The Hiker

The pollen has all been swatted out of the air by the falling raindrops. The smell is clean and the air is pure, but the hiker is still thirsty. He knows not to drink the surface water for fear of contamination. He could spew himself inside-out if he drinks from a tainted stream. He practically came equipped to live on the moon – or the bottom of the ocean – but his water bottle was punctured, his gas canister leaked, his lighter cracked and his matches got drenched. Now he can’t even rub sticks together to start a fire and boil some water because everything’s wet from the days of rain.

He’s a valley away from the nearest phone reception and his pee is brown. He had to be pretty clueless to reach this state of dehydration when water was literally falling around him. Clearly, breathable socks, titanium tent pegs and anodised cutlery do not make an outdoorsman. The man can do nothing but lay in the drenched eucalyptus twigs and enjoy the smell of the oils, as they will probably be the last thing he smells in his life.

The hiker is just about to shut his eyes when he hears the sticks snapping under the weight of footsteps. It’s not a bush-pig or a kangaroo. Suddenly a grubby human toe appears in his field of view, clad in ugly sandals. “What are you doing you silly bugger?”

The sandalled character has a beard that reaches his navel and a kangaroo-skin tunic. He reaches up to head height, grabs a tree-fern branch and tips the end towards his mouth. It had collected enough water to fill him up and spill the excess all over his face. “Get up mate. Dicksonia antarctica. Help yourself.”

With his last strength, the hiker grabs a low-slung fern branch and clumsily tips the water all over his face before passing out.

Later, at the ranger’s quarters the hiker regains consciousness on a stretcher. “Looks like you met old Yowie Pete.” Says the ranger. “You’d better cancel your phone plan, mate. He likes to pinch people’s phones, then he runs up to the top of a mountain and watches YouTube.”

“I think I’ll allow him that much.” Replies the hiker.

T

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