Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Snapshots from Japanuary

Among skiers, Japan as a ski destination is kind of a holy grail. People gush about how much it snows, how there’s powder all the time. It’s the most amazing place they’ve skied, everyone says. I went to Hokkaido for the last two weeks of January, pursuing the myth of Japanuary. Having high expectations is a dangerous game, and although I had a great time, I want to be honest.

Skiing in Japan, like all places, has its ups and downs. There’s powder, but there’s also competition for it. There’s amazing tree skiing, but the runs are short because the resorts don’t have big vertical fall.


Look, I jumped! Both my skis were in the air!

The terrain was insanely fun, if you are willing to punch a couple of trees. Most of skiing in Japan was mastering the art of squeezing between increasingly tight trees to find an original line. Audun had a little too close encounter with a tree in Rutsusu on the first day, and managed to break his wrist. We spent 4 hours in the emergency room in Kutchan, where they get so many tourists that they actually had translators on hand.



With Audun resting up his arm, I explored the enormous Niseko resort with friends Vibeke, David, Hilde, Solenne and Lars. In Niseko, almost everyone is foreign. Most of the people working in shops and restaurants are Australian. It is, in fact, the least Japanese place I have been in Japan. There’s also an enormous amount of competition for the powder, especially anything that’s remotely life accessible. 

Thumb P1100056 1024

David digs the view of Mt Yotei from the backcountry of the Niseko resort.

If you’re willing to earn at least some of your turns, it's much easier to find untracked snow. With the help of Hilde, who had skied in the area before, we managed to find the promised powder and enjoyed great turns. The Niseko resorts cover about half of a round, volcanic mountain. If you climb up to the top of the mountain and ski down the backside, you can be in for a treat.

Thumb P1100072 1024

Skinning back to Niseko from Goshiki onsen

It only took a couple of days for Audun to decide that skiing with one arm in a sling was a good idea. Honestly, if you are not skiing, there’s not a ton to do in Niseko other than visit onsen, hot springs. (We spent some time in onsen as well, unfortunately you’re not allowed to take photos).

Thumb P1100078 1024

The one-armed telemarker in action

The snowfall seems to vary locally in Hokkaido, and we observed that a ski area called Kiroro was getting a lot more snow than Niseko. It turned out to be more than worth the 1 hour drive to ski all day in thickly falling snow. The world was our playground in Kiroro. That is, after we had stood in line to get the required backcountry passes. There are lots of rules about going off piste in Japan, and they vary from resort to resort. Coming from Norway, where the very idea of restricting an area from skiers is laughable, it was sometimes hard to be patient.

Good things come to those who wait!

Thumb P1100090 1024

Hilde blasts through the pow in the thickly falling snow in Kiroro.

Another problem I encountered was the ‘everything was better last season’ mentality. According to most of the people we talked to, this was a bad snow year in Japan. When we said things like, “Well, there’s still a lot of powder compared to Norway!”, people would shrug it off and continue to insist that this was the worst snow year ever, and that everything was terrible. I guess this is true of most places - you remember the epic days and forget mediocre ones.


Vibeke smiles in anticipation of POW!

 On our friends' last day, we skied in Niseko again, for once in bouts of sun. Despite competition for the powder, we found of own little powder paradise - albeit with some traversing - in the Annapuri area.


Powder and bamboo shoots.

After our friends left, Dad arrived. We started by taking him to Kiroro, which upheld the standard from our previous visit. And now we knew how to get in line for the backcountry passes as fast as possible!

Thumb P1100138 1024

Dad gets aggressive in Kiroro.

The next day brought high winds, and we feared that many of the lifts would be closed. Audun decided to rest his broken wrist again, while Dad and I decided to go skinning on the backside of Niskeo mountain. The strong winds and low visibility virtually limited us to skiing below treeline. Despite the adverse conditions, the snow collected throughout the day and we got in some laps in deep pow in the trees.

Our last day in the Niseko area, the weather had cleared off and we hoped that the storm had deposited lots of snow at the Rutsutsu ski area. Unfortunately a lot of it had been packed by the strong wind. But it you bypass the ‘Danger! Keep out!’ signs and are willing to skin out afterwards, good things can come your way...


Ready for an adventure!

Next we travelled to the Furano region, for a new host of mountains to explore. We rented a Japanese style apartment on the outskirts of Furano town, and were delighted when we realized we could go skiing right out of our back door!

