I cannot possibly share with you the entirety of my experience that night. It is probably one of the greatest challenges to mind, body and soul that I have experienced. At points it was so frightening that I hovered on the verge of losing it all to a mad deluge of panic that would sweep me into the ocean in a gibbering wreck. At one point, I suddenly had the thought that there were probably spiders somewhere within the cave, and in seconds, thousands of tiny black forms were skittering silently along the walls. Moments later, a web dropped from the ceiling and totally severed me from the freedom of the cave mouth. I could not see what was going on in the darkness and I retreated further into the cave, but even as I did this, more and more heavy, sticky webs dropped down.
Then spiders of immense size rose from the floor like big, black, wet sacks of poison, hairs covering their bloated bodies. I tried not to freak as I became submerged in total darkness. Looking back toward the entrance of the cave, I saw faint shafts of light that revealed the sweating, heaving mass of poisonous bodies. And then the webs became metallic, interlocking metal struts which were impossible to break and over them ran cold, little mechanical spiders with bodies shaped like swastikas.
The night was long like time dilated. To our perceptions, the entire history of the world was unfolding with tremendous sound and energy. To my way of thinking, I had been trained for years in anticipation of this moment. I doubt that many people alive would be able to handle that experience without the grounding I had received from four intense years of hallucinatory travel. I had explored every province of my mind. I had been to the bottom of hell, to the depths of the void, to the very crest of heaven and to some far foreign place so alien that its location could only be described in terms of dimension.
My mind had been completely lost on more than one occasion. This was the ultimate test of my conviction that at my very most fundamental level I was balanced – and powerful beyond measure. It was a frightening test. Walking through those clinging webs and mechanised spiders toward the light, I resisted every daemon of hell to stand clear, and in control.
Towards the very end of night, the energy of the world softened and slowly welcomed us into its almighty embrace. Soft pastel colours and super-lucid shafts of light danced over the walls and jungle vegetation. Our harrowing journey through the depths of the night fell away from us and we were calm and seated in lotus position upon the Jade green altar. In the shadows before us – on the cliff faces beyond the cave to either side of the channel – hundreds of small, graceful beings began to form, their smooth skin the colour of oceanic depths and green tattered sea-weed.
It was an assembly of Mermaid and Nereid and a host of other mythical creatures from a level of our subconscious so deep that it quite interfaced with the elemental domain of water and married fantasy and nature into a single form. Nature was gracing us with its secret intelligent presence. The smoky province of dawn was not far away when, with a silent, all-powerful fan-fare, a host of sea-horses came slowly into the channel dragging a mighty floating throne upon which a towering image sat, his body like some vaporous energy that rose a hundred feet into the air and lorded over everything he touched. We knew then that this was the God they called Neptune, whom the Greeks had worshipped.
To be quite frank, I cannot remember getting any clear lesson or words of wisdom from that creature. I have encountered many large phantom creatures while tripping in the wild. Once, in the deserts of South West Africa, Avalon and I had seen a Troll king who had as his throne an entire dome of massive rock, which we call a ‘koppie’. These creatures speak in a strange, slow fashion, like a gentle breeze in the night. In fact, they resemble moving silence that kicks up dust. It is their impact on the world that is their voice. Out there in the cave, the sea crashed and the wind howled into the coming dawn. Our bodies were transparent vessels pierced through and through by nature. The wilderness moved through us and this great beast of the archetypal world graced us with its infinite presence. And then, suddenly, pink light feathered the sky and the clouds were filled with soft fire. Everywhere, we could see the flow of the world.
What happened next was for me possibly the most beautiful stroke of all. Two birds, called ‘redwing starlings’ flew into our cave. To our extra-dimensional vision, they looked like streaks of light or fast moving rainbows. We lay on our backs in awe and watched them flipping and swooping gracefully above us. They became ribbons of energy which intersected themselves and wove a tapestry with their bodies in the calm dawn light that filled the cave. It went on for almost two hours. When we raised our hands, they would change their flight patterns and swoop around us, almost as if we were extending torch-beams of energy and they were gliding around them. Occasionally they would fly side by side and then split and circle back to meet again.
We started to feel dizzy after a while and then realised that starvation was becoming a real issue. George dove into his bag and looked around; only the sugar and chocolate powder. I suddenly had an inspiration and dug into a pouch in my own rucksack cover. I found a full bag of rice, uncooked, obviously. We didn’t even have pots. The trip had left us feeling very weary, as though we had truly devoted all of our vital force to maintaining our bodies through the experience, and now we were dangerously low. We began to eat the sugar and chocolate. It was hectic without water. We had to find water. We quickly stumbled out into the now harsh morning light. Big problem with acid. Your pupils are so dilated that they become light sensitive. We did not have sun-glasses for some dumb reason and it took all of our concentration and will-power to get packed and start the long hike back up the hill.
