It begins

  May 2008 »
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Eighteen year old David opened his eyes and blinked. A complicated mesh of green leaves and vines filled his vision. He sighed and sat up, rubbing his shoulder where a rock had made a nuisance of itself. "Now where did you go?" he asked. "Mark?"

They had been backpacking in the mountainous jungles at the base of the Amazon for nearly three days now. The trees above filtered out some of the late summer heat, but a high humidity more than made up for it. A parrot squawked a short distance away in the overhead mess of branches. Why didn't the heat seem to get to them as badly? Maybe they were used to it. David wasn't.

He was currently living in a small town in southern Wyoming where the two of them had grown up. That would change in the coming fall, but for now it was nice to be surrounded by trees. The drive down and visit with Mark's Uncle Tom and Aunt Theresa had taken a full week. They had only had to bribe two public officials so far, which was really pretty good with the political atmosphere as it was in the countries they had passed through. The two of them had also hung around the house for two days so that they didn't feel bad about sneaking off to hike. Mark's aunt and uncle were watching the car to make sure nobody sacked, looted, or stole the tires from it while the two of them were out enjoying the forest. Mark and David only had to worry about finding food while they were out. They had another two and a half weeks, and it was physically impossible to carry enough for all the hiking they had already been doing. Besides, the natives of the region have a saying that anybody who starves in the jungle is a fool. Maybe that's what he's up to, David thought. Mark's tall, black backpack was laying next to his own which was identical but had different items stuffed in the outer pouches. There was only one walking stick leaning against the tree -- one of several tools that could double for defense if necessary. Just then he heard a faint voice say "I'm back, don't worry."

David waited a few seconds to let him get closer before asking, "Where were you?"

"Looking for food and a place to sleep tonight." Mark came around a tree trunk and into view through the almost non-existent undergrowth that was common in this part of the jungle. "While you were dozing, I decided I'm done hiking for the night."

"What? But what if I'm ready to go again?"

"But you aren't."

"So! What if I was?"

"Oh, quit your fussing. You should see the place I found to make camp tonight. There are some old temple ruins just back that way," Mark gestured over his shoulder. "And you won't even have to wear yourself out before we decide to pitch the tent tonight. In fact, we probably don't even need to set it up. We could sleep in the temple or one of the caves near it."

"Really?" David's interest had been piqued at the mention of some old ruins. "Let's get going."

He had his backpack on and the waist and chest straps buckled before Mark had even picked the other one up. The packs probably weighed about 35 pounds apiece. They weren't overly packed, but just had the essentials. His contained the tent, Mark's held the cooking gear. He grabbed his walking stick and leaned on it slightly while he waited for his friend to make himself ready. Mark, enjoying David's impatience, pulled out a water bottle and drank from it before he pulled his pack on. They had been friends since junior high, and he enjoyed messing with David as much as ever. Once he was ready, they set off again.

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