Thumb P1100165 1024

Skinning through the trees in Furano

It was a beautiful, but very cold day in Furano, and although the snow was good, the terrain just out of our back door wasn’t steep enough for much fun. We got a map and some advice from an Australian working in a ski shop, and decided to try a ski tour in the Tokachi mountains the next day. This turned out to be a total bust - the wind had collected the snow on the west-facing aspect near our apartment, but blow it off the main, east-facing aspects of the Tokachi mountains. What I can’t recommend enough, however, are the onsen (hot springs) of Tokachi. Fukiage Onsen is hands down the best onsen I’ve been to in Japan. There were amazing outdoor pools, built out of natural stones, with all different temperatures of water.

Despite the disappointing skiing in Tokachi, we now knew that all the good snow was on the west facing slopes near our house. We just had to find the right slope. After pouring over our topo maps, we picked out a route that looked promising, up some slopes near Ashibestudake. It was a total gamble - we didn’t even know if we were allowed to ski in the valley we were headed to!

The gamble paid off. Big time. It turned out a group of Americans was being guided on the same mountain as we planned to climb. They were being driven in on scooters by some locals, packing down the flat skin into the valley into a manageable trail. In addition, we could trade off with them breaking trail. And in this serious deep snow, breaking trail was hard work.


I’m smiling because I don’t have to break trail, so everything is easy.

It was totally worth all the work. Although we didn’t make it up to the top of any mountain due to low visibility and potential avalanche danger, our descent through the trees was the best of the trip. Waist-deep powder, completely unmarked, all for us. No worrying, just point your skis downhill and fall with them.

Thumb P1100183 1024

Audun cruising through the pow

Thumb P1100220 1024

Dad finds an open glad in the trees.

Thumb P1100201 1024

Audun didn’t let his broken arm stop him jumping off stuff.

Suffice to say we went back the next day. Unfortunately the temperature had risen, and powder had compacted. It wasn’t the same magic as the day before, but we still got in some good turns.


Heavier pow, but still so. Deep!

On our final day, a big storm rolled into Furano, and we decide try our luck with the lifts. The snow that fell added to the already deep powder, compacting into extremely heavy, almost cement-like snow. It was hard to move forward off of the groomed pistes. At one point, I was actually stuck in waist-deep snow for a couple of minutes, kicking with all my might to get out. In the end, we had to contain ourselves to the pistes - there was simply too much snow!

Sayonara for now Japanuary - you were wonderful!

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What's up 2017?!

My crew of merry friends rang in the New Year with the traditional activity (swimming in an icy lake) once again.

Thumb DSC06549 1024

Sigmund exits the ice.

It was windy, and fresh snow had covered over the hole that had been dug in the ice the previous day. Luckily we mark the swimming hole with sticks, so it was a quick job to recover it!

Thumb DSC06506 1024

The worst part is after you get out of the water - walking on the snow to your towel is sooo cold!

The snow that covered the swimming hole also yielded the promise of skiing after a Christmas of rain and ice. We put in some laps behind the cabin where we were staying, and were rewarded for our hard work breaking trail with powder runs. New year, fresh snow!

Thumb DSC06859 1024

This is the definition of fun skiing. 

As it turns out I’ve got a lot already planned for 2017! Here’s what there is to look forward to, adventure-wise:

This weekend I’m headed for Hokkaido, Japan for two weeks to ski the famously abundant Japanese powder, woohoo! 

For the first half of 2017, I’m shifting my main training focus from running to biking. I, along with a group of friends, will be riding Jotunheimen Rundt in early July. This bike race, touted as ‘Norway’s hardest cycling sportive’, is a single-stage, 440km loop of the Jotunheimen mountain range with 4609 meters of climb. Ouch. Did I mention I’ve never done sportive before? It’s probably going to take at least 20 hours, making in my longest race yet. On the bright side, I will use the bike training as an excuse to find some interesting and mountainous long bike rides around Scandinavia.

Still, I’m not about to quite running! I’m planning to run in smaller amounts, just like I've typically biked a couple days a week even when I was running a lot. I will try to race a spring 10K, probably Fornebuløpet in Oslo, at the end of May, before I once again compete in the Birkebeinerløpet in early June. I’m not expecting to PR in any of these events, since I will mostly be riding my bike, but I’ll do my best to get close to my old times.

After (hopefully) finishing Jotunheimen Rundt, I hope bounce back fast enough to run Tromsø Skyrace - but the extreme, 55K version this time. Since there’s only a month between the two events, I’m counting on having generally good fitness from riding bikes and mental fortitude rather than specific training for this one.

