The van pulled up to a top of cliff. I looked down and wondered why we had stopped. The driver turned off the van… Hold up, the driver had just turned off the van! Where were we meant to go?
This was my first holiday in years and I was determined to have fun. Still as everyone got out I lagged behind. I stood out. I was obviously not fit nor had I any of the wonderful walking gear they had. I suppose I was trying to further my chances of studying Paleontology. And of course the conversations I would have after.
“Where did you go for the summer?”
I mean who wouldn’t want to give that kind of answer. But then I’d got in because of my qualifications. In the box that had said ‘supporting information’ I had diligently printed out my experience as an archaeological illustrator. I had been given the place and here I was dinosaur hunting.
Why the cliff? The area he had parked was truly the top of a cliff. The beach, if there was one, couldn’t be seen.
I got out and walked over to him. “Where are we going?”
He smiled and raised an eyebrow. That was it. Then we all began to traipse off after him, one long line, a crocodile of tourists. I hugged the path, the cliff was too high and too steep. The driver and leader of our little exhibition dropped back to walk beside me.
“You aren’t good with heights,” he stated.
“Can I ask why you booked this holiday if heights are such a problem?”
I looked at him. “I rang…”
“The help line and they said that the heights were moderate but nothing a normal walker couldn’t handle.”
“Yes, in fact I made a point of it because the write up said the footprints were on beaches and I wanted to make sure that I could make it.”
He just made a funny noise and walked forward. But inside I was afraid. We were going to walk down the cliff. He stopped a little ahead and pointed down an almost vertical slope.
“This is where we normally descend but today I’m going to take the easier route.” And we moved off again. I stood for a moment and looked down. What had I got myself into? The slope was almost impassable, gorse clung to the side making the route seem an impossibly steep obstacle course. Turning I hurried after the others.
They had already started to descend and I waited my turn. One guy gestured for me to go next but I shook my head. The leader looked up the slope and yelled. “Kate, come down last and wait until everyone is down before you start.”
I nodded. I understood the logic. If I waited then if I fell I wouldn’t hurt anyone else but fear was crawling like a spider through my mind. Finally everyone was clear and I made my way down. It took a while and the moment my foot hit the beach the relief was amazing.
That was the first day. Every day for the next two weeks I walked up and down the cliffs. By the end I was doing it quite well, but the leader had changed the settings on the holiday to ‘hard’ walking and ‘experience required’.
I loved the holiday but I don’t think I have ever been as scared as I was walking down and up those cliffs. One thing though. I did it all alone. No one held my hand to talked me down or up. It was my own willpower I relied on and it came through. After all, I could have stopped the holiday early. I didn’t. Instead I went dinosaur hunting and I slayed a monster while I did it.
This is a story from the daily prompt – Safety First.