The World Vision International Walking Challenge is over!
For the 30 days of November, I stepped briskly about DC and other places (like Richmond – pictured), pitting myself against all walking challengers.
What did I get for my efforts? A 2nd place finish and victory for my monthly goal!
November Goal: Finish with 500,000 total steps.
I walked 683,584 total steps in fact. Or an average of 22,786 steps per day. Try it, it’s not easy. Also, I had to step up my game during the last week, since the person in 3rd was gunning for me, using the notorious ‘training for a marathon’ scheme. Nope, didn’t work.
* I understand the 1st place person put a treadmill to good use. I did not. I was outside, in the fresh air, hiking or exploring.
My Daily Breakdown
30,000+ steps in a day (8 times)
I also made a second goal, about helping Capital Bikeshare move their bikes around the city or some such.
November Goal #2: Finish with 500 total Bike Angel points.
Result: Failure! Epic! 347 points total.
I basically quit this goal with a week left in November because I traveled to Charlotte and Richmond. But up to that point, I was definitely in the conversation for reaching this goal as well, on a pace of 15 points per day (I would’ve needed a pace of 16.67 points per day).
My time in Kansas City was limited, but I still managed to do a few things.
1) Went to a Royals baseball game at Kauffman Stadium (will post separately)
2) Ate barbecue (at Arthur Bryant’s and Fiorella’s Jack Stack)
3) Drank beer at Boulevard Brewing Company (and elsewhere)
4) Visited the National World War I Museum and Memorial
The barbecue was most excellent. And I learned about a new meaty item – burnt ends! Legit.
Well, the story goes that one week saw 400 Kansas City residents killed in battle and the city put up a memorial for those soldiers. They continued to raise private funds and expanded over the years.
The memorial and a small museum opened in 1926; and the museum exploded in size in 2006. The museum is worth visiting, as it’s jam-packed with all manner of WWI propaganda, war-time items, tanks, planes, movies and interactive displays. The coolest part was a life-size recreation of a trench that you can only view through little portals or holes. Go.
Finally I drank some suds at Boulevard Brewing Company downtown, whose operation and tasting room are booming (since 1989)! After the Royals game and a significant lightning storm (full sky lightning strikes!), I went downtown to Double Shift Brewing Company until the power went out and they shooed people out.
If you find yourself in Manila, rather than hit up all the shopping malls (it’s pretty much the thing to do for locals) visit Corregidor Island instead.
It’s a day-long journey (but you can stay the night too) taking a ferry across Manila Bay and back.
Corregidor Island (also called Fort Mills) was General MacArthur’s headquarters during World War II and the place he snuck out of the Philippines in 1942. It was the last bastion of defense of the Philippines and the US forces before Japan conquered the islands. But the defense lasted for over 5 months, severely altering Japan’s plans for conquering the rest of the Pacific.
The island (about 2 miles long and shaped like a tadpole) is covered in crumbling military barracks and installations (and a movie theater!). It also has hundreds of tunnels and fortifications, one of which – the Malinta Tunnel – housed all the people living on the island during the Japanese invasion. There are 24 branching tunnels (called laterals) off the main tunnel and additionally a major barracks and a military hospital (see the map below).
Here are a few photos…
Mile long barracks! (Because it’s 1/3 of a mile long and three stories high)
On a healthy nine-hour layover in Panama City, I arranged a tour bus to see the Panama Canal ($30 which included: a long stop at a mall (blah), photo and souvenir shopping stops and finally to the Canal).
I was able to watch a cruise ship (Seven Seas Mariner) go through the full process. It was interesting to see how everything operates so smoothly. I’ve seen ships pass between the Puget Sound and the freshwater Lake Union at the Ballard Locks (Hiram M. Chittenden Locks) in Seattle, but on a much, much smaller scale. Those locks also have a very cool salmon ladder.
The Miraflores Locks also had a museum, which I only had about 15 minutes to rush through.
…read six books I own that I haven’t read. I have so many…
…hit up another Seattle Seahawks road game. Nashville? New York? San Francisco?
…do an adventure trip. Whitewater rafting? Island hopping? Trekking? Who’s in?
…start one new venture.
…organize, clean and get rid of stuff. On an epic scale.
…complete three home improvements.
…tear down walls.
…steal your dog to play with. Forget to give it back.
