“Arduous path ahead”, I’ve been warned. Two attempts made, only half way through.
Though I’m no stranger to waterfall laying deep in a forest, I’m still relatively new to this kind of adventure. The first time I had to journey for hours to waterfalls was way back in 2008. So this is literally my second time.
It was all started by an invitation from my close friend at Barcamp, who was planning a “trip” to Battambang. Since I’ve never been there all my life, it was such a great invitation to turn down. Easy yes.
I was told that we would spend a night camping at school ground and we would do some charity activities there. However, the main goal would be to visit a waterfall which lays about 5 – 6km in the jungle. Sound like a nice plan to me. Sound simple too…
And so we started at 6am on Saturday morning of 11th Feb, with about 30 people on this trip. It was my first time joining this group but they are friendly and nice company. We traveled for about 6 hours before we reached Battambang. Then we made a turn to a trail toward our camping ground destination. To our surprise and bit of disappointment, the road turns out to be quite far and quite grueling to travel. It took about 3 hours to reached the school and we were very late for lunch (half of the party really had to fight their hunger by various means of distractions).
After we finished our lunch, we made an attempt to go to the waterfall. It was 5pm already, the light was fading along the mountain line, forming a message of caution. When we arrived at the waterfall, we made for the first few water bodies we can reach. According to the local guide though, these places are the main attractions for locals here. However, there are more waterfalls in the deep and we had to walk to it. However, since it is getting dark, the group decided to come back for it in the morning instead. So we made our way back to the camping site and had a BBQ party. This is the first time I slept on a school ground. I literally mean the “ground”. It was tough to fall asleep though as I’m not really used to the crudeness and stony layout. But nonetheless, I think that once in a while, or in a lifetime, I should experience such things. There are times when we need to get uncomfortable.
The next morning we woke up to our first program of the day: charity. It was a small organized activity by preparing stuffs for the local students. We invited students from other schools in the area too. They seems to amount to about 100 students there. I caught a glimpse of student life there which is a far cry from city’s. But the students seems not discouraged by this fact. They are all smiley and shy.
After that, we set out to pray at a pagoda, since Sunday was the Buddhist Day for Magha Puja. Then, we headed to the waterfall again. This time, we have plenty of time.
The outside looks typical by the sight of the tourist huts. We meet a few guards and guides who greet us warmly, letting us know that its quite rare to see PP-ers coming in a large bus. I know what they mean though. We began to move along the stream which decorated by rocks. Since its a dry season, the rocks look imposing, as if daring us to try crossing them. To be honest, it was a welcoming challenge, as some of us ended up hurting their butt coz they did not paid due care. I slipped and hit my toes a few times too. Ouch!!!
The tracks got trickier as we traversed for about 30 minutes. I could feel my body burning, though my legs tell I could go on for a few more kilometers. The group started to stretch out into smaller groups, some who were more comfortable with rocky pathway and stony waterbeds were way ahead, some savor the nature and taking photographs. Whatever the preference, the flowing stream make us feel safe and calm. The scenery is enjoyable too. The bright sun did it best to lighten up the rocky road, as if to warm our heart and soul. The trees joined in to provide branches for us to hang on to and shades to remind us that we can always feel relaxed. The sands hardened to support our footsteps and reflected more light to our little journey.
Then things get heavier: the rocks started issuing commands: “climb” or “crouch”. We reached the point that no one can no longer afford to act alone. I have to admit that there was a few instances when I feel screaming for help. I might look so bad when I do that, I never thought it could be this hard. Nonetheless, not just I received friendly hands, but also encouraging voices. Keep calm and move forward, we told each other. Onward, no looking back.
But that’s not going to change the fact that its very challenging. On top of things, what’s really menacing is that, after successfully make my way past these high climbs and hard turns, I was told that we still have a few more kilometers to go. I was quite irritated somehow, I would also grimace about the fact that some are taking this lightly. Yet, I find that the group are forever walking forward, everyone of us. So why am I telling myself to stop and blame the path I have chosen? Maybe all I need is a little acceptance that I am now walking the earth, and the earth is not smooth everywhere. To traverse the whole surface, I need to step up, more than just using my legs, but my spirit too. And so here we go, to the waterfall secluded in the deep jungle.
At long last, we arrived at the “finish line”. When I started out, I told myself not to expect the type level of cataract or classical waterfall. The waterfall I was seeing is a multi-level one but it was a beauty and the water is very cool. Yet, here I was told that I could only count it as an “end” if I decide to stop here, because there are another “levels” up there. I heard there are two more. Actually, there are vines grew on the side rocks which serve as stairs to that next level. Maybe half of the party decided to go further. I was among those who choose to call it a day. I gave up, this is beyond my imagination. I thought I was only in for a much smoother, quicker and more relaxing journey.
They told me that the view up there was nothing more like the one I witnessed down here. It was far more superior in every possible way. I couldn’t help but look up from where I am. Once in a while, I know I’d like to settle in a place, but somehow I would be left behind. People keep moving on and I decided to rest my case. Was it a good idea? I don’t think its all about good or bad, its about whether I could bring myself to accept the outcome. Yes, that means I missed out the opportunity to witness heaven on earth.
I’m glad was invited to this trip as I was taught a big lesson in the face. Along the way, I realized how much I need to improve myself physically and mentally. When I conceded I could not climb the vines, I know that I had let myself down. I know I should have done more. I kind of hate myself for not preparing enough for this trip and for taking it lightly. This really make me want to start working out as soon as possible, so that I could be much more ready for a much more harder challenging destination.
That was definitely a trial of strength. I think to myself that I must train harder so that one day I could come back here and “complete” this journey because I don’t want to come back home feeling unsatisfied. I should not expect everything is made easy. We have to fight for it. Not everything is made ready for us. We have to make things count.
I have to learn to toughen up. Life is struggling, and it is evident that I haven’t struggled enough. Struggling is not bad at all, indeed.
The next journey might come sooner than I expected, so what excuse do I have now?
Until next time.
Location: Ou Chaom (waterfall), Som Lot, Battambang, Cambodia