I went on an excursion into the hills and forests of Borneo with my teachers and schoolmates during the holidays in high school. For around 99% of the trip, it was fantastic - the indigenous people were very warm and accomodating, the food and drinks we had were so unique and delicious, the forests were pristine and beautiful, the wildlife were magnificent and rare, the tropical paradise climate, and I can go on and on about how amazing Borneo is. 

But it is the 1% of the trip that got me writing this. 

It was during a hike up a mountain in a national park. What was supposed to be a 6-hour hike became a 12-hour misadventure.

We were supposed to leave the camp after lunch time and return by dinner time. We had started the hike 1 hour later than scheduled because some students had wandered off on their own and the teachers had to find them. 

When we did start hiking, some students were significantly slower than the rest of the group, so a few teachers had to slow down and watch over them. This in turn made our double-line formation into single-line formations that were intermittent with clusters of students and a teacher pushing them along. Unfortunately, the hike was a very challenging one - we had to climb over boulders, muddy paths, rotten leaves, and sometimes climb under fallen trees, or through thick undergrowth. This slowed us down even more - especially the teachers who had to cheerlead the slower students on, and occasionally convince a particularly squimish child to just go under the moss-covered fallen tree that had vines hanging over the edge which smelled of rotten wood and felt slimy to the touch.

When we did arrive at a clearing halfway up the mountain for rest, only half of us made it with our park ranger. We ended up waiting an hour for the other half of the group to join us before continuing. 

By the time we were approaching the peak, the sun had started setting - and we had only arrived at the midway point of the hike. By this time, we knew we would not make it back to the camp on time as going up the mountain alone had taken all of the 6 hours that we orginally designated for the entirety of the hike. Again, at the peak, we had to wait for the slower ones to catch up, and a small group of us ended up waiting in semi-darkness for half an hour before everyone was present and we proceeded. 

By the time we were descending the mountain, night started setting in. Our park ranger increased his speed and those of us who could keep up matched his pace to cover the gap so that we could form a somewhat organized line to let those further behind know which way we would be heading by watching our lead. Regretably, as I found out later on, no matter how well we tried to maintain that line formation, the darkness from the night meant that most people could not see in front of them, especially in the thick foliage of the Borneo jungle that made the brightest of days seem more subdued.

Our park ranger was experienced in these group outings, so him and his colleagues had placed red tapes on trees as pathway guides if anybody got lost - a memo we remembered as it got more difficult to see. 

By the time we arrived at our halfway point in our descend, we stopped to rest, and realized that 3 quarters of our group had been left way too far behind. They were so far behind that even when we tried making a light signal with our flashlights, no one responded. We then made a sound signal by clapping our hands, and still no response. So the handful of us that remained with the park ranger had to sit in total darkness in the middle of a forest- using the flashlights and our hands to make light and sound signals every 5 minutes. 

Almost one and a half hours later, finally we saw and heard responses. We tried being as loud as possible while flashing our lights in the direction of the responses so that they can get to our position. 

When they were finally with us again, we asked them what happened to make them so slow. The head teacher said that when she could not see the park ranger nor hear us, she followed his instruction to go along with the red tapes on the trees. As it was so dark, she had to point her flashlight at trees to find the red tapes - and she followed them whenever she saw them, with the students and other teachers in tow, and went down a path that lead to a dead end with such dense foliage that it was impossible for them to go through. She thought it odd as she did exactly as the park ranger told her, so she decided to back-track with the group until she came to an area where she could hear our sound signals and followed the sounds until she saw us.

Not thinking much of the experience, we proceeded to make our way back to camp. This time, me and 2 of my friends, being senior to the other students and quick on our feet, volunteered to be the last few people at the tail end of the group so that we could usher everyone ahead and ensure that no one gets lost again. 

As we were getting nearer to our camp, the temperature dropped with each passing minute. I thought it was strange because Borneo is a tropical island - even in the middle of the thick woods at night, the temperature rarely falls low enough for anyone to see their breath as they exhale, unless they were at the peak of a mountain, which we were not because we were getting to lower ground. 

I was walking between my friends, when the friend behind asked to switch places, and I obliged. I noticed that my back felt like it was freezing even though I had my padded and waterproof backpack on, but did not think much of it and just continued. 

We came to a narrow path that had a section of 3 wooden steps. When it was my turn, I put my foot on the first step, and decided to just skip the remaining steps by jumping onto the ground. Instead, I landed with my face on the ground and my limbs outstretched like I had tripped or been pushed from a high place. The fall really hurt as my entire weight fell forwards onto the ground and my flashlight broke when it hit the ground, causing a big bruise on my wrist as the rear end of the flashlight smashed into my forearm. But more than the pain was my surprise - I remember taking a small leap and somehow I am laying flat on the ground - like I completely lost consciousness for 1 second during my very brief flight down those 2 steps. 

My friends turned back to pick me up and walked with me between their arms as I was reeling from the pain and surprise. I surmized that I was clumsy and had slipped after a few minutes.

When we were back at the camp having our very late dinner and providing first aid to anyone who needed it. I was getting my arm checked out when my friend sat in front of me and asked me, "Do you know why I asked to switch places with you in the forest?".

"Because you don't wanna be the last person in the dark?" I replied. 

"Yes, but also because I saw a woman in red several metres behind amongst the trees. I was scared. That's why I asked to switch."

"You are a terible friend for putting me in a more dangerous position," I replied.

"When you fell, I knew something was wrong because there is no way you could have fallen that way with that tiny height difference. You fell so hard like someone pushed you. We could hear a loud sound as you hit the ground. I am sorry but I had to switch. But since you don't know because you didn't see it, so it was better for you to be behind than me freaking out and telling everyone."

"Fair point," I answered as she apologetically helped me with compression and medication.

For the rest of the trip, my friend was super nice to me and even helped me with heavy loads because of the injury to my wrist. She even offered to buy me souvenirs and became super protective of me when other students were trying to pick on me. 

But ever since her revelation about seeing red in the dark forests of Borneo, I have developed a reactionary habit of becoming extrremely alert when I see a flash of red anywhere near trees.  
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