Whoever said “Come Hell or High Water” clearly hasn’t experienced a massive flooding in the Philippines.
It starts off at midnight. The power in the entire town was out so it was pitch black. The highway was flooded to a couple of feet high with thick brown water. Our SUV headlights were the only lights on the path through our eerie town, engulfed in the worst flooding the town has ever seen. We creeped, nay, inched our way through the silence with only the swoosh and woosh of the waves made by cutting through the still floodwater.
There was 1 motivation for braving our $40k SUV down a potentially destructive flood – losing the $500 fully paid amount on our Balinese beachfront villa. Awesome logic. But this stemmed from the villa having a strict non-refundable situation when you cancel a within a week prior to arrival – that I understand. And it was because of that, that we attempted to make our 4am flight to Denpasar, Indonesia to make for an awesome Bali retreat. Little did we know, it would end up being a different kind of retreat.
Nobody was talking, you can feel the tension in everybody’s chest. Our hearts were in our throats, trying to peek out and see what all the commotion was about. Except my Stepdad, he was cucumber-cool, casually telling my mom to “keep to the middle of the road” and to “keep going.”
Finally, we turn a corner a see a congregation of vehicles atop one of the bridges leading out of town. Tricycles, jeeps and cars were all crowded together in the one dry spot in town. A news crew camera light shone right at us, “Road’s closed,” the news reporter told us, “all the vehicles parked here trying to get to high ground.”
There was no going through. And with that, our dream of Bali that night was a bust. There was the silent but resounding echo of our retreat. We K-turned out of there and back through the floods and back into the creepy part of the journey.
Immediately reaching dry ground, and shaking off manic heart palpitations, I succumbed to the fact that we just lost $1200 on flights and villa rentals. In my brightly colored sundress, I walked dejectedly up back to the room.
“Why did we go back?” says a tiny girl walking up behind me.
“Because the cars were on the road and we couldn’t get through.”
“I want to go to Bali,” she says.
With a heavy sigh accompanying my knowledge that the flight would most likely go on without us, I took my phone and called up the airline anyway. With a resounding, “There is no advisory on any of the flights today. Try calling later 9am,” I wasn’t hopeful.
I sent a message to the villa, telling them of our defeat with Mother Nature’s torrential downpour the past 2 days.
Just so you know, this was no ordinary rainfall. In this part of town, the average rainfall for the entire month of August ballparks at around 200-something millimeters of rain. In the past couple of days, an average of 900-milimeteres dropped down from the heavens and into our flood-prone town, which already gets a lot of flooding in some parts when the tide is extremely high.
This has been the worst flooding in recent memory. Even worse than the destructive Milenyo in 2006. Most houses were helpless as the water forcefully made their way in houses. But as the water receded after the 3rd day of endless rainfall, the sun peeked out and life resumes once again. Cars and tricycles whir in the distance, people walk to work without having to hoist their pant legs up above their knees. Business as usual.
But our thoughts of Bali remain.
Bali, you elusive, playful little nymph, you. Just when I got all excited for our day out in Ubud, our excursion out to East Bali, our afternoon taking in Kuta and all the late afternoons spent on the beach right in front of our wonderfully gorgeous villa in Gianyar, you pull away and make us chase you again.
But this time, with everything that has happened, even with the flights on the brink of being rebooked with waived fees, I don’t know if the excitement is the same. My mom is insisting and the Happy Meal is excited. However, I have lost a lot of heart after $500 went down the drain, just like that, faster than the flood waters receding.
Oh Bali, what to do, what to do.
For now, I have the distinct memory of our SUV piercing through high still water and creating waves and ripples that will never be unseen and unfelt. My heart still freezes up just remembering that image: the pitch black town, the flood-sunken houses – all the while me, the Happy Meal and my Mom decked out in the most summery outfits you can think of.