"I am large. I contain multitudes." - Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Monday, March 14, 2011

Majestic Mount Mayon

"There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul." ~ Victor Hugo

I'm writing this in Manila, after arriving from Legaspi from three days of trekking Mount Mayon and two days at Donsol to see some whale sharks before flying back to Singapore tomorrow.

As I mentioned before, it has been quite a while since I last went trekking. The last one was when I celebrated my 28th birthday at the top of Mount Kinabalu in Malaysia 12 years ago.

Needless to say, I had some concerns about not keeping up.

I was worried I would slow down the group. In mountain climbing, you are only as fast as your slowest climber. So when your trek leader/guide tells you the first leg will take two to three hours, what we do is check on how much time it takes for the whole group to get to the first stop so we can gauge how fast we can get to the summit.

Our group made it there in under one and a half hours, an excellent pace anyway you look at it.

So despite the occasional rains and the incessantly strong winds, we were in good spirits.

A backgrounder, this is the group of friends I used to climb with way-back-when. It was lovely to see them and it was a joyful surprise to easily get back into the banter we enjoyed from our trekking days. And as with any group of climbers, there is a lot of trust in this circle. I think trust is one of the things that you get to easily when you climb with others, especially when your terrain is somewhat precarious. It is always good to know friends have your back and on the mountain, that's taken both figuratively and literally!

We set up at Camp 1 and met some climbers from Denmark and their guide George who had created this particular route up Mount Mayon. The old route was on the other side of the volcano facing Legaspi City, but ours was a new one, which was in equal measure, more scenic and more treacherous than the old route. Its camp 2 is also higher than the 'summit' of the old trail, and the summit of the new route is by far, the closest ever to the volcano's crater. So far, only eight people have made it to the summit. We were endeavoring to be the first team from Singapore and between myself and Carol - be the first woman to scale it.

Seriously, I was just there for the trek. I am happy to report that my ego totally went missing on that mountain. I was just happy to climb, summit or no summit. It never even entered my mind to aim for some record. To climb was an end in itself.

Anyways, Day 2 of the trek had cold, overcast weather so our guide informed us that there would be no reaching the summit for us but we could climb to camp 2. We made it there in less than two hours and stayed there for a bit, both happy to be there and for some, sad that we wouldn't be going further than this.

We went back to Camp 1 and just hung around catching up and getting to know some of the climbers we had just met on this trek. By that afternoon though, my team had planned a second attempt to the summit the next morning if the weather permitted. I had declined to join them in the attempt. Even though I felt I could still physically make it, especially after the guide and my friends had complimented me on my speed (I get into a zen zone when I trek I guess), but my heart wasn't hung up on the summit.

Unfortunately, the weather really wasn't cooperating. By the morning of Day 3, we knew without saying a word that they wouldn't be climbing that day. So we trudged down.

The late Pope John Paul II was a trekker, and I understand why. It is a meeting up with God. Jesus went off to the hills to pray, and trekking gives us the same privilege of meeting our God. I had a lot of time with my thoughts on that volcano. There was constant conversation with Him. And He took such good care of me. In a million miniscule ways, He made sure I was light-footed as Hinds feet.

I will share with you one way He took care of me. I trekked wearing my running shoes because I wasn't able to break in my new trekking shoes in time. The thing with running shoes is that once they get wet, they stay wet, unlike trekking shoes that are designed to keep you dry at all times. So every time we would start to trek, I would pray that my shoes would stay dry. And they did. We never trekked in the rain, only with heavy clouds and howling winds, but not a drop of rain. When I was warm and cozy in my tent, the rain would pour, but never when we were trekking.

And I know that some people would attribute that to luck. Some people might even say I'm reading too much into it, giving too much meaning into things and circumstances that are random, unconnected and inconsequential.

Maybe it's my mustard seed faith, but I believe God made sure that my feet would stay dry so that I could trek comfortably. I believe God is so thoughtful towards me that He would grant this little request, show loving tenderness in that small, oh-so-kind gesture. I believe in a God who hears my prayers, even those uttered in the faintest whisper, He who intimately knows the pains and pleasures I keep in my heart. And I believe He gave me a love of trekking because it brings me closer to Him, if it were even possible to be closer to Him still. That I may reach out to Him whose one true desire is to be close to me.

(Photo credit: karl_beeney)

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