petek, 12. december 2014

The Taste of Price

Two days ago I bought some dirt cheap imported wine to use for cooking. I ended drinking most of it.
But first I have to tell two stories.
One day some time ago, when Ramon was here, we had lunch at a friend's house. Lots of drink and lots of nice food, fresh kimchi, well cooked rice, uncountable side dishes.. an ordinary Korean meal. When we were all well stuffed, they started frying some greenery to have as anju (drinking snacks). It was bitter and without any special taste - not exactly disgusting but close enough to be unworthy of eating more than a sample. Wrong! It's delicious! It's the best! You must eat it! Eat a lot! It's very very expensive! Hah, the magic words. Before the big holidays in supermarkets you can buy gift packs of food: 5 apples nicely wrapped for 50 euros. 10 cans of Spam (yes, Spam!) and 2 oranges for 100 euros. And so on. And God forbid you take the price label off. It's all that matters.Koreans will just go crazy for it. The price, I mean.
And then you have Sang Pyeong, my neighbor (or my landlord, since I live in one of his houses). Last year he went to his hometown for a few days and when back he came straight to me, waving a half empty bottle of wine in his hand. No, he wasn't drunk. The day before he had dinner with a friend in a fancy "Italian" restaurant in Daejon. They had pasta and two bottles of wine and the bill was about 300 euros. Because the wine was expensive as hell. Because it was high quality. Or the other way? It doesn't matter. He paid the bill but he's no fool. A farmer, yes, but with lots of common sense. So he told himself, "I'm a Korean, I drink soju and makkoli and I know what is good and what is crap, but I have no clue about wine. I will ask Dag." Ho told me the story and handed me the bottle. "I spared some of it because I'd like to hear your opinion on this wine. Can a bottle of this be worth more than 100 000 won, in a restaurant?" I took it bottleneck. It was lukewarm, but that's not a problem for a drunkard. I'm no sommelier, I don't give a shit about the bouquet or the other fancy sounding nonsense, if it goes down it's OK. It didn't go down. Well, a little did, that's why I spat it out with teary eyes. Imported from Italy, DOC and so on, but still shit. Very expensive shit. I've never, NEVER, drank such shitty wine in Italy. Actually, I've never drank any bad wine while in Italy, even when I was buying bottles with crown caps for 1 euro or less. I suppose Sang Pyeong felt sour for being cheated so badly, but he had to laugh when he saw my face contorted in disgust. He thanked me for my wordless sincere comment on the wine and threw the bottle away. And added that I should open a spaghetti restaurant, their meal was nothing to compare with the spaghetti-party I throw occasionally at home.
Sometimes, when I go to a huge supermarket in Jinju (1 hour walk and 1 hour by bus) and I have money to waste I'm tempted to buy some wine - there's an amazing offer, imports from Chile, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, California and also some local - the last not to be mentioned. The prices? Californian Chardonnay 30 euros. Italian Cabernet 40 euros. Fuck off. But two days ago I found wine in carton in the local supermarket in Wonji (1hour walk and 20 minutes by bus). 5 euros a pack, Spanish.
Of course it's crappy wine - but a DRINKABLE crappy wine. Not a cheat. The two weeks that I have before I leave for the Phillippines will be more cozy with lots of vin brule!