Let’s look at how I fared from my 2016 list:
Success rate: 7.5/10
…visit two new baseball stadiums. Only four left! Result: Complete! I went to Denver for the Colorado Rockies (Coors Field) and Phoenix for the Arizona Diamondbacks (Chase Field).
…read 33 books (one more than last year); watch 101 movies (one more than last year). Result: Got there just under the wire! Read 33 books and watched 111 movies.
…visit two new countries (one more than last year). Result: Success! I went to both Honduras and India for the first time.
…run in at least four races (one more than last year). Result: Fail! I only ran one race, the Semper Fi 5K. I tried to run the Army Ten-Miler but had to travel for work. I did the One Day Hike (50K) for the fifth time, but that’s not running.
…find a reason to do something even crazier than the last time. Result: Last crazy time was whitewater rafting down the Zambezi River, so for this crazy time…let’s see…how about 4 nights/5 days backpacking in Colorado? A total of 43 miles with a 39-pound backpack while being stalked by a bear!
…hike over 250 total miles. (Last year I hiked 185) Result: I crushed it and hiked 358 miles! Easy.
…take no prisoners and give no shits. Result: Hard to quantify this, but I tend to give a shit, so 1/2 right only!
…pick a few musicians and go deep into their music catalog. Result: Nope! Did not do this.
…binge watch three new TV shows. Result: Indeed. In fact, I quadrupled my output and binged 12 new TV shows. See which ones here.
…play with two puppies. Result: This is a given. One of them was my niece’s new wiener dog, Jedi. He wants to come back to DC with me, I know it.
My goal in October and November was to visit a ton of new places. And I did it! So I say. Chalk one up to persistence.
I went to a fair number of new places in DC, mostly restaurants, and I discovered many more new places in Chennai (India), Manila (Philippines), New Orleans (LA), Montauk (NY) and Frederick (MD). I traveled a lot…I explored a lot. So now I’m resting a lot while I write.
October/November Goal: Visit 32 new places (70% have to be in DC)
Result: 32 reached and plenty more!
23+ in DC
New places in DC:
Fathom – A nice space for a wedding.
Radiator – A nice bar for an after wedding party.
The Haymaker Bar – Updated space (formerly The Atlas Room) on H St NE. Not a huge fan.
Seoul Spice – Korean tacos, if you like.
BKK Cookshop – Decent Thai food.
REI – The new flagship store! Your outdoor gear fix is here!
La Colombe (at REI) – Coffee with your outdoor gear!
Walmart (on H Street) – I finally went inside. And now life continues.
HalfSmoke – If you want a half smoke, hit Ben’s or Meats & Foods.
Library of Congress Tunnel – Went on a private tour…secret things happen down there. Very bookish secret things.
Sonoma – UW reception with wine and sliders.
Smoked and Stacked – Good sandwich with DC prices!
Kahlil Gibran Memorial Garden – A poet, and you didn’t even know it.
Spanish Steps – Supposed to look like the famous steps in Rome. Okay.
Soho Tea & Coffee – Coffee they have, did not confirm the tea.
Capriotti’s Sandwich Shop – The Bobbie because it was close to Thanksgiving!
Zero Milestone – Just a thing to commemorate the center of the city.
Renwich Gallery – Very cool art museum brought to you by the letter ‘S’ (for Smithsonian). Surprised it took me this long.
Thip Khao – Laotian food. I avoided the ‘Jungle Menu’ but could be convinced next time.
All Purpose Pizzeria – Oh yeah, they do pizza here. Try it.
Peirce Mill fireplace – For starting fires in Rock Creek Park post-hike.
Donburi – Curry katsudon. Katsudon with curry.
On Rye – Reubens with a some sort of bread!
Just a sampling of the new places I visited while traveling. I whittled it down…
People’s Palace – (Manila, Philippines) A cool Thai restaurant in the heart of the trendy Greenbelt Park (in Makati).
SM Mall of Asia – (Manila, Philippines) The second largest shopping mall in the world! And by mall standards (which I try to avoid if possible), it was a good one. Manila loves malls. Loves them!
Ente Keralam – (Chennai, India) Serving food from Kerala, they love coconuts. It seemed like everything was peppered with coconuts. Most of it was good, all of it was interesting.
Cane & Table – (New Orleans, LA) A boozy brunch to start the day before the real weekend drinking starts.
