As the ever wise Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Some days are scarier than other in my undertakings, and today’s was equal parts “I hope this isn’t how I die” and equal parts “awesome.”
It’s worth mentioning that one of my best friends has a personal vendetta against people who are not appropriately equipped to ride motorcycles and scooters. So much so it always comes up in the car on our adventures and has for the better part of three and half years, rubbed off on me. He was a combat medic in the army and whenever we see someone who’s under dressed, we say, “job security” and keep a running tally. I fully believe if you’re going to zip around on a mode of transportation that has a higher horsepower than my first car, you should wear a helmet and dress appropriately, but you do you. You and your choice are keeping people employed. And to my friend, I’m sorry, look away now. This was not the case today.
Today was a late afternoon start where we went to the coolest fort in the Philippines, Fort San Pedro. It’s a triangular fort, very small, very cool, and worth the visit. A wedding was setting up and some European sounding guy wearing cargo pants and Chaccos was filming a documentary. There’s a good chance my company ended up in photos/ video for both. The fort is one of the top things to do in the Cebu. I have now completed some of the top things to do in the city. The fort, like a lot of things here, is over 500 years old. So old, that trees are growing on and around the walls. This raises “tree fort” to a new level.
We ended up back at AA’s barbecue for more meat on sticks. Last weekend I said I would in fact go back before I went home and that was not a promise I had to keep for long. After food we decided to go to Mountain View, which to the best of my understanding was a lookout point in the hills that overlooks the city, best to see at night. So we set off by taxi for the part of town that would end up to be our launch point to take motorbikes up to the overlook. Our taxi driver claimed the road was too steep and windy for a cab, which is a lie because when we got there, we saw dozens of tour groups in passenger vans, jeepneys, and those like us who got there by motorbike.
If I had been competent in operation, I would have had my own bike. But something told me the Philippines is not the place to learn on your feet how to operate something that outweighs you and kills hundreds of people a year, mostly by user error, in crazy traffic. So my group of six divvied up with guides on bikes and we were off. I thought “How bad could the journey be?” and I quickly learned.
It’s a six mile (roughly nine and a half kilometer) twisty, windy, mountain road with 2,500 feet of elevation gain. Apparently it’s a common route for motorcycles as at one point we were part of a pack of over two dozen. It’s also worth mentioning I had never been on a motorcycle before. Everyone else in my group had.
As we were taking off, the nerves and adrenaline brought me to the realization that I was hanging on for dear life wearing Birkenstock sandals (foot wear of choice), a sundress, shades, and my shoulder bag. Hindsight says this was not the wisest decision, but locals wear flip-flops and survive. The ride up was more terrifying than the ride down. At one point I saw my reflection in the rearview and thought of James Dean. “Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse.” I certainly had the smug, rock star level of cool going with my Wayfarers despite my fears. Fake it ‘til you make it. I’m sure the van of Korean tourists behind us thought I was a sight for sore eyes.
Every ounce of panic and fear was worth it though. The sunset and the view were amazing. I could see all of Cebu City where I have been living for the last three weeks and Mactan Island across the channel where I flew in; I could see trees and hills below me and the sky felt closer than it does back home. The last bit of the ride over looked the setting sun and valleys with beautiful houses and the view at the top was breath taking and the last mile and a half of that ride will likely be the view of the summer. It was one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. The photos I took don’t do anything justice.
The ride back down was easier and less nerve racking. I could actually look around me and see people living their daily lives. The businesses that had three walls that opened to the street or no walls as they were little street vendors pushing carts. I saw a chicken cross the road.
My guide spoke decent English. It was a bit more challenging to understand as he asked me questions on the way up and way down to take my mind off the fear. “Are you married?” No. “Boyfriend back home?” No. “Ah so Philippine boyfriend then? My son is about your age.” Silence as I looked out over mountains and noticed cows grazing on the side of the road as I tried to keep bugs out of my mouth while I answered his questions. They say it’s about the journey, not the destination, but I think today was one of those exceptions.
Oh brave world with such people in it.