Traveling in the Rain (Submitted by Raf Dionisio)
“Rain is bad for travel.” Everyone says it. Yesterday, I was talking to the reservations officer of a resort beside The Circle Hostel, Zambales and she was saying how she expected guests to decrease because people don’t want to travel in the rain.
As long as I can remember, traveling in the rain was discouraged. I get phrases like “It’s dangerous”, “It’s not fun” or “It’s uncomfortable”.
Each makes sense, but allow me to contextualize.
Dangerous – yes it can be, but only in a storm when the elements are raging. Strong wind and flooding are safety threats. Otherwise, afternoon rainshowers are not a threat. We have 136 days of rainfall per year, and less than half of those have storms – over half of all rainy days are safe days to trek. Most of the rain we get are the soft shower types that water our forests, farms and rivers. Rain can make trekking slippery. However, if one prepares for it ( i.e. wears hiking shoes or sandals instead of the traditional tsinelas), and if you take well-worn paths, and use common sense, you should be fine.
Not Fun – According to the Department of Tourism, Philippine vacations are 80%++ sun and beach tourism. So the context of “less fun” may come from the fact that we expect that travel is all about sunshine and islands – to get that perfect tan. However, the rain has a soothing beauty to it. Farms and forests can transform into different ecosystems in the rain as streams form, new animals emerge and the treks are less stressful because we are treated to a cool shower (versus baking and sweating under the tropical sun).
Uncomfortable – Getting wet in the rain might sound uncomfortable, but only if you aren’t prepared for it. Remember when you used to play in the rain as a child? Those were fun times! Although it may take a bit of getting used to, activities in the rain like hiking, running or planting are actually a lot of fun because of the cooler temperature. The sun makes hiking very uncomfortable, and many times forces beachgoers to hide in the shade. If you’re ready to get wet, then it becomes fun!
Since 2016, The Circle Hostel and MAD Travel have been working on cultural adventure treks that also aid in reforestation of the ancestral domain of the Aetas of Zambales. We have a target of 3 million trees to combat climate change, control flooding and provide livelihood for the community.
In the beginning, I thought the dry season was the best time to go, but I soon realized that the Aetas preferred the activities in the rain for two mahor reasons: 1. The lack of heat and 2. Free water for the trees we were planting.
As we did more trips, I began to see the beauty of travel in the rain. I was more prepared, the temperature was pleasant and the valley’s beauty dramatically changed as rivers started to flow, and we had more time to swim in fresh water areas. Rain also gives the benefit of allowing us to enjoy surfing and swimming without the fear of getting toasted, we just need to prepare to maximize the experience, and make sure that we do not go into the ocean if it seems too wild. As always, just exercise common sense and precaution before deciding to do any activity in strong rains.
Today we encourage travel in the rain, because it’s different. We still look at the weather to see if there’s a storm but if it’s one of the 80+ days of normal afternoon rainfall, then we are safe to go. Thanks to the Aetas’ mentorship, we understand it a little better, are more prepared for the challenges it brings and understand how we can maximize the seasons in relation to our goals. Instead of sunblock and sunglasses we bring waterproof gear and quick drying clothes. Our cold juice has been changed to hot herbal tea. There is no better time to plant a fruit or forest tree than now.
So the next time it rains, remember that you can have a lot of fun traveling without the sun.
Words by Rafael Dionisio