When Insanity Kicks In

Small and weak orange light beams extended into the dim forest. There were just enough lights to see the pebbles on the dirt trail right beneath us. We were moving slowly through the unpredictable dark path and endless sturdy trees. I haven’t seen much horror movies, but I am pretty sure many started in such settings, like The Blair Witch Project. Or maybe this is what Aokigahara – the Suicide Forest in Japan looks like at night.

Is there a dead man around here?

I couldn’t think of anything to talk about. I was very much locked up in my own imagination:Imagination (No, not this kind of imagination)
– What if I flash my light too ahead of the trail, and there is someone in a white hospital gown standing there and waiting for us?
– What if I flash the light into the trees, and there are couples of hanging bodies, just dangling over there on a tree branch with hair all over the face and the body. There are bloodstains on the old and worn out hospital gowns. Several areas of the skins are bubbling and decomposing because the bacteria are eating away the flush.
– What if there are some ghost hikers from the past, and they are following behind us like lifeless zombies? Or all of sudden they jump in front of me and eat my face off.
(Note to self: DO NOT write this at night)

I was mentally battling with myself. I kept telling myself to stop making up those ridiculous stories, but on the other hand, my mind was saying what if those stories came true? To keep myself from going crazy, I had 3 rules:

1. Don’t flash the light too ahead of the path
2. Don’t flash the light up into the trees
3. Flash the light behind us every 5 min

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. TRUE. But at this point, the fear is my imagination, which turns into a fear of my mind, which turns into a fear of myself. This FEAR was full on overshadowing everything else. Forget enjoying the fresh air, the view, and the quietness. I needed to see some real people with fire and garlic just in case I forgot to mention vampires.

Lights, Cameras and Chinese People?

Speaking of people, as I hopelessly looked into the distances, I saw some fireflies. Nah, they were lights from real people!!

HOORAAAYY!!I had a smile on my face. I imagined these rescuers running shirtless to me, and they were going to bridal-carry me out of this miserable place. The desperation might have led me to mistaken this situation with Magic Mike. But nonetheless, I was happy to know that we were not alone.

As we moved closer to the light, we encountered a group of 8 Chinese hikers with their bright flashlights. It was around probably 11pm at the time, and they still wanted to walk back to the trail-head? I was very much impressed with their spirits and energy. When I passed by them, we all exchanged a nod as a way to signify “You out here too brah?”

This encounter ensured me if some terrible things were to happen to us, at least there will be people close by to call for help. I was able to take a quick mental break from questioning whether we were on the right path or not. We were very fortunate to meet this group of people, without them I don’t think mentally I was able to make it. So thank you my fellow hikers; miracles do happen when you are least expecting them.

The slope to the down down down

Suddenly I smelled a slightly burned spam. “No, they are just camp fires,” Cruelly The Squater crushed my ask-for-so-little dream of having spam musubi tonight. But the good news is the destination is close by, for real this time.

The trail finally led us to an open area. I saw a sign of hope, and just maybe it will tell us what comes next. But unfortunately, it was just a wooden board with nothing on it. Disappointed, we saw another sign on a nearby tree saying No Dogs Allowed. You know you are in trouble when dogs are not allowed to do this.

I flashed my weak lights into the unknown. I could not see the end, or the bottom, or the trail, and I knew we were in trouble. From that point forward, we were no longer looking at a straight path. We were looking at a straight-down-steep-hill to somewhere.

I think at this point I should mention my extreme fear of heights and the dark. However, at that moment fear is no longer an option. Our choices were simple – either we move forward or camp in the middle of nowhere.

I have decided to take the lead on this one. I felt more comfortable knowing what is ahead of me. We moved slowly to a nearby tree and noticed there were ropes tied around some of the tree trunks. I assure you these ropes were not used to hang yoself out of desperation; they were used to help you get down while having something firm to hold on to. Obviously you can tell this is not an ideal situation to be in in the dark, since this is not any ordinary slope you can jog your way down.

