Clear water Bay

One foot on the edge of a rock and another hanging in the air, I was overwhelmed by a sense of impending doom. Why do I always get myself in such situations, with no humans around.

The German couple said, wade through the sea and then an ‘easy walk’ through the forest to Clearwater bay. So, there I was, trying to find my way, unprepared in a swimsuit and flip flops. I’ve laughed at tourists who try to be brave and hike barefoot or in minimalist shoes. I was doing the same.

Just at that moment I heard leaves crushed under someone’s feet and I shouted out ‘Hey can you wait for me’.

The ‘someone’ was a woman in her late 40s, with a beautiful radiant smile.

‘Do you need any help getting down?’ she asked.

‘No, I think I have this figured out.’ I said.

I somehow got my feet back on the route I had wandered from under her careful unmoving gaze.

‘This doesn’t look as easy as people said it would be right?’ she said

‘Yes, not at all’

‘We can walk together then’

‘Yes, sure’

‘Where are you from?’

‘India’

‘And you are travelling alone?’

‘Yes’

‘Brave girl you are!’

‘Not really, you can clearly see that!’

‘Oh, come on, we all have hiccups.’

‘Where are you from?’

‘Switzerland’

‘Swiss German?’

‘Yess’

The path was narrow and along the edge of the island turning into an uphill climb across the forest. I had scratches on my legs by the thorny bushes around. It was already 1.5 hours since I left the hostel. I could only think of diving into the green blue ocean which seemed to be very close, but we couldn’t see at all.

‘I have been to India a few times’

‘Oh, how do you like it?’

‘I love it’

We met a couple walking the other way and asked them how far we were, they said just 10–15 mins and the end is worth the walk. I know enough to not ask fit backpackers for estimates, it just meant we had another good 20 mins to the beach’

She was travelling through Vietnam and Cambodia for 6 weeks and had just arrived on the island 2 hours back. She is an avid hiker and was well prepared with bananas and good grip floaters. After spending the last couple of days with young backpackers I was happy to be around someone older. She checked on me almost every few minutes.

‘We are here!!!!’

We ran down to the most beautiful stretch of clear green blue water I had ever seen, with a few people spread across. We found the perfect spot under a tree and settled down. One dip in the water and we both gave each other this look of absolute contentment. 45 mins back I was hanging from a rock and a step away from a fracture and now I was floating under the sun on this Bay.

‘I would want to start leaving by 4:30, people are already heading back, and we have to walk that stretch back too’ she said

‘4:45 Please?’

‘OK’

She laughed at how I reluctantly dried myself up, reminiscing the times my mother had to drag me out of the pool.

‘Don’t your parents have an issue with you travelling alone?’

‘Not really, they aren’t alive, so….’

‘Oh, I am sorry’

‘It’s OK’

There was silence for a few minutes.

‘I had a daughter too you know, she died at 16’

‘Oh, was she sick?’

‘She was strong, fit but apparently she had a heart ailment, and she just collapsed one day’

‘Sorry to hear that’

‘Yes, I had to raise her on my own, my husband passed away when she was 10 months old’

I am cautious around people who suffer huge loss, culturally how one accepts loss or talks about it varies all over.

She continued, ‘He was sick, had cancer’

‘My mother died of that too’

‘So, you have also been through a lot of pain and loss’

‘Yes, all of that was five years back’

Another few moments of silence.

‘Did you marry or date people afterwards?’

‘Yes, I was with someone for some time, but now I don’t feel like it. You were also very young through the losses’

‘Yes, but now when you think of it, it can’t get worse right? When you have lost everything you could’

I have thought of this many times, in fact it is what motivates me every time I find myself in risky situations. But I have never said this aloud, let alone to an absolute stranger.

‘Yes, it can only get better’

The next day I was sitting on the beach hugging my backpack waiting for the ferry back to the mainland and she appeared.

‘You look so sad and grumpy’

‘Yes, I don’t want to go back’

And she ruffled my hair and said bye.

For the last couple of months, I have felt this overwhelming sinking feeling of loss, the memory of loss, the memory of an acute pain. And all of a sudden it just vanished.

We are always going to possess and lose something precious and loving in our lives, it is just getting used to that sinking feeling that changes, that knot in the stomach disappears quickly.

I am back home now and when I think something is going wrong I remember this incident and her face appears in front of me, just like it appeared out of nowhere in the forest.

She smiles just like mother….