Inspired by the Dailypost Prompt ‘Saved by the Bell‘ and a true story
Georges Du Verdon, France
Holiday in France can be daunting. I found that out a quarter of a century ago.
After that summer, nature no longer fooled me with its pretty façade. Danger can await you around every corner, to strike when you expect it the least.
The Georges Du Verdon certainly is a beautiful area with high mountainsides, quick streaming rivers and big blue lakes. A pleasure for your camera lens. But, beauty can hide something else.
That summer, in less than a two-week span, one drama or event after another unfolded.
A big snake was discovered in the deep creek on the camping. Children had played in there all day, every day. On the lake, within 5 miles of our camping, a man was in his rubber boat with his children. The rubber boat tipped over. He put his kids back in the boat on time, but he died from hypothermia, caused by the very cold water. A scenic helicopter flight ended in death. It had banged into a mountain side. All passengers died, including the pilot. Soon, it was my turn to play a role in an event.
We planned a hiking tour. We left early in the morning, while it still was dark. The complete trail would be eight kilometers and 2 liters of water per person was recommended. In the beginning it was easy. We parked the car and started walking downwards in the mountains, between the threes, with the sun partly shining through. We ended up at a big stream with fresh cold water I enjoyed touching to cool myself. This was fun, in beautiful surroundings. I loved it.
It started to become less fun when I realised now we had to go up the trail. You can’t keep going down, but being a teenager I didn’t do much thinking ahead. I wasn’t a complainer, though, and I just followed our group upwards, suffering in silence. I started to long for laying at the beach and swimming in the big lake, near our camping. This was all too much effort. Good I didn’t know upfront this would be quite a long day.
More dangerous trail
Suddenly we stopped. What was going on? It seemed we lost our original trail and had ended up in a more difficult one. We had to climb up at quite a high rock, helping each other to reach the top. There, I saw the path went a bit down, instead of further up. The first few meters were a bit tricky with nothing to hold on to, but around the corner the path was flat. Great! Walking would be much easier and I set in quite a tempo. Beneath my feet was white gravel. It started to move under my feet. I needed to go left, I wanted to go left. I didn’t go left. I went straight ahead and I was taken to the edge of nothing!
After a few seconds, it daunt on me. If I didn’t do something now, I was heading to my death. Before me the ground had an end, then a ravine and I couldn’t stop. The gravel was controlling me and my movements. In a reflex, I let myself fall on my knees, just in time. On my bleeding knees, I only needed to move my head a bit forward to be able to stare into endless depth. Wow, if I had acted just one second later, I would’ve gone over. Then I hadn’t become older than fourteen, ever. I saved myself that faith.
Another tragedy could’ve happened, but I guess enough drama already happened and I got spared.
I lived to tell. This story and many others, which are not about me. But about other people who weren’t so fortunate and did get their life shortened. I got the chance to live on and tell the tragic stories of people who should be remembered.
Not there yet
Before we were back on the camping, we had to walk for kilometers on end after the trail ended, in the heath, without any shade. We didn’t know upfront it wasn’t a roundtrip of eight kilometers. Our car was at one side of the mountain and we at the other. We tried to walk to the nearest village to catch a bus. It was too much. We were exhausted and decided to hitch-hike halfway. People in a French mini offering a ride, crammed in the back seat with the four of us, brought us there. We missed the bus. We thought it wasn’t the one we needed. It was. When we realised, it just left. We got another lift from a Dutch couple and finally arrived at our car. It was dark again when we reached the camping. What a day!
Revised slightly: Tuesday February 9, 2016