Sabangan - Bontoc (This is too long for most people to read, so skip to the end)

After  waking up early and getting homemade eggs and toast from Sexy, Russel and I went down to see Sir Ernesto. Being one of the elders in town, he is respected and has the title councillor. Russel had been talking to him the day before and Ernesto had prepared a guide for me. After an introduction and some chatting, Russel left us and my guide Roger, or Kuya (big brother) Roger as I call him, went off to check out the local hills. Not really a tourist attraction, but nevertheless we went up to the Globe (a phone company) antenna in the hills. On the way we passed a high school that was also placed on top of a hill. This made me think of something; If we built schools on top of hills in Norway, that would force the kids to sweat up there everyday. Might be a solution to our growing obesity problem. I didn't see any fat kids in the village while I was there at least. Roger was an excellent partner and his English was good, so he could explain me things on the way. We walked down again for lunch with Ernesto. He was a cool guy and we got along well. Since I still had the rest of the day available, roger took me up to the Smart (another phone company) antenna on another hill. On the way down we stopped in his village and I got to meet his very pretty wife and one of his daughters. Well back in Sabangan, Ernesto and I went to the local elementary school. They were playing gongs and practicing the local dance. A festival was coming up and all the kids were walking around playing and dancing. The gongs could be heard all over the valley. When I started showing them the pictures I had taken of them, the whole thing turned into chaos with screaming and laughing kids stepping all over me and each other. The kids in these villages are super sweet and make even a rusty Norwegian heart beat a bit. After this, Roger was waiting with an invitation to drink a bit! The three of us started the process of emptying a Matador brandy bottle and a couple of Red Horse beers. Tonight was a local meeting with the military command in the area and since I was here, and the guys seemed to enjoy my company, they let me come with them. On the walk up to the meeting we met some other guys sitting and having a little evening party. We weren't the kind of lads that turn down such a surprise party, so we sat down with them and cracked some jokes and shared their booze. In this country people still have respect for elders and guests, so the youngest immediately gave us two of their chairs. After dwelling there long enough, we walked the final bit to the meeting. It was held in the elementary school and everybody was sitting on a 30 cm high chair in a horse shoe formation. It was very cute. As a representative for the University of Oslo and the Norwegian army, as Ernesto introduced me as, I told them bits and pieces of cold Norway. After some coffee and biscuits we went down and Ernesto offered me his guest room for the night. It was a very funny day and a good start of my village life.

The next morning I had breakfast with Ernesto. We liked conversing with each other and got along well. My plan for the day was to meet up with a group of guys coming from Manila to climb Kalawitan mountain. Russel had made some stuff up there and I brought with me a marker to tag the equipment with it's appropriate name. Ernesto, Kuya Roger, some more guides and I then went to the rendezvous point at a cafe with panorama view over the mountains. The crew from Manila were coming with a bus from Baguio. Meanwhile Roger and the guides prepared the equipment while Ernesto and I ate pancakes. The Tagalogs (people from Manila area) showed up and the leader Tesa was very eager to get drunk climb the mountain. After lunch and briefing, base camp awaited us. Only a small walk away were some huts and a nice camp area. We spent the day bathing in a cold mountain creek and eating food made over the bonfire. The guides started playing the gongs and doing the ritual dance around the fire while Ernesto was dancing the eagle dance. After some minutes of watching, we all ended up joining and it was actually very funny. Very different from Norway to see quite tough guides dancing with gongs without being drunk. Nico was probably the happiest eagle dancer of all. The Tagalogs got themselves a hut down in the camp while I went up in the hill side with two guides and shared a hut with them. The guides were Ronald and Buds, two really nice guys that I will remember forever since I promised to:). The hut used to be where Buds lived when he was younger. We went to bed early since the alarm was set to 4.30 am.

