How I lost my phone at Nu’uuli waterfall

Aug 25, 2019Lifestyle

So. Cool story…

I went to Nu’uuli waterfall over the weekend with some friends and broughtYodi along too. It was going to be great! 

We got to the first waterfall and swam in the cold but refreshing pool. Yodi was so cute with her ears flying like Dumbo. She was “fishing” under one of the big rocks, determined to catch something. Sara and Chase climbed the fall’s wall and jumped off at dead ends. Val and I were just wading around and soaking in the good times. 

We got out after a little while and started up the unmarked trail to the second waterfall. It was extra slippery so I was hesitant to keep climbing. Chase looked for another way up, and Yodi followed him but got to a really steep point where she couldn’t go forward and couldn’t come back down. Sara and Val tried again up the slippery slope while I tried to coax Yodi into trusting me. Eventually, I had to pull her front paws towards me and awkwardly carry her down. I’m tiny, and she’s heavy (for me), so this was no easy feat. My friends were way ahead of me, and because the trail becomes a lot more difficult (and there was no way I was going to carry Yodi up over my head on a cliff), so I decided to stay back at the first waterfall. 

I was bored. I couldn’t find my phone and thought maybe my friends had it in their bags. I swam for a bit, sang out loud for a bit, practiced my whistling for a bit, and stared off into space and contemplated my life… for a bit. I had no concept of time without a watch and a phone. Yodi started getting restless and tried to go back up the trail to follow my friends but they had long gone, and I was not about to carry her back down again, so I put her on her leash and waited with her up by the big boulders and stared off into space again. 

It started sprinkling and Yodi and I just sat and waited it out. I wanted to go down to the pool to get my water bottle, but I didn’t want Yodi to run off so I decided to just wait until Sara, Chase, and Val got back. It started raining even harder this time, and Yodi and I moved around trying to find a dry spot to sit but ended up just siting in the rain for a long while. Again, I had no concept of time so we just waited and waited. 

I was probably staring off into space again when I heard a loud rumbling and saw the waterfall had quadrupled in size, at least! Both Yodi and I stared at the waterfall. I didn’t immediately register in my head what was happening, I just knew it was suddenly dangerous to be there. 

Where I was sitting at the top of the boulder was getting sprayed and I realized that my stuff was still at the bottom near the pool. I hesitated for a split second, then tied Yodi to a nearby tree root and ran down. I could barely see anything because it was spraying everywhere with a vengeance, but I kept my eye on my  yellow tote bag that held my water bottle, waterproof camera, some snacks, and Yodi’s water bowl. Yodi was barking after me. I grabbed my stuff and ran back up to where Yodi was tied, gave her a pet to calm her (or to calm me, or both), and looked back and saw that where my stuff was sitting was now flooded with water, and the spray had intensified even more so that it was like I was standing right in front of the waterfall. 

I got off the slippery boulder and headed towards the trail, wishing I had my phone to call Sara, Chase, and Val. I got really nervous when I realized that they might still be on their way down from the second waterfall. There’s a section of that hike where you have to walk along the stream on very slippery rocks, and I shuddered to think if the wall of water rushed down while they were crossing. 

I paced back and forth for a little while, petting Yodi in between while she was still leashed up and just following me. Trying to find a way out, I thought I would head back to my truck to get help from the house nearby, but paused when we got to the part where we would have to cross the stream (which now looked like a gushing river). I didn’t want to chance it with Yodi. She’s a great swimmer, better than me, but I didn’t trust myself to try crossing with her, and the thought of having to cross again (because to get to the first waterfall required crossing the stream twice) to get back to my truck was not appealing. 

I went back up and snapped some photos of the waterfall, dropping thousands of gallons of brown angry water. 

I thought about my options. I could (1) try to cross the streams with Yodi and head back to get help, (2) wait for my friends to come down, (3) try to go up to the second waterfall with Yodi to find my friends, or (4) wait until the rain stopped and the water calmed down. All of them seemed iffy, and I considered that it could take hours to wait it out. 

I did the next best thing, I started yelling for my friends. I didn’t know if it was going to work. The waterfall was just so loud. We were in the middle of a rainforest and I felt lost. I yelled again and Sara yelled back! I almost wasn’t expecting that to happen, and I felt so relieved to hear her holler somewhere close by. It didn’t take much longer for them to come down the slippery mountain and we told each other what we experienced and talked about what we should do next. 

We tried to forge back without having to cross the river, but we reached a dead end and sat around for a bit while Chase somehow shimmied across a tree that fell over the river and got across. He also tried crossing the river and found a decent shallow-ish spot to cross and get back on the trail. We checked our footing before crossing back again further down the trail and made it back to the car. 

FINALLY I felt so relieved to not be stuck… well, only to get my truck stuck in the now-inundated field… in the rain. Two really kind men from the house nearby came over and helped push the truck, and we eventually got it out. Grateful to be alive and safe, I drove extra careful out to town to drop off Val, then back home. 

Oh, but while my adventure for the day had decidedly come to an end, something else was happening.

I just got out of the shower, fed Yodi some well deserved dog food, and got on my laptop to tell my family that I love them, and told Ian that I lost my phone… and that was when I saw a friend messaged me a couple hours earlier (while we were stuck at Nu’uuli falls). Two boys had gotten swept out to sea by a strong rip current in Utumea. I didn’t see the message until two hours later since I had lost my phone but I felt sick to my stomach to think about them still missing. It was two hours later when I responded to my friend and the boys were still missing. 

The coast guard and marine patrol boats were out searching for them, but they needed help and mentioned a drone would be useful. I borrowed Chase’s phone and called my dad to quickly tell him what happened to me, but mostly I urged him to get his drone and help with the search and rescue. My dad–bless his heart–went over to help, and when I called him later, he said there was no luck. It got dark, and the mission was paused until the next day. 

It’s now a week later, and it breaks my heart to say that they haven’t been found yet and the search was called off on Wednesday. The boys’ names are Alex Peric and Anthony Leota. They’re both so young. Alex just graduated high school from Tafuna (my alma mater) and Anthony was just about to start his senior year of high school. They had so much life to live, but it was cut short by tragedy. 

Last weekend really shed light on how important it is be careful and to be prepared in the event of any dangerous situations, and especially to pay attention to my surroundings in case of warning signs. I now know how serious and dangerous flash flooding can be near streams and waterfalls. I now know that rip tides are not to be underestimated, and that if someone gets swept out to sea, that we need to act fast and smart. 

Well this has been an extremely long photo journal, but yeah…

I am so grateful to be alive and safe, and healthy and stable-minded. Life is full of mis-adventures, but never take it for granted.

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