Sorry for scamming you before. How else am I supposed to build a returning audience if not by leaving the occasional cliffhanger?
My near death experience could easily be summed up by TLC’s iconic lyrics of “Don’t go chasing waterfalls.” Honestly, who knew their entire discography would be the soundtrack of my entire life? From ‘No Scrubs’ to ‘Unpretty’ to the interstitial sketch in CrazySexyCool where Chilli prank calls Puff Daddy, pretending to want to have phone sex, but it turns out she was just full-on pranking him with a toilet flush.
But I digress. Munduk is a breathtaking and tiny mountain village that is home to at least 3 waterfalls, which I got to experience. And by ‘breathtaking’ I mean that figuratively and literally. To get to those waterfalls required a certain amount of hiking. And by ‘certain amount’ I mean too much and no one was fully prepared for what we actually had to go through to see them. The first one was easy enough to get to. Not coincidentally it was my favourite one. This one didn’t try to kill me. The mostly flat/downward hike was easy and full of gorgeous views of tropical forest, tree and vine covered cliffs. It was so beautiful it was basically a cliche.
The second and third ones? They can eat my shit-filled butt. Sorry not sorry for being so disgusting, but I can honestly say I hate those waterfalls and if I could, I would dry them up for almost killing me several different ways.
The second waterfall featured a charmingly treacherous set of unending steps going down. Not only were they never ending, but they were incredibly steep, jagged and uneven, and made of slippery moss-covered stones. Thankfully I prepared for this type of punishment by doing my 100 squats a day for the last month so even though it was dangerous, I was physically able to do this. Got to the waterfall and even though I was tired, I could appreciate its power and refreshing mist. Because it was so scary climbing down loose rocks, going back up wasn’t nearly as bad as the descent. I was tired but I wasn’t broken. Then came the third, and most certainly unnecessary, waterfall.
Maybe it’s my waterfall privilege speaking, but once you see one waterfall, the rest is just diminishing returns. Especially when the trek to the last one was down even steeper, more jagged and uneven, slippery steps. My legs were already pretty fatigued, but add the stress of possibly slipping, and I was pretty unhappy and scared. I don’t normally have a fear of heights, but when there is a literal cliff next to you, slipping off a step isn’t just an oopsie and it’s not just a matter of a few scrapes or sprains. It’s serious business, mama.
By the time we got to the Waterfall #3, my legs were pure jello. Also I’d like to remind you that the weather in Bali is hot and humid, so you know, not ideal. After about 5 minutes of angrily staring at this stupid-ass waterfall, it dawned on me that we’d have to go back up. I truly could’ve cried on the spot, and none would be the wiser because of the sweat and water mist. But I knew that if I cried then, I wouldn’t have been able to stop, and I had the equivalent of 5,000 near vertical steps to go up (someone put their Fitbit on at the start of the hike and said the whole hike was 10,000 steps in 2.5 hours). I told myself it wouldn’t be that bad and I could get through it.
Surprise surprise it was even worse than I thought it would be and I didn’t get through it. About halfway up the ascent, I found myself alone and between because our group had split into 2. By that point I was so determined not to be the one holding everyone up because I didn’t wanna be that person, so I kept my head down and just powered through as best I could. I was behind the cross-fit/triathletes/Army group, but still in front of the group that was way more fit than me but taking their time to enjoy scenery. I got to a narrow leaf covered path and about half way through the leaf patch felt my right foot slip and immediately was on the ground. Except I didn’t fall down on my ass: I fell to one knee because my right leg was now dangling off the side of a muddy cliff. I took a quick look to my right to see just exactly where I was, took a moment to catch my breath and make sure I had my balance, then hoisted myself up and kept walking. Then about 15 feet later I started to panic and hyperventilate and cry.
Who knew my first full blown melt down on this two month journey would be because I literally almost fell off the side of a mountain in Bali, completely and utterly alone. There wasn’t a single person nearby who saw what happened, nobody to help me, no one to comfort me and tell me it would be okay and that I got through it. Just me. After that harrowing ordeal, the group behind me caught up and then passed me because I was far too shook and now incredibly out of breath to care about being the slow one. And by no means did anyone make me feel bad about it, or was it any one else’s fault that I happened to find myself alone. My group is thankfully filled with the actual loveliest, friendliest, warmest bunch of people, but this was my journey to go on. Now that I was at the end of the line, our guide Budi (who is the actual greatest dude EVER), walked with me and wouldn’t let me go too far along without stopping to catch my breath. He could see how tired and upset I was, but he had no idea exactly why. And I wasn’t about to say it then. The reality of the situation was far too heavy for me to acknowledge it until well after the fact.
“But you got through it! You’re stronger for it! You did it!”
Please save your platitudes because I don’t want them. Also I didn’t get through it.
Once we got out of the woods, the group long gone by now, there was still about a 10 minute walk up paved the road. And I still couldn’t walk more than 20 steps without having to stop. Every time I stopped to catch my breath, I would start thinking about what happened and knew if I started crying again, I wouldn’t be able to stop, so I forced myself to keep those feelings and thoughts at bay. Budi, realizing fully what awful shape I was in, didn’t even ask me if I wanted to get a ride back, he just called another guide and got him to drive me back on his motor bike. I wouldn’t have ever asked for it, but I knew I had pushed myself more than I ever needed to, and just hopped on for the last 100 metres up hill.
That hike was truly one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. And was it worth it? For sure not! I didn’t need to see 3 goddamn waterfalls. I live 50 minutes away from Niagara Falls, I got enough of that shit for a lifetime.
Do I blame anyone? Absolutely not. There’s no one at fault here except for maybe nature. The trip wasn’t mandatory by any means, I chose to do this, and I just couldn’t. I just happened to slip at the worst possible time in the worst possible place. That’s all it is. If maybe I wore different shoes, or if I took my time and stayed with a group, this could’ve all been avoided. It was awful knowing that once you’re there, you can’t really back out of it. In this huge expanse of forest, I felt trapped.
I’m not perfect, but I am resilient. It takes a lot to break me. And Bali broke me that morning.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t put the pieces back together, because I’m Ann Motherfucking Pornel.