She had the plan firmly rooted in her mind. She knew what to do and how to get there. It was going to be great! It was her first opportunity to really branch out on her own. No friends or family to hold her hand this time. She was going to the lake inside a volcano inside a lake and the journey to get there would be a mission on its own.
Walking through the Filipino streets, she’d had no concerns so far and felt very much at home. The people being so friendly, the place so enchanting – even the dreary and dark alleyways had a special kind of charm to them. But now, today, she walked with purpose. Her destination very clearly written on a scrap bit of paper, the bus numbers engraved in her memory so as not to miss anything or waste any time.
As soon as she got to the bus station she felt unsure, it didn’t seem right and everyone she spoke to was no help at all – it wasn’t a good start. Little buses, big coaches, tiny tuktuks, they all seemed a little jumbled together. Perhaps this was the Filipino transport system she’d have to work at get used to! An old man in a rickety two-seated tuktuk (pretty much a tricycle) offered her the anticipated bumpy 3 hour journey in this tiny pedal-operated machine! Heavens no, that didn’t seem at all safe! Oh, how she could do nothing but giggle and politely decline. Particularly as the price was a little higher than the bus she intended on travelling by. Having been told that this would definitely be the right place to find her bus, she stood her ground and worked her way through all the various transport options in front of her. Walking around for a bit longer, she managed to get a little more information out of one of the drivers and even a few locals were helpful. She finally found what she was looking for – she knew she can’t have been too far off track! Thankfully the time spent researching her route had been worthwhile after all and the journey ahead was looking likely. Just a little wait and she would be off! Hopefully the coach was air-conditioned, even this early morning heat was more than she was used to…
After waiting for the arrival of a large, old fashioned coach, she was ready to experience the Filipino heat in a confined space. She even managed to make ‘friends’ with an interesting local man who was adamant to remain friends forever! She wasn’t sure the friendship would last so long but she had certainly been entertained on the journey. Part one of her journey was complete and she was over halfway, leaving the coach in search of a her next transportation. A tuktuk this time, but these carry around 20 people instead of 2 like the one she was offered this morning. And they have more than 3 wheels…
Again, worried it would be trickier than it looked, she nervously began wandering in the rough direction that she’d been directed. All around she noticed lots of different tuktuks. Many brightly decorated and all with different numbers or locations on the front, unsure, she frequently had to ask the locals where to she needed to go. The locals are so lovely and delicate, helpful in guiding you to your destination. Once inside the right tuktuk, she watched the local passengers pay by passing their money up and down the seats to the driver. In copying the locals, she passed her money up, although in the end she wasn’t really sure whether it made it or not, but it seemed to get her to her destination and she hadn’t been chucked off half way through! After a tense morning, things were looking up and her journey south to the lake was becoming easier. She was gaining confidence once again in her ability to embark into the unknown alone.
As she arrived at the edge of the mainland, she found herself on a much more deserted path than the busier town beforehand. Spying the volcano in the distance and across the water, she knew she was close to her target and happy to be on the right tracks. Wandering down to seek out where the boats left from, she saw a couple of other tourists doing a similar thing – well ‘tourists’, but they were ambling along quite happily so this looked like a possible venture to get her across to the other side of the lake. Bartering alone was always tricky, so for a decent price for a boat to take her across the lake she would have to be quite firm! She was so determined to get to that damned volcanic island whatever it took!
She spent a good 15 minutes doing some quick sums as she didn’t want to offend the locals, but she wasn’t intending to spend her week’s budget either. The price was high but bartering it down enough and just about brought it to her maximum spend. It was higher than she’d liked but after coming so far it wasn’t time to back down now! She hoped it was worth it, everything felt like such a gamble on the other side of the world! Although she was sure a few days down the line she’d find out it was a complete rip off! On the bright side this did mean she received a private boat ride across and back from the island and she couldn’t fault that, there was no other way after all.
On the other side she was greeted with mud – and lots of it! Guess you can’t expect red carpets on volcanic ash. Off she went, trekking up the main dirt paths, ignoring the locals’ comments along the way that she’d be lost, tired or lonely without a donkey to support her! Well, on this occasion she was prepared to follow the tracks, that boat journey had certainly cost enough for today’s trip! She had come this far, so she was strong enough to manage the walk (she hoped anyway)!
The path was bumpy and she immediately knew the harsh sunlight beating down on her delicate skin would prove to be both annoying and painful by the end of the day. But she didn’t care, the walk was inspiring; these dirt tracks guided her upwards and onwards, giving her the most beautiful view of the surrounding land and seas. Natural lands and waters, beautiful wild animals, local children playing around her and a true sense of peace and sanctuary became more and more real for her as she climbed higher and higher. Her goal was close, she could almost touch it.
Although mentally and physically tiring, the lonely walk to the top was exhilarating and fulfilling. As she neared the top, there were more and more locals, some with stalls or fresh produce for walkers to buy, others with typical Asian market products. Some locals just enjoyed living in the moment as new faces appeared throughout the day. The fresh air readily accepted against her skin as she reached the highest steps, where she could finally gaze upon the natural beauty she had worked so tirelessly to find. Looking down beneath her, the volcano centre was filled with luscious blue-green water, as stunning as the lake surrounding the volcanic island. She wandered along the tiny paths, small enough that if you took a wrong step you could fall either way. Either side you looked upon, you would find the depths of the lakes a long way down. As she looked towards the watery depths, she pondered the strength of this rickety wooden fence creating the protective zone around the inner lake. Far from solid, she pondered the brittleness of life. If left to the protection of some old wooden fence to save her – would she make it?
Stopping in her train of thought, she realised she’d need some pictures to remember this moment by. As she struggled to get the right angle, she noticed an older woman watching her. The woman watching found her struggle ever so amusing, the woman immediately proceeded to take the camera from her hand and began snapping away thousands of pictures in all sorts of positions to prove this success of the upwards climb! Slightly embarrassed but deeply heartened by the kind gesture and conversation she experienced with this older woman, she was proud to have found the lake inside the volcano inside the lake.