sreda, 03. september 2014

Hitting the Floor

My mistake, I meant heating the floor.
I realized I haven't posted a single picture of one of the most amazing Korean things yet. Yup, floor heating, ondol (as they call it in the northern parts) or gudeul (so called here). How many have I done? Hell if I can remember. Lots. And never took a single picture. So this time I took the camera (inherited from my son) with me and recorded all the process for all the world to see this incredible thing. You think you know what floor heating is? Maybe you even have it at home? Still, you have no clue what the right stuff is.
Koreans use the floor heating for something like 3000 years. The Romans also used the hypocaust but it was extremely inefficient and it was meant only for heating rich villas or public baths that could afford slaves to continuously burn wood in the fireplace. Excavations at Mohenjo-daro (Pakistan) and Dzalisa (Georgia) are believed to be floor heatings but even if they were, neither "survived" to the present day. Similar like many other places, the German Reichstag in 1864, for example. Nothing left of them, in terms of use. It is also known in the northern parts of Japan with its Korean name ondol and I sincerely hope that the Japanese don't think it's their invention. But, thanks to that, even the western world became aware that it's possible to enjoy heat coming from below - the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright stayed at a Japanese nobleman's house and discovered a tea room that took on the design features of a Korean ondol room. The comfort derived from the warm radiant from the floor was so great that Wright designed a hybrid technology that would allow hot water to travel through pipes instead of hot air running through flues, which is a lot harder to maintain. Wright designed the first radiant floor heating system for a Japanese hotel, and later brought this system to America. And so it started.
But think about sitting or sleeping on a live fire. Well, not directly on it, but with a thick mass of stone and clay between, that absorbs a natural heat and releases it slowly... priceless.
If you want to make your own gudeul, here's some pictures to help you!
A new house, this is the place under the heated room.

 "Dag, if you don't stop messing with that camera and get quickly back to mixing the cement you'll end with an asshole like this!"
And Day 1 ended with a visit to a friend, with lots of beer and makkoli.
Day 2, hangovered as hell, the gudeul is starting to have a shape.
Meanwhile the wood artisans take care of the ceiling. The walls are the last thing to be done on a Korean house. All the weight of the roof is being held by the wooden pillars.
Oh, yes, I forgot we're in Korea.  Among the first things to be done is the fireplace - not because it's so important, but because this is the only easy access to the working area. After this you have to carry bricks, mortar and the motherfucking heavy concrete slabs (Made in Vietnam) all around the house or climb like a monkey.

 Three Koreans tying the chimney. I guess it makes more sense than five Japanese tying a laundry rope or twenty-two of them fixing a tent...
Slabs on place, covered with sand, gravel and on top the mighty hwangto - construction clay. Ready for another 3cm of clay screed, but only when the walls will be in place.
That's all folks. In few weeks I go to Okinawa and hopefully it will be a goodbye to Korea till next spring.

četrtek, 10. julij 2014

Where Are You From?

This blog is starting to be a pain in the ass since nothing is really happening. Tomato disease? Who cares. Typhoon? It didn't blow you away to meet a lion, a scarecrow and so on.. boring. Yeah, true. I was bored to death, too. Two weeks of rain, I ended "stealing" soju from neighbors, but today the sun finally decided to shine on this part of the world so the first thing was to go to the village and buy some beer. Had a bottle on my way home in the woods and, bored as I was, came with a topic for a post.

Where am I from?

In February 2009 I came to Korea for the first time.At the passport check I was told that I can't stay 3 months in Korea, as I stated, only 30 days. I argued with the guy, he called security and I was escorted to the Immigration office.

Where are you from?

Creepy, even after all these years. A really pretty girls she was, with my passport in her hands, asking me: "Where are you from?"
" Slovenia"
"Not from Ukraina?"
"No, why..I .. of course I'm from Slovenia, it's EU, you can see from the passport!"
"So.. you're not from Ukraina?"

It went on like this for 2 hours. Ukraina here and there, someone eventually found out that Slovenia (3 months visa) doesn't  equal Slovakia (30 days visa). And I was told I should be glad for the efforts they did to find out my nationality.
They are supposed to have all the information they need, it's a government office we're talking about.. ah well.
Seriously, I'm not much concerned that Slovenia is frequently (most of the times) confused with Slovakia. I have nothing against Slovakia. It's just too annoying. Uzbekistan, too.
I did my fair share of travels since then and collected some weird reactions.

X: Where are you from?
Me: Slovenia.
X: Ah, Slovakia, I know..

This is 99% of the response I get. No problem with that..You learn to deal with it being from a microscopic country.