Mercedes-Benz Superdome – (New Orleans, LA) Seattle Seahawks lost to the New Orleans Saints, but it was still fun.
Courtyard Brewery – (New Orleans, LA) Post-game beer sipping.
Montauk Brewery – (Montauk, Long Island, NY) A brewery at the end of the Earth.
Goldberg’s Bagels – (Montauk, Long Island, NY) Needed bagel sammies at the end of the Earth.
Sabor De Cuba – (Frederick, MD) Tasty cuban food right in the middle of Frederick’s downtown.
Maybe I’ve forgotten what it means to write/post here. What does Random represent now? The future is still new and bold, we’ll find out.
Since I’ve failed to post my monthly Five Random Photos all year, let’s get frisky. How many photos from 2016 so far should I post? 1000? 50? 10? Yes, zero is an acceptable answer, but too late, I already did not go with that number.
2016 will be more than 2015. In the sense that I will invent even bolder predictions and fail even bigger. That’s the theory.
I didn’t do well on the 2015 bold predictions front, but that can be forgiven because no one is holding me accountable! (Right?)
Yet, I still did a lot. I went to eight different countries, but only one new one. I waded along beaches, rafted along crocodile infested rapids, climbed the head of a lion, those types of things.
I didn’t run all that much, but I hiked a fair bit. I played a lot of sports, from volleyball to softball to soccer to flag football. I watched a lot of sports as well, mostly football (Seahawks and Huskies) and some baseball. I went to a ton of music concerts…and reviewed a few.
What does 2016 have in store?
The theme is ‘More than 2015 or bust‘.
In 2016, I predict I will…
…visit two new baseball stadiums. Only four left!
…read 33 books (one more than last year); watch 101 movies (one more than last year).
…visit two new countries (one more than last year).
…run in at least four races (one more than last year).
…find a reason to do something even crazier than the last time.
…hike over 250 total miles. (Last year I hiked 185)
…take no prisoners and give no shits.
…pick a few musicians and go deep into their music catalog.
…binge watch three new TV shows.
…play with two puppies.
Let’s look at how I fared from my 2015 list:
Success rate: 6/10
…visit three new baseball stadiums. Surprised? Result: Nope, I only went to one this year. St. Louis.
…do something crazy. Climb a mountain crazy. Run a half-marathon crazy. Crazy like that. Result: I went white water rafting down the Zambezi River and waved to the crocodiles! Cray cray.
…read at least 35 books. I haven’t read that much the past few years. Doubling down. Results: Nope. I only got to 32! So close!
…read seven books I own that I haven’t read. I estimate I have over 30 unread books lying around! Results: Well now…no, I only managed to read five.
…run 300 miles. That’s 25 miles per month. That sucks. Results: Hahahaha! Wow, I failed this one miserably! I ran 86 miles. I’ll blame the fact that I didn’t run much the first few months because I had thrown out my back. But to be fair, I knew that fact when I made the prediction.
…get myself to at least one new country. I haven’t been to a new country since 2012. Result: Boom! United Arab Emirates!
…write more. Result: Yes and no. I wrote more for the blog Parklife DC, but wrote somewhat less for this blog. But overall, it was more!
…volunteer to be a commissioner of a sports league. (Hint: I already did this for volleyball…victory! 1-0 already!) Result: Done.
…win a championship with one of the sports teams I play on. Let’s do this! Result: Our sand volleyball team won a championship via forfeit. Lame, but another team I was on should have won it all also, but the league scheduled the final match on a day no one was available to play. I call victory.
Prepare to get assaulted by blog posts. So much useless (and timely) end-of-year content to share, so little time!
So let’s recap. My goal in December was to complete a random assortment of leisurely pursuits of my own devising. Mostly while on a holiday-type vacation in Washington state.
I dug in and really went full half-assed at the task, but like all things of piddling consequence, I amazed myself with a 85% success rate! Parade worthy?
Let’s have a gander at what transpired. (Your cue to bolt.)
Goal for December: Do all 13 items (for luck) on my specially curated To Do List.
December 2015 To Do List
Go skiing – Last year I hurt my back, so did not get to ski. This year that situation is rectified. Result: I hit the slopes at Crystal Mountain! I did not slide all the way down a black diamond slope! Where did you hear that rumor?
Attend three Seattle Seahawks games – Boom! One in Baltimore and two in Seattle. Result: Boom! Boom! Boom! They won two and lost one.
