my500words : Day 26 : My Vanuatu Swim

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My Vanuatu Swim

I’ve always been a risk taker I suppose.

I’m one of those — getting right up to the edge people. From my point of view I’ve always got the situation under control but I must admit that I’m not always the best judge of whether I might be taking an unnecessary risk.

When I’ve stumbled or tripped, it’s  because I hadn’t seen the step, or avoided the obstacle. In my haste to get a closer look at something, I sometimes mistake a patch of wet ground for a deeper pool and get mud all over my shoes, or I misjudge the distance between two stepping stones in a fast running stream and get wet feet.

I wouldn’t say that I was accident prone, but when I’m focused on the prize and not on how to get it, Murphy’s Law applies and anything that can go wrong, usually does.

I’m lucky that my wife looks after me and alerts me to danger when we are together. She has an uncanny ability of anticipating and neutralising danger before it arrives.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that bad things happen when she’s not there to prevent them.

On our travels, we do most things together, but there are some activities that my wife just doesn’t enjoy, either because of the risks involved or because she feels uncomfortable and ill at ease.

The Eden on the River – Eco Adventure, on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu, was one of those occasions, and I’d arranged to go with my Sister instead. My wife didn’t want to cross those rickety bridges over the river.

The journey from the cruise ship was hot but otherwise uneventful, and our party of 15 donned the safety harnesses while we received instructions on what to do before crossing each bridge.


Our harnesses had two sturdy carabiners that we were instructed to attach to the steel wires strung either side of the bridges. Hand rails were provided to steady us as we crossed.


I turned on the action camera that was strapped to my chest with my mobile phone, as I waited in line to cross the first bridge. When it was my turn, I attached my harness to the wires as instructed and set off slowly over the bridge.

What a delightful swinging sensation.

I picked my way carefully, watching my step and avoiding the gaps. When I got to the middle I wanted to take a photo with my phone, so, holding onto the wire with one hand, I got my phone out of my pocket. Still holding on with one hand, I waited until the bridge stopped rocking. When it was relatively still, I took a few photos with one hand on the phone and the other gripping the handrail. I slipped the phone back into my pocket gripped both handrails and set off again.

There were five bridges in all, and when I’d crossed the last bridge, there was a short zip-line down to the river bank and the footpath back.

I sat down on a bench and checked the footage of the movie camera.

No film of the event.

The camera hadn’t started filming.

Luckily we had ample time, and I went back on foot to the first bridge and went over all the bridges again, making sure, this time, that the camera was functioning.

I was glad of the opportunity, and everybody was amused to see me again.

I zip lined back to the river bank and rejoined my Sister.

Some members of our party had brought swimming costumes and were bathing in the river.

My sister said I should just take off my camera and my t-shirt and shoes and socks and go for a quick swim before we set off back to the coach.

It was hot and humid, and seeing everyone having fun in the water, I decided that it was a good idea.

I took off my camera and put my sunglasses, money and other valuables in my bag under my t-shirt.

My sister jumped in, and I followed her a few moments later.

The water was cooler than I had anticipated and the current was quite strong, but I’m a decent swimmer, and a few strokes later I was in the middle of the river, just a few feet from the others.

The water shrunk my jeans, and I felt something strange in my pocket. I reached under the water to feel what it was.

My phone!

I hadn’t taken it out of my pocket.

I panicked and swam as fast as I could towards the side of the river and jumped out.

I pulled the phone out of my pocket and ran over to my clothes. I took my t-shirt and tried to rub all the river water from my phone.

The screen was flashing, and the phone was unresponsive. Impossible to turn it off or do anything with it at all.

It was hot in my hand, and then suddenly, it went blank and lifeless.

I’d killed my phone.

The ride back to the cruise ship seemed to go on for hours, and I kept the phone against the air-conditioning vents, trying to get it dry.

On the ship, I rushed to the galley and asked for some rice. I planted the phone in the rice where it stayed for over 24 hours.

When I withdrew it, the phone wouldn’t even charge, and all I was able to salvage was the SIM card.

The phone was definitively dead.

Luckily I was able to replace it two ports later; the insurance covered the replacement, and the new phone still works remarkably well.

I only have memories of that day, as all the photos I’d taken with my phone, died with it.

Although I left my poor dead phone at the store in Sydney, I had to swallow my pride and carry the shame.

Facing my wife and admitting to my carelessness continues to disturb me whenever I think about that incident.

I’m sure that had she been there, it wouldn’t have happened and that makes me feel even worse.

There’s no other way I can put this.

Sometimes I’m a little stupid.

There again I’d like to think that life is about assuming your mistakes and learning from them.

I know that I’ll never jump into a river with a phone in my pocket again.

I’m optimistic but I try to be lucid.

I have a lot more to learn, but I’m sure that many surprises still await me.

(1094 words)

This is the fifth in a ten-part series of travel tales.

  1. How I went to Brazil

2. Flight over Table Mountain

3. The Tracey Arm Surprise

4. The Lone Piper

5. My Vanuatu Swim

6. Breakdown in Peru

7. It Takes Two to Tango

8. The Bali Run

9. Almost the Northern Lights

10. I’ll Love You To the End of the World

Today’s my500word challenge:

When was there a time when you had an expectation that didn’t get met?  Maybe you set a goal for yourself and totally blew it.  Maybe you promised something to a friend and had to let them down.  Maybe life just didn’t turn out the way you expected.  Write about that. Tell the story, confess the failure, and help us learn with you. How can we, even in the midst of disappointment and despair, still find hope?

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