Not always. It was in Scotland.
X: Where are you from?
Me: Slovenia.
X: Ah, yes,, Slovenia.. Slovakia... Sorry to say, I can never remember which one was part of Russia and which one of Czekoslovakia? 

It was in Hong Kong where the X was from US.
X: Where are you from?
Me: Slovenia.
X: Where is that?

One of the most sincere answers.

And then it goes.. downhill. In Korea.
X: Where are you from?
Me: Slovenia.
X: Ah, Uzbekistan!
Me: NONONO, Slovenia!
X: Yes, Uzbekistan!

Are you even listening to me?
Japan. The country of self centered people, closed to foreigners, of people death set to work with no fun and no vacations and blah blah blah..Yeah, all that up your ass.
X: Where are you from?
Me: Slovenia.

X: Aaa, Buredo Reiku (Bled lake), I know it!

X: Where are you from?
Me: Slovenia.

X: Oh, I visited Lubiana, your capital 

X: Where are you from?
Me: Slovenia.

X: Are you from Lubiana?
Me: (WTF is he playing with me?) No, from Koper.
X: I see, Koper, isn't that the town on the coast near Piran? 
Me and Ramon: wut???  
But the candy, the top of the tops, goes to a Phillipino taxi driver.
X: Where are you from?
Me: Slovenia.

X: Ah.. yes.. ummm.. slo.. sli..  I KNOW TRANSILOVENIA! HOME OF DRACULA!

petek, 14. februar 2014

A Day Off on Tokunoshima




sobota, 01. februar 2014

The Last Few Days

The last few days in the Philippines irritated me to an unbelievable extent. After all the kilometers I enjoyed in its mountains and valleys it was like a cold shower in Siberia. First, Angeles City. Luckily I was in a hostel owned by a foreigner and I have complaints at all. It was actually the best budget place I've stayed in the Philippines during my two visits there. But it was excruciating to leave the Korea town. Just everyone is trying to sell you something. A ride, a watch, sunglasses, sex - or they just beg for money every single foreigner they see. For their standards every foreigner is rich. Me, too. And it can be even worse in a shopping mall. There's so many shop assistants you just can't pass unobserved and in a split second you're surrounded by them. Even if I love to amuse in my shopping addiction alone and spending hours wandering in the shops, I have nothing against shop assistants being visible - to be called for help when I need them. I wanted to buy some socks, during the hike most of mine simply disintegrated. I found them, guarded by a flock of 12 shop assistants. I stopped to have a look of some funny colorful pairs and I was surrounded. They all knew that I didn't really want to buy the ones I was looking and they tried to drag me and show me some others. The fuck with them, I bought socks the next day in a supermarket, knowing that they will last for maybe a month or two. But I returned to the same shopping mall (S-M, and they don't sell whips and handcuffs) because I was curious. It's not a small mall, three floors, but then again it's not THAT big. And I started counting. When I reached 150 shop assistants on half of the second floor I got so depressed I gave up. It was more fun shopping in the district known to be the mecca of Chinese counterfeit stuff. I laughed at Pensonic screens, Sambung smartphones and similar stuff.
Then I left for Manila, one day prior to my departure. It's not that my flight was so early, it was at noon, but I just don't trust Philippino transportation to be on time. They have a different notion of time that has nothing to do with hours and minutes. As long as it's done (anything) it's OK. Well, not that being relaxed and carefree is bad, but... I spent the night at the heavily guarded airport, armed security guards everywhere, maybe even more than last summer - a few days after I arrived there in December they had a political assassination at the airport, exactly at my favorite smoking point. I read about it in the news and laughed when the police stated that they are still puzzled at how the guns were brought inside since they accurately check everyone going to the airport. Even I could go in with a bazooka, if I had one. You just have to go in with the shuttle bus. It's not checked and is usual for passengers to carry large luggage.
I was in the arrival wing of Terminal 1 during night and moved to the departures of Terminal 2 in the morning. I went to the inner shuttle just to discover that yes, it's free if you pay for it. That is if you upgrade your ticket to PAL Express. From a few hundred peso to a few thousand, depending on your destination. At least the lady at the counter remained composed even when I lost my temper and told me that I can use the outer shuttle for 20 peso. No luxury and it takes about 20 minutes, but perfect for me. I'm already used that stuff at the airport is slightly more expensive than outside, so 20 peso for a bottle of water, instead of 15, seemed normal. That was at the arrivals. At the departures it was 70. No free wi-fi anywhere. I wanted to buy more smokes to take them with me to Japan and they were 80 peso instead of 38. And at the end - but this time I already knew it - the "exit tax". I was happy to leave the country. Of course I plan to visit again, but no more cities.
The flight was scheduled for 12.35. At 12.40 there was still no call for boarding. No notice about delays. At 1.00 a guy with a sign with the number of our flight came to GateN 1 where we were waiting and said that we have to move to gate S 2 for boarding. There we waited for another half an hour and finally the bird went flying. The landing at Taoyuan was quite bad, the immigration annoying as usual. I was sure they will not bother me since I had a ticket for next day (today) to Okinawa, but I was again too optimistic. Your address in Taiwan? You see, I have a flight tomorrow so I will just wait at the airport. No, you have to leave an address here. Regulations. But I don't have it. I really didn't care what were they going to do, even if they denied me the entry I would just wait for next day in the transfer hall. The old crone called her supervisor to tell him about this stupid foreigner. We went through the exact same interview again. He called his superior that accompanied me in the Immigration offices. Same Q-A again. She left the office and came back with another man, my blind guess is that it was her superior. And guess what he asked me... and surprise surprise at the end simply said: Could you write "Taouyan Airport" on the immigration form?
Happy that I managed to kill some time in an amusing way (bureaucracy at work is funny when the matter is NOT of importance to you) and went to try Taiwanese beer. Slept like a drunk log. In few hours I will be on Okinawa!

