I walked in a trance for another two hours. At the next stream, I removed my pack and shoes before crossing it. When I heaved the pack upward, a small tug on my left foot was followed by a bolt of searing fire. My eyes leaked tears of pain as I clutched the foot. When the agony finally settled down into a hot throb, I dared to put the heel on the sand, cradled my pack and shoes in my arms and hobbled across the water. Moving forward seemed like the best thing to do.
On the far bank, I sat on the pack and inspected the damage by torchlight. A strap must have caught under the big toenail and lifted it upwards, separating it from the toe as neatly as Pete had filleted the possum. The nail was still attached to the cuticle. Blood and clear fluid oozed from around the wound. Wincing, I cleaned it with purified water and liquid antiseptic drops before wrapping the nail down against the toe with a bandaid under a strip of gaffer tape.
I fortified myself with aspirin before I gingerly eased on a sock, opened a shoe wide and slid the foot inside. I tried a few steps. So far, so good. I could walk and the pain had subsided to a dull ache. I did not want to think of the consequences of this stupid accident, so foolishly I soldiered on.
A limping hour later, the dark forested mass of The Bluff loomed out of the night mist. The tide had risen and sloshing waves barred the way to the track inland. The night mist diffused the headlamp beam but I followed the sound of trickling to a stream overhung with shrubs. I splashed up it until I found the first level spot to camp.
There, I tied one end of the hammock to a bush and pegged down the far end to the sand. A last headlamp sweep of the bushes around my camp revealed two pale pinpoints of light. Comically, a pair of clawed feet parted the branches of a shrub to reveal a furry face.
“Brrrr! Geddoudofit!” I muttered hoarsely and added, “Or I’ll eat you!” The leaves closed silently and the eyes winked out but not before a shower of possum urine spattered over the tarpaulin.
Sunburned, crippled, parched, and peed upon, I pulled on my “onesie” and sank into the instant coma that only twenty-two hours filled with incident, accident and outdoor exercise can produce.