Visit Portland, OR – I hear they could really use a force like me. Result: Done. A quick and dirty drive-by for lunch.
Experience Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Maybe even up to five times if it’s good… Result: The Force is with me.
Visit two new breweries – There are so many new ones, so let’s get it on! Result: Yes, I went to 7 Seas Brewery (Gig Harbor, WA) and Fremont Brewery (Seattle, WA).
Eat a Dick’s Drive-In (Seattle) Deluxe burger – This will go on every future To Do List forever and ever. Result: Eaten deluxedly.
Enter a cabin – Preferably one that we rent, but I’m not adverse to a little B&E if that’s what it takes. Result: True. It was called ‘Sweet Dreams’.
Try 12 new beers – Burp. Result: Of course. I lost count, but I’m sure the final number of beers I tried was impressive.
Hike a hike – I need to get outside! Result: I did a short meander about Clark’s Creek Park in Puyallup.
Eat at one of Seattle’s best restaurants – According to this list here or even this one here. Result: Did not!
See Book of Mormon – Want to. Will try. Result: Nope!
Attend and write-up two concerts – Minimum. Result: Done! I reviewed The Arcs (a side-project of Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys) (read about it here) and Des Ark (read about it here).
Wild Card – Something fun or dumb, that I can’t think of now. Result: One day we decided to drive to Portland, hang for a hot minute, then drive home. Dumb but typical. We used to do that often when there was a Chick-fil-A at the Lloyd Center. But it’s been gone a long time. Yes, this is different from #3 above. No fact checking allowed.
I recently journeyed from DC to Kuala Lumpur via Emirates. I also did the return flight, for the symmetry. But I somehow ended up in St. Louis, so my symmetry got flummoxed. That is a different tale.
Emirates had so many of the summer movies I failed to watch from my furious Summer Movie Guide, that I could barely contain my semi-perceptible serenity. Did I have enough time to watch them ALL? 13 + 7 hours. Then 7 + 14 hours. Was it possible? There is only one way to find out.
Already, I can sense your confusion. What does San Francisco have to do with any of this? Well…
For whatever reason, San Francisco featured in some fashion in many of the films I witnessed. Inside Out, Terminator, Ant-Man (filmed in), AND there was a movie playing in the seat in front of me that kept showing the Golden Gate Bridge. I looked it up later, it was Playing It Cool with Chris Evans, minus his Captain America shield.
Inside Out – In. I have yet to find a Pixar movie I didn’t like. A lot. (Correction: Cars 2…) This movie is a clever way to show adolescence and the pain and joy of growing up. Many people claimed to have teared up a bit. I won’t make that claim, but since there were no witnesses (that will come forward), you should take me at my word and move on! (Grade: B+)
Mad Max: Fury Road – Frenzied. The title says it all. There was no joy and no let up at any point. Crash after crash after crash. How they performed some of the stunts, and the results on-screen were stunning. The plot didn’t have the same drive, but all in all a pure popcorn action movie to get on board with. PS: The flight attendant did NOT give me popcorn! (Grade: B)
Terminator Genisys – Not Back. Arnold’s acting in movies again. He gave this reboot a try, but nothing else around his so-called ‘Pops’ Terminator character was worth looking at. The story sucked. The casting choices sucked (can I tell you how much I dislike Jai Courtney? Okay, I just did.) The new timeline arc sucked. The good guy is the bad guy reveal sucked (haha, spoiler alert). Give me the first two Terminator movies all day, every day. I’ll even take the third one, but skip this one and Terminator Salvation. (Grade: C-)
Spy – Uproarious. I say that unironically. I laughed out loud, the real kind not the LOL kind. Let Melissa McCarthy tickle your funny bone with her spy flick. Okay, sorry for that, but see it anyway. (Grade: B+)
Aloha – Headscratching. I don’t know what happened here. I’m not going to blame jet lag, because I had none at the point I saw this. So much potential with the cast. Bradley Cooper! Emma Stone! Rachel McAdams! Bill Murray! WTH happened? Anyway, don’t watch it unless you want to take the time to explain it to me. (Grade: C-)
Ant-Man – Ruddy. I like Paul Rudd. And many of his movies. Did I ever tell you I saw him on Calvert Street NW in DC a number of years ago? He was filming a movie (How Do You Know, I looked it up later) and standing on the sidewalk chatting with a person with a clip board. I was three feet from him as I walked by. I could have stopped and said something or got a photo, but he was working and really? Who needs to do that? Oh yeah, digression, this is a Marvel movie. You already have or will see it. Or you won’t. And if you don’t, Marvel will make more superhero movies without you! (Grade: B-)
Tomorrowland – Ho hum. I like the idea of this movie. I don’t like the execution. Or George Clooney’s acting. But I totally want to blast off in the spaceship that is the Eiffel Tower! (Grade: C)
Maggie – Biting. Apparently, I’m investing in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s oeuvre. This is a story about how a father mourns and reacts when his daughter is diagnosed with a terminal disease that takes weeks to manifest. It’s quiet and brooding and stark. And actually pretty decent. Oh, did I tell you that the disease is actually to turn into a zombie? It’s set in a post-apocalyptic world grappling with the disease as it eats into (no pun intended) people’s loved ones. Yet, it is really NOT a zombie move in the traditional horror movie sense. (Grade: B-)
* What the reader is probably thinking, “That’s not the St. Louis airport code! What is going on here? Is everything you said up to this point a lie??” (Editor’s Note: The author left no notes on this issue, but consensus is building towards yes.)