sobota, 25. januar 2014

Hiking in the Philippines - Another Defeat

First, a disclaimer: all the pictures displayed in this post are not mine. I even don't know who their authors are. I just picked them with a search, just to show you the places I've visited.
The first is the Ambuklao dam, I slept somewhere at the end of the water you can see, the only difference is that this picture is obviously from the rainy season time, when I was there the water level was way lower.

Next is a view from Mt. Pulag. Again, it's not exactly the same as I saw it, but it's pretty close.

As for new stuff. My last post was from Solano and from there I cheated a bit. I was lacking pesos and in the Philippines to change money can be quite a pain - they believe only in the US dollar. They snob the Japanese yen, not to mention the Korean won. Are you people crazy? Well, they are just obsessed with the US. So I took a bus north, to Santiago, the capitol (not a typo, here they call it a capitOl) of the province Isabella, got ripped while changing some won and yen, then took a van back south to the province of Quirino, to continue my original path.
It was already evening when I reached the Aglipay caves and got ripped again. They advertise the dormitories for 100 pesos, I had to pay 300 to stay in a moldy and really ran down place. I did some laundry and in the morning I wasn't surprised at all that my stuff was still wet as the evening before, but I was a bit pissed of that all my other clothes were wet, too. Talk about the dry season... Anyway, I payed the fee to go the caves and took the guide - yes, when going to caves I do not object to guides, actually I prefer to do it with them. Especially when it's a cave system with eight connected chambers.

