A thirst-quenching cauldron full of vivid hallucinogens
Sleeping in a hammock is rather good for keeping you off the jungle floor, if you can sleep!
It’s perfect for catching a few winks, but to sleep through the muggy night is rather like trying to sleep in a kitchen drawer as someone is trying to close it shut, while at the same time an electric fan heater has just been aimed at your pendulating corpse. Comfort throughout the night resembles being squeezed by your shoulders till they strangle you and your boiling head sweats like an oozing, saturated sponge. Holding you in a vice-like asylum slumber, barely mid-way through the night, the hammock sends you into a tossing craze. Turning and flipping to find a position you’re used to sleeping in is almost impossible…and there really is only one swinging position. It’s the one that makes you look like you’ve had a medicine ball dropped on your stomach while sitting in a horizontal aeroplane seat.
Of course some people sleep quite well in a hammock. I have slept well in a hammock! However it’s made worse here by the sway in temperature. At the end of the dry season, it’s much the same as trying to sleep in a sauna. At 2am it then suddenly drops to below 15 centigrade (at least next to the river in a canyon) and without any insulation your back stiffens up as it chills against the sweaty micro-blanket under you.
There really is no peace as the monkeys screech through the night, river otters squeal in the shadows, birds fail to recognise when dawn is, the bugs constantly buzz and loudly hum around our humid camp, and the occasional leopard sends everything in and out of their chorusing frenzy with a beautiful but alarming growl.
Thankfully there is no rain, but staying dry in your own sweat is a tricky thing until the early hours when you begin to drag whatever cover you can over your shivering skin. Sunrise is around 5am, so sleeping for more than a couple of hours at a time is tricky. After the bush loudly awakes and the stinking-hot sun creeps through the canopy, there is little chance of easy sleep.
Drifting in and out of slumber as much as possible is also a perfect recipe for interrupted dreams. My mind flips between being reluctantly surrounded by furry creatures with large teeth and being swarmed by the noises, and the itchy wings and sticky legs that envelope the shrinking bug net around me. My mind sends me erratically flying between branches in the canopy as the thorns scratch and the giant boulders bruise and graze my flailing legs and desperate fingers. I try to grab onto whatever seems real and although only ever half awake, it’s impossible to escape the knowledge of being in a dream when a tiger turns up in the African bush. I often (nearly always) dream about animals. I obviously manifest my dreams and my woes into representative wild creatures and I’m rarely in a modernised or populated setting. Prior to adjustment, the sleep-theiving bush is always a bed of sweaty discomfort with an impossible-to-resist, thirst-quenching cauldron full of vivid hallucinogens. I feel like I’m at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, only without the rabbit and the jam. It’s a humbling, enthralling, rich experience, but definitely one which is wise to adjust to quickly.