised our mistake: it was getting dark quickly, a storm was coming, and there was nowhere to set up camp. Night fell as we shuffled back over the now impossibly slippery sandstone boulders. We soon found that the best way of getting down was to slide spread-eagled across the slabs, but our progress was both exhausting and frustratingly slow. By the time we had reached the foliage at the base of the scree, the first fat, warm raindrops had already soaked us.

I led the way, pushing through stiff, waist-high grass. Having given my faltering head torch to a farmer a few days prior, I was left with only the weak and unreliable glow of my mobile phone’s screen for illumination. Behind me, Angus’s head torch was slowly dimming. He suddenly swore and grabbed my shoulder, pointing upwards. On the rock above, a pair of wide, glaring eyes reflected the light of our solitary torch. We both froze; whatever the animal on the rocks above us was, it had got very close without either of us noticing. Leopards are common in the area, but the lurking eyes ducked out of sight before we could identify the shadowy shape. Hesitantly, I slipped my camera from my bag, switched on the flash, and fired it off in the general direction of the eye shine. Nothing showed up in the photo. We cut a pair of stout branches from an overhanging tree, and with regular stops to scan the slope behind us, we continued slipping and shuffling towards the nearest village.

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