The problem was that the guide was even more ran down that the accommodation, but at least he knew all the caves as his palm. We both got somehow uncomfortable when he tried to explain some carsic phenomena to someone who lived near the Karst for almost all his life - and, not for bragging, but I know about it way more than he does. In one chamber I spotted some "suspicious" curtain formations and decided to knock on them. As I guessed, they are hollow. The old guide was startled by the echoing sound and he kept asking what have I done. I knocked on the curtain again and he was so delighted that he kept hitting it with his walking stick. I was almost worried that he will break it. He kept pointing mostly at penis-shaped stalagmites, I guess they are the most fun for local tourists, but I was mainly interested in different colored formations, from almost black through red to some glittering white pure limestone formations. Crawling, climbing, going in and going out, we finally reached the entrance of chamber eight. Through it we would go to number three and two and we'll be done. We went down and I had a total shock. We entered a cave at almost 30 C, way hotter than the outside since it was early morning, and so misty I couldn't see more than two or three meters ahead. A "mystery" I would like to know more about it, but the old guy was clueless about it as I was. When I asked him why this cave is so hot, he just replied "Very hot" and that was all. It was a real relief when we crouched for some 30 meters to the next chamber and I could breath normally again. When we finished the tour I asked how much do I have to pay him and he just shrugged "It's up to you". I have no clue how much is that, but i considered that we spent in the caves more than one hour. Next, I know that a worker, say construction stuff, gets 250 or 300 pesos. I gave him 100 pesos and I really didn't care if he was happy with it. I'm slowly getting tired of all the kinds here ripping me off all the time.
My stuff was already packed so I just waved goodbye to everybody and hit the road in the direction of Maddela - the Governor's Rapids and the Maddela Waterfalls. The weather didn't look very promising. At noon I was at the rapids, nothing really special, a pretty scenery, but I mostly enjoyed all the women from the nearby village doing laundry in the river.

They were shocked when I walked out of the jungle to the riverside, relaxed when I payed them no attention and just sat near the river for a smoke, cooling my feet in the water, but they quickly started to joke and have fun and finally I heard them calling if I want to take them to America... Yeah, America again. There's nothing else on this globe, the Philippines and America. Jokes apart, honestly, there were more than a few that I would like to take somewhere.. you know... ah well, let's drop it. Feet cooled, waterfalls are waiting! In the late afternoon I was in a barangay I don't even remember the name when i was, again, stopped, greeted and asked where was I going. "To the waterfalls!" was my merry reply. To my amazement the old ladies that stopped me just looked at each other in wonder and one said "We have no waterfalls here, only the river!" "Huh? What do you mean? I want to see the Maddela Waterfalls!" Badly concealed amusement. "Maddela Waterfalls is the other way, sir." "What do you mean THE OTHER WAY? A guy near the rapids told me it's THIS way!" "He must be a very bad man. No waterfalls here, this is the road to Isabella province. You have to go back 20 kilometers to Maddela. But we have a bike, we can give you a ride there, for free!" The building rage just melted when I heard her. I declined her offer politely, with a sincere smile, thanked her a few more times, turned and walked in the way I came from. "Don't think bad of the Philippino men because of one!" was the last thing the lady shouted to me. I do not. I met too many kind people in the mountains, one jerk will not ruin those precious moments. Following her instructions I reached the waterfalls the next morning, after a good sleep near the river. And again, the waterfalls themselves are not worth to be mentioned. It's the place that is special. I fell in love with it almost at first sight. The path to the waterfalls is paved in concrete, but all covered in thick green moss, surrounded by jungle scenery and gives you the feeling of "discovering" a small paradise on this planet.

