Dirt. It tastes much like what you’d think it’d taste like.
I learned this while scaling the tropical-foliage-filled mountainside of Makulot in the Batangas region of the Philippines. Already sweaty and huffing for air, my fall was not a pretty site. I continue onward, and while tugging on a vine to pull myself upwards, wonder, “Now, why again did I sign up for this?”
And I’m not alone. Everybody in my group is struggling. The top soil is loose, which makes for a slippery ascent. Not to mention, the beginner’s trail is closed. We learned this upon our arrival to the jump off point. We are on a new trail and, according to our guide, are only the tenth group ever to take this route. This makes me feel like a pioneer and we soldier on.
I’ve got to hand it to the locals for being so industrious; they strategically set up stands along the way to sell refreshments to weary travelers. Reach a vista point, and you’ll find a woman selling fresh buko (coconut) juice. Cross a flat clearing and you can buy bibinka and even halo-halo. And at the top, bottles of local rum. This is hiking, Filipino style!
I sip on my buko juice, chat with my fellow group of expat hikers, and take in the vast view ahead of me. Below is a slope of greenery. Across the ravine, is a sheer cliff. To my right, Taal lake, and off into the distance is the Batangas Bay, a scuba diver hot spot. This. This is why I’m here.
I’ve moved half way around the world, parted with loved ones, and began a new life in the Philippines. It’s not easy, starting from scratch. But moments like this make it all worthwhile.
If it’s one lesson I’ve learned in my short time overseas, it’s to appreciate life. Those around you. Opportunities to learn and grow. Take chances. Connect. Challenge yourself. Move, or sit still for a moment and just take it all in. Dirt, and all.