Lost in a Polish forest

THE definition of ‘lost’ is when other people can’t find you.

It has nothing to do with not knowing where you are yourself. I know exactly where I am. I am in a Polish forest.

The bus is on its side. Well, nearly on its side. I have two hours on my laptop before the battery runs out.

Times have changed. When Burke and Wills died in the Australian bush they knew where they were, too. It didn’t help them. Their food ran and water ran out. With me it’s my laptop. I have two hours left in the batteries. Food is not a problem. There’s always mushrooms in a Polish forest and I love mushrooms. Well… I used to. You can have too much of a good thing.

I want to tell my story before I die. I know they’re looking for us, but they have no idea where to start.

The start was when I decided it was time to leave Poland. I booked a bus. The driver looked like a nice chap. Indeed, he clearly is a nice chap (like all the passengers, he survived the crash). He decided to take a detour from the main road because he wanted to visit an old friend who, he remembered, lived around here somewhere, in the forest. That’s a nice thing to do.

But Polish forests all look the same: pine trees and mushrooms and sand tracks criss‑crossing like the dusty trails of the West Australian outback.

And the sand tracks are not built for buses. I discovered this after an hour of hurtling through the forests at breakneck speed, when the axles buried themselves in sand, the trees began to go past horizontally — and we bogged.

But I am not lost. I know where I am. I’m in a Polish forest. There are 38 million people living in Poland, which is about the size of Tasmania, but none of them know where we are, so, to put it another way, I am lost.

I just want to remind you that Poland is in Europe. It is not Namibia, nor Pakistan, nor Thailand. Buses behave themselves in Europe, or so I thought.

It’s surprising how dark it is inside a Polish forest. The trees overlap to the horizon and no light gets in.

Either that, or my laptop is fading. Maybe this is just another trick to stop visitors leaving. They really do like you to stay here. They’re very hospitable.

Or maybe communism never did come to an end. They just keep people inside the borders by driving the buses into remote forests and leaving them there.

How can I be so calm? I think it’s because all the other passengers are calm. One of them is a nun, but I guess she’s prepared to meet her maker.

She, and the others, have started gathering mushrooms. In Australia they open a beer; in England they make tea; in Poland, when there’s a problem, they gather mushrooms.

The driver assures us there are people looking for us. But where? And when I am rescued, presumably by another bus, will the driver be Polish? And will he have a friend in a remote part of the forest?

A little panel just blipped onto my laptop screen. I have five minutes of power left. Please tell my family I loved them.

If I make it out of here, and we are reunited, we will have a party to celebrate.

But please, no mushrooms.