I am hunting goats. This is not pretty bush with well formed tracks. This is messy and technical and I am not good at it. The people I’m with know how to walk. I amble and hop and scramble and trudge and clamber. They just walk, as if they were born bipedal. One foot in front of the other, regardless of the terrain. Rifles over shoulders, packs on backs, but nothing flash, just worn and practical. My Vaude boots and backpack with twenty pockets just look naff. I guess I can be pleased that one of them laughed and called me a hot city chick.
I will not complain. I will not look too grateful when they slow down and suggest a breather that is clearly for my benefit. I will keep up. I will not say things like just leave me here to die. I will be grim of purpose and clear of eye. I will not pee down my leg and come out of the thicket all damp. I will carry my share. I will not say nerdish things about bird life that show me up as someone who has read books but never been anywhere.
It is OK going in, and up. Crossing the river and wandering along the banks is pleasant. We don’t even get any shots off, because there are other people in the area. There are no goats, not even spoor, and few prints except for possums. Going down again is harder on the body and treacherous with it. Here the track is as wide as my boot. Someone says, I’m glad I didn’t bring my son, he would have got too scared. One slip down the bank and you’re dead in the river.
The world closes in. Through a brown tunnel I see a mere circle of grass and stones. I drop down and work my way crab wise along the bank. I can hear the river running and my heaving breath. You have lost the track, someone says gently. If you put your foot back down a bit you will find it. What track, I think stupidly. All I can see is where I will put my next limb, as I am now on all fours. It is like looking through a telescope. You’re beginning to panic, someone says. Yes, thank you. I keep going.
These are good guys. They don’t crowd me and they don’t say anything sentimental or encouraging. They don’t distract me. They just wait and lend me their presence. After all, if I fall I die. They can’t save me.
They are also kind enough not to say anything afterwards. I’m shaking as I walk out. The mind has maxed out the credit card of the body.