Next, in mid-August, Audun and I are getting married! (Read about the proposal here.) We’re going to tie the knot surrounded by friends, family and beautiful mountains on the west coast of Norway, in Sunnmøre. Then Audun and I are planning a unique mountain biking honeymoon. We’re planning a bikepacking expedition on the Jotunheimen trail from Gjendsheim back home to Oslo. With all the international travel I’ve been doing in the last couple years, I’m looking forward to focusing on more local adventures. Norway really is an incredible playground to explore!

My final plan for the year is Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, a 3-day, 116 km stage race around Monte Rosa through Italy and Switzerland. I’ve only visited this region in the winter before, and I’m looking forward to seeing it in summer dress. Expect spectacular alpine vistas and a lot of pain as I tackle my longest race ever.

Here’s to an adventurous 2017! What do you have planned?

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Friday, December 30, 2016

What I learned about running in 2016

Let’s talk about running.

Thumb DSC00281 v1 1024

A midsummer training day on Gaustatoppen.

It’s been a great race season for me. I’ve raced more than ever and reaped the rewards of solid training. I even managed to win a race, which I half-joke will probably end up being the high point in my running career! Despite all the success, I’ve experienced my fair share of ups and downs (a twisted ankle at Tromsø Skyrace and the death march to the finish at Oslo Ecotrail come to mind). I don’t offer a whole lot of advice on this blog - there are so many people more qualified to give advice than me - but hopefully some of the lessons I’ve learned can be useful to the rest of the world.

[I wrote a similar post about my 2015 season which you can read here.]

Consistency is king, even if it means you aren’t maxing out the mileage. Do you want to know a secret? Sometimes I think that all serious runners run way more than me! It’s easy to follow fast runners on Strava and other social media, and feel utterly inferior to them. But the fastest runner isn’t the one who trains the most - it’s the one who trains the most without getting injured. It’s better to dial back and run consistently within your current capabilities, than get injured because you are too eager. I didn’t focus too much on trying to push my weekly mileage that much this year, and I believe that’s partially how I got through a tough season uninjured.

12640220 10156524546000512 1664742662952247956 o

Running in January in the forest in Bygdøy, Oslo. Photo by Zoe

Start where you want to finish. My biggest regret this year was starting too far back in the field at the OCC. It is mentally taxing to go slightly slower than you want to all the time, and physically taxing to get past people on narrow single track. It’s probably just as taxing to start too far forward, burn out and be passed for an entire race.

In previous years I’ve been a middle-half-of-the-pack runner, and I like to start conservatively, but in the last two seasons I’ve progressed to an upper-fourth-of-the-pack runner. I have to start racing like one. My new simple rule is that you have to look at your competition, imagine where you think you are likely to finish, and start approximately there. I tested out this theory at Hanase Trail Run in Japan, and my more aggressive start helped me win the race. 

Thumb DSC 6368 1024

Happy and surprised that my aggressive race tactics paid off at Hanase Trail Run. Photo by Kyoto Triathlon Club.

Know when to take a break. No matter how much I wish I was a training machine that recovered instantly and never needed time off, the truth is sometimes I need a little extra rest. In late May and early June I raced 3 times in as many weeks. When my right hip flexor start to twinge, instead of panicking about missing mileage, I took two weeks off and rode my bike instead of running. That way I could get back into training for my late summer races without a nagging almost-injury.

After winning Hanase Trail Race in late October, I basically stopped running and starting binge watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Even though my body was feeling fine, I simply wasn’t motivated to get out the door, and I gave myself permission to take the time I needed to find that motivation. Two months later, I’m totally stoked about next season and ready to train again!

Having a little extra leg speed is nice, even in mountainous races. This year, I put in a focused block of training leading up to the Sentrumsløpet 10K to increase my leg speed. While some people might argue that 10K is about endurance more than leg speed, for someone like me who spends most of the year loping around the mountains at a crawl, track intervals added a whole new dimension to my training. Having a little extra speed in the books makes slower paces feel easier, and that’s always good!

Thumb DSC 0004 1024

Track workouts can also make you feel nauseous.

And finally: wanna race big mountain races? Put in some big days in the mountains! Even though varying my training, like doing track work, was a good idea, the key to completing a big race like the OCC is specificity. The main challenge of the OCC was the amount of vertical (and, as it turned out, the heat, but that came as a surprise). I simulated that by putting in some big vertical (1500-2500m) days in the Norwegian mountains. I didn’t worry about the pace - some of those days were literally hikes - but knowing I had made it through a 2500 vertical meter day made the thought of tackling 3500 vertical meter that much easier.

