Niqui Visits Part 2: Off The Grid

Niqui and I dropped Em off at the airport then looked for a van to El Nido.  After much delay/negotiation/arguments we finally headed off in a packed van.  We picked up random people along the way and dropped them off in fields, so that was interesting.  We finally arrived in El Nido town around dinner time and grabbed a quick bite then looked for a trike to our resort Duli Beach.

As we set off the sun began to set, pretty soon it was pitch black and out of nowhere the road dropped off without warning for construction.  We headed down a dirt road with no street lights.  About 45 minutes later we began a slow trek up a steep incline before the trike began moving backwards, down the hill.  Without hesitation, I jumped out, then Niqui got out and the trike driver went back down the hill…with our suitcases.  I knew he was just going back down to get speed, but there was a part of me that wondered if he would just drive off.  Thankfully, he didn’t.  A few minutes later we arrived at a walking path, the trike driver apologized incessantly for not being able to drive farther, but he would likely break is trike in the dark.

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Fun times on a trike…in daylight this time.

 

I tried calling our resort, but I had no signal except to show me where we were on google maps – which I was sure to load before we arrived.  So, either we walk in the dark, or we get back on the trike and look for a room in town.  I had already notified the resort we were on our way when we left – we decided to walk.  Thank god for flashlights on cell phones.  Off we went through the dark in the middle of nowhere Philippines.  We arrived at the beach and were “greeted” by barking dogs and a couple asking if we had lodging.  “Yes, Duli Beach Resort.” They pointed towards the only lights we could see for miles.  Dragging our suitcases through the sand, we made the last of the 1km trek to the resort where we received a warm welcome from the owners and a beer.

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Our bungalow on the beach.

We fell asleep and woke up to the sound of the ocean.  We were the only guests for the first two nights at our private beach resort.  It was exactly what I had been searching for in all of my trips.  I wanted to get away from the crowds and vendors constantly trying to sell me something, and boy did I.  We swam in the warm ocean, ran on the empty beach, read books in peace, and played cards while it rained.  It was the perfect get away.

On our third day, we did a private island hopping tour.  After the failure that was the Underground River Tour, we figured a private one would best.  There were three people working the boat and two of us.  They took us to the lagoons when all the other tours were leaving and set us up with a huge lunch on a small, private beach.  An amazing way to see the lagoons without the crowds of tourists.

Niqui was such a trooper on this crazy trip through the back country of the Philippines.  I don’t know many women who would walk through the dark with me in search of a peaceful paradise, but she did.  I won’t lie and say neither of us were scared, but the crazy trip on the dirt road was 100% worth it. I was hesitant to even post the name of the resort where we stayed because, honestly, I want to keep it a secret.  They run on 100% solar power, they’re completely off the grid, the owners are welcoming and friendly, they help to save the baby turtles when they hatch, and they hire locals.  I hope to go back.

 

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Niqui Visits Part 1: Puerto Princesa

I had two more visitors, and at the perfect time.  I needed a week off relaxing on the beach, only a local competition coming up, it was the perfect time to press reset.  Emily and Niqui landed in Manila and shortly thereafter, we headed to Puerto Princesa, Palawan.  Emily is about to start medschool, Niqui had just finished second year of medschool, and I like saving money, so we booked a budget AirBnB.

We walked to a dodgy little beach near the hut and enjoyed a day soaking up the sun and hanging out in the bathwater ocean.  After grabbing a tasty dinner we headed to bed early, we had a 7am start for the Underground River Tour.   We knew the hut was in the country, that there was no A/C and that we would hear some roosters.  We were not aware that there would be literally no breeze and that the house was located, not near a couple roosters, but next to a chicken/rooster farm.  There were over 25 roosters crowing at 4am.

We were picked up promptly at 7am, a miracle!  It was on time.  We then proceeded to drive around for 2 hours picking up other tourists – 2 hours.  Finally, the bus was full and we were going to see the Underground River!  Then we overheard the tour guide say it was another two hours to the river.  Excuse me?  I thought the Underground River was IN Puerto Princesa.  At this point we felt fairly committed though, so we decided to stick out out.

