There’s a lot about Pohnpei that I will write about, but I first would like to tell you all about my experience doing the Six Waterfall hike. Before doing this hike, I read a couple blog posts about others who had done it before, and the Pohnpei Eco-Adventure website has a decent write up on the hike. From what I read, I knew we needed a guide, not only to show us the way but to keep us safe. Right now we are in a drought in the Pacific (even if it rains here in Pohnpei a little every day), so I wasn’t concerned much about what the couple blogs I read had said about flash flooding. I was just a little concerned for the overall conditions of it.
A few days before doing the hike, we had done another smaller hike to a couple of waterfalls and had enlisted the help of the man who lived in the house at the start of the trail to them. Here in Pohnpei, when you want to hike certain trails, often times the waterfalls or mountains are on people’s property and you need to walk up to their house and ask for permission to hike there. And also, they tend to offer family members or friends to help guide you through it, or to it. In turn, you shell out some cash. It is a very interesting way of doing things, which I thoroughly enjoy. Not only do you get to meet local people, but you get experts on the land you are walking on. Makes the whole experience a little more authentic in my opinion. So we had met Robert during our hike on Tuesday and he offered to take us on Friday to hike the Six Waterfalls trail.
So Friday morning we met Robert (and his son Norbert) at his house, which is conveniently located just down the street from the start of the trail. The path starts out just after Salapwuk Elementary School, where many children flocked to their classroom door to check out the white folk hiking by; it was super cute. The hike to the first waterfall seemed fairly easy, to be honest. After reading people’s blogs about it, I had thought it would be a little harder to get through. The hike consisted of a lot of downhill, uphill, wet rocks, dry rocks, over fallen trees, under fallen trees, through streams up to your ankle, some up past your knee; but nothing that seemed too hard to handle. There were a few slips here and there, by everyone. And after we arrived at that first waterfall we knew we made a good choice.
After a dip in the first waterfall, not too far away we found the next couple of waterfalls. Each beautiful in their own way. And all along the hike I couldn’t help but think how much easier it was than I thought it would be. Sure it was slippery, and yeah maybe I dropped my really good zoom lens in the water as I was taking photos of one of the falls, but I was in such awe of the waterfalls, I wasn’t even concerned. I even thought to myself, better my lens than me. After the second and third waterfall, the next few seemed to be a short distance away as well. Once we reached the fifth waterfall, we took a quick look, but we bypassed it, put all our stuff on some rocks and got into the water, as the sixth and last waterfall required us to swim through against the current in order to find it. And it was worth it. An amazing waterfall that seemed to be coming out of a cave, but if you looked closely there was another waterfall beside the cave that was pouring down to create the waterfall seen first. It was incredible.
Here we stopped and hung out for awhile. The waterfall created a strong current and at one point I was swimming but not moving anywhere. It was amazing. The other girls had climbed onto the rocks at the side that had created a little cave of sorts on the wall by the waterfall. Emily had climbed up with the guys who had come along with Robert, and had jumped off into the water. I decided to climb onto the rocks to hang out there as well. As I stood up to see if I could figure out how Emily had climbed up, I lost my footing and fell backwards onto the rocks, eventually landing in the water. It was terrifying. My whole body hurt, but I knew instantly something was wrong with my leg.
I called for my boyfriend, Nick, who is fortunately a tall, strong beast of a man, who came and got me out of the water. As soon as he put me down, I broke down in tears. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to walk on my right leg. I didn’t think I would be able to make it back, as I knew we had over an hours hike back to the beginning. Luckily the trail is a tear drop shape, and we did not have to hike back the way we came. But there was still quite a ways to go.
With help from Nick and Robert, I got back to the water in order to swim back to the fifth waterfall. For the first bit, Nick and Robert tried different ways of helping me out. At first they tried the bucket carry, holding me up from either side of me with my arms around their necks and their arms holding my legs up, but the rocks were slippery and after one fall on Nick’s part, even though it was nothing serious, I just didn’t feel comfortable putting them at risk. Then both men took turns with me on their backs, with the other right behind, just in case. But even then, I was worried we would fall, as the terrain was either slippery rocks, through streams, up/down mountains, and so on.
