“A few people were being idiots and got hurt, and now they require you to get a guide.”

This from a young Danish woman we met at our homestay here in Indonesia, lamenting the requisite guidance to summit a volcano in Bali.

Some people just don’t like guides. They can be expensive. Make you feel like part of the herd. And sometimes you just want to explore on your own. I used to be firmly in this camp, and would verbally stiff-arm prospective guides at any park, museum or trail.

I’ve done a complete 180 on this perspective. It’s probably just age, but these days I’d prefer to pay to get where I’m going in a straight line and learn a bit along the way. Plus, it’s nice to support the local economy. (A topic for another postcard, but isn’t it funny how, since COVID, we all feel like heroes every time we spend money?)

The Dane’s comment was topical because, just that day, Dana and I went to a waterfall with a guide. It was required, but we were happy to pay the $10, because there was a 0 percent chance we would have found it otherwise. The trail was too light, the hills too intimidating. And our guide — who kinda looked like an Indonesian George Clooney and said fewer than 10 words to us over 4 hours — led us through the jungle, as Dana said, “with no shoes, no water. Just a big ol’ knife and a strong hairline.”

The payoff was like something out of Moana. A 40 meter waterfall spilling into a deep emerald pool, lush greenery climbing up the cliff sides. Not another soul around. As we gawked at nature doing its thing, Indo Clooney, without a word, pointed down a tiny crevice between a bunch of mossy boulders. A sneaky path, we learned, to go swimming.