The scariest part about this whole journey was we have no idea what is waiting in front of us – Hey! Its just like life!! All we could do were to focus on the now and make each step counts. However, these steps were not easy to make – Picture this:

1. Neck muscles supporting our tired and sweaty head
2. Armpit muscles squeezing onto the pillows and sleeping bags so they wouldn’t fall into the never-never land
3. Back and chest muscles balancing 2 heavy backpacks so we wouldn’t fall forward or backward
4. Pinky-finger muscles holding onto our only source of light
5. Left hand muscles holding onto the spiky rope like it was our last resort
6. Gluteus Maximus muscles working hard to help us slowly and steady sliding down this crazy ass slope while maintaining our balance

The slopes were fairly wide but in the zig-zag formation. There were several spots with tree roots stretching out onto the surface, so it was very important for us to half Asian-squat and half sit to achieve the perfect butt slide.

It took us about half an hour to get down to a 0.1 mil slope. Once we got to the flat land, we continued to walk for about 10 min. All of sudden through the dense trees, I saw tiny sparks of light… The smell of smokes grew stronger, people’s laughter grew louder, and finally my right foot touched the sandy beach. I dropped everything on the ground, and one tear ran across my face. We have walking into the lights and Oh Lord Jesus! We have MADDE ITT!

We quickly set up our tent – teamwork at its finest.
Best work yet
We wiped our feet with baby wipes and put on clean socks. Oh how I appreciated the little things in life. I couldn’t ask for a better ending of the night. I got all tugged into my soft and warm sleeping bag. I listened to the waves, and all the craziness we just went through disappeared. Slowly I drift into my Hello Kitty happy land…

The morning after

Ring the alarm.
It was a cloudy day. Although we didn’t get to see the sunrise like we planned it, the cloudy view gave this place another layer of mysterious. I believe black and white images can truly represent our struggles.

We packed our bags like a finals week’s stress-eating yet satisfying and sturdy burrito. I could never imagine myself looking like this, such a hot mess but still managed to be cute.
We said our goodbyes to the beach and the ocean. Soon we came face to face to the hill. Remember the one with the rope? It looked something like this,
And then me struggling…
The bags felt heavier this time, and I was constantly in need to sit my ass down. I had some time to reflect on the night. Here is the Q&A session that happened in my head:

Will you do this again? Or do this again solo?
To be honest, I would like to continue to camp. Falling asleep to the sound of the ocean waves, and waking up realizing you are no longer in the city, it was a heavenly feeling.
Will do I do this beach again? LOOK AT ME! TAKE A REAL GOOD LOOK AT ME!fotorcreated
Do this again SOLO? Let me put it this way, if it did ever happen in some twisted sick world, I wouldn’t be here writing this blog, I will be writing an award winning self-help book titled Why The Brave Face? Or How The Hell Did I Get Here?

As a standard question, what did you learn from this?
Lets get the cheesy and official answer out of the way – it was a life changing experience

A 3miles hike that can easily be accomplished in probably 3.5 hours, but it took us almost 5 hours to finish. I learned how to carry heavy things, jump through muddy jungles, rope courses, and best of all we figured out how to set up shelter in the dark. Somehow we accidentally signed up for Survivors and didn’t even get the luxury hotel room as prize. Survivor, I will be waiting for my casting call.

Now, let me get more real with you
I am incorporating this post with as many funny and sassy elements as possible. I want this story to be entertaining and informative to read. However, this experience will forever be marked as my most terrifying hiking experience. Why?

It was our first hike together, it was our first (unexpected) night hike, it was our first time carrying that much camping equipment, and it was our first time camping. We didn’t have cellphone signal, didn’t bring any matches, pepper sprays, first aid kit, or knife. Our food resources can only last us for 1 day. I couldn’t imagine what would we do if something goes wrong.

So why did we continue on with the hike knowing that we were not fully prepared?
Because the line between recklessness and bravery is blurry. Although we were brave enough to face the challenge and did not quit, we did put our lives on the line. One wrong step during any of the 5 hours, we could hurt ourselves really badly or be at the bottom of the beach in 2 seconds. Yet, I loved that exciting feeling of discovering the unknown, and the exhilarating feeling of adrenaline rushing into my head and fingertips.

It is hard to decide whether these feelings or actions are right or wrong. I do have to say there were many times during my other solo trips I felt like I was pushing the boundaries and justifying my actions by labeling them as “just curious.” As travelers, we chase after the exciting stories; we want to be spontaneous and fun; we want to challenge ourselves through travel the unknown. Bu at the same time, it is crucial to know our limits and be extra prepared for the worth case scenarios. It is great to have an exciting story, but you know what is even better? To stay alive so you can tell more stories.

Stay safe and travel on!