That evening on the mountain top we celebrated finding the flower with fire-roasted lentils, corn, cheese, and passionfruit under a blanket of stars until a downpour put out the fire. We ran for shelter, already soaked, while the sporadic rains slowly penetrated my 25-dollar tent. The night was wet and cold, and the bed of pandanus leaves seemed much harder than the night before. But as dawn arrived, a sunbeam brought hope for a sunny day.
“We should probably get going,” my friend encouraged, “It looks like the rain is coming in a bit earlier than forecasted.”
I sat soaking up the warmth of the early rays, wishing we didn’t have to rush. “It doesn’t look so bad,” I offered. “Let’s take our time and go after we eat something. Plus, I want to explore downstream of the waterfall a little.”
“Okay, just be careful. That stream could swell if it starts raining again.” He warned.
“I will,” I agreed without further thought, and wandered off toward the waterfall.
I made my way to the edge of the pool and slipped into cold, clear water, then followed the casually moving stream down over the slippery boulders. A hundred yards later, it plunged off the cliff, 200 feet down into the mossy rockbed of a dark, overgrown gulch. I peeked out over the edge, clutching the sturdy roots that grew out of the surrounding earthen walls. Satisfied with the slight rush of morning adrenaline, I turned and made my way back up to the camp spot.
“You’re right,” I said looking east upon my return, “It looks like rain. I’ll start packing.”
No more than a minute had passed before the clouds swallowed us. Giant raindrops pelted down as we pulled on our soaked clothes and shoes and loaded up the packs.
“Oh no, look…” My friend said, pointing. I glanced up from tying my shoe to see that the waterfall had gone from a steady spill to a raging gush, projecting out off the mountainside. “Come on, hurry. We’ve got to get across there before it gets too deep or we’ll be stuck up here!”
I couldn’t believe it. It had happened in a hardly a blink! We made a last sweep of the site to be sure it was clean and raced down the path to the torrent’s edge. The water was more than waist high already. With the slippery, angled rocks below, I was sure I couldn’t get across. My friend waded in cautiously, leaning into the push of the water and moving slowly. He neared the far side then leapt and grabbed hold of a tree branch. After getting his footing, he tossed down his pack waded back towards me with one arm still holding the branch, the other coaxing me across.
“Come on, you got it. Go slow,” he assured. I focused despite my fear and stepped into the rushing water, knowing I couldn’t hesitate a moment longer as the water was swelling before our eyes. My pack, heavy and cumbersome, threatened to pitch pull me as my foot slipped a bit. I made a last, off-balance step towards the other side, then leapt for my friend’s hand. He grabbed my arm and yanked me from the brown, roiling waters.
The rest of the descent was less eventful, although we did manage to take a wrong turn that had us backtracking for a mile or so. Slipping and stumbling down the soggy mountain trail, we laughed deliriously, recalling the drama of the ‘flash flood’ and marveling at how lucky we were to get across. I tried not to think about what might have happened if I had still been in the riverbed at the edge of the cliff when the flooding had arrived…