We waded in knee-deep water for a while, then the cave seemed to expand and the ceiling was suddenly 40 feet above us. The river had done a masterful job of carving its way through the cracks in the rock over the millennia. In this expanded section, we stepped around small pools of water and slide down flumes of slick rocks a few feet at a time.
The cave got narrower and the water deeper. If you turned off the flashlight or moved out of the path of the light, the darkness was absolute. I directed the flashlight to light the way for Lina ahead of me. The person behind me did the same.
Jesus started describing some of the inhabitants of the cave. Most notably the guácharo birds that roost in the cave walls near the ceiling.
We slid down an especially well-designed rock flume, and as people began to mill about, Jesus directed the flashlight beams at the ceiling. Unseen birds suddenly came to life. A number of them screeched in protest. A couple of the cavers that hadn’t followed the flashlight beams jumped in surprise. They laughed nervously upon discovering it was only some fat, roosting bird and not a menacing cave monster.
Jesus continued talking, his tone serious now. Not close enough to understand, I saw him leap backwards and disappear. A quiet splash could be heard over the agitated guácharo.
The nearest cavers stepped forward and peered down. They didn’t look too satisfied. One person jumped. Then another.
When it was my turn, I peered down into a sea of lights. As my eyes adjusted, I saw a small pool about 12 feet below. So this is how it ends? My body shattered by some unseen rock just below the surface. Brilliant.
I jumped. It was surprisingly deep, my feet did not touch bottom.
Once everyone was treading water, we swam towards a fast moving chute of water. It projected us down a few yards into a smaller and narrower pool.
As I waited, I flicked the light around and noticed an especially dark crevice in the wall. A trained beam into the depths of the gaping hole, revealed a large, angry crab, orange pincers ready. It dawned on me that this whole time I had been sharing these dark pools with all his fighting buddies. I suddenly felt an urge to get out of there, sure there was a fleet of surly crabs aiming for my tender parts at that very moment.
The group continued down the descending river, with nary a report of crustacean attack. Relieved, I zig zagged steadily from deep pool to deep pool, never pausing long enough for the crabs to hone in on my location.
We journeyed in silence for a time. The dark gradually lost its absoluteness, and a faint glow gained ground. There were no other huge leaps, but we did have to repeatedly sluice and slide down rocks with short bursts of momentum.
A final large pool came into full view. Beyond it was the exit with such light you could see the ceiling 30 feet above and a lip of a cliff that was the only way to leave.
The entrance was below the edge of the cliff, so you could not see out. Only the light came in. Maybe another leap of faith was in order.
Someone must have felt sorry for us, because they had built a chain/rope ladder against the cliff face. Peering over the edge, you could be forgiven for finding little reason to be impressed with their craftmanship. It was a solid 20 feet down. Next to a roaring waterfall. Jumping was not an option, as one sharp boulder and her family occupied the exact spot your flailing body would strike.
The Rio Claro was directly below us. Swift and gorged and not at all merciful. The strategy was to climb down the ladder, hop across a fierce channel a few feet wide and grab the sharp boulder. From there, two permanent ropes stretched across the width of the river, which you would use to pull yourself across, while the current did everything in its power to take you from this world.
