Yesterday we went on a hike to the cliffs overlooking El Nido. I'll describe some of the rest of the vacation, and post pictures as well, but I wanted to give a sense of what this one adventure was like.
The important thing here is that we didn't die. But the scary thing is that there were many many moments where that could have happened: a slip of concentration, a small misstep, a loose rock, a hand that slips, and any one of us could have plunged down the steep mountain to be impaled by rocks as jagged and sharp as daggers.
When we signed up for the hike with a guide the day before, the tour operator said it was an "easy" hike: "an hour up and an hour down." One family, he told us, was doing the hike at 6 in the morning so that they could have time to fit in a day of island hopping, which leaves around 9. And the pictures advertising the hike showed people wearing flip flops at the summit. Flip flops.
How hard could it be?
I could answer this, but let me just describe the very beginning of the hike. A jagged karst-formed cliff looms over El Nido so we wove through some of the tiny homes and alleys until we got to the beginning of the wooded area. Almost immediately, we were hauling ourselves up over rocks that jutted up like malevolent obstacles intent only on impeding our progress. There was not one flat rock or anything resembling a path to be seen.
So I allowed myself a small internal freak out, a silent debate in which I thought, if I turn back NOW I won't hold the group up for long. But the other voice won, the one that asked me, now what would Anne do? Would Anne Rosen baby out and go back? WWAD?
I knew the answer so I quieted the debate and declared WWAD the winner and soldiered on.
Honestly, though, I'm not sure I shouldn't have let the baby win. The hike continued to be a combination of muscle-extending heists over rocks while balancing my sketchers on one jagged edge and gripping other jagged edges with my hands so hard my palms were scraped. We did this over and over again as the sweat dripped into my eyes and stung.
After what seemed like six hours but was probably only an hour and a half of agony, we reached the top. Which we should have enjoyed with its vistas of the sea and the town of El Nido, and the surrounding islands. But all I could think was, "There's no place to sit down." So we stood, leaning in exhaustion against the unwelcoming rocks, drank some water, and took a couple of blurry pics.
I had to ask our guide. Was the way down the same as the way up? I had visions of a paved path, or maybe even a helicopter rescue at an exorbitant price. I even wondered if parachuting was an option.
But this paradise is not paved. I'm beginning to have mixed feelings about whether its a good idea to pave paradise and put up a parking lot. I mean, a little pavement every once in a while could be a good thing.
In any event, the harsh truth was there was only one way down: the same way we came up. Flinging myself over the cliff: bad idea.
So we descended. Slowly, and half praying, half trying not to look too closely at the gaping ravine that would swallow our bodies with the mistake of a millisecond, we descended.
At least there was comic relief. Bob, bless him, had the brilliant idea to wear a bathing suit on the hike, thinking how nice it would be to jump in the ocean after our vigorous and bracing hike.
What he didn't count on was the thinness of the nylon in a ten-year-old suit. So not only did the poor guy have bloody gashes all over his legs, he managed to give himself an enormous tear in the back of the pants as he sat and tried to scoot down the very unforgiving mountain on his tush.
By the end of the hike he was both bloody and indecent. We descended right in the middle of an active cock-fighting arena. Bob decided he needed to take photos of this bloody spectacle, even though he was clearly the greater novelty in the scene. And when we made it into the town, he had the courage to actually SHOP AROUND for a new suit, rather than throw down some pesos for the first board shorts or sarong he could find.
It was quite a day.