If you are claustrophobic, better stay in the wharf. If you love going into the unknown, then go for it!
I have an adventurous spirit. The Underground River in Palawan will be a breeze. Or, so I thought. When I put on my life-jacket, I know my life literally depended on it. I was smiling but a bit edgy. Can't swim but venturing out on an uncharted underground deep? What else was there to feel? Friends assured me it's exciting. It's a different experience. I gotta try or miss half of my life. If I won't, then I am too old to try when I go back. Sometimes friends can be too honest bordering on an unveiled sarcasm.
The river was sparkling. Palawan is the last frontier and lives up to its tag. Green waters, my favorite. This side of the Philippines definitely knows how preserve what should and must be. As the boatman rowed towards the entrance of what looked like a jagged cave, there was a rush of excited whispers. Darkness set in before some fumblings -then there was light. The guide was talking but I wonder if our group, majority of them foreigners, were in full attention.
Everyone was busy making their cameras work. In that pitch black condition, the points-and-shoots were almost hopeless, much more if you use the flash. Forget it. Still, brave souls were trying as the guide moves on with his work - listeners or none, undaunted.
He was saying stalactites and stalagmites, droned by mixed feelings and reactions. I cannot figure out the difference. The limestone formations were awesome - and unnerving. What if they go down on all of us, being there for hundreds of years? I can't swim. Not even in the bath tub. It was a 8.2km-long ride of my life. I am glad I learned it too late, or else I would have chickened-out.
It was serenely quiet inside. If you have a friend who talks too much - a trip to the river would do the trick to encourage the quiet. Maybe for a lot of reasons. Scared, I suppose. Numbed, most likely. Awed - oh, well. Most of the time, just simply stumped. When you want the most of the experience, you need to keep your mouth tightly shut. Or you lose it. I tried my best.
I forgot what I did for that hour-long journey to darkness and light. In some instances I tried to get my Nikon to work. The battery was almost spent with the effort. Then, I got mentally busy thinking about the "what-ifs". Gliding in a boat inside a cave with a bottomless water below you was not really my kind of thrill. As we got half-way, I began to enjoy the calm. It was hard to clearly see the rocks in varying edges and graying shades - but I know they're trying to tell people something. I am not sure what - but your imagination can take you as far as its limit.
As we reached the end of the ride, a new boat came in. New faces, new versions of how the trip went. It is so much like life - everything depends on how you view things. Are you going in or not? Once inside, will you enjoy or suffer in paranoia? Sink in or swim? I'd sink without the jacket, that's for sure (maybe even with one). Ah, well...getting a hang on a situation can sometimes be normal. We're not Superman. Name any super hero you want.
There are times when its good to accept that we also buckle. I wonder how this talk got into a supposedly-adventurous trip. Maybe I am descending, I need to get out of the cave. When we all got up from the boat, a chorus of sighs (relief?) took over the calm. Then, the chatter rose in a crescendo - both negatives and positives at the same time. One more exciting, life-defining trip done. Definitely, more coming up!