I consider myself a fairly adventurous chap. (Side note: I don’t know why I’m suddenly referring to myself as a “chap” or why I’m suddenly typing with a British accent in my head?)
While I’m a lot closer to 50 than I am to 30 (or even 40!), I still get out there and give it a go. Traveling around the world most of my life and living overseas full time since 2011, there are plenty of outings, activities, and adventures in nature that get me far out of my physical comfort zone.
I’ve been skydiving, ice climbing, done plenty of hiking up unforgiving peeks, deep ocean swimming, surfing, hang gliding, trained at Muay Thai, survived one of the toughest karate camps in the world, horseback riding, zip lining, swam with sharks more than once, and much much more.
Granted, it’s not always pretty, as I have a stiff back, creaky knees, and am too overweight to be the springy and spry athlete I was 20 years ago. But I still get out there and do my best when it comes to physical activity and exploring nature, and the vast majority of times I can stumble through it unscathed and with my pride relatively intact.
However, that wasn’t the case during my recent visit to Siargao, a lush and full island in the Philippines that’s also the surf capital of the country. Heading out to the Magpupungko Rock Pools, where there are some astoundingly cool natural swimming holes you can dive and splash in during low tide.
On the way there, my trike driver asked if I’d like to stop at the caves. “Not particularly,” I said, as I’ve been caving before and like it well enough, but wanted to get to the rock pools while the tide was still low. He promptly ignored my answer and brought me there, and before I knew it, I had paid an entrance fee and had a guide leading me down a steep path into the jungle.
We arrived at the entry point to the caves and that’s immediately when things got hairy. The guide led me through mud puddles and wet rocks to the cave’s opening. To get in, I merely had to stand out on one rock and jump onto another big rock, landing perfectly on its small surface with nothing to hold onto. The other problem was that I was wearing only an old pair of flip-flops with worn bottoms, had no waterproof gear, and also had to carry my small pack. Not only was that difficult enough without wiping out, but once we got in the cave, it was pitch dark (of course) but the guide only had one small flashlight – good enough for him but didn’t do me much good.
I was supposed to jump from rock to rock in my wet flipflops until I reached three pieces of bamboo that were tied together underwater like scaffolding. However, between the algae that grew on it underwater, the smooth surface, the water, and my smooth flip flops, I was slipping and sliding and falling all over the place, with no safety gear.
To be fair, the other tourists were far better equipped with aqua shoes with treads and waterproof gear, and Filipinos literally grow up walking and climbing around in flip flops in the rain, so its easy for them. But after nearly cracking my head open as the cave got even narrow, I politely tapped out and reversed course and went out the front, and up to the road again.
With only a few scrapes and my pride hurt, I chalked it up to bad planning by the local guides, a lack of proper equipment, and the fact that I’m no agile contortionist anymore. Ya win some, ya lose some!