Tabaco, Albay, the Philippines and Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan
November 22, 2015 and February 1, 2017
No kissing of the ground here as I wouldn’t want to wake these sleeping beauties. It didn’t mean I was less smitten at first sight by iconic Mt. Mayon (2,463 m or 8,081 ft) in the Philippines and Mt. Fuji (3,776.24 m or 12,389.2 ft) in Japan, both seductively conical and dangerously active stratovolcanoes. At times spewing fire and brimstone but mostly notoriously shy, these badass beauties were known to hide their graceful form behind a veil of clouds.
Our host Frances drove my travel squad and me a quarter of the way up Mt. Mayon. Visibility gradually decreased as we ascended. By the time we reached Mayon Rest House, fog had enveloped everything several meters away. It cleared up in a jiffy to reveal the vast valley on one side and Mayon Planetarium and Science Park on the other. In place of constellations, a documentary about equally awesome and awful Mayon was showing on a loop in the dome theater. The facility also housed a geology museum that showcased sample volcanic rocks.
Outside, flower vendors vied with the view for attention. I bought potted bonsai as pasalubong for my mother only after they assured us the plants could be flown without a hitch. They lied…or had no clue. Airport staff did not allow carriage unless we coughed up quite a sum. Frances ended up adopting our bonsai babies.
Winter concealed snow-capped Mt. Fuji behind stubbornly stationary fluff. It was nothing short of divine blessing then when I beheld her full naked glory the first time I visited Yamanashi with my Japanese friends.
The next day, aboard a tour bus with my travel squad, we were out of luck. The Japanese guide emphasized repeatedly, almost apologetically, that Mt. Fuji usually wore a crown of “lenticular clouds,” a disc-shaped formation hovering around mountain tops. She all but quashed our hopes for a summit sighting.
The bus ride more than halfway up was smooth and easy, no steep slopes and hairpin turns. We stopped, as did several other tour buses, at Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, the jump-off point for hikers. Mountain climbing was a no-deal in the dead of winter and, well, over the dead gorgeous bodies of my girl squad, Donna and Melissa. We hung around just enough for a photo op.
But all was not for naught. From the slopes of both Mayon and Fuji, we were allowed a fleeting peek at their peaks through the shimmering lenticular veil despite, or perhaps because of, the unpredictability of mountain weather. In both cases, the atmosphere was cold and the ground beneath our feet calm even within the danger zone. We came down as quickly and quietly as we had come. While they were sleeping.