Jesus said a few things and headed down the ladder. I was among the first to go down, Lina ahead of me. As I fought the wet, awkward rope ladder for the reward of staying on it, I intensely studied the cliff face and didn’t look down. Hopping across the channel was difficult only because everything was wet. Reaching the bottom you alighted upon another slick rock that did not want you there.
The two people ahead were already putting the rope crossing to the test, while Lina and I made it to the boulder. Just behind us, a women slipped while transferring from ladder to wet rock and plunged into the river. Without thinking, I slide into the current and grabbed her by the life vest and pulled her back. One less victim to mourn.
We crossed with little fanfare, although exhausted when crawling up the sandy beach. Other people were swimming and milling about, oblivious to the dangers we had faced and the fact we had just survived a journey to the center of the Earth (well, at least underground through a tunnel carved out by a river).
Alex was waiting on the river bank, and after a short debrief, he affirmed his decision to stay behind. Probably wise, as he would have made excellent crab bait.
We hiked back to the main lodge, and finding nothing of note happening, we drove to a nearby restaurant on the main road.
After devouring a healthy-sized repast of bandeja paisa, we made it to our cabin and got comfortable (me with a hammock) for the evening.
Pablo Escobar’s resort and dinosaur park (Hacienda Nápoles)
As the cave walls echoed splashing water, a deep unease set in. This river was getting faster and deeper. Our frenzied flashlight beams bounced off the slick stalagmites and stalactites, barely penetrating the oily darkness. Suddenly, terrifying shrieks from above drowned out any thought of retreat. Our guide stopped, turned to us to yell unintelligibly in Spanish, and then leaped backwards into the darkness.
We departed Medellin, Colombia early for a 3-1/2 hour drive to the Rio Claro nature preserve. Located along the Rio Claro (or Clear River), the Reserva Natural Cañon del Rio Claro El ReFugio is designed for the adventure set to play. Whether its river rafting, caving, swimming or something else, they have your poison.
Our plan was to spend two days to relax and partake in water activities. After checking in to our mini-cottages by the pool, we went to explore the options at the main lodge a few kilometers away.
It was afternoon and the only activity left for the day was caving. Sounds like fun. We met our guide at the main lodge and introduced ourselves to the 10 or so other brave souls.
Armed with waterproof flashlights, helmets, life jackets and stuff to get wet in, we hiked upriver for 20 minutes to a crossing point. I use this term lightly. The standard practice, contingent on nature’s mood, is for the guide to swim across the river with a rope and tie it off on the opposite side. Hand over hand, we would then pull ourselves across the river, fighting the clawing current. Yet nature’s mood was to weep the previous few days. The river was swollen and perilously swift with the dirty run-off of too many tears. The river did not live up to its name today.
Our guide (let’s call him ‘Jesus’) waded out to a large protruding rock, then leapt from his perch, rope in hand. He swam with determination to the far shore. The river pulled and dragged him downstream. Only a few strokes from the tie-off point, he let go of the rope. The river was too wide. The rope would not reach. He swam back across.
Jesus presented his charge of potential spelunkers two options; forget caving completely or swim for it without the safety of a rope. Be disappointed or be swept away because you lack the strength to cross. Go home or try to survive the merciless river. Live or die. We chose to die.
Jesus began describing how to get across and where to start the swim. He indicated how quickly you needed to move yourself to avoid hearing a chorus of ‘Adios, vaya con Dios!’ from the group. He was very clear. You must move your ass. Everyone seemed in good spirits and ready for the adventure. All except my friend (let’s call him ‘Alex’) who lacked confidence in his ability to swim the mighty river. Alex decided that his quest had ended the moment Jesus spelled out the truth of the matter. It was up to me and his wife (let’s call her ‘Lina’) to carry on with the others.
Jesus spoke in a hard to understand English, so quickly he established that most people could understand Spanish well enough. English was scrapped.
Jesus waded out to the rock and crossed again easily enough with his practiced strokes. The next person stood on the rock and watched Jesus wave for him to jump. He did with a huge splash and made it across only a few feet further down the river than where Jesus was waiting to pull him in. One after another people waded to the rock, jumped and swam for it. One woman didn’t quite have the strength to get across quickly enough and zipped past the reaching hands. Jesus jumped in after her and managed to drag her to safety before the river could claim her.
