Recently we spotted a set of steps going up from the road between Middleside Barracks and Battery Way. We walked up them, found we were on an overgrown sidewalk, walked up another set of steps, then another, and found that the sidewalk kept going. We ran into some rather serious overgrowth, much of which was very thorny. Since we did not have our bolos with us, we decided to come back some day with them and leather gloves and maybe carve out a new trail. Since we could see what appeared to be a clearing in the distance, we hoped that it would lead to the hospital.
A couple of weeks later, when we were looking for something to do, we decided to take our bolos and start clearing out the trail. We began by cutting a tree root that had grown across one of the stairs, causing dirt to pile up and making that particular step unsafe. After clearing the root and dirt away, we kept going up, whacking small branches that were hanging down over the trail, and small trees that were growing on it. Quite often we had to cut another root or vine growing over the trail, since they act as trip wires.
Soon we came upon a rather pretty palm, but knew from experience that looks were deceiving. According to Ronilo it is a rattan palm. Each branch has very sharp spikes running up the spine. In addition, the palm is loaded with thin vines that are almost like razor wire, and which grab onto anything they can, human flesh included. The good news is that it is one way only, so that if you run your fingers with the fine thorns it’s like feeling dental floss. Reverse direction, however, and it is extremely sharp. We simply call it razor wire for lack of the real name: razor wire is appropriate enough.
Another thing: ants apparently love rattan palms. These are tiny ants, ones that Steve would never see due to his weaker eyesight. However, if you walk under a rattan branch and take a bolo to it, the branch detaches easily, but so do the ants. Steve knew immediately he was in trouble because he could feel the little buggers all over his face and shoulders. Before he knew it he was being bitten under his shirt on his chest, and also all over his right (whacking) arm. He immediately flicked his ear with his hand, sending both ants and glasses flying. Then he tore off his shirt and began smacking it on the ground to clear it of ants while Marcia was trying to smash the ones she could get that were running all over him. The bites really stung! When most of the ants were knocked off, Marcia dabbed the obvious bite spots with cortisone cream. (That and Neosporin spray go in her pocket whenever we go trekking.) The stinging only lasted 5-10 minutes, and didn’t bother him again.
So we continued boloing and making good progress. Because of the underlying concrete sidewalk, often we could progress 50 or 100 feet before we’d come to another clump of bamboo or rattan. At one particularly thick bunch of rattan, with Steve being extremely careful not to walk underneath while he was whacking, all of a sudden he began hollering about having something under his shirt. To him it felt as if there were a big something-or-other running up his belly. He was pretty freaked out, wondering what kind of a bite he might end up with from it. So Marcia, further up the trail working on some simpler clearing, was treated to hearing Steve yelling, “Help, spider, snake, tarantula!”
When he finally stopped jumping around and screaming bloody murder, he realized that he had a double strand of razor wire that had somehow gotten inside his shirt. One piece ran from lower left to upper right and out his neckline, and the other was down his right shirt sleeve. How it managed to get all the way in there he has no idea, and it took Marcia a couple of minutes of careful extraction to get it out, but actually, other than the scare, very minor scratches, and a few more ants to murder, no harm was done.
We could see off in the distance that a couple of big trees were blocking the trail, but not so big that they couldn’t be walked over. We figured that once the trail was done everyone would want to walk it and someone would chainsaw the trees off the path. At about the same time we realized that the opening was not the opening for the hospital at all, but rather just the main road as it wrapped to the left before heading back right toward Battery Way. Also, smack dab in the middle of where the sidewalk appeared to go was a bomb crater the size of a large swimming pool. At that point we decided to call it a day and headed back, thinking that someday we would try to find where the trail comes out on the other side of the bomb crater, and hoping it still leads somewhere interesting. In the meantime we are calling it “Steve and Marcia’s Trail to Nowhere, Number One.”
On a sadder and happier note both, we had a pair of Palawan Blue Flycatchers fly into our plate glass front door yesterday. According to our bird guide they don’t even belong here, but we are sure that’s what they were, maybe escapees from the aviary which used to be here. One died instantly, while the other appeared at first to have a broken wing. Marcia gave it some water and set it on a sheltered perch and then we left it alone. When we came back after a walk an hour later it was still standing on the perch. However, as soon as we approached it the bird flew into the nearest palm tree, so we believe it’s going to be alright.