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I was starting to miss my excercise. Rooms are not spacious enough to unroll my therefore stupid space-sapping yoga mattress. For a run in the morning it´s not cooltastic enough to get my pace on the street. So I decided to do a hike. There must be a possibility, I mean, the easy living, in low season, during high the locals feel like starngers, town center of El Nido, the fishing port, the romantically – I use this term in the last couple of weeks a bit too often for my taste, but can´t yet find another metapher for the paradises I am able to stay; maybe kitchy, yes – so, the kitchy located bay, where all the tourism, guesthouses, hotels, restaurants, resorts and tour pick ups have taken its place, for a reason, is surrounded by towering limestone rocks, pounding the jungle´s thicket, like a cracked terra snarl, vertically to the top, vines long enough to swing from tower to tower, theoretically, but the finishing line for today. I mean walk up there, not to find my Jane. There must be a smooth, but exhausting way, I supposed, in my imagination serpentines guiding upwards, offering amazing outlooks on the Southchinese Ocean, with the tiny to huge, buoys-like to comet-like, offshore islands and coral reefs, which are not only because of the fishing, still, after declared as a marine protected area, suffering thousands of footprints, tourists jumping and stepping with their waterproofed high tech shoes, armed with GoPros, from arriving tour boats to reach hidden beaches and snorkel in a dying sea world. Not to mention the anchors, crushing in and through. I did the tour, tour C, A to C, and I felt horrible, even though I was with filipinos, but what does it matter when faced with the impacts of a stretching economoy, protected or not. The Pacman was also allowed to buy on of this islands. So who cares anyway. I only felt envious of some divers I spotted. Fucking shoulder. And the soloing! I mean, I don´t consider myself as a climber, but soloing, cliffside, what a nice splash! But I didn´t want to mess it up, still Cambodia and Sri Lanka to discover, before they will remove the plate and I return, for sure, I wanna see the wrecks, whale sharks and dying or not, but seaworld and there must be, without behaving like a roller. So back to the rocks, I asked one of the staff of the guesthouse, three young guys, singing all day long and looking sort of a boy group, so I gave them names like Donnie or Joey. Donnie offered me to company me. But I pleased him not, jsut to show me the starting point, “No way, you have to work, I don´t want to disturb you. No worries.” Actually I wanted to be just with the challenge. And do it my own way. “Did you do rock climbing before?” “Rock climbing? No, but I saw some guys today in the morning at the top, so there must be a way, without climbing. No?” “I can show you, no problem.” Everything is always very far away, only in driving distance, “Walking? Are you serious?!!!” So is the level of danger, I think, thought, well I am never sure, but mostly it runs well. At this time I had my doubts, when I answered him, “Thank you, that would be great, I want to excercise a bit, after sitting on buses, tricycles and boats.” Yesterday I walked 5 km at noon to a beach, on the beach further till the end, till dogs started to chase me away, seriously. I loved the sweating. I loved to feel my body, my heart beating against my chest like a wild animal. Let´s go to the starting point! Passed some small alleys in the local part of the town, poor and welcoming, of course – poor rich world. We reached a small hut-like house, made of bamboo, some boards and plastic sacks as curtains. Ronnie was appearing, 44 years old, a white shirt with his name and a emblem, which tags him as a garbage collector. His son died last year in a motorbike accident, he will tell me later. He gets 175 pesos per day to collect and transport the heavy and lung-poisoning garbage sacks. Trekking guide is his second job, otherwise you couldn´t mantain his three other kids and his wife. Donnie and Ronnie talked in cebuano, I suppose, or maybe tagalog, pointing to some squattered rocks next to us, which I supposed must be the entrance, and up to the hill. “You sure you need no guide?” Donnie asked me. “I am sorry, I can not join.” “No worries. So, do I need a guide?” I knew already, yes I do, investigating the so called starting point. “Maybe better.” “Ok, are you free, Ronnie?” “Yes.” I liked him straight away, showing sparkling genuineness and gentleness.. “300?” “Ok.” Whatever. I don´t like to bargain about an expected worth experience. And he didn´t look like he enriches himself and even if, what da fuck! – “You are ready to go?” “Yes.” “No water?” “No.” “How long is the trek?” “Maybe 40 min. Slowly.” I had my running shoes on, swim shorts and my multifunctional longsleeve. My bag with camera and one liter of water, didn´t want to dehydrate as usual, so I felt pretty prepared. Ronnie, dressed in half-busted crocs, jeans and his white shirt, that´s it. Fucking arrogant locals, they jump in their flip flops and company your adventure. Fortunately he was not barefoot. Thank you, Ronnie. And the trek emerged as a serious rock climb. I was sweating, my knees shaking, not too bad, but I had to change quickly my expected need of awareness. The limestone rocks are sharp like knives, one false step and you can and will hurt yourself badly. I only touched a rocky blade and was bleeding immediately. Ronnie was apologizing. I felt embarrassed to be such a dumbass to hurt myself. He was warning me at each opportunity to bump my head, explaining me every step and grip. In respect of the rock and my health. Lovely guy, I told you. At the top he complained, of course in a charming way, that I was racing him up to the rocks. I just felt so overwhelmed by this surprisingly excercise and that my shoulder did a good job, and a bit scared, so move move on! Don´t think too much about, jsut do what you did before, climb! We enjoyed an amazing view, after a 30 min climb, height 1.400 meters, which I doubt, but anyway. The way down was as always more annoying and so more dangerous as well, especially because it started to rain and the knifes and its small peaks to step on turned into banana peels. we both reached the sea level save and in one piece.
After a short break at his doorstep with his kids staring at me their eyes carrouseling in curiosity, he demanded to follow me, with a torch in his hand. I had actually enough suprises for the day, but why not. Less than 100 meters away we stopped at a small cleft, horizontal cleft, barricaded with some planks and trash. “We go inside.” Haha. He was serious. “Ok.” I was already half in, with his one head smaller than me body. Skinny both. So I pressed myself through into a first cavern, not big enough to knee, but still a bit of enlighten by daylight. “I take your bag.” The ground was muddy, soil or compost. A jar of a pig I had suddenly in my hands. “Where we go now?” “Inside.” There was a one more tiny entrance, into the darkside of the rock. I squeezed through, for a moment I thought I am stucked and panic was quietly raising his scream. I took a deep breath and pushed my body through. Pitch black, but the second cavern was huge enough to stand and Ronnie switched his torch on. A sort of a huge spider running on the ground. Above us, beautiful stone formations, not really stalagmites, but the stone smooth and in coloured in blue and yellow at some spots. We moved to another room. I was still soaked with sweat, now filthy on top down inside. Then he solved why we are here. Baling Sasayaw. A bird, nesting in caves. Very rare to discover. The nest is precious, the spit used as medicine, good for boom-boom of course the boy group teached me after. “It strengthen your immune system.” He found a second class one on the ground, picked it up like a treasure, tiny, big enough for two eggs maybe, the spit onyl at one side, so this is how the birds fix the nest at the smooth walls of the caves. This is soooo, even now after, I can´t believe what I saw. One step away we found a first class one. Ronnie smiled. This is very valuable, worth 750 pesos, measuring maybe less than a palm. As we reached daylight again, really filthy and sweaty, a bunch of teens were looking at me, giggling. And also amazed by Ronnie´s yield.
That this bums always have to touch my heart in such an intense way. I departed contented and wishing him all the best. I could see in his eyes, he couldn´t wait to present the two nests to his wife and kids.
What was kind of an excercise!