Waterfall Warriors

Day 17: Kampot

This morning is deja vu of yesterday. Breakfast, billiards, band practice. Then Flo hits the gym while I sit writing on the hostel balcony.
After lunch on the river, we take the scooters eight kilometres up a bumpy dirt road to Tek Chou, a waterfall in the jungle. We pass a couple tourists coming from a different path on our way. They’ve just come from a lagoon, and when we reach the waterfall we’re the only ones there. We stand under the tumbling water, the sheer pressure scouring our pores. Then we clamber up behind it, where ten metres from the base a huge natural shelf is indented in the rock wall. It stretches perpendicularly behind the cascade like a massive, flat, robot mouth. Standing where the tongue would be, we observe the jungular landscape from the waterfall eye-view.

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Following it to one end and clambering over the rocks and through hanging water foliage, we rub dirt on our faces and pretend we’re Amazon warriors. We make each other bracelets and arm bands from the muddy wet plants and throw stones from the shelf into an abandoned basket way below.
Walking over the rocks on the far side, Flo says I’m fearless.
“No way,” I say. “I’m scared of a lot of things.”
“Like what?”
“Spiders,” I say, taking the easy way out of the question. “What are you afraid of?”
“Humans.”
I look back at him and he’s grinning.
By the time we get back to normal ground the sun is long gone. Dark falls fast as we stumble down the wonky path to our parked bikes. Crickets rub their knees together in the empty lot. Looking up at the middle-of-the-jungle stars, we sit on our bikes whiling away an hour talking and wondering why the Buddha statue up here has been gifted beer. Who really ends up drinking that?

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We look at the thick tropical forest surrounding us, silent save for our voices and those of some creatures in the midst, and figure we should head home.
We start rolling downhill, but a minute later Flo stops his scooter.
“We never went to the lagoon!”
Our scooters take a U-turn.
The lagoon is beautiful, even in the dark. A couple huts sit up on the hill, hanging with hammocks. We each take one, swinging and talking until we both fall asleep.
Some unknown time later, I awake disoriented until Flo’s face appears in the dark next to me.
“I figured I should probably wake you, I think we’ve been asleep for a while.”
It is cold now, and a dew has collected all over my hammock and we sit there talking until something close by rummages in the bush.
We look at each other. Silence.
“What was that?”
We squint into the outline of leaves.
“Do you have a flashlight on you?”
“I left all my stuff in the scooter.”
“Me too!”
I stick close to Flo’s side for sheer warmth’s sake, I swear, as we tiptoe back to the scooters and plant our butts on the dew covered seats. The headlights show no monsters in our path, and so we bump along the dirt and then the highway until pulling into our hostel, waking our dear receptionist from his slumber in his cot by the desk. He rubs his eyes and locks up our bikes. Flo and I walk up the stairs to our balcony where we sort our things before heading in to our sleepy dorm.
Flo has everything in his bag laid out on the bench.
“I lost my phone back there.”
Oh, no. He looks through everything, and decides to go back. It’s one am.
I fall asleep and wake a couple hours later to him walking back in the dorm room.
“Did you find it?” I whisper.
He didn’t.
With the promise of no alarm the next morning, sleep takes over.


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