I could sense the impending danger ahead. Dread rushed through my body, creeping right to my fingertips. Who knew what deadly creatures lurked beside us? Or how long we would be trapped here? Just two hours earlier my friends and I had been lazily floating along on our tubes, enjoying the views and splendour of the Nam Song River in Laos. We were blissfully unaware the sun would desert us sooner than expected.
The thunderous roar of the unforgiving water was becoming louder by the second. It quickly became apparent we were about to enter the wild river rapids…in the pitch black. I began to scream in panic, finding Becky close beside in a similar state. I could just about see the terrified look in her eyes, which probably closely mirrored my own. Reaching out, I grabbed for her arm in the darkness.
‘Don’t let go!’ I yelled.
‘I’ll never let go!’ she assured me.
But she did let go. We were swept abruptly away from each other and down the furious white water at a frightening pace. I span backwards and forwards, crashed into branches and bushes, and narrowly missed several dangerously sharp rocks.
The noise around me was quieting; the swirling water stilling. I was alone. A large tree branch caused me to come to a startling halt. Panic gripped my bones. The adrenaline kicked in. What had happened to the others? Had they survived? I looked all around me, but it was no use. I couldn’t see a damn thing. I eased myself away from the branch and began to trudge along the river against the slowing current.
‘BECKY!’ I screamed, ‘FRANCIS!’
To my utter relief, my name was hollered back. I quickened my pace, moving in the direction of the voices. Spying two shadowy figures huddled next to a large rock, I swam over as fast as my trembling legs allowed me.
‘We need to find a way out of here’ said Francis anxiously, ‘and fast!’
We all glanced miserably at the steep cliffs either side of the river. It didn’t look like we were going to be able to escape the death trap anytime soon. Teeth were chattering and the cold reality was dawning that we couldn’t possibly stay here much longer.
‘Look!’ cried Becky ‘Over there!’
We looked on ahead to where she was pointing with a newfound hope. Sure enough, in the distance there was no cliff. There were lights. Lights meant people. Lights meant escape! The three of us splashed our way furiously towards the lights, the gentle current this time on our side. As we swam closer we realised there were wooden shacks at the riverside, and more importantly, the bank was low enough for us to climb.
We crawled up the riverbank on our hands and knees. Slipping and sliding in the thick mud, rubber rings rolling ahead of us. On reaching the top, victoriously we grabbed hold of one other, and collapsed in an embrace for a good few minutes. There, on the random riverbank, in the middle of nowhere. We had no idea where we were or how we were going to get home, but none of that mattered. We had survived.