Day Seventy Two: Eduardo’s Road To Fitness

I had a sense that it would happen.  I experienced ‘a momentary feeling of discomfort’, as medical professionals would put it, as the spines belonging to a large, black sea-urchin pierced the sole of my flipper and embedded themselves in my heel. Shortly thereafter it ‘hurt like hell’, as I would put it.

I was in the water doing my best to help our ‘banca’ overcome the strong current that was preventing us from entering the safety of the bay.  I was wearing my flippers and was swimming behind the banca, holding onto the outrigger, pushing it slowly through the current. The Philippino at the helm, if you could call it that, seemed to be at peace with the world.  We were but a matter of metres from large rocks, and were rising many feet up and down with the strong oceanic swell.  The engine, which had the power of a small coffee grinder, had long since died having over-heated after about five minutes. I was on the verge of abandoning the banca, to watch it dash itself to pieces upon the barnacle-strewn rocks.

El Capitan, a young boy of about fourteen, controlled the speed of the engine (when it was actually working) via a length of fishing line.  He tugged on it for more speed and let it go slack to slow down.  I say slow-down, but in fact to go any slower would have been a near impossibility.  The coral reef below us was moving faster than we were.

I kicked my right foot and watched through my mask as the sea urchin fell away in a cloud of sand.  My heel felt hot.  Pain was travelling as if via fire-wire straight into my brain.  It made me mad.  I put in a huge Michael Phelps-like effort until we rounded the last group of rocks and entered the calm waters of El Nido bay.

I spent the next two days trying to pick the sea-urchin spines out of my heel.  All I succeeded in doing was to make a nice crater in my foot that surrounded the spines.  On the third day I began to feel ill.  A local chap told me to drink lots of beer and then cut out the spines with a sharp knife.  I was not brave enough to do that so I just drank a lot of beer and fell asleep.

The next day I had to walk an hour through the hot jungle, along a barely recognizable path to the ‘airport’.  A dirt strip cut that seemed to be in constant battle with the forest canopy.

The stroll through the jungle was long and uncomfortable. I walked on the outside of my foot, which gave me cramps in my shins.  I dropped my rucksack in a river that we were forced to wade across and left my packed lunch on a table back at our beach side hostel.  I was not happy in paradise.

What on earth has this got to do with Barcelona?


I was surrounded by them.  They sat at my feet and scratched themselves whilst I tried to make myself a pillow out of my wet rucksack. The cats kept rubbing up against my legs, doing their best, I thought, to off-load their fleas. It was about 37 degrees Celsius and the humidity was hovering around the ninety percent mark.  I could not tell if my T-shirt was soaked from the riving crossing or if it was sweat.  I was sitting in the outdoor ‘airport lounge’ and was looking into the ‘control tower’.  I use these terms liberally as the control tower was no more than eight feet high.  It was made from wood and had a roof made out of palm leaves. A chain-smoking man wearing odd flip-flops was on a CB radio, talking to the pilot of our plane.  The cats looked emaciated.  The mosquitoes however looked like birds.  I was almost too tired to slap at them as they buzzed like apache helicopters around my head.

Cats.  I used to be allergic to them and avoided them with a passion.  Now I have two of them here in Barcelona.  How is that for tying up the story? Not bad’eh.  Anyway, these cats of mine.  To be fair, only one of them has become ‘my cat’.  In that he appears to favour waking me up in the middle of the night instead of pouncing upon my wife.  He lives dangerously for I do not like being waken up at three or four in the morning to find a cheeky cat doing its best to make itself comfortable upon my shins.

As I cycled yesterday I noticed a stunning white cat sitting on a pile of rubble next to a building site and thought how regal it looked. Who would have thought that I would grow to like cats? Back at that crummy airport in the jungle I would have happily blown them to bits with C4 to stop them rubbing up against me as I lay there with a sea-urchin spine in my foot, soaked to the skin being dive bombed by mozzies. Fast forward to now and I have been known to shower my cat with affection. I do this in secret however, for if my wife caught me – a self-proclaimed anti-cat person doing this, I would never hear the end of it.

So for the record I hate cats.  Like sea-urchins and mosquitoes.  Unless I am alone, in which case they are pretty cool. Like El Nido bay in Palawan.

Now where is Capser ? I am sure he could do with being scratched under the chin.  I know he loves that….


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