An hour into the ride we pulled off at Ugong Rock where we were instructed to watch the educational video…aka a promotional video for Ugong Rock.  Apparently, for another fee we could climb through a cave and go ziplining.  What?  I was told I would be going to the Underground River, can I please go there?  No.  We were held captive, pay fee or sit around.  Out of pure stubbornness we refused.  The guide said it would only take the other people 20 minutes and we would be off.  I found that hard to believe.  45 minutes later we decided it was time to purchase a beer.  Then another, and another.  After 45 more minutes the rest of the tour finally got back.  We got a beer for the road, it could be a while.

Finally, we arrived at the Underground River.  We put on our hardhats and set out for the tour.  I almost got shit on by 3,000,000 bats, nodded out a few times on the boat, and could hardly see a thing.  Then it was over.  We were back on the van and I was arguing with the driver about the order in which we would be dropped off – Niqui, Emily, and I would not be last. A failure/waste of day, thankfully we did a good job of keeping ourselves entertained throughout the entire ordeal.

Exhausted, we decided to head back to the hut and get some sleep, after all, we’d be up at 4am anyway.  A group of girls staying in the hut next to ours disagreed, they thought it was a good time to poorly sing karaoke, shrieking at the top of their lungs.  They would regret this decision when the roosters begin singing at 4am.

Sure enough, we were up and ready to go by 5am, we decided to make a day of it and head to a beach.  The iconic Honda Bay required a boat, so we headed to the best hotel in the town just in time for an overpriced, but delicious, buffet breakfast.  We saw on the map that there was a sandbar, so we walked over.  We were greeted by a long, plastic floating dock.  Might as well walk it.  We sat out on the end of the dock looking out at the water for nearly an hour.  To say I was in good company would be an understatement.  These ladies took a shitty situation and turned it into gold, time and time again.  We finished off the morning with a delicious cocktail before sending Emily on her 5-week long journey around Southeast Asia.

All smiles at the end of the dock.

 

Catching Up: Australia, Singapore, and Under Armour

I’ve been MIA, but not because things have not happened.

After Regionals, Mark and I took a few days to travel around Australia.  We headed up to Port Stephens where we spent a couple days kayaking around, eating good food, and relaxing.

 

Before heading over to the Blue Mountains, we stopped by Oakvale Farm and Fauna to feed some kangaroos.

We arrived at cute little AirBnB cottage in the mountains where I felt cold for the first time since my visit to the states.  We hiked the national trail the next day to see some waterfalls.  Then we popped into a CrossFit gym for a quick session of deadlifts and kettlebell swings.  One of the coaches was search and rescue and gave us a fantastic hiking itinerary for the next day.

The final day of hiking was long, but beautiful.  We looked out on valleys, hiked down, down, down into the valley, walked through a gum tree forest, walked along a creek, then hiked back up to the top.  What a perfect end to a fantastic trip.

Full day of hiking thanks to a search and rescue CrossFitter

The next weekend I had a trip to Singapore for the Under Armour South East Asia Test of Will.  I wasn’t mentally prepared for another competition, but I had won the free trip during the qualifiers in Manila, so I figured I would go see Singapore.  Then I got sick, so I was both mentally and physically unprepared, I was even on antibiotics.  I landed in Singapore, went to the athletes briefing, dinner with all the UA Athletes and Brand Athletes and quickly headed to bed hoping to feel better in the morning.  I didn’t.

The day was a struggle, antibiotics, advil, and athletics – not a great combo.  I managed to pull out a win though.  I won a bunch of goodies along with a 12 month contract with Under Armour and a feature in a magazine.  So, say hello to the newest Under Armour South East Asia Brand Athlete! Since the win, I’ve had a lot of firsts: First Glamour Photoshoot, ok first real photoshoot ever, first TV inverview (CNN Philippines Sports Desk), and first press conference.  Crazy couple weeks!  Oh, also, apparently I’m a filipina.

MGZ Visits, Part 3: Baguio

The third, and final, destination for Miranda’s SE Asia trip was Baguio. I booked a cabin owned by the U.S. in Camp John Hay. We packed up the car with lots of food for three days and our bags, and headed out.

