Yesterday was Tarrant’s birthday and we decided to rent another scooter and head up to Osmeña Peak, the highest point in Cebu, because nothing says “happy birthday, baby, I love you” like hiking up a massive fucking hill. Never let it be said that I don’t know how to treat a woman. A couple of German girls joined us for this little escapade. We collected our bikes, checked the map and decided on the route. Both Google and Maps.ME were in agreement; we should go the long way round. The four of us were like, nah, fuck that, let’s take the short cut!
Never, and I mean never, take the short cut when two maps suggest you just don’t. We swung off the highway and the road rapidly became unsealed, but not the kind of passable unsealed you often get as you cruise through barangays, as we progressed we were talking crevasses that lead to another fucking dimension. Huge gouges in the road, probably from torrential storm water during a typhoon. Locals astride proper dirt bikes looked at us in horror as we manoeuvred our tiny machines along what was left of the road. At more than one point Tarrant had to get off our scooter and get on the back of one of the German’s, she was a much better and more confident rider than me. A little too confident. I was slightly concerned I’d finish this day with less girlfriend than I started with.
We were at it for a good amount of time before we decided that this wasn’t going to get any better and we should probably turn back if we were to make it to the peak with wheels still attached to the bikes. I asked Tarrant to jump onto Lisa’s bike again for most of it, no way was I getting us back down this hill without depositing one or both of us in an abyss. Eventually we made it back to the road and took the turn off the maps suggested. If they were senient they’d be smugly side-eyeing us right now. I’m not saying these roads would win any awards in the “smooth as fuck” category of the annual road awards I just made up now, but they didn’t try to kill us. Oh and did I mention the weather? It wasn’t looking great. We pulled over once to shelter from a little downpour and by the time we got to Osmeña Peak the clouds had properly rolled in. We couldn’t even see the beast we were hoping to climb. Nevertheless, we rented walking sticks from a small child, paid our entrance fee and started the hike. Maybe it’d clear by the time we got to the top? And since when did I become so fucking optimistic?
Orrr maybe the exact opposite of that would happen. I’d like to say I’d never seen rain like it but I’ve spent enough time in the Tropics for that to be bullshit. In fact I’ve spent enough time in the Tropics to know better than to bother attempting any manner of being outside during the mere threat of rain. I deserved the instant soaking we got. The paths became small streams in literal seconds and we bolted back down the hill, we’d thankfully not gotten far, to take shelter. The thing with this rain though, it wasn’t the lovely, warm rain you often get. It was bastard freezing and we’d no way of getting dry, I was so cold I could have carved my name into the rock with my nipples. It was officially a washout. The rain eventually eased a little bit and we waterproofed up for the soggy ride home. Not to stay dry, that ship had already sailed, hit rocks and sunk with the entire crew on board. Between playing in waterfalls, sardine bothering and getting caught in sudden yet very definite downpours, I didn’t think we’d ever be dry again. It was just so we didn’t completely freeze to death. We figured we’d spend the rest of the evening doing shit we knew we were good at, such as applying junk food to our faceholes and getting utterly obliterated on cocktails the size of our heads whilst casually ignoring the fact we had to be up early the next day to be ridiculously active.
Soooo today we were jumping off waterfalls and not a single one of my internal organs wanted to. I offered my digestive system eggs and bacon as a peace-offering but it wasn’t having much of it. I think that friendship has ended. I could feel each one of my individual brain cells throbbing. A man came to pick us up in a tricycle to take us to the office where we’d be decked out in shoes, a life jacket and a helmet. Everything we’d need to go canyoneering at Kawasan Waterfall. Assuming we got there in one piece. After a safety briefing we were loaded in twos on the back of a dirt bike operated by a man with no concept of careful riding.
