Friday, February 21, 2020

Country 50: The Phillippines

It took me longer than I had expected to get to country number 50. Well, say hello to the Philippines.  For me, The Philipinnes has always been an afterthought. There are 7,641 islands in the Philippines, so think you can see and experience the entire country in a month is a massive understatement. As I said, when it comes to Asia the Philippines has never been a priority. It took me less than a week on my first island to see how wrong I was.

There are no visa requirements for Canadians so I showed up with a smile and they immigration officer stamped my passport with a grunt and waved me through. Everything I read said that the best exchange rates are at the airport, and surprisingly they were really good.  I exchanged my remaining Ringgit from Malaysia and discovered that the Philippines peso is an unusually large note. I overpaid for a SIM card, walked past all the airport touts and headed out into the Cebu sunlight. From here I checked my hotel location and it was a short 25-minute walk so I saddled up and off I went. I can not count the number of taxis, tricycles, motos and random cards who beeped or pulled over offering me a ride. They must have never seen a foreigner walk from the airport. There is a reason for that. As I neared my destination, yet another OYO hotel it became glaringly apparent that I punched the wrong hotel into my GPS. There wasn't an ocean anywhere near where I was headed. This was confirmed when I tried to check-in and the hotel had no record of my reservation. I showed them my OYO reservation and the desk clerk rolled her eyes, yes, she actually rolled her eyes. I ordered a GRAB and was on my way 10 minutes later.

I had been in touch with SIDivers which was located in the town of Maribago in the Lapu Lapu area of Cebu. I was only 40 minutes away in the opposite direction. I found my hotel in Maribago easy enough, checked in and walked to the SIDivers shop to check-in. To be honest the entire area was a bit more rugged than I had expected but once I found the resort area with all the dive shops my world changed. Crystal clear water with an incredible array of blue hues. I would be shore diving which was a new experience for me. This was going to be fun.

Question. What does Maribago and Lapu Lapu have that so many other places do not have? Koreans! This place was overrun with them. For whatever reason, over the years the Koreans have settled in here. They have build hotels, own dive shops and most restaurants have the menus written in English and Korean. When the world is not in lockdown with this Pseudo Pandemic, yes, there are Chinese that vacation here but they are in the minority. That in itself is odd for a popular Asian destination. From what I gathered after talking to a few people, the Koreans are aggressive and demanding with absolutely everything. Most people with the Chinese would come in droves and drive the Chinese out. How is that for Bizzaro?

I found everything I needed and there was quite a bit to choose foodwise. My hotel had a dozen uniform clad ladies sitting around the lobby ready to follow you up to your room for a message. I was assured by a few Expats sitting in the dining room that there are plenty of extras if I wanted. I didn't. As I said the town was a bit beaten up but it was trying to look nice. There were new restaurants, hotels, and shops but they were mixed in with a long history of living. There was one main and very narrow road running through the town and it was busy in both directions. There were no sidewalks to speak of so you had to be on guard at all times plus there were the laziest street dogs I have ever seen. It was going to be an interesting few days.

I had one goal and one goal only. To get wet and start diving. I had booked 4 shore dives and 1-night dive. It was only me and my divemaster Carlos. We would prep in the shop and walk across a dirt courtyard to the edge of the water. Here various steps were leading into the ocean. It was here that we would enter the water and start our dive. The resort was home to about 20 dive shops including a huge and well-established one called Posiden. I think there is Posiden Diving in every country on the plant. This shop catered to Koreans and we were surrounded by novice divers learning the sport.

We finned up and swam up the reef to where it dropped off and became a long reef wall. What a great mix. Normally you come off a boat and swim to either a reef or a reef wall. This was the best of both. I am still not taking my camera with me on most dives for various reasons. The first being I want to focus on learning to dive and improving. This includes my buoyancy, my observations, navigation and slowing my breathing to conserve air and increase the dive time.

On these dives, there were great colorful reef fish, a few turtles, tiny crabs, and other very colorful creatures that Carols found and pointed out. The night dive was a surreal experience, to say the least. Just the divers and their flashlights. We did not go very deep but it was enough to see some very interesting creatures of the night. The lights were always pointed towards the reef wall and naturally every once in a while I would look away into the blackness of the ocean around me. It is a bit more unnerving at night than in the day, that is for shizzle.