The manager of the resort was sorry to inform me that it's closed for reconstruction (the resort, not the manager) and invited me to be a guest in his home. Talk about "bad men"... I really liked the place, wanted to stay there, but no, thanks, no. What a mistake! Let's go the way to Nagtipunan and in a few days I can reach the east coast! Yeah, in my dreams. About nightmares... In the late afternoon I spotted a river coming from the mountains and decided to find a place for the night there. After an hour I found a great place, had a bath in the river, cooked some food and, since I had a fire, went to sleep way after twilight - which was usually around 6PM. I felt happy as always when I'm not freezing in my sleeping bag and was delighted with swarms of fireflies over the water. The bitterness of  the anime Grave of the Fireflies (and some incoming tears) was pulled back when I remembered a horseback riding in a spring night years ago and I fell asleep with a smile. Just to be awakened minutes later by the rain. Crap. Pitch dark, no stars, no moon, it's cloudy. Only fireflies. Grab all my stuff, by memory and by touch. A pair of pants must still be hanging from a branch there. I passed an abandoned hut on my way, it's the nearest shelter! You may guess it or not, but I didn't carry any flashlight with me. I proceeded slowly, first through a corn field and didn't notice when it ended. I just stepped and fell on a field one meter lower. Honestly, I was so worried about the damage I did to the crops that I didn't hear the ripping sound from my backpack. My memory led me well, but the hut was way from abandoned, it had a huge lock on the door and no windows (no Linux, also). I would lie if I tell that I didn't try to break in. I did try, but to no use. But I saw another one, on the other side of the river! It took me some twenty minutes to climb down the river bank and cross it. I didn't care much, I was already wet and dirty, I just kept my backpack high because of the laptop, wrapped in various plastic bags. And the water wasn't too cold, no shock when it reached my balls. Of course I got dirty again when I climbed the opposite bank, but it didn't matter to me since I could see a darker shade not far away. That's it! Again I did a touch research of the walls, found the door and YES! no locks, I opened the door and YES! there was someone inside who started shouting and YES! he scared me more than he was. I blabbered some apologies in English, to no use, I retreated and then he found his flashlight so I could clerly see that in his other hand he had a machete. Communication failed I just turned and ran in the black night. Maybe this is how some wars start. I'm sure that if I had knocked politely on the door I would have received shelter. But I just charged in, like I owned the place and the guy was really pissed off. We couldn't communicate but I realized my wrong and fled. So a war was avoided. But in the dark I couldn't avoid a rice pad and fell into it. Not to full of water, but enough of slimy mud. At this point I really didn't care about the crops anymore. I was knee deep in the mud, face too, one of the backpack's straps finally gave up and I just cursed myself for not accepting the invitation of the resort's manager. To put it simply, I was done. My right shoe remained in the rice pad mud, so I got rid of the other also. Blind luck (as i wrote it was pitch dark) led me to a really abandoned shack, with half of the roof missing and inside being half flooded. Eventually I got a dry sleep, but I woke up with a sore throat and a slight fever. The rain was over. With a rope and a piece of wire i found there I fixed the strap of the backpack and, in a bad mood, went on. Following the road on my map, after eight hours, I ended on dirt road, leading to the bank of a large river. No bridge, only a few houses on the other side. A few boatmen on this side, looking at me. "Where you go, sir?" "Nagtipunan." "Oh, Nagtipunan back there you come, here nothing." So I reached the end of the world, huh?

I gave up. I went "back there you come", a tiny village I barely noticed, got drunk with some local "bad elements" and hopped on a jeepney to Maddela. Without hiking, only modern time transportation, I ended in Angeles City. Lucky me. On the web I searched for the cheapest place to stay, it was the Angeles Budget Hotel. Lucky me. Situated in the middle of Korea town. True, to find it I had to walk all along the 21st street - the red light district - and it was a very unpleasant sight. I've never seen so many fat old westerners like here. Disgusting. But at least the Korea town is peaceful. They have their own police force, fire brigade and so on. It's organized well above the Philippino standards. I don't mind go to buy beers at midnight through some dark streets. I only don't like the stickers on the walls saying "Go home Koreans!" It reminds me of Korea, where they say "Go home Philippinos!"