Thumb DSC00418 1024

Technical ridge traverse on Gaustatoppen.

What lessons did you learn in 2016?

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Cycling in the French Alps, part 2

In June, Audun and I spent a week cycling through the French Alps. For various reasons I never finished writing about that trip, but maybe pictures from the warm, sunny Alps are just what you need to end the year? You can read the first post about that trip here.

Day 4: La Mure - Le Bourg d’Oisans + Alpe d’Huez. 99.3K, 2330 vertical

From La Mure, we pedaled up the road under the snow-capped peaks of Les Écrins up to Col d’Ornon. The climb was tranquil, but surprisingly difficult. It had looked like a pimple on the elevation profile for the day, dwarfed by what was to come.

Thumb P1090663 1024

Poppies on the way up Col d'Ornon

We didn’t see many cyclists until we reached the top of the col. On the descent, more and more cyclists appeared, some climbing uphill, others taking in the view, while a few daring souls zoomed past us on the downhill at death-defying speeds. It felt like we were following a trail of ants to their nest, the nest in this case being the center of all things road biking in France: Bourg d’Oisans.

Thumb P1090668 1024

Audun takes in the view on the descent to Bourg d'Oisans

I have passed through Bourg d’Oisans once before, on a rainy October day shortly after purchasing my first road bike. Bourg d’Oisans in June is a completely different town. There were literally more bikes than cars. For the first time on our trip, lycra was the exactly right thing to be wearing.

We found our hotel, but the proprietor was out cycling (because why else would you live there really?). So we stopped for lunch in the shade, discussing our next move. Obviously we were going to ride Alpe d’Huez, the central attraction in Bourg d’Oisans. But I vaguely remembered seeing the pro riders descend down the back side in last year’s Tour de France. Audun found some information cards in the hotel reception, and we discovered Col de Sarenne, the alternative, roughly paved descent of Alpe d’Huez. We were sold. 

But first I had to PR on the ascent of Alpe d’Huez. I certainly wasn’t going to let my 2012 self be faster than my 2016 self, on a new carbon bike to boot. It was a hot day, and I set out hard up the switchbacks. Audun rode next to me, not working nearly as hard, but pointed out that we were passing people whenever I voiced self doubt. We met a talkative Swiss guy who made the last few hairpins pass more quickly.

Thumb DSC 0064 1024

Working hard at hairpin number 9 on Alpe d’Huez,

By the time we reached the top, I had laid down a 20 minute PR on the climb, and had completely toasted myself in the effort. I was overheated, dizzy and queasy. Determined to continue, I found a stream to cool down in.

Soon I was ready for Col de Sarenne. The road continue to climb, and past the circus that is Alpe d’Huez, it turns out the scenery is stunning. I saw the peak of La Meije, so familiar from my ski days at Les Deux Alpes, in the distance. Then there was the long, hairpin descent, and the flat ride around the mountain back to Bourg d’Oisans.

Thumb DSC 0076 1024

Descending Col de Sarenne, with La Meije in the background.

Back at the hotel, it was time to relax with some good food and beer. Tomorrow was the big day.

Day 5: Le Bourg d’Oisans - Albertville. 124.1K, 3027 vertical

On the menu for day five was two monster cols: Col de Glandon and Col de la Madeleine. We could choose to ride the valley around to Albertville after Col de Glandon if this turned out to be too much climbing.

Thumb P1090670 1024

Setting out from Bourg d’Oisans.

Col de Glandon dovetails with Col de la Croix Fer most of the way. It’s a long climb, but the beginning is the steepest part and the scenery makes up for the pain of climbing.  We met droves of other cyclists to chat with on the ascent.

Thumb P1090681 1024

Audun eminates Peter Sagan on Col de Glandon.

The descent from Col de Glandon was beautiful, and faster than Col de Sarenne as the road was significantly higher quality.

Thumb DSC 0084 1024

The descent from Col de Glandon

In the village of La Chambre, we reached the decision point: drag ourselves over one more punishing climb, or roll around the mountain to Albertville? We mulled over it over a picnic lunch. I was feeling pretty tired, with 5 full days of cycling in my legs. At the same time, who knows when I would get the opportunity to cycle Col de la Madeleine again? In the end, we decided to go for it. There was no hurry; I didn’t have a time to beat like on Alpe d’Huez.

It was a ridiculously long climb to the top of Col de la Madeleine, but at least there were wild strawberries to eat on the route.

Thumb P1090694 1024

Strawberries along the Col de la Madeleine road.

