A Wee Little Tap on the Head

(Update: I’m fine, no concussion, just a skin-deep head wound and a bitch of a headache.)

Yesterday, a coworker and I were trying to keep up with a certain monkey who realized she’d left her baby behind several trees ago. She bolted through the canopy, and we struggled to follow. As I tried to force my way through a tenacious tangle of vines, they stretched and then snapped, sending me hurtling forward in a headfirst sprawl. I tucked and braced for impact, but there was a rock.

It was small, maybe roughly American-football sized and similarly shaped. Something dark and volcanic, its surface rough and jagged. It sat alone, about half-embedded in the ground, about two and a half meters from where I began my fall. I know this because if it had been any closer it would have gone into my head. As it happened, it only sort of glanced, scoring my scalp. But I still hit it pretty hard.

The first thing I did was to roll over and not try to stand up. I was already dizzy, and knew that if I tried to rise too fast I would only fall over again. I shouted something to my partner along the lines of “stay with the monkey” while a second coworker caught up to me. I told her I felt fine, was perfectly lucid, and that I didn’t even think there was any blood. She took one look at me, pulled out some gauze, pressed it to my head, and showed me the result: it was red. Very red.

We quickly reconvened and did a sitrep. We were near the top of a nasty cliff in a section of forest infamously known as the Anus. It’s a small valley filled with a messy tangle of thick brush, old landslides, and fallen trees. The only trails are poorly maintained, even for our standards. The nearest decent road was about 300 meters away in a straight line, which I knew from experience could take an hour or more to crash through. There were only three of us, and we were about to lose this group of monkeys which were particularly hard to find.

The way I saw it, I had several options. I could sit until the worst of the dizziness went away, then try to walk to where we’d parked that morning and wait there while my coworkers stayed with the monkeys. That way, I’d have the option of an early extraction, but we’d keep the monkeys. I could leave with one person to monitor my condition, but this would leave one person alone in the field. Seemed risky. We could also all leave, immediately. This was the most sound, but we were sure to lose the monkeys. Alternatively, I could swaddle my head in bandages and tough it out. This didn’t sound promising. I could also be left alone while the other two kept the monkeys, until my condition improved or I was finished off by wild animals. This didn’t sound promising either.

IMG_3774
Behold: my evac route.

So there I was. Bleeding and reeling. The monkeys were rapidly moving on. I was isolated by some of the nastiest terrain this reserve can offer, above a cliff overlooking a valley of vines and thorns. At some point, there would be a river to cross. And possibly wasp nests. Most definitely ants. So, the question is: what did I do?

Trick question! The correct answer is: it doesn’t matter! Since I had a potential concussion, all my rational judgement may have been compromised. What I decided to do didn’t amount to shit. My coworkers would’ve just ignored it. In the end, saner minds prevailed. We called our boss, who strongly suggested that they get my punch-drunk ass home, stat, where I could then get proper medical attention. They did.

And that, folks, is the story of how I hurt my head while chasing a monkey deep, deep into the Anus.

Ah thank you.

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