sobota, 18. januar 2014

Hiking In The Philippines

Born to be baka. Even if it's not my fault I still feel pretty much stupid. Just after I started my Cordilleras - Sierra Madre trekking (I wanted to call it Coast-To-Coast hike, but unfortunately I didn't start it on the west coast), I was on the road for maybe two hours, I wanted to snap a shot of Baguio, the city I was leaving. The camera was unresponsive. Batteries OK but nothing working. Crap. I know the drill, pictures or it didn't happen! Ah well, so it didn't happen that on the first day I made 27km and I didn't sleep near a river. Also, I didn't meet an old guy who wasn't curious about me and I didn't tell him that I'm going to Mt. Pulag. He was nice enough to not point to me exactly the mountain and he didn't give some more details about the hike. At the end he didn't want to know where I'll be going next and he wasn't horrified when I didn't tell him that probably I'll be going north. "Sir, on the north is territory of the Ifugao! They are still head hunters!"
Uh, hard to write like this. Let's pretend that it all happened. The guy kept warning me about the Ifugao and finally gave up, wishing me luck. Lucky for me I soon figured out - after a peek on the map - that I really don't have to go north, even my original plan was to go east. Trust me, it's not easy to plan a hike with only a 1:1 200 000 road map!
I stopped after finding a nice spot near a river, took a bath and did my laundry when I got visits. Two cute ten years old girls, Eleanor and Marguerita, came slowly across the river, started playing some 50 meters away from me, then slowly came closer and closer, until they crouched behind the nearest bush. Practically one meter away. After the initial "What's your name?" and "Where are you from?" I was pretty amazed at their knowledge of English. We went on for some time - ah yes, here I finally started lying as to where I'm from, to cut it really short I just say I'm from Italy - do I speak Tagalog, which languages I speak and so on, until something in Tagalog came from the other side of the bush. "Sorry girls, I really don't understand a word!" "She asked if you can give us some money." "No way girls. I'm not giving you a single peso."
To my surprise they didn't simply left. I was a bit sorry for being so sharp with them so I fished a bag of cookies from my food supplies and gave it to them. Which started a discussion about food. What do I eat, how do I eat? "Mostly cans" I told them. "What is cans?" So I showed them what a can is and explained that  cans is not a kind of food. And they wanted to be fed. "Are you girls hungry?" They looked each other and simply said "Not now. But for dinner we will be hungry." They may have been the best actresses on the world or they were simply being truthful. I didn't care. I gave them some tuna and squids, watching to give only cans without hot chilli peppers inside. Then they left. When they crossed the river they stopped on the opposite bank and turned to wave me a long good-bye. I slept well.
The second day I did only 21km, once missed a road, at noon in the middle of nowhere without a single drop of water, but it was a nice day, too. Could again sleep near a river. The third day I finally reached Mt. Pulag National Park Visitor's Center, payed the entrance and camping fees and had a cold shower. "You will need a guide." The fuck I need a guide? "You will need a guide." Just like that. The hell, I will think about it tomorrow, today I can't even reach the Ranger's House. "And they will tell you that you need a guide." "Aw just fuck off, if they will turn me away after I walked 50km to come here what do you think, that i will cry? That I will give up? As easy as I came as easy I can go." With this rude good-bye I left the Visitor's Center and headed toward the peak of Mt. Pulag. It was getting dark around 5PM when I passed the line of clouds and it was raining inside the clouds. With a strong wind. Freaking cold, too. I stopped at the altitude of about 2200 meters and found a sort of shelter under some pine trees. Again did only 21 km. Slept with clothes on, a blanket and the sleeping bag and I was uncomfortable. Not exactly cold but I woke up way more tired than I went to sleep. Before 7AM I passed through the last village on the route and there was hidden the Ranger's House. I tried to sneak by but I was seen (they were waiting for me, not joking). A guy came out running after me and shouting - what else? - You need a guide! "I don't need any guide, dude!" "If you have no guide you turn back!" Well, this far I came, here I give up. So I just turned and started walking back to the valley. But the little sucker was persistent. "You need a guide!" "What for?" "You get lost!" "No dude, you get lost and shut your trap!" "You need a guide! There are some nasty guys up there, very dangerous!" He was really annoying and on top of that he started talking nonsense. I stopped and turned to face him. "Are you only an idiot or are you also fucking blind? What the fuck do I need a guide? Don't you see where I'm going? I'm going BACK DOWN YOU IDIOT!" Luckily my shouting stopped him. In the end I didn't reach the peak of Mt. Pulag, but I consider it a technical defeat and not like I gave up. And back down, yes, about 1500 meters down, it took me six hours back to the valley and my knees were crying for the last five hours and half. In the afternoon? Back to almost 2000. All the time I was regretting not having a camera, but that day I was really depressed for not being able to take a picture of a big big sign saying: MT. PURGATORY JUMP-OFF POINT. What jump-off? It was in the middle of a pine forest, not a place for base jumping o paragliding! 33km done.
In the last two days I was wandering across the Cagayan Valley and made 75km - this is when you don't have to climb a freaking mountain every day - and mind me, I'm only following roads so I'm sure not to get lost. Today I will stay in Solano and tomorrow south east, I should reach some cave systems in three days.