We hid ourselves as we approached the hotel, slipping quietly through the trees while we looked for a tap. We were of course still dressed in our ninja suits and it suddenly occurred to me that things were getting a little out of hand. We could not sneak up on the building! We were likely to get shot that way. So we strolled over to what looked like a laundry and found a tap on the side. Then we looked into the laundry and found a whole lot of stuff, including a packet of biscuits and some fruit, hotel style. We wanted to steal some clothes but I had to slap myself into sensibility. We ran out of the place and then up a long, paved road, back into the mountainous region of the Tsitsikama forest. It was a long walk but we were buoyed by the few precious ounces of sustenance and saw it as an absolute reaffirmation of our faith. Now we were rogues for sure, connected to those who had to fight and die and steal for bread.
The coast had offered us no solace, and I decided we had better head inland again. Toward the top of the first rise, we left the main road and headed along a dirt path, back into the bush. I cannot now know what I must have been thinking. It was like I was trying to write my own death warrant. George just hiked his bags up higher and nodded whenever I made a decision. I must apologise to his mother sometime. He was my knight and my protector, the silent mute witness of my great unfolding.
We walked for several hours into the hot, humid day. We were both feeling dizzy from hunger. We hadn’t slept for two days and the acid was still slowly working its way through our systems. Things started to feel very desperate again. Despite the distance we had walked, we had seen not a soul. We were in virgin forest again. Smoking a joint at that exact point was maybe not the wisest thing to do. Dope backs you up under most circumstances, but sometimes it can truly hinder you.
The world was a blur of colour and sound as we stumbled forward. I heard a beautiful violin concerto playing through my ears and as I looked upward, I caught the full beauty of the sunlight as it fractured through the pale green leaves overhead. I felt like an Indian Sadhu entering a holy state, eyes wide and staring from a thin and contorted body. We had gone too far. Like a dying man entering that beautiful, calm dream before he goes, I resigned myself to the world and waited for the end to come and take me by the hands and heart. I placed myself in the full care of divinity.
We walked around a corner and bumped into a scene that could have been from the times of the serfs of the feudal age. A big field centred by two white mud huts; dozens of dirty, dark-skinned children freezing and staring at us with terror in their eyes. Mangy, limping dogs snarled softly and then hid themselves between the children’s legs. I had never seen such poverty. They were not of the modern world, and I was chilled to the bone. I felt fear wash through me. My country was involved in a silent, concealed civil war. People died in these areas all the time. A handful of adult men and women had also paused in their paths. Nobody uttered a word, and nobody moved a muscle.
The world for me was a black and white snapshot from the depths of the Cambodian war. I imagined Americans running into villages and seeing these same sad, frozen features. I reflected on the wisdom of having kept our ninja combat uniforms on and then that thought led to my blade, which was still strapped up next to my rucksack. I walked forward slowly toward the one hut and a tall woman who was standing in front of it. Slowly, I reached into my pack and withdrew the bag of rice. I asked her in English if we could be permitted to boil it. No response. I asked her in Afrikaans and then smiled and pointed to my stomach. She motioned for us to follow her.
We walked into the tiny, white-washed hut to find the interior almost neat and quite cosy as a result of the crackling fire. I must perhaps just go more of the way to explaining how I was feeling. I was exhausted and hungry and frightened and almost out of my head from the acid and the joint. I was truly living a fantasy. I might as well have been on another world, encountering exotic races about whom I knew nothing. As we entered, three men jumped up from a thick, log table and offered us their seats. We sat there. Everybody else was standing in a big arc around us. They were looking downward mostly and nobody said a word. I looked over at the fire and saw a small chicken had been cooking along with a loaf of flat bread. Our rice was placed in a pot beside them.
Time warped as we waited and waited for the rice to boil. We were so out of it that it was impossible for us to speak or communicate in any way. It was so utterly surreal I cannot say enough. Everything that happened to us had taken on another level of reality, where the savages held out their hands to help us and the civilised world tried to stalk and capture us to their grey, insidious designs. I kid you not that on that day we were served every ounce of food that had been on that fire and had probably been intended for most of the family within the room. They gave us everything, without thinking, and would brook no protest. They simply sat and watched until we had finished. It was one of the most remarkable tasting meals that I have ever eaten. Only once did our host smile, as we left. Then several of them waved and we were back in the forest.
At some point we slept, and then walked again. Everything was a seamless blur. We started to head into some pretty steep, hilly country. We came upon a woodcutter’s path which wound in a huge zigzag up the mountain side. We were looking for help really but for some reason I got it into my head that the woodcutters in the area were probably very dangerous, and would rob or kill us if they found us. We decided to avoid them at all costs and doggedly moved up the slope, hiding every time a group of coloured men passed us. It took us most of the day to walk up the massive hill and by the time we were nearing the top, I was reaching a point of physical and mental exhaustion. Then it started to rain. The rain got stronger as the night came on. I had now forgotten about the purpose of our mission. I just wanted to call my father, and get help.