He flew down the highway at warp speed and didn’t seem to slow down much when we turned off onto unsealed roads. I’ve never hugged a man so tightly before. Tarrant was sat at the back, hanging on for dear life too. At one point he asked me if I was scared and I confessed that yes, I was probably about to shit myself. He said the roads weren’t good. It’s not the fucking roads, mate, it’s your bloody driving that’s got me sorting through my head for a suitable deity to pray to. I couldn’t stop my brain from calculating exactly how much flesh I’d lose if we were to crash on these roads at this speed. It was all I could do not to kiss the ground when we finally arrived.
We still weren’t quite there yet, we had to walk a bit to get to the river we’d be following downstream but it’s not too traumatic, especially for your eyeholes. It’s supremely beautiful around here, and when we finally got to the canyoneering itself? Mate. This place. It’s the sexiest fast moving conglomerate of H2O roaring over gorgeous chunks of rocks and cliff faces. The activity itself is, of course, an adrenaline packed fun-fest but every now and then you just have to stop and look around and think about where you are, the thousands of years of effort that went into creating this superb wonder of nature you’re free to play in. As long as you have a helmet. And several guides. Talking of the guides, they were equal parts hilarious and professional, as if launching yourself downstream, off boulders and waterfalls, wasn’t entertaining enough as it is.
I’ll admit it, I didn’t do all of the jumps, partially because my ears often hurt like hell when I jump from height into water, partially because I’m a massive pussy. But the jumps I did do I loved. When we got to the epic ones at the end I took the easy walk down and watched the others. My guts cringed just at the thought of having to get that close to the edge of a cliff that high. I do not do well with high places and the older I get the more painfully aware I become of my own mortality. But just look at the colour of that water. Isn’t it just the kind of water you want to immerse yourself in? It’s so inviting, it’s practically beckoning you to jump in. Ideally from a height of five metres or less.
We made our way along the river following the guides’ instructions. Everyone was going for all manner of ways to get rapidly from a high place to a low place with swan dives and back flips with varying degrees of grace. I stuck with the classic pencil drop. An oldie but a goodie that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially when your limbs have a tendency to do whatever the fuck they want when you’re too busy concentrating on not hitting the water face first. Cayoneering is a fantastic way to highlight exactly how little control you have over your own motor functions.
We stopped for a break where some women had set up barbeques and were selling all manner of dead shit on a stick. I definitely partook in that, I hadn’t eaten since my half-breakfast and if I didn’t eat soon I’d start cannibalising the slowest of the group. Probably shouldn’t have. A few jumps, a bit of walking, and some comedic attempts to look good on a rope swing (pro tip: no one looks good on a rope swing, okay?) and my stomach decided that it very much didn’t want anything in it anymore and began attempting to expel it through my arse. I had to do that shuffle-bolt you do when you have to try and clench whilst walking really fast. Fortunately Kawasan Falls weren’t far by this point, and there were toilets there on account of it being a tourist hell-trap, and I made it with nano-seconds to spare. Take it from me, kids; don’t attempt to fit all the mango daiquiri in the world into your liver the day before a high adrenaline activity if you intend to consider questionably cooked meat of dubious origin appropriate nourishment.
I didn’t realise everyone was waiting for me as the owner of the last remaining functioning GoPro. The rest of the group, minus Tarrant because she didn’t fancy throwing herself of this jump either, were perched precariously at the top of the last and biggest jump, waiting for me to come and film them. Oops. Sorry, guys. They all executed it beautifully and with minimal strangled screaming. We spent a bit of time just chilling at Kawasan Falls and I pretty glad we did it this way, canyoneering to them rather than just visiting. Firstly because it was a metric shit tonne of fun, but also because I think they’re so hyped up, if you just rocked up you might be a bit disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, they’re lovely of course, but they’re very busy and commercialised now.
After we’d gotten back to the office we’d started and gotten dry and changed we were dropped back in Moalboal where we harassed a bunch of sardines again before finally earning the forgiveness of my stomach with rice noodles and apple flavoured beer.
Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines
Stayed at: Moalboal Backpacker Lodge