Every day on Mount Lampuyang, right next to Mount Agung in East Bali, this woman and her son get dropped off at the base of the walk up to the temple of Pura Lempuyang Luhur, the highest temple in Bali.
There are 1700 steps plus joining paths. 1700...
Along the path there are 7 temple sites, and it took me roughly 2.5 hours of constant climbing to reach the highest one.
This lady has a very small stall just beneath the peak, the 3rd last stall out of many, in the least accessible location, where only (from my very rough calculations) 1/10th of the people visiting the mountain actually get to. Most of the visitors, Balinese and Internationals alike, stop at one of the 6 temples below. Every day, she carries her son and all the food she has at her stall up the 1700 stairs, and down again at the end of the day. She has bad knees and a bad back.
I sat with her and her son for 1/2 an hour, had some food and chatted as best we could about our children, and it was beautiful. She told me that on a good day, she might make 4-500,000 rupiah. That's $5 Australian. Of course I bought snacks and water, more than I needed, but what I came away with a lovely photo, a heart warming memory of these two beautiful people, and a good dose of perspective.
If you walk one or two streets back from the main drag in any developing nation, you get to see the real people, the heart. Here is was a long way from the hustle and bustle of tourist central. The Balinese people are amazing, they are open and warm if you show them respect. I walked up the steps with many families, but only 2 that I started with went all the way to the top, and they were all very happy that I had gone the whole way. "Where are you from?" seems to be the common ice breaker here, but my interaction on the mountain went well beyond that. There were laughs, sighs from tired people, sore legs a plenty. But we made it.
When I look at this photo, its not my best, its basically a snap shot. But for me it holds a very special meaning and it is one of my favourite people photos of any shots I have taken.
Everyone has to eat, pay for the home, the kids and so on. Doesn't matter where you are, the story is very similar. We all get caught up in our own lives, how tough it is for us. If you actually look, there is usually someone doing it way tougher than us.
We all have our stairs to climb, what matters the most is how you look at them. For this woman, there are 1700 stairs for $5.
Its all about perspective.