sobota, 11. januar 2014

WWOOFING In The Philippines

Just finished my first wwoofing in the Philippines. Near Rosario, La Union, on a small farm, owned by David, an Englishman, and his local wife, Carol. It was mostly fun, no real hard work, but pretty chaotic since David is not a life long farmer but a former IT company owner that just changed his way of life. I was accommodated in a big tent, shielded from the sun by some huge bamboos.
It's the dry season here so I felt pretty normal when on the second night the tent was flooded from heavy rain. Luckily I had quite a bunch of rough experiences in my life so it really didn't bother me much to sleep in a pool for the night but I was pissed of in the morning upon realizing that not only the money and documents were wet, also my laptop had swimming lessons. It was literally filled with water. I let it dry for few days and then, after saying some prayers, switched it on. Working. Good old Chinese stuff, this Lenovo.

The "Happy House Farm" (as it is called) is pretty far away from anything, but there's a little store (a bamboo hut with tin roof) nearby where I could buy beers, smokes and instant coffee or sometimes I just stopped there in the evening to drink beer with local guys who were spending almost all their time there anyway, playing a local version of pool, not with balls but with flat disks. Well, I was drinking beer, they use to drink the so called "two by two" - gin in square bottles of 2 inches.
And the most fun were the kids. Lively and lovely, at first they were scared of this weird looking foreigner, but after I started playing with them they were all over me. Unbelievably, I was even approached by a pretty young woman who asked me if I'm interested in Philippino girls... it was after three liters of Red Horse, the local beer with 7%, so I just gave her a drunk blank look and told her that at the moment my only interest is for more beer. It was a wise decision for the next day I was told she is a "lady" and if I had accepted her offer I would bitterly regret it when she would present me the bill. So I decided to keep playing with the kids.

One day I met the orphaned little Marlene.

Like all the others she was scared of me in the beginning, but she thawed quickly and we became best friends with some cookies. When she was seen so closed to me her auntie asked her if she would like to be adopted and have uncle Dag as a new father - and it turned out in the most cruel joke I've ever heard. "But I already have a father," replied Marlene.  To which her aunt said, laughing loudly: "Yeah, but he's six feet under, what are you gonna do, dig him from the grave?" If I could really adopt her! I would do it. I felt really bad for her, she has a real "Cinderella" life, has to care for her stepsister and for every mistake she makes she is not scolded or slapped, but punched in the face. And there's nothing you can do.Hate me for turning my back on a powerless child, I hate myself for doing it.
Two days ago I turned my back to everything, packed my stuff and went to the mountains. Baguio city. It's cold. I mean really cold. In Rosario I was sweating like a pig even when doing nothing and sitting in the shade. Here, in the evenings and mornings I need my winter clothes. Luckily I have them. The wifi at the hotel I'm staying is weak and has hiccups, but over the night I managed to get almost all the ongoing anime shows I've been craving for the last weeks. And I started making plans for a long hike, around 400 km, but I guess I will give up way up before the final destination. I keep noticing that a heavy backpack is more and more painful as the years pass.