I hit the ground running in the Philippines. Like anywhere you can read about it all you want. When you are in it, talking with people and doing your thing, that is when it begins. I have a great feeling about the place, but I have only been here for less than a week. I am going to get wet here as much as I can.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Rest and Recovery

What is real exhaustion? They kind of exhaustion where you could collapse because you have absolutely nothing left. Not exhaustion from a good workout where the endorphins are cranking positive goodness through your body. Not exhaustion from a long day and you grab a beer and sit on the deck to chill. No, this is the real deal, something I have never experienced before, not even close. I was losing control of my legs, or more to the point, my legs were almost useless. This is when you throw up in the middle of the night from the water you drank. When your knees buckle and you unintentionally fall as you jokingly run to the van for your ride back to town. When walking downstairs sideways is the only way possible to move down because your knees are shot. Your body is completely drained yet you can not sleep. That is what I dealt with after Mt. Kinabula kicked my ass on the way down.

I had not planned for it. Sure, I have been on long treks and higher climbs but this was different. My first night back I had a long shower, drank a litre of water and was just preparing for bed, it was around 7:30 PM. Something was not 100%. Hell, it was not even 50 percent I drank a can of coke for a bit of sugar, put my head on the pillow and figured to sleep.

 You know that feeling when you realize you are going to be sick to your stomach and you have 30 seconds to get to the bathroom. The starter's pistol shot and the race was on. Up came the water. No food from dinner, only the fluids. Lots of fluid. I regrouped, drank some more water (what the hell was I thinking) and 5 minutes later I was at it again. This time dinner and lunch came to visit. I was dehydrated but my body was rejecting fluids. Real exhaustion. Naturally, I immediately googled my symptoms and believed just enough to relax and go to sleep. My body needed a real rest. Even digestion was to much work for it at that moment.

I looked at the clock and it was 8:15 then 9:00. I woke up at 9:30 AM and drank some water very trepidatiously. It stayed down after a few stomach growls. I rolled over and slept until noon. 

I took a shower and walked, no hobbled down the two short flights of stairs to the lobby. I took each step one at a time and sideways, holding the handrail a little too dependently the entire way. In the lobby, the clerk smiled knowingly. "You did the climb?, Did you reach the top?" To which I replied "yes". She smiled and said "congratulations". "Take your time on the stairs, go slow and rest." I was obviously not the first person to hobble down to the lobby. The dude at the desk asked the same questions and told me to take a seat. He then asked me what I needed. When I said I was going to get a few large bottles of water he looked at the cleaning lady who was listening to our conversation. She took my money and went to the shop. "Go back to your room sir, rest. She will bring you your water". She did.

I took a nap from around 2:00 until 5:00, went online to kill some time then back to bed around 8:00.  That was day 1.

Day 2 saw improvements. I woke at 10:00, which meant I slept 14 hours straight. I immediately drank as much water as I could stomach because dehydration is very real in this situation and my pee was still way too dark. I managed to put a brush through my hair and slowly took the stairs to the lobby. There were good mornings and smiles. I walked to MacDonalds for coffee and each step hurt. Roadside curbs were avoided when possible. My legs worked again. Now the muscles were just sore and I could handle that. My equilibrium was still off a bit and I felt like everything was in slow motion and underwater. I figured I better get back to my room where I would not hurt myself. I bought some instant noodles, the snack of champions. Sleep a little, surf a little and sleep a bit more. I had my routine.

Around 8:00 PM things started feeling normal again but I stayed in my room. I also booked a few extra nights just to give this old body a break. I was not hungry and the noodles kept me satisfied but I bought some bananas, a mango and a fresh coconut.

During all of this, I was planning my next move to the Philippines. I figured Manila on the 19th of February where I would stay one night close to the airport and then catch an early morning flight to Cebu. From there I can go to Bohol Island for a week of quality diving and something called the Chocolate Hills which are for viewing only, no climbing. Thank you universe!