The first part of the drive we got stuck in some traffic due to a bike accident, then it was smooth sailing. NLEX, a new highway, was wonderful.  It was smooth and traffic free.  We opted to take the “adventurous” older road after NLEX since it claimed to be 30 minutes faster.

As we were ascending a hill, the car began to lose acceleration power.  Just before some construction, it turned off.  We could not get it back on and had no idea what to do.  We had limited cell signal, and opted to just try and call the embassy.  They worked to get in touch with a towing company in Baguio to bring us up, but could not get a hold of them at first.  After about an hour, the car turned back on.  There was a light on, when the car turned on.  We looked in the manual and it said we could drive slowly with the light on, so we did.  Very, very slowly.  Then we hit a hill again and the car began smoking.  I turned it off an we quickly exited the car.

We were able to get in touch with the mechanic/towing company, they got our location and sent a private car and tow truck.  We were in the middle of the road, but thankfully in a position where we could be seen from a distance.  I got out of the car and pushed it a bit further off the road, I guess it helps to be fit.  An hour and a half later, we were sweaty and tired, but the private car found us.  The car was taken to a trusted mechanic, and we were taken to the cabin.  I was extremely thankful for all the help we got from the embassy, they even stayed in touch with the mechanic for the duration of our trip to ensure we would be able to return to Manila.

It wasn’t even too bad not having a car in Baguio.  We arrived a large “cabin” (house) in the middle of the forest.  For the first time since I arrived in the Philippines, I was in a place that felt peaceful.  The windows were open and a breeze blew through the cabin all day, the porch looked out on a forest and well kept garden, and each morning it was quiet.

Garden Outside the Cabin

 

View From the Porch

 

We ventured out to Baguio to see the most well known parks and Mansion, but we found that our time was best spent at the compound.  There were hiking trails, gardens, a historic house, and plenty of time for relaxation.  I will be back, hopefully often.

Wright Park in Baguio with the Mansion in the Background

The mechanic worked tirelessly on the car and got it fixed in just under three days.  He said  the radiator cap was not installed correctly, which caused the car to overheat.  Plus, he found a small crack in the radiator.  He was extremely helpful, they kept the parts to show the issues, and even called the check in on the drive home.  I have to say, it was the best experience I’ve ever had with a mechanic.

CrossFit Games Pacific Regional 2016

Before I continue my 3 part series about my trip with MGZ, I have a nice little update on my previous post, Playing The Leaderboard.  At the end of the five week online qualifier, the CrossFit Open, I finished in 8th place in the Asia Region.

My score was not solidified until I sent in the requested video.  I sat anxiously until I was told it was accepted and I received my invite to the CrossFit Games Pacific Regionals.  I will compete in Wollongong, Australia the weekend of May 13th.  In addition to my advancement to Regionals, I was also named the “Fittest Female in the Philippines.”  I will receive a certificate and shirt…well maybe, last year people just got a certificate, womp womp.

I am very excited to compete in Australia, unfortunately, athletes must pay for the travel, hotel, and entrance fee for the event, so I’ve started a Go Fund Me.  To my surprise, I was able to raise almost my entire goal in 24 hours, but haven’t had much movement since.  If I reach my goal, I plan on increasing it to raise money to fly a coach in with me.  It would be sad and lonely to be in the athletes area without a coach.

MGZ Visits, Part 1: Boracay

My friend from college had a month off between medschool and residency, so she booked a trip out to the Philippines. For the first part of our trip, we headed out to Boracay.  Boracay is known for its white sand beaches and is the most popular getaway in the Philippines. We booked a room in station 3 at my friend’s hotel for a discount. We had a large room with two double beds and amazing air conditioning.

Boracay is the perfect place for doing nothing and feeling totally ok about that. We spent the first day laying on the beach and attempting to get our tan on. It was hot though, so we absolutely needed to dip into the water. We got dinner and sunset drinks at Kasbah. After sunset we went to bed early, it had been a long day in the sun, plus a 5am wake up. 

