Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Weekend Work Retreat #2: At First Sight

Any friend of mine will tell you with great certainty that I will not survive a real camping trip. I'm too spoiled and love my creature comforts too much to want to rough it. I can't even take a bath if there's no hot water. I freak out over insects and anything that falls under the category of either amphibians or reptiles. I consider 2"-high grass as "tall" because it's tall enough to hide any number of creatures among its blades.

So when an opportunity came to try out something close to camping but with a good balance of creature comforts (hello, restaurant-quality meals, flushing toilets and hot bath water), did I look forward to it?

Are you kidding me? Of course not!

In fact, I spent the days before our trip praying we would be in one of the dorm rooms.
Imagine if you will, a trip the length of three hours, 50% of which was spent in slow-moving traffic. In slowly increasing heat. We left Manila at 8:30 or 9:00 in the morning. We arrived at our destination at 11:00. Hello, noontime heat.

Imagine arriving at your destination to see this lush, manicured garden and the clean, streamlined structure behind it.

I was already picturing a nice, firm mattress, fluffy pillows, fuzzy blanket...most importantly, air conditioning.

Don't get me wrong--I am not dependent on air conditioning. In fact, my husband has been trying to convince me to replace the air conditioner in our bedroom. A rather futile request as I generally refuse to use air conditioning these days because of my temperature-triggered asthma. And really, the mountain air was cool enough to somewhat stave off the heat of the sun.

However, that was precisely the reason I wanted air conditioning. Heat. Sun. Toasted me. I don't mind toasting for colour but toasting to the point of melting is another thing entirely.

You've seen something similar to the image on the right before. Yep, that was our camp site. Pre-set up, tents pitched, mattresses prepared, blankets folded on top of the pristine white pillows.

I hadn't even gotten inside the tent and I was already having a migraine.

Of course, I wasn't about to complain. We were there for business and not pleasure though in my line of work, there is a very very fine line between the two and this was one of those times that promised to straddle that thin line.

Immediately I set about opening the tent windows to allow the air in and through. The husband and the rest of the group, meantime, returned to the car for our things.

We're like wolves, our group. We always travel as a pack save for instances that call for a split team. Initially there were four of us. Now there are five forming the core of our team. There's myself, of course, and my husband. There's Myra, my husband's female counterpart who does the business discussions with clients; Lex--at work we call my husband "James" to avoid confusion--who's technically my male counterpart as he also does better with the artistic bits of our work (though Myra does quite well with the right-brained stuff too); and the latest life graduate and addition to the core group, Val. We'll add the entire lot of them to our list of "discussions for later."

Lex waited with me at the tents. We talked as we aired out the two we were to occupy and took pictures of the vicinity.

I think I was the only one not excited to see this structure. Because he gets on so well with women, many people have questioned Lex's inclinations. Believe me, no matter how apparently gentle, graceful, or even softly he moves and gestures, he is a man through and through.

This is bound to strike people as sexist but it is my opinion that you cannot get any manlier than being excited to go down a zip-line. And I don't mean that as a "guy thing" or a "girl thing." I mean adrenaline pumping, testosterone needed thrill. (Yes, ladies, we have testosterone too.)

The time being noon, however, we were requested to wait for our lunch to be prepared before we were taken to look around the camp. By then the sunlight was blinding and well settled into its zenith but because the wind was so strong and cool, the tents quickly became comfortable to lie down in.

Lunch was fairly long and leisurely and it gave us time to really adjust to the mountain air. It also allowed us a bit of a chance to look around some more and take in the entire area that was visible from the restaurant.

This here is a view of the gate and the administration office from where we sat, waiting for our lunch to settle down.

Oh the mixed feelings I had when I saw the dormitory rooms! I have to admit that I really wished we were staying there instead of camping out. Those thoughts were quickly squashed, however, when I saw their beautiful, beautiful backyard farm.

Yes, you read it correctly. A farm. In their backyard. Right there on the grounds were oodles and oodles of fresh produce just waiting to be harvested and turned into sumptuous meals.

Suddenly we realised why the food tasted so good.

Getting the freshest possible meat and vegetables per meal is a treat I've been enjoying since mid-2010 or so  and I must say that no matter how much a city grocer claims that they have the freshest produce around, you cannot, absolutely cannot get any fresher than picking the stuff right before it's to be cooked.

Woo, run-on sentence.

The two collages below are a mere sample of the diversity of local flora. Note that I use "local" loosely to mean plants found on the property, but not necessarily ones that are exclusive to the area. What I love most is that the plants at the front of the dorms have labels listing their common names and the genus and species of each plant. Why did I not label the photos I took? I forgot. ^^;

I cannot express fully in words the thrill of being able to reach out, pluck a leaf off a plant, and start chewing. That cool burst of sweet basil, the clean freshness of parsley, the woody sweetness of tarragon and yes, even that slightly mossy flavour of dill. I would have plucked that cabbage leaf too if they told us it was ready for harvesting.

After that trek (once the full set of photos are ready, you'll see the trek we had to make to get to the farm), we were quite ready to take a dip in the pool. But first, the zip-line.

Yes. We are back to that.

One thing that I ought to clarify is the fact that I don't have a fear of heights. Believe me, I will climb, oh like a monkey, I will climb. However, climbing is only fifty percent of what you do on a zip-line, is it not? In fact, it's closer to thirty or so percent of what is done on a zip-line, the other 2/3s being to free-fall for a few seconds before performing the aforementioned "zip." It is the free-fall that I fear the most and yes, it is the fall I fear, not the height from which I would fall.

That's quite sensible, right?

I will tell you right now that I happily walked away from this structure after snapping the next photo, the one of Lex and my husband standing on the lower platform of the starting tower.

At the time--yes, at the time--the closest I'd come to the zip-line route was this: the trek across the grounds, through the obstacle course, and up the opposite tower.

Did I do the obstacle course? Of course not. I'm not that kind of crazy. Besides, how silly would that have been to cross the obstacle course wearing a cardigan, dress, and leather shoes, and holding a digital camera?

I did the most sensible thing I could at the time whilst watching the four of them prepare to take the plunge: take vanity pictures of myself in the wind and sun, flaunting my carefully applied false eyelashes. You won't see those shots here though. Those shots are for another blog, the entry for which I will link to later on.

Admittedly, it was just as thrilling for me to watch them go down the zip-line as it had been for them to actually go down it. I took videos of each of them, of course, giggling gleefully as I saw the singular look of excitement on all their faces.

Excitement over, we headed for the pool, waiting for the sun to set before getting out again to get dressed and ready for our dinner meeting.

Naturally the discussions during that meeting will not be discussed here, not in full anyway.

The next post, however, will feature one of the results of that evening's meeting. Stay tuned!

PS. All photos related to this blog entry and more can be found here. Since there are quite a lot of photos, please be patient with me as I slowly resize and crop them as necessary. I am working on improving how my photo pages load. ^_^


  1. Haha! Beautifully captured in words! Can't wait for the next installment. =)


    1. You'll have to! I still have that proposal to write, haha!

  2. Is my browser not working? I can't see the pictures :(

    1. Many of the pictures are down right now as I've reorganised the folder containing them (I have them stored on Google+ albums). They'll all slowly come back up from Sunday to Monday. ^_^ Sorry about that. ^^;

    2. By the way, if you click on my Flickr widget, those are nearly all the photos I took that are related to this entry.



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