Long distance cycling is like long distance running in some ways: just keep pedaling and you will get there in the end.

Thumb P1090705 1024

Col de la Madeleine.

Day 6: Albertville - Annecy. 55.2K, 798 vertical

I felt positivity hungover from the previous day’s efforts when we woke up in Albertville. Still, I didn’t want to just ride the boring, flat road around to Annecy. We decided to through in the smallest col would could find on the route to Annecy for good measured.

I regretted this decision as soon as we started climbing. My climbing legs were utterly trashed. 

“I had better get a really big ice cream this afternoon,” I grumbled.

Thumb DSC 0097 4 1024

Col de Tamié. Phew.

I had vaguely remembered that there were beaches along Lac d’Annecy, and we managed to find one, deciding that three hours cycling would just do for today. Then we bought the largest ice creams the restaurant next to the beach sold...

Thumb P1090709 1024

The largest ice cream sundaes on the menu.

…and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon watching the clouds drift over Lac d’Annecy.

Thumb P1090712 1024

Audun on the beach in Annecy

After getting slightly too much sun, we pedaled the final kilometers into Annecy, and walked around the old city in search of raclette. Because, cheese for dinner!

Thumb P1090721 1024


Day 7: Annecy - Geneva via Aix-les-Bains. 136.2K, 1358 vertical

On the final day, our job was to get back to Geneva. Plan A was to ride to Aix-les-Bains, and ride the circuit of Lac du Bourget before taking the train back to Geneva.

Thumb DSC 0103 3 1024

Rolling along Lac d’Annecy.

We started the day with a moderate climb over Col de Leschaux. It was a grey, dreary day, and we didn’t see much of the mountains. My legs were significantly fresher after the easy day in Annecy.

Thumb P1090722 1024

Audun crests over the last big climb of our trip, Col de Leschaux. 

By the time we reached Aix-les-Bains, it was clear that the circuit of Lac de Bourget wasn’t going to be nearly as scenic as we had hoped. The mountains were shrouded in clouds.

“We could just ride to Geneva!” I suggested to Audun, half-joking. The look on his face made me realize that this was just stupid enough to sound fun to him. Geneva was 90 kilometers from Aix-les-Bains. A quick stop at the store in Aix-les-Bains to load up on snacks, and we were cresting through the rolling hills towards Geneva. I alternately regretted and thoroughly enjoyed extending our ride for another four hours.

Thumb P1090734 1024

A kite seen on the road to Geneva.

It takes a certain kind of stupid to ride an extra 90 kilometers when you could take a perfectly nice train to Geneva. I’m glad Audun has just as much of that stupid as I do.

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Sunday, December 25, 2016

From Balete to Bohol (The Philippines, part 3)

Read the previous posts on this trip here: [part 1][part 2]

Having falling asleep just after sunset, it was natural to awake just before sunrise. Everything at the tiny mountain farmhouse was just as peaceful as the day before. The fire place under the lean-to was crackling once more and we sat in silence again, waiting for the sunrise. Breakfast was boiled kamote, the local variation of sweet potato, peeled, boiled, and eaten whole with the hands. It was white and tasted vaguely of honey. The food may not have been complex, but there was a lot of it, and the leftovers would be lunch for the family.


Tony and his family on the morning of our departure.

Soon enough Audun, Tony and I were off, hiking through the foggy morning. Although our original goal had been Mt Pulag, the highest mountain on Luzon island, we had decided to eschew this particular peak in order to enjoy the path less taken: first the Mt Purgatory traverse, and now to Dumli-ing falls. First we had a two hour trek out to the village of Balete, still all on trails, once again in variable but wet weather. I marvelled at how far we really were from the rest of the world. I hadn’t had cell phone coverage since Baguio. This was doubly strange since I had just gotten engaged, and only Audun and I really knew about it.


Hiking out to Balete.

The village of Balete is connected to the outside world by a rough dirt road, only recently constructed. We ditched our packs at the local Barangay hall and hiked down to Dumli-ing falls. The trail was overgrown, and Tony forged ahead with a small machete, hacking away the vegetation in front of us. I stopped occasionally to pick zealous leeches off my shoes, much less afraid of them now that my ankles were covered by long wool socks and the leeches were not sucking my blood.

Dumli-ing falls could have served as the model for Paradise falls in Pixar’s beautiful movie Up. A long, single drop fanned out and crashed on wicked-looking rocks below. This would be such a big tourist attraction, I thought, if it weren’t so hard to get to!