"Wake up Hawk!". That's my name in Asia for those who don't know. I went down and we had nice warm breakfast. It was quite cold during the nights in the mountains, so warm food was very welcome. We headed up for the summit after food. Buds and I went in front and had a good pace to the top. We chilled a bit up there and enjoyed the view from the trees we sat in. The others came with the food and we had a delicious lunch on the top. The sun was shining and life was good. We got some nice pictures and headed down again. At base camp, wine bottles and brandy waited together with food. Buds gave me a hand made miniature of a fish trap that he had made out of straws. He was pleased with the speed I had held down and rewarded me with this prize. It was very cool since I seldom get presents with some sentimental value attached to them. Sitting around the fire and tables, Tagalogs and guides, we all had an excellent evening with gongs and eagle dancing. I was supposed to dance the wedding dance with Lyka, one of the girls, but alas, Ernesto snatched her in front of me. I had such a great time and the guides sang songs for me and made promise not to forget them and that I would come back. Such an awesome group of guys. I wish them all the best until I see them again and everybody who likes trekking should definitely check out Sabangan! A great experience! As the evening got colder and darker, people started to tuck themselves in. Buds and Ronald kept it going by the fire, while Roger, a very drunk trainee guide, Lyka and Tesa sat at the table. They were pretty hammered and had half a bottle of vodka left when I went to bed. Apparently they finished it all and Tesa passed out on the table. The others managed well, but Roger's Indiana Jones hat felt tighter the following day. I went to bed alone, but I definitely wasn't alone. I could hear the rat but was never sure if it was under me, in my room or over me. In the end I was so tired I didn't care and slept until the next day.

Third day of the hike was a walk in the park, i.e. rice fields. At the village we split up and I said good bye to the Manila crew and the Sabangans. I had to move on to Sagada and I thanked them all for a brilliant four days. Russel and Sexy were home and gave me the instructions I needed for my next mission; delivering some books at a village close to my next destination. We parted and I headed for Sagada with the local bus. There I checked into a hostel for the first time since the one in the jungle in Sabah. A cave tour was on at one o'clock and I joined for a very cool experience under the ground. On the way to the caves. we saw hanging coffins and lime stone formations. Inside the cave were some beautiful rock formation, ponds, rivers and coffins. The group that went through included a guide, a gay Filipino, a fat, annoying Spanish girl and myself. The Filipino was funny because he knew he couldn't do anything and was laughing and scared all the time. The Spanish girl always did the opposite of what the guide said. smiled foolishly and explained that she knew best. Smiling to the guide all the time and asking why he is mad didn't make it any better. If you are a girl, which always says the opposite of the guide and does not follow instructions, and laugh stupidly after every hazardous thing you do, please change personality. The caves were amazing and definitely worth exploring. It was cold in Sagada and I actually went to bed because I was freezing. I also needed to get up early the next morning.

I got the 6.30 am Jeep to Bontoc. There I dropped off my stuff at a local inn and got some books that Russel had delivered. The owner drove me one kilometer up the hill before he got a flat tire. I got off, burnt my leg on the exhaust pipe for the n'th time and started walking to the village. Walking uphill and running the flats and downhill brought me to Guina'ang before schedule. I met the principal of the local school and we chatted a bit before I gave her the books from Russel and she took me to see some of the pupils. I visited two fourth grades and one fifth grade. I had a little talk about Norway and they got to ask questions. Now the kids know my grandparents names and that we don't have mammoths. The most fascinating  was the concept of winter darkness and midnight sun. They found that very hard to believe and very exciting. That is actually true for everybody, also the adults I tell it to here. I had lunch with two teachers and the principal. They had made delicious food which I could eat as much as I wanted from. But I had to say grace first. I shared with them a tone deaf "Å du som metter en liten fugl" and we started eating. (I just googled this little prayer and I found out I've been singing 23% of the prayer wrongly all my childhood).They also got themselves some fun facts from Norway. After running a kilometer I got a ride with a truck down to Bontoc and picked up my stuff and took the bus out of the mountain province.

The whole province reminded me a bit of Jesus. Son of god born in a stable. The best humans I've met, live in the humblest homes I've seen.



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