When we arrived at the waiting shed a bunch of the guys from the village were there to meet us. They had brought their carabao (water buffaloes) out earlier that morning and the guys loaded them up with all the supplies to be taken into the village.
The hike into our friends' village generally takes them about 2.5 hours. It took us 4.5 to get in and 3.5 to get out. This was due to a number of things: lots of mud, lots of kids (we have 3 and our friends have 6) and some out-of-shape adults....
So, soon after loading the carabao we set off down the trail- double socks pulled high, rubber boots on and water bottles slung around our necks on straps. Squeaky was able to climb on a carabao right away. The other girls were a little scared at this point but soon warmed up to the idea after slogging through the mud. It only took them a few steps to be convinced but unfortunately it took a little longer to hail a carabao.
Button surprised me the most. As our most dramatic child I had anticipated a struggle with her on the trail. I thought that she wouldn't handle the mud very well and would be terrified of the carabao. I failed to remember that her strong character could also serve her in a positive way. From the very beginning she was convinced that "It will be hard Mommy, but God will give us the strength to take each step." She was my little motivational speaker and encouraged me by her good attitude and perseverance.
The first obstacle of the hike was the mud. After the typhoon and torrential rains of the proceeding weeks the hike was like trying to walk through a knee high chocolate cheesecake. Our boots kept slurping and slucking and getting stuck. Button and Winnie lost their boots many times. We were covered in mud after the first few minutes on the trail.
(An interesting sidenote: I was able to witness some of the locals walking this trail on our way out. They were not covered in mud and managed to emerge at the waiting shed looking nice and put together- ready for a day in town. I do not know how they do that.)
The second main event was the crossing of a river. It was about 15 minutes into the hike and the water was higher than usual. It actually felt good and refreshing as we waded across and carried our boots high above the water. The men from the village helped get the kids across so that none of the little ones had to wade. The water was up past our hips.
On the other side of the river we all put our socks and boots back on and prepared for the main challenge of the hike: the BIG HILL. I'd say the Hill is 1/3 of the hike. So if the whole hike is 3 hours, you'd spend an hour of it going up this hill. We spent 4.5 hours on the hike so you do the math. It was a killer mountain. We're talking slippery mud, sharp incline and never-endingness.
This is where Button surprised me the most. By this time Winnie had hopped on a carabao and was riding up in style, but Button was determined to climb her mountain. She stayed by my side and climbed that thing. Finally, when we were about 5-10 minutes from the top a guy came by on a carabao and offered to give her a ride. We encouraged her to take it, but she said, "But I have to go to the top! Mommy said I had to climb the whole hill." I released her from that commitment and she finally got on the carabao.
Here are some beautiful pictures from that hill.
Some of the rest of us: I can hardly believe I'm including this absolutely horrible picture on here. See my little trooper girl? She's wearing her daddy's socks pulled up to her knees because she was getting some blisters.
My poor little Squeaky. She had to walk up part of the hill. It was about at this point that she started getting sick to her stomach. She'd walk a little way, then throw up. Walk a little, throw up some more. When she finally was able to climb back onto a carabao she was so weak she could barely lift her foot over a rock on the trail.
She continued to get sick over and over while the carabao driver gently patted her back and helped her lean waaaaaaaaaay out away from his carabao. She told me later that she knew he wouldn't understand her English. "I didn't know what to say to him, Mommy, so I just kept saying "Para, po. when I needed to throw up." Para, po means "Stop, sir" in Tagalog. She also felt bad for him because he had a lot of difficulty getting his carabao to stop each time. It always took a long time for the carabao to listen. So Squeaky said, "I just kept saying to him, 'I'm so, so, so, so, so pasensya.'" Pasensya means 'sorry' in Tagalog.
Here we passed some people working in their rice fields.
After that hill we just kept plugging along the rest of the way, stopping when we needed a rest. That's probably why it took us a million years to get there.
I don't have a picture of the funniest thing that happened. Right as we were entering the village we crossed a section of the road that was horribly muddy. It was always a guessing game to know which side of the road to walk down. Which side would lead to getting stuck and which side had a way through? So at this particular section I definitely picked the wrong spot to go. I got stuck. Mud up to the top of my boots- stuck, stuck, stuck.
I tried to pull my foot out but was unsuccessful. Not only that, but I lost my balance and fell down in it. It is pretty hard to get up out of mud like that. Dennis stood beside me, partially stuck himself and yanked on my arm. At this point several girls from the village trotted by in their bare feet and didn't seem to have one single problem with the mud. They were laughing. And it was funny. I can't remember how I finally managed to get up but I know it included walking in the mud in my socks.
Stay tuned for the final installment of our adventure.