So that’s when I decided I needed to just push through the pain and use all the strength I had in me to get back on my own two feet. It took three hours from when we left the sixth waterfall, when it probably only would’ve taken just over one, had I not been hurt. I stopped a lot. I cried a lot. I said to Nick ‘I can’t do this’ about a million times; to which he reminded me that I was doing it. I struggled. I hurt. I sat on my ass and bounced from rock to rock when I could. I crawled when I had to go up hill sometimes. I slid down mud on my ass, going downhill. But mostly I used Robert’s walking stick and hobbled along the trail. It felt like it was never ending. I don’t know if it was adrenalin, or just the need to survive but I never gave up.
Once we made it to the road, Nick went ahead to get the car to bring it to me. The girls told me to wait for him to get there but I just wanted to get to the car faster. I already hiked for 3 hours, a couple more minutes won’t hurt. So I continued to hobble along the road. And we made it almost all the way back to Robert’s when Nick came with the car. It was later than we had planned on it being when we finished. Everyone was tired and hungry. So we thanked Robert and gave him some cash for taking us, and we headed back to our bungalows, stopping at the grocery store for food. My foot/leg was swollen but I didn’t want to go to the hospital just yet because I just wanted to shower, eat and sleep. Nick put the chair in the shower for me, and I enjoyed cleaning all the dirt off me. And I crawled into bed.
After a horrible sleep, waking up in pain every time I moved, I woke up and I knew I needed to go to the hospital. So at just before 7am, Nick took me in our rental car, and I got to the ER and no one else was there. The experience there was, well quite an experience. They took me in a wheelchair over to get x-rays done. The woman doing my x-ray said that her family owns the land the six waterfalls are on, which was kind of cool. So once I was done and back in the ER, they told me I fractured my fibula (skinny calf bone) near the top, close to the knee. They showed me the fracture and told me that the bone was not displaced, so it was unlikely that I needed surgery but they had to admit me in order to see the surgeon and get his opinion, as well as get a cast put on.
I knew that I would have to contact my parents and tell them, now that I knew what was wrong. I was prepared for my mother to freak out, as she did. Understandably so. Breaking bones in foreign countries isn’t really comforting to a mother who is already worried about her daughter, I am sure. But I assured her I was in good hands, Nick being a former EMT and personal trainer. Very helpful in this situation, that’s for sure.
I was admitted to the hospital and taken to the surgical wing. At first they informed the nurse who wheeled me there that they were full. But he wheeled me over to an empty bed anyways. And when I say empty, I mean it. He had to go find a mattress for it, and there were no sheets or pillows for the bed, which is just the way it is there. You bring your own. I laid down on the mattress, which reminded me of the cushion they used to have velcroed on the walls in my elementary gym. As Nick left to return our rental car, the people in the bed next to me offered me a pillow, and even covered my mattress in an extra sheet they had. It was obvious they had been there awhile, as they had a plethora of things with them. I spent the next few hours in and out of sleep, as Nick laid on the floor next to my bed. About six hours later, I was finally taken to the surgeon who put me under, as he said putting the cast on would hurt a lot. All I remember is the anesthesiologist telling me it may hurt when the medicine goes in, and being in pain when it did. Next thing I knew I was waking up with Nick in front of me.
Now I have a massive white plaster cast, which I haven’t seen on anyone back at home in a long time, that goes up past my knee. I have crutches (which cost $65 US, that Nick had to go to the private hospital to buy because the one we were at did not have any). My hospital visit, in total, costed me $67 US. At the airport, I got to get on the plane first, as they wheeled me out to the plane and strapped me into a chair and 3 men carried me up to the plane. I felt like an Egyptian princess being carried on a bed to wherever I please, which is apparently is called a sedan chair. They upgraded Nick and I’s seats so I had more leg room, which worked out rather well, even though I still laid across the 3 seats with my feet propped up on him. Getting off the plane seemed much more challenging for those involved. I waited for everyone to exit the plane, and they attempted to strap me into a chair to carry me down but the two men could not seem to figure out how they were going to do it. So I politely asked them to put me down, I unbuckled myself and stood up. I then proceeded to try to hop down the stairs on one foot, with the two men and Nick trying to help but mostly just getting in the way. I asked them all to let me go, took hold of the railings and hopped my way down. I have a new found respect for those traveling in wheelchairs all the time. It felt like such an ordeal and they definitely are not very equipped in this part of the world to handle it. But I got home safe and sound, back in Majuro with quite the tale to tell.
So six waterfalls, and one broken fibula later, this has been one hell of an adventure. What’s adventure without risk?