So this past weekend I took a trip to the Southwest province to visit some friends before a provincial meeting and go on a hike out to some waterfalls. The hike and ensuing swim was one of the most incredible experiences of my life, but I'll get to that later. First things first: I had to get to the Southwest. Now I live in a small village. I don't have any big markets, not really any restaurants, there's only one real bar, and I don't have running water. As a result, I consider my life pretty rustic. I took one thing for granted though. One thing that I have that makes my life here so much easier than so many other PCVs in different regions. I have good roads. Beautiful, paved roads. Roads that are falling apart in some place, but are paved nonetheless. As soon as we left the West province, so went the roads. It was 2 hours of traveling a distance that would have taken me about 35 minute in the United States. It was 2 hours of perpetual speedbumps. God forbid our driver drove any slower than 100 km/h over the sharp turns that could have easily sent us off of a cliff to a flying, firey, Michael Bay-esque death. I suppose its enough to say I respect the difficulties faced by my fellow PCVs in the Southwest much more than I did before the trip.
After Deathrace 2008, I found my friends' posts in the Southwest to be truly awe-inspiring. I think my post has some beautiful scenery, I really do. But I've never seen anything as green as the forests of Menji and Lewoh. When the fog rolled into the valley on the morning I left, it looked like something you'd see in a National Geographic.
The hike itself was described to us by our friend Brad in simple terms. "It's like a 2 hour hike." Knowing Brad's ultra-laid-back attitude, I should have known he wasn't the kind of guy to use the intense language one needs to accurately describe the trek. Language like "exhausting," "not for the faint of heart," or perhaps most succinctly "vertical." All in all it took us about two and a half to three hours to climb/walk down the mountain to the base of the falls. We were guided along the trail by a local friend who called himself Rastking, and would alert us to his location (the trail itself was about one pace wide and the foliage was so thick you could only see so far ahead of you) by playing on a flute he brought with him. Near the end of the hike, I went on ahead of the group because Rastking told me there was only one trail to follow so I couldn't get lost. I felt like booking it a little so I took off. After I got down to the riverbed I was probably about 15 minutes ahead of the front of the group. In that time I got a little worried that maybe I made a wrong turn somewhere and ended up down or upstream from where everyone else was coming. Hearing the flute's music coming out of the woods a bit later was reassuring and singularly surreal.
After I got down there I was really in my element. I suppose in some ways I'm still an 8-year-old. I love climbing trees and rocks and rope bridges and going on adventures. Getting from one place to another at the base of the falls involved a lot of jumping from rock to rock and a lot of guessing which rocks would be slippery and which wouldn't. It was a great time. A few of us went swimming in the pool under the falls, and that was something I'll never forget. The roar of the cascading water, the breeze whipping this way and that, the way the water was refreshing but not freezing. I'm really glad I made it out there.
The way back was another story. Remember how I said getting from one place to another required guessing which rocks were slippery and which weren't? Well after a few hours of bouncing around surefootedly like a coked-out squirrel. I got a little cocky and guessed wrong. Feet went one way, body went another (read: into the damn river). I had my bag on at the time, and my digital camera didn't survive the immersion. Though, when I think about how close I was to having my head dashed open on a rock just below the waterline, I suppose breaking my camera wasn't that big of a deal (especially since I was able to get my pictures of the hike off of it).
Again, remember how I said it took us like two and a half hours to scale down the mountain? Well the hike back up was one of the single-most exhausting things I've ever done. My quads are still yelling at me. The way up was a lot quicker going though (An hour and a half, I think?), so I suppose that was a plus.
I've got some really good pictures, but I can't upload them here at my house. So check back here on Thursday or Friday and I should have them uploaded for ya.