Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More exploring and tour guiding

Last Sunday Julia Holz, about whom we wrote in our last newsletter, returned with her friend Jill for one last 2010 trek on Corregidor. We had met Jill briefly last year, and she is another Corregidor hiker of many years’ experience. Since they planned to walk a familiar section of trail, one we had never explored, they invited us to join them. The plan was to walk the path which starts just before the War Memorial Zone archway and heads around the southern end of the “head” of the island. Since they were not planning to stay overnight, the decision about which upcoming fork in the road to take would be determined by our progress.

They wanted to start their day with a pancake breakfast, so we met Julia and Jill at the Corregidor Inn at 10:30. That left us more than three hours to hike, plenty on a warm, very humid day in early December. At first the trail was through an area of heavy vines that remotely resemble kudzu. This type of vine is taking over parts of the island, climbing up into nearby trees and completely draping some places. Since we were on the south side of the island, wherever the trail was open to sun it was overgrown with vines, tall grass, or small trees, but in shaded spots there was almost no growth at ground level. Just past an old pump house, we had to very carefully climb down from an old bridge and up the other side of a ravine. It took some hacking with the bolo to once again find the trail. Then we had mostly clear sailing along an old trail that had been cut into the side of the steep hill. Quite often pre-war sidewalk was partially visible.

We went past a trail that led down toward several of the old searchlight positions. Maybe someday when we are again looking for adventure we will try to see if it is possible to follow it. Eventually we came to a sharp turn back up the hill. When we got to the fork in the trail that would either take us to Battery Ramsey or Battery Geary, we decided to take the shorter path to Ramsey. Soon we ran into a massive growth of bamboo. We were not exactly sure where the trail was, all traces having been obscured. Steve hacked at the bamboo for a while, got completely tuckered out, and decided to try to crawl through it instead. After working his way maybe 50 feet, he still couldn’t pick up the trail. In the meantime, the ladies were all trying to find an alternate way through or around the bamboo thicket.

Steve crawled back out – but not before taking one wrong turn and getting really entangled. At this point we decided to try the trail up toward Geary. We walked a few hundred feet and gave up, having encountered another area of heavy overgrowth. We decided that we had best turn around and retrace our original path to make sure that Julia and Jill could make it back on time for the ferry. Since they were under time constraint and we were not, and since Steve was pretty exhausted from all the bolo work, Julia and Jill went on ahead while we took our time. It was frustrating. We knew that we had been close to picking up the trail, from which point we would have had a relatively short, uphill walk to Battery Ramsey, which is only across Middleside Parade Ground from our house.

Soon Julia and Jill were beyond hearing range, and the two of us meandered along the trail. We were happy to hear that they’d gotten back with enough time to shower before getting onto the boat. By the time we reached Bottomside, drenched in sweat, the ferry was preparing to pull away from the dock. We stopped at Mac’s CafĂ© for a late lunch/early dinner, especially enjoying some cold Coca Cola. In spite of the frustration, it was an enjoyable day, good time spent with friends, an introduction to a new-to-us section of trail, and well-earned rest at the end.

On Tuesday Steve led an alumni tour for the 1956 class of Ateneo High School, at that time a boy’s college-prep school in Manila. Our friend Ray Ong was a member of that class. He said that class-members gather as often as four times a year, sometimes in the Philippines and other times in the States. A total of eight classmates came for the tour, as did one spouse.

Then on Wednesday Steve guided for recently commissioned 2nd Lieutenants from the Philippine Marines. We included a few pictures taken during their tour. He really enjoys guiding for groups like the Ateneo alums and the Marines who have a special interest and appreciate his love of the war-time history.

While at topside during a recent tour, Steve was showing how the sun casts a sunspot – just what is the opposite of a sun shadow, anyway? – through the opening at the top of the parachute dome. (The word for such an opening at the top of a dome is “oculus” for those of you who, like we do, enjoy unusual words.) He was telling the guests that the dome is designed for the sunspot to fully illuminate the surface of the circular altar beneath the dome at noon on May 6 every year to commemorate the anniversary of the Fall of Corregidor. Usually when you are under the dome on a sunny day you can see the spot somewhere. The hole is circular, and the sunspot on the ground is oval in shape except when the sun is directly overhead. But on this day and time, the spot was higher, on the parachute structure itself. To Steve’s amazement it was neither circular nor oval, but shaped like an apple, so he photographed it with his phone and the picture is included here as an attachment. It took a minute for the group to figure out why the spot had such an unusual shape. There is a logical explanation. Can you guess what it is?

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