Boracay Beach, Philippines Blog Five.
As mentioned in a previous Boracay-series blog, I’m here on this relatively flat and tiny isle of paradise as part of my “training for the Himalayas” hike next month.
—This just in: Almost Forty Die in Avalanche on the Annapurna Circuit. A moment of sadness and prayers for their loved ones.
(I’m not changing my plans.)
Okay, carry on.—
I could have trained back home in Canada which has real mountains, but those real mountains are filled with mountain lions, cougars (aside from me, no insult intended) and bears. It’s always the cougars one needs to worry about. (Double meaning.)
But Canada is cold now. Kind of like the Himalayas. Hmm. Well, whatever, I’m here to get fit—or that was the intention, at least.
For the first few days, my get-fit plan consisted of eating a lot cheesecake and sweating profusely. Sometimes, the right RX for culture shock is comfort food. (No arguments, please, I’m already wet-sweaty, swelly-bloated, and guilty-feeling. Actually, I don’t feel guilty for overindulging in treats. But I do feel guilty for not feeling guilty.)
Blue Eyes had told me that he’d prepared for the Himalayas by walking up and down his driveway twenty times a day for the month before the hike. When he’d told me this, all I was thinking was How bad (steep, long, challenging) could his driveway be?
Since I’m not staying at Blue Eyes’ place—I’m allergic to children, and he has a young son who lives with him full time—I had no idea that he wasn’t exaggerating about his driveway.
I ride over with him on the back of his motocross to see his place and, as we take a turn, he says, Hang on.
We head up to his condo, which is on the northeast side of the island on a hill overlooking a bay that boasts windsurfing, kiteboarding and other windy water sports.
He’s not kidding about the hang on comment. If I wasn’t knuckle deep clinging to his shoulders, I’d be tumbling off the back of his bike and rolling down the uneven, winding, potted, concrete driveway.
It’s happened before, he laughs over his shoulder and down shifts, mostly when we’ve been drinking though.
When we get to his place, I get off and realize I’m trembling, either from terror or grip exertion—probably both.
How the hell do they build anything up here? I ask.
He tells me, Some of the trikes can’t make it up. I tell them at the Jetty, “If you can’t make it up [my] road, I won’t pay you.” They know if they can’t, I won’t pay, so they take me to a trike that can [make it up].
A few days later, on a borrowed mountain bike, I ride over to his driveway and walk up with the bike—which made me feel like I have legs for the first time since arriving—leave it at his place and proceed to walk ten laps up and down. At midday. (Funny girl but not too bright.) Blue Eyes times me and tells me my time is good, and I’m already fit enough for Annapurna!
Thank you, Lord Baby Jesus, I can ditch the driveway training plan!
Note: Since you may be wondering who the heck Blue Eyes is, he is a friend from my early real estate days who also sold real estate and with whom I partnered—not romantically—for a few years. We were a dynamic duo and damn successful. He also saved my life. (This is mentioned in my memoir, which I also keep mentioning. Damn good at sales? No? Not so much? Okay, fine, moving on …)
Blue Eyes texts me one morning (I got a cheapy phone for my stay): We’re going for a bike ride and a hike today.
2. It’s 32 degrees (Celsius). “Feels like 42.” I’m going to die of heat exhaustion in the hills.
3. There isn’t a #3; I’m going to die in the hills, people!
So, off we go on our mountain bikes—me, Blue Eyes and an itty bitty Filipino friend of his. She maybe weighs less than the bike she’s on—for sure less than my thighs at the moment. (Let’s blame that on water retention.)
Bitty is the epitome of juvenescent cuteness. She looks to be around twenty-years old—at most. Later I find out she’s 29, though, and literally weighs 35 kilos, which roughly translates to the mass of my second breakfast. At present, I’m 63.3 kilos, which is almost the heaviest weight I’ve ever been. (But I swear, some of it is muscle. You may now refer to me as Amazon Anna. Remember, weight is relative, people! This is heavy for me. And, no, it actually isn’t all muscle.)
Anyway, Bitty is appropriately attired for a bike ride and mountain trek wearing tangerine short shorts with yellow stitching that match the accents on her coordinating backpack, a pink and white ball cap with matching runners, delicate bracelets and anklets, and dangling chandelier earrings. Her makeup and perfume is subtle, and her nail polish matches something. She is a fashion advert.
I’m wearing sweat and grime.
We ride through the congested traffic of Main Street to the Jetty Port where we embark on a water taxi (catamaran) going to Panay Island. Apparently the island has a park with a hill, which has a vista.
To get on the shore-parked, diesel water-vessel, we time the waves and, on a wave recession, run up the wood ramp carrying our bikes and trying not to lose our balance lest we land in the water. (A porter carries Bitty’s bike, and she catches a piggyback ride on Blue Eyes. Her sneakers are pristine; these considerations must be accounted for—of course.)
Ten minutes later we’re on Panay Island. We ride through a quiet town toward Panay Park and eventually leave our bikes with a friend of Blue Eyes, who lives near the start of the trail, and off we go.
Bitty runs up ahead without breaking a hint of a sweat, smiling with childlike sweetness and stopping to let us catch up. She’s just so damn adorable that I can’t help but think of her as a naive child. (Possibly an illusion, and I’m the naive one.)
Meanwhile, I’m wiping streams of sweat that trickle into my eyes and blind me with sunscreen.
By the time we get to the top, where it’s forty-fucking-five degrees plus humidity, I’ve drunk two litres of water and Want. To. Die. Now. Please.
Bitty smiles like a cherub.
I sit under a shady tree, next to fly-swarmed ox dung, and eat half the pumpernickel, Brie and apple sammich I brought, which in any other circumstance might be a romantic notion. But, in this case, it’s just a crumbly, gooey, melted mess tinged with the taste of Deet from hands that have wiped my neck incessantly on the ascent. Nice.
Nonetheless, the view is stunning. We are at the top of the island with 360-degree views of nearby islands and Boracay Beach in the distance. I feel triumphant because—aside from the heat—the hike was easy for me.
Blue Eyes tells me, This is what it will be like on the [Annapurna] trek, only not hot and three times as long every day for three weeks.
I take a deep, satisfied breath and smile—feeling cherub childlike giddy. Yes, that I can do. That’s my kind of vacation.
Later, Blue Eyes tells me about this German friend of his who has a fitness business (in Boracay). Something to do with a wet vest, leg and arm straps, and electrodes.
I’m skeptical, though I admit also perhaps mildly intrigued. I mean, let’s get real. I am good enough and all but, if better is possible, is good enough good enough?
The first session is free, he tells me.
Oh? Still suspicious.
Supposed to really work your butt, he tells me.
Oh!! (Where do I sign, babyyy?)
What have I (re)learned? The beach is beautiful, but I’m not a beach bum. I’m a mountain girl working her glutes on. As in I’m trying to build up my butt here, folks.
Homework: Carb-loading! Have you ever seen one of the Survivor TV series? The skinny runts never make it—they wither. Not this broadening broad! I’ll weather the heights of the Himalayas by first strategically widening my waist. Ha! (Sideways glance.)
Ice to Eskimos, I say, Ice to Eskimos. Nodding. (Note: I’m the ‘mo being sold here.)