Day 5: Scand

The sea’s only gifts are harsh blows, and occasionally the chance to feel strong. Now I don’t know much about the sea, but I do know that that’s the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions. Facing the blind death stone alone, with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.
— Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

When people ask upon my return "hey, how was the trip?", I tend to find it hard to answer in one or two words. For the most part the question commanded a simple one or two word answer. Occasionally I'd dive into a story -- something unexpected that happened. On a trip where everything is magical, foreign, and unexpected, it's really hard to pick a succinct moment. But one happened on this day.


Holy fuck. 1500 meters of sheer wilderness. Throw away the trail map. There really isn't one to start anyway. Here you go by orientation alone. Not my orientation of course. More like Mo' the gazelle's. He is our spry young guide who doesn't seem to register that we can't hop over boulders with a meter gap like he can. I've never thought I'd put myself in this rigorous of a situation after rookie-climbing the Sugar Loaf in Brazil. But here I am scaling Socotra's highest peak from bottom to top over multiple mountains in between. 12 hours of insanity.

 

We had a bit of a late start. The terrain proved to be too tricky for Nikki to move forward. After much waiting and evaluating, she decided to not forge ahead. Samed, our main guide and the only person who can appropriately communicate to Mo, reversed back with Nikki. Left alone with Mo, the rest of us trekked fast to make up for lost time. When you are this high up, every cloud that floats by become a giant fog-stacle making it hard to gain appropriate bearing and direction. Countless rock scramble and a million needle stings later we reached the only place left on the island that is safe for baby dragon blood to grow. Vegetation up here is so dense that goats find it hard (or annoying or not worth their effort) to come all the way up. Goats eat baby dragon blood trees. This is also where the already almost non existence trail ends and the true bush-wacking begins -- with nothing but your hands and knees that is.

I don't really know how long we bush-wacked through the labyrinth of dense vegetation for. It felt like a long time. I can still smell the scent of the plants that grow up there. It smelled citrusy with a touch of chamomile and earth. When we finally emerged at the top most, the clearing opened up and there we were -- on top of it all with a few dragon blood trees to say hello to. The scenery around us was surreal. So much so that I didn't really take great photos of it. I just lived the moment. The shear cliff face of one of the side looks perfect for rock climbing or maybe even base jumping. Tho I hope none of that show up and this place stays innocent forever.


You can't put 7 strangers in a situation like a 12hr rigorous hike, plus one snafu of miss-located bags at the peak, without having true colors revealed. For the most part what could have been quite bad -- missing bags / caught having to climb down in the dark / etc -- got resolved with more or less laughters, luck, and perseverance. People on this trip are passionate adventure travelers. They are all very different but tied by the shared love for the unchartered life. They are fearless, adaptive to various mishaps with great outlook, and are game for literally anything. I like them lots. 

We found ourselves racing against sunset once again. This time we barely won. The guides drove us off from the pick-up spot right at the verge of last light. The ray emitted a strange green tone on the horizon. I read a thing about emerald sunsets a while ago. No one I know have seen or heard of it. It's a phenomenon when a flash of green light appears on the horizon at the moment the last bit of the sun leaves the sky. I don't know. You be the judge of it.

 

Our drive to Omaq took a little while. This is the first day we're heading out to the beach. By the time we arrived it had already gotten pitch dark. I felt so gross from the day's dirt and sweat the thought of jumping in the ocean just to clean was more than logical. Now, if you've never walk into the ocean at night before, I truly recommend you do this once in your life. Here, where darkness envelopes everything, you really have to come to terms with a lot of things in your heart when you face a very, very big span of darkness that is an unknown ocean. (Remember, the moon doesn't rise till 3am here) You can hear it -- the roaring crash of the waves. You can almost make out the line of where the water line might be but definitely not where the earth end and the sky begins. There's no telling how deep the water is. You simply cannot see. The only thing you have going for you is your own faith -- faith that every step you take forward you can always take back. Faith that you don't really need to see to feel ok. Faith that you can swim, can run, and in honest truth you really can extract yourself out of whatever it is that is screaming fear in your head. 

 

I took the plunge. 

 

Immediately upon stepping in the water a *bright* blue electric light sparkled at my feet. For a split second it moved in the water, then disappeared without a trace. A deathly jellyfish?!?? An electric eel?!? Omg. I definitely didn't feel its texture. As close as it was it didn't touch me. After much panting and freaking out, a second attempt was in order. If it was in fact an animal, I cannot possibly run into it again. Boom -- feet in the water -- and there it was again -- bright electric blue sparkles. It's bioluminescence -- glow in the dark planktons that emits light only through movement disruption in the water. The rest was magic. 

(photo from the next morning)