To recap, we hiked 39.6 kilometers up and down over a day and a half. There were a few moments on the way down where I go early thought I was done. At the 2 KM marker, I sat for a rest and the guide needed to help me to my feet. He said, "just go slow, you are fine". Easy for him to say. Near the end of the trip the path leveled out and my legs could not adjust to even-paced walking. I had to sit or I would have fallen. We got back to the station at 3:30 so it took 6 hours to climb down the final 6 KM. The driver told me no problem. Many times here is waiting until 11:30 PM for people to reach the finish. 

Writing about where I go and what I do while sharing my experiences is fun for me. It would be criminal if I did not share the difficult parts of my journey as well. Now I just want to find comfort and peace in the ocean for a while. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Stunning Mt. Kinabalu

I had a few ambitious goals while I was in Kota Kinabalu. Climbing Mt. Kinabalu was at the top of that list. I also wanted to do a bit of diving, explore the city and get over to Labuan Island. It was here that Japanese forces surrendered Borneo to the Australians. Little did I know that once this climb was done all my plans were quietly put away for another time. I needed four days to get back to somewhat normal.

I did my research and we would start at 1866 meters and reach the summit of 4095 meters the next morning, after a good night's sleep. Most of the reviews talked about how surprisingly difficult this trek was and all the unexpected surprises along the way. I have climbed higher and have had much longer treks. How hard could this really be? I make a rookie mistake and ignored all the warnings.

A few years ago you could do this trip without a guide. That has since changed, and for the better. I booked with Borneo Trails as they seemed like the most popular tour group in the area. It was a solid choice. There were four of us in our initial group. An American girl who fit, eager and ready to go. She talked about running up the mountain. There were two young guys from Singapore, Lucas, and Chew Zi Yi. They turned out to be great young guys.

We waited for our permits along with many other small groups and we geared up and woke up. Normally there would be hundreds of people on any given trip, mainly Chinese, but the media-driven scare tactic that is the Coronavirus has kept most of them away. There would be two guides for the four of us. We got our briefing, took our photos and headed up. The American Girl was looking for some prize for the first place because she was immediately gone. 

The Borneo Trails Posted Itinerary.
Departure: Daily


(06:30 hours) Pick-up from your hotel lobby and depart on a 2 hrs journey to Kinabalu Park Headquarter. Collect your packed lunch. Proceed to the Park HQ to register for the climb, meet your assigned mountain guide and apply for your ID TAG. Remember to wear your ID TAG at all times. You'll then be transferred to starting point – Timpohon Gate – where your journey and quest to the summit of Borneo’s highest mountain begins! The climb will take approximately 4-5 hours. The trek will pass by different vegetation zones from Oak and Chestnut to mossy and eventually to alpine type of vegetation. Arrive and check into one of the assorted Laban Rata huts @3272m (non-heated dormitory beds) in the late afternoon. Buffet Dinner at Laban Rata restaurant and overnight.


(0200 hours) Wake up for early supper and depart for the continuation of the journey towards the summit of Mount Kinabalu. The journey up to the Low's peak @ 4,095m will test your fitness and determination. Depending on the speed of trekking, you might be able to experience the glorious sunrise over the majestic Mt. Kinabalu if weather permits.

(0700 hours) Descend back to Laban Rata for late breakfast and check out. Trek down to Timpohon Gate for transfer back to the Kinabalu Park Headquarters. Congratulations, you can now collect your Certificate of Achievement! Buffet Lunch will be served at the Balsam restaurant in Kinabalu Park.

(1400 hours) Transfer back to Kota Kinabalu City. The journey takes approx. 2 hrs

My happy weird little world appears when I get out on the trail. Everything seems brighter and more colorful. Shapes have deep definition and all the various sounds create a symphony for me.  It is my weird little world after all and I think we all have one. It can be easily discovered. It is embracing it without fear that is the daunting task.

The start leads to immediate anticipation of the summit. Every step strengthens me. I am serious. I honestly feel stronger the more I climb. Don't get me wrong, I am not a billy goat contrary to what some people believe. I will get winded along the way and my legs will get sore but for whatever reason, I have developed this internal desire, a drive if you will, that all treks are to be completed with as much strength as I possibly have.

