It was my birthday and the same time last year I was lounging in an island, eating seafoods. This year, I am going to hike up mountains and eat grass! (kidding). After a hearty meal we headed off for the Tappiya falls. 45 minutes through our hike we were already pass the peak of the rice terraces.
And oh, I should mention that my travel mates are superhumans, they do not tire, they walk really fast and seem to skip through steep stairs effortlessly. No but really, they are experienced hikers and they do it for fun whereas the only ‘hiking’ experience I have is climbing the stairs if the elevator is out of service. So it follows that I was trailing, panting, and parched ( I forgot to bring water but managed to bring my sun glasses – typical Joma).
We took a small break to take photos. From our standpoint, it was evident why they called it the amphitheater rice terraces. The paddies form a big bowl and a distinctive center as if a stage. As we push on, farmers go about their daily business planting new seeds and harvesting the “ripe” ones, carrying the harvested rice on their backs, up through the steep stairs back to the town.
We had to hike couple more minutes to reach the falls. When I heard the echoes of flowing water, I was nearly ecstatic because it means I can rest (again!) My superhuman travel mates were kind enough to wait for me,help me, take break and give me water during the hike (wow I sound like a handful, don’t I?)
When we reached the falls, the other group were already leaving which was great because we have the falls all to ourselves. Tappiya falls looks small from afar but when you finally reach the river, its size could rival a building. It was the biggest falls I have ever seen (and here I was hoping I could jump off it – well maybe, if I wanted to die)
Hiking back up was extremely difficult. Unlike in the rice terraces, there wasn’t any concrete paths to step on. The trail was (very!) steep and the ‘steps’ were narrow and sometimes slippery. There were no rails or handles to hold on to. I had to grip on grasses and plants and pray that they had enough nourishment so as not to uproot easily or we all die if I fall. Yes, I had to hold on branches and grass for dear life, unfortunately I’ve killed some plants during the hike.
After what seemed to be endless steep climbs, we finally made through midway. I was still beating myself again for forgetting to bring water when an old lady appeared carrying you guessed it – water for sale (it was cold too!) If not for some basic courtesy I would’ve kissed her then and there. What was more impressive was the fact that she’s probably thrice my age, yet she seem untroubled climbing all those stairs with 1 liter bottles on her back. This place continues to surprise me.
When we finally arrived at the lodge, I’ve never looked at a plastic chair so lovingly. I sat down, stretched out my shaking legs, raised my throbbing feet and closed my eyes. If my cells and organs could sing, they’re probably singing songs of praises by now. I peeked at the mountains we walked through, wow, 3 mountains in less than 3 hours!
I kept telling my travel mates that hike is one of my achievements because it truly was. I’ve never pushed myself so hard. It was the most physically draining thing I have done so far. I wanted to eat, have a shower and sleep but I was too tired to even flicker an eyelid (I was too tired to eat – wow, I guess there’s a first for everything) and besides, sitting by the side of the mountain felt more relaxing than sleep.
It was already early evening and we were having dinner when Patrick, Miquel and the ladies of Ramon’s lodge surprised me with a “birthday pancake” complete with the clapping, singing, candles and all. I may in the middle of nowhere but I get to blow candles on my birthday! I remember last year, 2 middle aged men sang for me on my birthday in Palawan. They were fulfilling a much awaited dream to travel more. This year, it’s by two young men who have left their homes, lived in foreign places and traveled in different parts of the globe yet the pull of travel is still there.
Later that night as we share stories over rice wine and bonfire, I reflected on the things I have done that day. My body is still store and my feet is still throbbing. I probably wouldn’t do it again for a very long time although I was glad I did. I was able to push myself and learn my physical boundaries and yeah, that I should start exercising again.
The moon was concealed by thick clouds so it was rather dark and the rest of the town is asleep. I cannot see it but I can feel that the fog was upon us, the smell of burnt wood fills the air and fireflies were dancing around the ceiling. Well, today was definitely different, difficult, yes, but it was great.
Happy birthday to me.