I’m been watching (for my sins) the first episode of the new series of I’m a Celebrity on ITV, and it’s reminding me of the first night I spent in the Borneo jungle in 2011. Whilst I (fortunately) wasn’t required to lie in a Perspex box full of scorpions or spiders on that particular trip, I did have a terrifying experience that will stay with me forever.
Picture the scene: It’s getting late in the day when a group of weary trekkers decide to pitch camp for the night. The location – on the side of a steep hill dense with undergrowth – is far from ideal, but as the light is fading fast there’s little choice. The group divides into smaller sub-groups who scout out viable locations to put up their hammocks. Some are more capable than others, and it quickly becomes clear the weaker members of the group require assistance from the stronger ones (well, one of the stronger ones and their much weaker tag-along love interest – it should probably be noted at this point the latter two are also members of the volunteer staff team).
With due care and diligence the hammocks are erected – all but the final two staff members’. By this point darkness has fallen and all the reasonable locations have been exhausted. After much searching the strong staff member helps the weaker one to put up her hammock, several metres away from the rest of the group in a secluded spot. Once up the girl refuses to test the hammock, confident it will provide adequate comfort for the night ahead. They re-join the group for dinner.
Sometime later the girl returns to her secluded hammock and prepares for bed. She brushes her teeth and changes into her pyjamas. As she pulls back the cover and jumps up into the hammock, however, she clearly sees a pair of eyes illuminated in the light of her head torch. Panicking, she turns the light off and rolls into the hammock, hastily lowering the flap. It is at this point she becomes acutely aware that her hammock is anything but level, and the realisation she will spend the remainder of the night clinging precariously to its side hits home.
At some point and by some miracle, she sleeps and does not fall out of the hammock. When she awakes, however, it is not morning but the middle of the night, and the reason for her having woken becomes clear – something is prowling around beneath the hammock, cracking twigs and stepping on leaves as it goes. The girl is terrified but stays silent, and eventually the noise begins to fade.
At length she sleeps again, but is this time woken by another noise, closer this time, like someone breathing. She lifts the flap of her hammock to find another female staff member’s face directly beside hers, staring without seeing, like a zombie. The girl stifles a scream and retreats into her shelter, offering up a prayer to keep her safe from the hell she has unwittingly entered.
It is not until she wakes in the daylight that she realises the second horror was a nightmare. The first, however, was very much real.
With hindsight a Perspex box of scorpions might have been more pleasant…