Then it was my turn. As I waded to the rock, the water shocked me into full alert mode. I stood on the rock and watched as everyone already waiting waved me on. I made a mighty leap and then swam like I’d never swam before. It was a good 50 feet of angry river to cross. I put my head down and gave it my all. I could see the outstretched hands swiftly passing by but with an extra burst I was there. Safe. Now the real adventure begins.
With no river fatalities and only one person left behind, we set off into the Colombian jungle. The rainforest trees loomed over us. Mossy vines hung within arms reach. We picked our way up a muddy trail, gingerly stepping over the swathes of ants with mandibles poised to do harm. Jesus stopped at one point to pound on a huge buttress root as if it was a gong. The booming sound surely alerted the most dangerous predators to our location.
After 45 minutes of sweaty uphill trekking, we came to a 100-foot cliff face. We scrambled down into a rocky creek-bed. A small river disappeared into a dark hole in the cliff.
Jesus stood outside the cave entrance and gave us some additional instructions in rapid-fire Spanish. Not understanding much of it, I figured we’d walk into the cave, explore for awhile, get a little wet and come back out. Wrong.
Here began the caving (spelunking) part of our journey. Jesus was very adamant. You must stay with him at all times. Based on his tone, I assume they were still looking for the bodies of those that had wandered off in previous trips. We pulled out our waterproof flashlights, tightened our life jackets, adjusted our helmets and stepped into the shallow water flowing into the cave. The first 20 yards of the cave ran along the base of the cliff. The ceiling was only about 8-10 feet high at any given point. Parts of the cliff face had been worn away by the river, so there was plenty of light.
As the darkness got more pervasive and the flashlight beams became the only illumination, I thought of the horror movie The Descent. I just hoped we were the only living things down here.
I recently visited Manila for the third time. Only this time I went with a positive attitude. Looking for anything worth doing in the city. I was there either way, so why not?
My standard description of Manila, is that it looks like it was built 50 years ago, and then mostly allowed to slowly break-down and crumble. There are a few bright spots of new development here and there. I haven’t visited every part of the city, but from what I’ve seen thus far, it hasn’t grown on me.
If you go to the Philippines, go everywhere but Manila.
Let’s run through some keen observations.
The elevator situation at my hotel was remarkably nonfunctional. They had even opened the service elevators to guests. Most days the commute from my room to our meeting room (floor 27 to 4) was longer than my commute in to the office in DC. The most fun was a cathartic 12-minute wait-athon, punctuated by a dose of cleverly parlayed verbal abuse at the unyielding elevator door.
Traffic is shit. No, it is the perfect storm of terrible. No, it is terrible shit.
Driving in actual lanes does not exist. Cutting slower cars off and not giving two shits* about other drivers is the norm. If you are prone to road rage, your head will explode in Manila.
Uber can’t find me.
Uber can’t find the place I want to go.
The interest in pedestrians borders on malfeasance. The sidewalks, where they exist, are sketchy or so narrow that walking on the street is the only option. Urban planning did not touch this city with a 10-foot pole. And step lively or you may get sprayed by the random dudes using the sidewalk as a urinal.
Don’t grab a map and think you can navigate from Point A to Point B. Not a chance. You will need to detour to Points Z, Y and probably Pluto in between. If the way through isn’t blocked by design, it is under construction. Or it doesn’t exist.
Don’t try to jog here.
Terminal 1 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport is a soul sucking, festering wound on society. It has the highest level of clusterf*@kedness attainable. Its literal only redeeming quality is that there is a Starbucks. If you have a choice, go to the newer and fairly decent Terminal 3.
Balls. Home of the biggest sporting events in the world.
What could be a better name for a TV channel? Yet, the only sporting event I saw on it was women’s volleyball…
At a restaurant, the band could not sing Toto’s ‘Africa’ worth a damn. It was painful. But then they dropped a pitch perfect rendition of ‘Just the Way You Are’. I thought Billy was in the house.
All the fast food restaurants are open 24 hours. And loads of people are out late/early on school nights. Consuming McDonald’s and Jollibee’s. There are also still Shakey’s here!
Malls. The national pastime.
Stay classy Manila!
* Number of times I used the word ‘shit’ in this post (if you count these two additional instances of shit) = 5