Looking at the makeshift rigging system, I felt my eyebrow rise. A bunch of rail-thin men, all shouting directions in muddled Indonesian to their companions, were pulling on a series of somehow-untangled ropes.
Organized chaos would be putting it mildly.
"Well," I said to my travel mates, "this should be interesting."
A moment later, a man came over holding a bunch of harnesses. One by one, we stepped into our own set of sweat-soaked straps and discreetly turned as he fussed with the fasteners near the crotch. Bright red helmets atop our noggins, we queued up, and before we knew it, two of our crew were being lowered down into Jomblang Cave.
I took a deep breath.
This was a first for me.
I mean, at face value, it's easy to say, "No, never before have I been in a foreign country, staring down a 50-meter-deep sinkhole, knowing I'd be next to drop in."
But since we'd touched down in Indonesia a few days prior, it had all felt brand spankin' new.
After spending a few days alone in posh, designer-fitted Singapore, the chaos and grit of Indonesia hit me at full speed. We watched barefoot kids direct traffic from our cab's windows as we drove down the pulsing streets of Jakarta. In Yogyakarta, we danced to street musicians after dodging a horse-drawn cart on the main thoroughfare.
Before we arrived at the cave, we'd watched sunrise from the steps of Borobudur, a ninth-century Mahayana Buddhist temple. After exploring the inner recesses of the Jomblang cave system, we were slated to watch the sun set from the steps of Prambanan, a ninth-century Hindu temple.
Every bit of this was new, and though parts of it felt familiar — to China, to Vietnam — we were all facing a chance to be bold.
Something I am certainly not.
Or, at least, I wasn't.
Never would someone in my life have called me daring. Not prior to 2015. I rarely acted on impulse, preferring to weigh a decision and assess the risk factor. With money, with career, with physical risk on an outdoor trek, I definitely looked before I leapt. And unfortunately, that often meant I didn't leap at all.
Now, some would argue my moving abroad was a hell of a jump, and I'd agree. In fact, I always hoped it would help me leave behind some of my risk aversion. Slowly, I was gaining that confidence — Asia made sure of that. But for 2017, well, I resolved to make things happen.
No, I wasn't going to drop all danger assessment and commit absurdities across the continent. But I wasn't going to be afraid anymore, especially of those adventures I craved so deeply.
As I held onto a metal pole, my feet at the edge of the sinkhole, the man in charge swapped out my cables for the heavy-duty ropes that would get me down safely.
My partner for the drop looked nervous.
I didn't blame him. A man openly afraid of heights was about to join me on that edge before we were dropped down on a pulley system run by men half our size.
Sure, nervous made sense. But to his and my shock, I'd stepped up to the opportunity without a lick of hesitation. "It's going to be great!" I called out reassuringly, and I genuinely meant it.
Once we were both strapped in tight, we took that leap together, high above the treetops below. We dangled at the end of a series of ropes, the breeze rocking us as we descended. A mega-watt smile on my face, I laughed, and for a moment, I saw a smile crack his intense cringe.
This adventure — for this moment — was definitely worth the risk.