  

On our second day, we got out on paddle boards in the morning, and laid in the sun for pretty much the entire rest of the day. We found an AMAZING breakfast spot that morning, too. 

For our third day, we checked out Puka Beach. The waters were clearer than White Beach and there were not as many obnoxious vendors. We got two lounge chairs, coconuts, and enjoyed the sun, view, and breeze for the afternoon. 

  

We finished off the trip at Spider House. This laid back, bamboo beach resort had great drinks, snacks, and view. You could jump off or climb down a ladder to cool off in the ocean. As a bonus, there were puppies. 

   
 
Overall, I enjoyed my lazy time in Boracay. To be fair, I did workout at CrossFit Boracay, where I did pull ups on bamboo bars, but overall it was lazy. I would stay in station 1 if I return though, less crowded and fewer vendors. 

Mt. Balagbag

I’ve been trying to come up with more adventures for the weekends.  I decided to hike Mt. Balagbag because it’s not too far from Manila. The top of the peak overlooks Manila and there’s a waterfall.  Plus, it’s ranked a 3/9 on the difficulty scale, so it seemed like a nice active recovery day.

We were surprised the day before the hike with a dog.  A friend’s friend shows dogs and one of the huskies was not show eligible, so he was up for adoption.  We brought Xena over to meet him, there was lots of tail wagging, and he came home with us that day.  The next day, we decided to continue with our plan to hike and bring both the pups.

Meet Conan! Our 2.5yr old Husky

Waze stopped working so we switched over to google maps, which led us onto a dirt road.  This made the hour and a half trip to the trail head about a 2 hour trip.  We hopped out and began trekking the mountain.  Although the trail was not challenging, the heat and sun beaming down made it a little strenuous.  Within five minutes we were sweating and the dogs needed water.

We came to a fork in the road and were told one way led to the waterfall and one led to the summit.  We hadn’t gone all that way to NOT go to the summit, so we decided to head up and then go to the waterfall.  We arrived at the summit and were told there was a path to one waterfall from the top, but it was steep.  We figured we would be ok and went for it.  Better to go that way than back down to the fork in the road.

Tired pups at the top of the summit.


Now, normally when someone in the Philippines says something is a far walk it’s not actually that far, it’s just that people are used to driving.  So, we assumed that when he said it was steep, it was an exaggeration.  This was no exaggeration.  It was steep, and slippery.  We were walking in a muddy creek bed, straight down hill.  The dogs were pulling us down full speed, I think nervous about the path and falling.  Conan is a husky, so he had some fur to cover his paws and stomach down the rocks, but poor Xena got beat up.  Whenever there was shade, she would lay down and refuse to get up.

The downhill trek to the waterfall took over an hour, probably closer to two.  We arrived, shocked to see a huge crowd of people.  Within seconds, we learned that Conan swims.  He walked right down to the water and got in, we’re fairly sure it was his first swim.  We enjoyed the cool water on our (my) sunburned skin.  We discussed the fact that the trek was harder than expected and so we were low on water – our 2 hour hike was already at a 4 hour hike and we had to get back.  We asked how to get to the easier path and were told there wasn’t one, we would have to go back the way we came.  But what about the easy path leading to that fork in the road?  That’s another waterfall.  Oh.  Shit.

 

Finally, some cool water!


We began heading back up the mountain, thankfully it was easier to go up than down, but we were VERY low on water.  After an hour we arrived at a house with a little store in it.  We bought ALL of their Gatorade, including the display bottle and guzzled it down.  It was the best damn Gatorade I’ve ever had.  Then we were happy to continue walking.  We took a path that didn’t go back up to the summit, but rather around the side, so it wasn’t too hard.

 

The hiking crew at the top of the mountain and the river at the end of the trek.


We arrived back at the trailhead six and a half hours after we started.  Hungry and ready to eat.  All in all though, it was worth the adventure.  The dogs did great, the company was fantastic, and it’s a good story.  We later found out we had hiked two summits, Mt. Balagbag and Mt. Maranat where the Maranat Falls are, instead of the Kaytitinga Falls.