The Early Bird Can Have the Worm

I’ve already spoken a little bit about how important it is to manage your expectations while traveling in a previous blog post from Bali. However, yesterday was another example of this lesson, and more importantly, a perfect reminder to allow myself to go with the flow more often when things aren’t going my way.

Our morning started around 5:15 am with the faint calls of a nearby rooster and a few warm rays of soft light peeking in through our windows as the sun began to rise over the horizon. Sounds like a pretty good start to the day right?

Wrong. Well, kind of wrong.

As picturesque as this may have been, we weren’t supposed to be seeing that yesterday. Instead, we were supposed to have woken up at 1:30 am so that we could be atop Mt Batur watching the sun rise over the Mt Agung volcano at this time. Instead, our 2 hour catnap after the Cacao CeremonyΒ (yes it’s a thing) turned into us sleeping through both of our alarms (I’d like to think it was the phones fault, but it seems more likely that we both smashed the snooze buttons in our sleep without batting an eye).

So what did we do? Well after looking through the WhatsApp messages from the group we were supposed to go with and taking 3 minutes to feel frustrated with ourselves for not just staying up the extra hour or 2, we got up and got started trying to find something to do that would compare to watching the sunrise over an erupting Mt Agung.

Within 15 minutes our bags were packed and we were on our scooter towards one of the waterfalls I’d already marked off on Maps.Me. Although it probably wasn’t quite as epic as the scene we missed out on, the waterfall we went to was still incredible, and because we were up so early, we had the place all to ourselves.

After enjoying the water, taking a few pictures and whipping the drone around, we decided we’d had our fill and got ready to head back to town to find some breakfast. On the way back, we noticed another waterfall on the map that was nearby and decided we might as well check it out while we were there.

Upon arriving, I promptly made a fool of myself by almost tipping over the scooter as I tried to park it at the top of a slick, muddy hill. While I picked my pride up off the ground, a local guy sitting nearby helped me lift up the motorbike and parked it for me since this clearly wasn’t his first rodeo. His name was Gita and with almost no explanation, he proceeded to lead us down and path away from the waterfall we’d intended on visiting. Normally I’m the first person to opt out of a tour guide when it’s offered, but for whatever reason, maybe it was because he didn’t really ask us, or simply because I was still half asleep from dancing all night and waking up at the crack of dawn, I didn’t stop him from showing us around. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I kept my mouth shut!

After a short walk, we arrived at a riverbed. Gita told us to take off our shoes and we began trekking through upstream, carefully finding our footing on the slippery rocks and stones beneath the current. Keep in mind, we’ve exchanged all of 12 words with Gita at this point and didn’t really know where he was taking us. After 20 minutes of crossing back and forth up the river, we got to the mouth of a gorge where the water looked to be about chest deep. Inside, a small waterfall cascaded down the side of one of the rock faces. This is what we’d came for.

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We set our bags off to the side and began wading and swimming into the small canyon. The further in we went, the more this place came to life. A new waterfall emerged around every bend and the walls were covered with trees, flowers and other plants. The whole time, Gita kept telling us to stand here and there or walk to certain spots so he could take photos and videos of us from Shelby’s phone (shoutout to Lifeproof cases). One of my favorite parts was honestly watching how excited he was to take our pictures and show us the slow motion videos he was capturing as we went.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we turned another corner and were staring at a number of vines, hanging tree roots and a swing Gita had strung up from the branches above. Then, as if he’d read my mind, Gita showed me a rock I could jump from to grab one of the dangling tree branches and swing from. My inner monkey came out as I climbed up and down the vines while Shelby swam around and made use of the swing. We couldn’t help but enjoy this natural playground the way Gita and his younger siblings had when they were growing up. This place may as well have been heaven.

Go where the locals go πŸ’¦πŸŒΏ β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€” We did not plan on coming here yesterday. In fact, we were supposed to be on top of Mt Batur watching the sunrise over the Mt Agung volcano. Instead, we both overslept our 1:30 am wake up calls and woke up at 5 am. Instead of being frustrated and letting that ruin our day, we jumped on our scooter and headed to the first waterfall we could find. Afterwards, we looked for a breakfast spot on Maps.Me, noticed that another waterfall was near by and said screw it, we’re already out here. Once we got there, a local guy named Gita started leading us down a path away from the signs for the waterfall. Normally I’d opt out of getting a tour guide, but for whatever reason I didn’t say anything and let him do his thing. When we got to the river, he told us to take off our shoes and began leading us up the river bed. After 20 minutes of stepping on slippery underwater rocks and crossing back and forth through the river, we arrived at the mouth of a canyon with chest high water. We left our bags and waded through until we found one of the most incredible places either of us had ever seen, waterfalls, jungle vines, rope swing and all! β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€” People often talk about β€œgoing with the flow”, but I think this was probably the first time I’d truly experienced how powerful that mantra can be. If we’d woken up on time, if we hadn’t paid attention to the signs on the map and if we hadn’t let Gita bring us where he wanted to show us, we probably would have never stumbled upon this magical playground that Gita and his siblings grew up going to. β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€” If you’re still here at this point, props to you for hanging in for this long. And if you are still here, I need your help! I’m torn between sharing more about how to find this secret spot and keeping it preserved so that the next travelers who are fortunate enough to unknowingly stumble upon it can fully experience the magic we got to experience yesterday. What do you think I should do?

A post shared by Robert Liberatore πŸ—Ί (@robert_lib) on

When we got back to our shoes, we asked Gita what/if we owed him and he said that it was entirely up to us. The man had just shared with us one of the most incredible places either of us had ever been to that was nothing like anything we’d ever seen before and he would have been just as content if we paid him as if we hadn’t! Obviously we tipped him well and headed back to town to get the breakfast we’d been putting off for so long now.

As we drove home, and then again as we feasted on the 4 plates of food we ordered, we both kept reliving how amazing the day was. For me, it was crazy to think about how many people, foreigners and locals, had been right where we were that would probably never get to experience what we’d seen. What was even crazier to think about was the simple fact that if we hadn’t slept through both of our alarms, there’s almost a 0% chance that we would have stumbled onto that spot while we were in Bali.

Just because Shelby’s doing her yoga training and I’ve been known to tick off a few of the hippie boxes myself (tried a vegan diet for 1.5 years, used to rock a manbun, etc) doesn’t mean I typically put too much stock into the chakras, spirituality, or whatever else you want to label it as. But I will say that yesterday really did make some of that hard to ignore. It’s hard to chalk up the number of chance encounters and decisions we had yesterday that led us exactly to that secret spot simply as dumb luck. But either way, at the very least, reliving this series of events is an obvious reminder to put a little more faith in the phrase “go with the flow”.

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At this point, you’re probably saying something along the lines of, “Okay Robert this all sounds incredible, but how do we get there?” and to be honest, I initially planned on sharing a how to guide on where to find this hidden gem. But after giving it some further thought, I’ve decided not to divulge these secrets, at least not yet. Part of the magic behind the place we went is that we had no intentions of finding it and even fewer expectations of ever seeing what we saw.

I’m sure at some point, someone else will make it to the green canyon who will feel differently and will be willing to share it with all of their friends and family, and before long, everyone and their grandmother will have access to it. But until then, I’d like to help preserve the untouched magic of this place a little longer in the hopes that the next set of travelers that are fortunate enough to end up here without a plan will get to appreciate it fully, in all its glory, with no expectations to ruin any aspect of it for them.

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