Dumli-ing falls

Back in Balete, we were invited for coffee, boiled bananas and buns at the local school. It was a national holiday, so the children weren’t there, but the administration was hard at work, and we discussed the challenges of education in the Philippines with the headmistress.

Afterwards we took a group photo, making what I only later realized was the Duterte fist symbol. It’s hard to understate how popular Duterte actually is in the Philippines. In the west, we only hear horror stories about all the murders happening under his regime. These stories are true, and it’s horrible. However, it’s hard to criticize Duterte to the locals in the Cordilleras, who just seem so damned pleased with him. (I’m sure this would differ if you polled opinions on the streets of Manila, where drug addicts and dealers alike are being slaughtered in droves).


Go Duterte? With the administration of Balete School.

Next began a long, arduous journey back to Manila, in order to travel to our next destination, the tourist island of Bohol. We hiked up a muddy road from Balete for a while, before being picked up by a passing van and spending a terrifying hour wondering if the ageing van would make it up the next rugged incline.

Then we hitch-hiked down to Ambageg, where we waited for one of the ubiquitous vans headed for Baguio. All of the vans that passed were full, so we took a tricycle ride (also terrifying) a little further down to the main road. Finally, a van head for Baguio picked us up and we were off.


The tricycle driver and Tony load our things onto the tricycle.

From Baguio, another night bus brought us back to Manila, and we headed to the airport to pick up our baggage and catch the first flight to Bohol. Which eventually brought us to Pangalao Nature Island Resort, and an experience that was basically the exact opposite of what we had been doing for the first four days in the Philippines. It was so luxurious it basically made Audun and I slightly uncomfortable.


Breakfast at Pangalao Nature Island Resort. Life is good.

We arrived at our bungalow with a private jacuzzi and view of the ocean and proceed to unpack the wet, disgusting contents of our hiking packs, spreading them all over the spacious terrace. For the next three days, we attempted to live the resort lifestyle. We rented a tennis court for an hour, than lay by the pool, devouring books and editing photos. It was comfortable and relaxing in a way most of my vacations are not.


Drying camping equipment on our terrace while enjoying the private jacuzzi.

Unfortunately, occasional rainstorms marred our tropical paradise. I also felt strangely imprisoned in the resort. We travelled to different places on the island to eat dinner, and the contrast between the opulence within the resort’s gates and houses of the locals was pretty stark. I felt like an outsider on a completely different level than I had while hiking in the Cordilleras.


One of the daily rainstorms.

One day, we hired a car and a guide to see the main sights on the island. The tarsiers visiting center was pretty incredible, although I became dubious when I realized that tarsiers actually shouldn’t be awake during the day and that undue stress could kill them. The tarsiers in the reserve looked like miniature aliens, and they were most definitely awake.


Tarsiers in a semi-natural habitat. They're vulnerable to extinction, and hopefully tourism provides motivation to keep them alive and well.

Then there was the famous Chocolate Hills, hundreds of natural conical karst mounds that dot the landscape of mainland Bohol. Audun and I had originally wanted to rent mountain bikes to see them, but we had had enough of being wet and muddy for one trip and so decided against it. Then our guide shanghaied us into rented an ATV to drive around the base of the hills. It was not my idea of fun. The guide made us stop all the time and pose for cringe-worthy pictures. I dislike the whole packaged tourism thing, where someone else decides where you have to take pictures and how you should experience a landscape. I guess I should have learned to stay clear of guided tours by now...

In all honesty, the best way to see the Chocolate Hills was from the viewing platform. One Chocolate Hill is cool, but it’s the experience of seeing hundreds spread into the distance that’s breathtaking.


Taking in the Chocolate hills (they turn brown during the late summer).

Besides the tarsiers and the Chocolate Hills, we took in the Bataclan church, and a river cruise at lunch accompanied by lived music (ouch).

Three nights at the swanky resort was enough for both Audun and I. On the last morning, I decided to get in a run before the 30 hours of travel back to Norway. I settled on the hotel treadmill, but to my dismay there was a man whose job it was to watch me run and attend to my every need. He tried to give me a glass of water while I was going at full tilt, and I nearly fell over and spilt it. Then I paused the treadmill to collect myself, and he pretend to be all impressed with my 25 minute run. (You know nothing, Jon Snow!) It was super awkward. I guess I just not cut out for a lifestyle of being waited on hand and foot!


The ocean view from our bungalow at the resort.

The lesson? The best and most authentic moments of tourism are those off the beaten path. 

- The Wild Bazilchuk