“I am just so happy that I’m feeling so much better!” I say as I march confidently one foot before the other, my right foot behaving just as it should. I’ve been marveling about this and loudly proclaiming my gratitude to the powers that be.
“Good!” Andrew says, he is feeling cheery, too.
Everyone knows Bali has gorgeous rice field terraces and waterfalls. Instagram abounds aplenty with these ancient marvels of human food production and cascades of majesty. So, one cannot possibly visit Bali without making a special trip to at least one of these attractions. Last time we were here, we enjoyed a lunch next to a rice terrace and full wedding photo session and I thought no waterfall could ever top that experience. But, our taxi driver will not let us escape his clutches without a day of hiking through the rice terraces and to a waterfall.
It’s on our hike to the waterfall that I am feeling so overconfident. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
We started the morning driving an hour driving through villages, with kids playing with kites and carpenters carving and staining beautiful furniture in the streets. Dogs rest in the sun, and the hills roll with harvest fields full of flowers to supply the endless daily flower needs of Hindu gratitude offerings. The sky alternates between sun and shadowed mist as clouds boil around the island peaks. The scene is beautiful.
Soon, the weaving roads break through jungle into wide open mountainsides, golden and green with the grass and grain motif of rice. It’s stunning, and suddenly, I’m glad our taxi driver talked us into returning. Last time we were in Bali, we were in the rice terraces for maybe one hour. Today, we are going to spend the entire morning walking in and among the people and nature.
As we load out of the car, and I’m excited to see long trails that weave between rows of rice. Balinese giggle with each other, their voices singing their tale-tale happy manner they go about their work. It seems alternately hot, humid, or rainy and muddy work, but they don’t seem to mind. The rice grows skyward on a green stalk, then drapes in raining curves of golden colored grains. The workers slice the stalks of grains from the green grass, gather them into bundles then twist them together to let them dry in the sun. The bundles look like the skirts of dancing women, twirling in the dust.
I’m enjoying myself so much, that when I see a fleet of mountain bikers roll by, I want to join along.
“Hey! Maybe we should rent mountain bikes and ride the rice fields! How fun would that be?” I say, feeling excited in these rare moments of agility. Andrew looks squints at me from under his eyebrows.
“No. And you are ridiculous.”
Right. I’m just jealous.
We load into the car, and are shuttled through death defying narrow and steep hillsides until we arrive in a small tourist village, streets lined with bars, hotels, and clothing shops. Our taxi driver points to an ally across the street and explains the trail to the waterfall is that way. Donning my pandas grass sunhat and camera, we head that way.
We are only a quarter down the steep hillside when disaster strikes. We turn a corner and the front of my sandal catches on the ledge of the 90 degree facing, uneven cement path that has been laid mostly at random. My shoe bends in half beneath my foot and before I know it, I’m going down. Face first!
“Tuck and roll, Leslie, tuck and roll.” I duck my left shoulder, round my body, and bounce like a potato bug down the trail, the proverbial ass over tea kettle. My camera, which had been slung across my body is now in my right hand, thrust skyward in the hopes of being the centrifugal (and safe) point in my uncontrolled twirling. The long lens I had been carrying in my left hand is sacrificed to the Balinese waterfall gods. It hits the ground hard and bounces ahead of me on the trail.
There is wailing and gnashing of teeth from the peanut gallery behind me, a chorus singing “OH MY GOD! ARE YOU OKAY! OH NO!”
I skid to a stop on my back, head pointing down hill, legs and feet in a tangle of spaghetti atop my face, ass pointed skyward. I scuttle like a bug on the floor to get my hind end pointed downward and out of view. I lay there for a minute taking stock of where all my parts and pieces are – luckily everything seems in tact.
“Well, that’s embarrassing,” I say, as I swap angles and get to my feet. My big toe is stubbed and bleeding all over the trail. Friendly fellow hikers offer all manner of repair device: tissues, Betadine, Band-Aids, and moral support. Andrew narrowly escapes an oncoming swoon.
“Damn it!” I think, mourning my poor camera lens and the undoubtedly destroyed newly found comfort in my Old Lady Spine. She couldn’t possibly withstand a crash of the like, could she? I sit for a few minutes until the throbbing in my toe becomes more of a nag.
“Let’s go.” I say, and head down trail to retrieve my camera lens and make my way to the waterfall.
“You still want to go?” Andrew says.
“My mama always says you’ve got to walk it off!” I tell Andrew, my legs still a little shaky beneath me. I bend to pick up my lens and inspect it. A bit of dust, some scratches on the outside, but when I test it, it’s otherwise functional - much like my body. A few scratches, a little dust, but to my surprise, everything is okay.
The waterfall is beautiful. It does it’s duty, making us feel like the tiny specks of humanity we really are. The mist is cold on our face, and we meet two ladies from close to home: Salt Lake City, Utah. (What are the chances?)
We chat for a moment, then hike back up the trail, pausing to watch a little guy play with his purple kite in his yard.
Feeling like I’d dodged a bullet already, I told our taxi driver to take us back to the hotel where we could enjoy the rest of the afternoon reading on the patio. When it’s time for dinner, I stand up and get twinges of pain down my legs.
Damn. Maybe I didn’t escape after all. This is my whole problem. I’m always pushing my luck.