Pic for the adorable Hukley and Selomon!
The early morning revealed a glorious sunrise, as Paco and I began leading the way to the Burumun National Forest. It was a 12-mile journey to the gate, but many serene wonders lay along the track. Half of it noted as a heritage trail where the miners travelled to and from the mine. Until 1901, the railway line remained in use. For some time, our companions engaged themselves in several different conversations. Meanwhile, the little panda and I stayed silent and admired the scenery. The blue sky seemed clear throughout the first three miles, and the land of trees became denser and more diverse.
We carried our backpacks and tenting equipment, and some required more frequent breaks. At the start, the track was smooth and peppered with gravel. Three miles later, it turned rougher, as it appeared to ascend and descend for a long distance. Scamp and Roscoe fell exhausted, so they sat on a log-like bench and drank much of the water they stored in their bottles. Larger stones scattered along the track. A mountain range grew far before us, and light rivers of cloud flew swiftly across the sky. Another three or four miles lay between us and the heritage trail, and I was looking forward to seeing the remains of multiple stations and the cobblestone tunnel. Pico grew bored of carrying Shorty, so he settled the little dragon on my backpack and shoulders. Travcula drank a mouthful of water and asked to continue walking to the gate. Grey and Daxx took their time in tracing a longer and more natural route, and Freshie tore a piece from his sandwich. We were in no rush to Burumun, but our patience turned shorter.
‘The rest of you can go ahead,’ said Scamp. ‘We’ll catch up.’
‘How long will you be?’ I asked.
‘Five or ten minutes,’ Roscoe presumed.
‘We will take our time,’ I replied and went on following the track.
Many a time we encountered familiar wildlife, then I smelled a scent of poppies. However, there was no flower field insight, and my breaths deepened. I turned back for a moment, only to see two distant furries. Scamp and Roscoe were far behind but were jogging ever closer to us. At both sides, rivers of grass grew between the track and trees. Seldomly, a light gust softly shook the branches. By the time we reached a third of the way to Burumun, the red panda and raccoon caught up. The following ten minutes involved descending to the foot of the third hill we climbed earlier. For my shoulders were beginning to ache, I held Shorty against my chest, holding his torso with my left hand and his feet with my other.
Very soon afterwards, the heat began to bother the young furries, so they stepped off-track and looked for a pond to cool their paws. In thought, we had no water to spare.
‘If I am to play a character in your next comic,’ I said to Paco, ‘it would honour me.’
‘We’ll see what happens,’ he replied.
He and I settled in the shade and kept our eyes on the others. Shorty remained silent for a while.
‘We will need to arrive before lunchtime,’ I called to all and stood.
‘But where can we go to cool down?’ Freshie asked, standing a dozen yards away.
‘We can walk in the shade, can’t we?’ Paco suggested.
‘Every time before I set off, my father tells me to stay on the track at all times.’ I placed Shorty on the log and unzipped my backpack. ‘It’s for our safety.’ I retrieved two plastic bottles of water (1 litre each).
‘What are you going to do?’
‘I will show you.’
I called all other youths to return and permitted Grey, Daxx and Pico to be on their way to the heritage trail. Sensei Pippin spent a few moments meditating in silence, somewhere out of my sight. One by one, I poured one-fifth of a cup and rubbed the refreshing water onto their paws. In thought, there was no natural source in close range.
‘Did we ever need to battle about who had the fluffier tail?’ asked a distant voice.
‘How are we going to untangle each other now?’ another replied.
With curiosity, Paco left to trace the complaints.
‘Where are you going?’ I interrupted.
‘Just a second, please?’ Paco replied and walked across the track.
The adults walked further northward, and I carried on helping the young until all felt ready to journey to the gate of Burumun. Thankfully, I had one remaining bottle to spare. Again, the sky cleared, and the heat continued to strengthen. Shortly after the little panda disappeared into the green-like shadows, I arose and led the others in pursuit.
‘Are you untangling our tails, Paco?’ It turned out to be the voice of a young fox.
‘I’m doing my best, Hukley.’ Paco replied with confusion.
Before a small opening, I came to a halt and saw the little panda attempting to untangle the tails of a fox and skunk. Their names were Hukley and Selomon, and Paco seemed to have a hard time in freeing both youths. As I ran my thumb across the tips of Shorty’s claws, I thought about how to help. Next, I placed him on the grass and stepped into the sunlight, remembering when I learnt about untangling ropes on the farm.
‘Allow me to try,’ I said to the panda, as all three furries changed their attention.
‘Have you come to help us too?’ Selomon asked.
‘Oh sure,’ I said and smiled.
‘He knows what he has to do,’ Paco assured Hukley and stepped back.
Without any doubt, I fed my left hand through the loop and slowly pulled out Selomon’s tail. From there, both fellows were free and thankful. The panda felt a bit clumsy and questioned how I untangled them with ease.
‘Countless days of training,’ I answered and brushed his head. ‘Shall we carry on?’
The fox and the skunk bade goodbye and disappeared. Sensei Pippin suddenly joined us, showing gratitude for our patience. With that, Paco and I restarted our journey to the Burumun National Forest. I was happy to see all other youths feeling relieved from the struggle until we caught up with the adult companions. Over seven miles remained, and we spent the following hour having a friendly group talk. Since the start of the trip, Paco and I walked side-by-side. Shorty admired the natural beauty beyond us and felt my warmth beneath his feet and on his core. Using his cold hands, he held onto my fingers.