i stood at the base of the trail. from this vantage point, i could see the distance it spanned: one small mountain, and wider than my eye could follow. before i could run, slip back into my car and pull away from the group, i applied sunscreen and hat, considered if sunglasses made things any different. they did, so i took them back off.
assured that trail mix and water were within easy reach, i hurried after the group. they were all serious climbers, half of whom carried sharp sticks in their dominant hand – ready to stab into the ground in case of slippage.
i marvelled quietly at how easily they seemed to put faith in a thin piece of wood and carried on.
the trek broadened out from here, shouted the guide. her words got carried away with the wind, and swallowed up by the forest. after another hour we were higher-up than before, the world narrowing down to greenery and tiny geckos darting out of the way of my clumsy feet.
(up until then, i’d never felt especially ungraceful)
we would have to climb down the other side of the mountain, and i stood at the ridge of the incline. others were already making their way down, calling up encouragement and going in pairs as they trusted in themselves not to lose to nature.
i stood there and lowered my foot down to that first little rocky step, somehow managing to nearly-perfectly capture the toe of my hiking shoes in the crevice and lower myself down. i paused, just for a few minutes, to admire my own daring, and then carefully mimicked the backwards-climbing motion i’d watched the others employ. to my surprise, all that happened was i banged my knee on a rock before landing neatly on my feet, two feet down.
for just a moment, i peered up at the rock and scrub, studying the distance. turning around again, i put it out of my mind. the wind-tossed ocean looked so far, people on the beach looking toy-like and i wished i had binoculars.
my breath seemed to rhyme with the ocean rhythm, and the rest of the group had pulled ahead of me, already clambering down the next path and looping themselves down on a thick, sturdy-with-age piece of rope.
i exhaled as the ocean crashed, and went to join them.