NOTE: I posted this status update to my Facebook wall on April 18, which lots of people seemed to appreciate. I'm reposting it here, with some additional details, for posterity's sake and to have a more permanent archive of it.
So I've been running three times a week for about nine months now, which alternates between being a complete joy and a complete slog. The benefits of all this exercise have frankly not been particularly dramatic, which I find annoying. My doctor says I'm in amazing health for my age, but it's small consolation.
Today made all that running worthwhile.
This morning, I went on a hike for a few hours around Lake Taal in the Philippines with a couple of young local Filipinas that are friends of my family. Lake Taal, and the volcano that sits in the center of it, is one of the natural wonders of the world — a "must visit" several tourists have told me. I certainly hoped so, because we had to get up mad early in Manila and endure a two and a half hour drive to get to the lake.
Arriving at the lake in town of Talisay, we negotiated with a local boatman to arrange transport over to the volcano. It was frankly a lot more expensive than I had counted on, but when will I ever be back here? The boat ride over to the volcano was actually pretty fun, if a little splashy and rough in patches. My companions were less enthused about the boat trip than I was.
When we arrived on the volcano side, our rented guide basically just took off in his flip-flops up the mountain path. My companions and I rushed to keep up. After a few minutes of walking up the dusty and sometimes steep path, the others in my group were struggling and complaining. We had to stop several times along the way for them to catch their breath. And when we finally reached the rest stop near the top, they collapsed into a sweaty pile. Other tourists around us were trudging tiredly up and down the path in a similar state.
I felt fantastic the entire time. Hiking up the path was an effort, but a pleasant one. I got to enjoy the local flora and fantastic views as we got higher and higher. It was a total joy.
When I got near the top of the volcano, I bounded up the last few stairs to the edge and looked out. This is what I saw. (Please click to embiggen! You'll thank me!)
It's one of the most incredible natural wonders I've ever seen! I felt like cartwheeling and jumping up and down.
The picture doesn't even do justice to the sight. Vulcan Point is the tiny island in the middle of the crater lake, which is in the middle of a volcano, which is in a lake, which is on an island (Luzon) in the Pacific Ocean. It's the inception of islands! Bwwwaauuu!
I could have sprinted the entire way back down the mountain, but I restrained myself because of my companions. Instead I played 80s pop songs on my phone and felt completely at peace.
Today made all those early morning runs worth it.