06/06/2015

Blue crush

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I lie in bed inside a massive camping tent, peering out of my netted windows and looking up at the swaying palm trees and the stars. In a tent pitched on a camping site called the Conservatory, we were sandwiched between the ocean, a river and mountains — nothing else would smell more like sweet summer.

Unlike the more populated Sabang Beach, where the shoreline is dotted with a row of resorts and a flurry of tourists, the Conservatory, found in a beach called Charlie’s Point, is a place to go to if you’re trying to heal a broken heart, are running away from the FOMO from social media, or are just looking for a place to get down with nature. It’s an isolated surfing haven. You have to go through a small bayan, drive by rich canopies, and travel down a long dirt road before finally arriving at the private property.

Funnily enough, this Charlie guy whom the beach is named after isn’t even real. It’s a reference to Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now. “Charlie, don’t surf,” one of the famous lines barked by the character Lt. Col. Kilgore in the movie (in reference to the Viet Cong), which was shot on the same shore.

The camping experience at the Conservatory at Charlie’s is organized by The Easy Adventure, the brainchild of 25-year-olds Carsy Araneta and her partner Paolo Villacorta. The two used to camp out and surf on the property with their friends during weekends, before they finally opened The Easy Adventure during the first of summer this year.

At the Conservatory, life is simple. In the afternoon, we head out to go paddle boarding at the river just behind the beach, paddling past mangroves and bathe in fresh water. We watch cows munching idly on the grassy sidelines from our boards, and swim in the point where the sea meets the river. When the sun is about to set, we scuttle back to our tents, skin toasty, and munch on a merienda of sweet kamote and coffee, rambling on and on about the universe and the Avengers. And at night, we have dinner and craft beer under the full moon, while blinking fireflies dance wildly around us.

Just to quickly put it out there — there is no electricity here. So expect to be completely unplugged from society. Instead of getting pay-per-view coverage of the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather fight, we watched the fight in the staff room from a battery-operated 10-inch tablet with the locals who lived in the area.

But it’s called an easy adventure because camping here doesn’t require as much “roughing it” as you’d expect. Each large tent is decked out with its own bed and living room setup, an outside porch, a picnic table, and a hammock. There is a natural outdoor shower assigned to each tent, and a common modern toilet. Meals are cooked lovingly for you every day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks — the menu consisting of whatever is fresh at the market. And while it is a notch higher than just regular camping, Carsy says they aren’t so quick to call it “glamping,” and I can understand. Everything about the experience is still very much grounded. It was designed precisely to leave no ecological footprint.

Of course, there are always some hurdles to any camping trip — I would say “How to battle ennui” is the top one. Coming here, one must completely surrender to nature. But for once, it’s nice to get away from it all. To be in a place where I could walk along a shoreline and not have to look at 20 banner ads along the way, or listen to EDM before going to sleep.

Sometimes, it’s nice whisk yourself away to something completely raw, and The Easy Adventure promises a taste of paradise the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed — with just the right amount of pampering here and there.

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