It is during moments of lethargy and as if on cue, Shawn T from the Insanity Workouts starts creeping into my head and battles the other voices for control. (Like I said, my weird little world). I have completed his workouts more than once. I know the routine of going hard for 3 minutes and rest for one. I know how to push one more step, one more meter, on more hour, one more anything "Just Keep Going". In the end, it works and I feel fantastic. Not once do I ever feel the need to stop because "I am so tired", or "this is too hard". I smile, I laugh and I walk. This is my happy place because I challenge myself, push myself, and exalt at my achievements while surrounded by the most beautiful of natural settings.

We were told to expect our climb today to be four to five hours but magically it took about Six. There were about 200 people on the trail and everyone, except the "typical chosen Olympic athletes" took their time. There were views to absorb, photos to click and friends to make. With each step, the views became more of a picture postcard. That might sound obvious but it is not always the case. Sometimes the brass ring is at the apex because the trail is shrouded in a forest or blocked by rock face. This climb was different with every step. At 3000 I embraced the views of being above the clouds. Then the romance of it turned to reality as you looked up at the jagged crags of Lows Peak. That was for tomorrow. Today it was just about being in it.

We reached Laban Rata by mid-afternoon. Sunset was to be around 5:45 and it would not be missed. We sat down for dinner and two Aussie lads joined us. They were friendly and chatty and added a good mix to our expanding group. We devoured our calories like wolverines and chatted about various trips we had taken. It was then my age first made an appearance. It did not disrupt anything but you could see the wheels turning in their young brains.

Sunset was the expected classical painting. It was followed by a random game of volleyball. Random awesomeness. I went to bed at 7:30 PM hoping to try and sleep since wake up was 2:00 AM. That was a waste of time. Our room had 4 bunk beds and two Swedes joined us. We laughed at being in a dorm on bunk beds like Gap year teens. Our biggest concern was cold. The room was not headed and we were all prepared. Once everyone filed in by 10:00 PM cold would not be an issue. The room was warm enough that I slept in shorts and a Tshirt. Slept, I am not sure I sure use that word but there were short spells of unconsciousness, but sleep eluded me.

At 2:00 AM, six different phone alarms went off within seconds of each other. With zombie-like movements, everyone knew what had to be done and nobody was going to do if for you. Get up, get dressed and get downstairs for coffee. There was no need for any pleasantries. It was 2 AM for FU** sake. The thought of what actually was to come did not register with me and I suspect it did not register with anyone. We were up and the coffee felt fantastic. It was during the mid-second cup when the slow realization started to appear over the previous glazed looks. We have work to do.

We headed out in a group of fifteen people. Three guides, the four of us, the two Swedes and six couples who we had basically hiked with on the way up. Good people, funny and friendly. Four were from Holland and two were from Singapore, via Germany. The Aussies were with another group that headed out at 2:30. Staggard starting, well done Borneo Trails. We grouped up and were briefed by our guides on what to expect and the timeline to the summit. It was 3 AM and nobody was actually listening. We headed out of the building, climbed a few stairs and had a final check of our headlamps and gear at what was not the trail, up. The average age of our group of 12 was about 35 and with that, you get lots of support and effort. We all smiled and at that moment someone said: "Is he really 58? He better not beat me up there". It was one of the guys from Holland who was funny as shit and we had some good conversations on the trail the previous day. Everyone looked at me and laughed. I got a few hugs from the girls and off we went. Our merry band of troopers headed out. Another guide from a different group, who we had been chatting with the previous day, came up behind me and gave me a soft pat on the back. "Strongest guy your age I have ever seen on this trail. See you at the top". Now I am thinking I was going to be some type of human sacrifice with all this positive energy.

The difficulty with this summit was not so much the height or distance, or even the fact it was in the middle of the night. It was about an hour into the hike that the actual trail/stairs disappeared. Now we had to contend with a sloping rock face that would last the rest of the way. At times there were sturdy ropes that ran hundreds of meters for support in some of the steeper areas and trust me they came in handy. I was very glad it was dark but buried deep in the back of my mind I knew I had to face this coming down during daylight hours. It was tough going but I found my pace and started passing people along the way. Shaun T found his way into my head and was yelling "go, go, one more, don't stop, you can do it!  I had wished the other voices that live in my head would have told him to shut the fu** up and that they were trying to sleep. Leave Ken alone just this once. It was not to be.

"Hey has anyone seen Ken?"
 "Hey, holy shit he is getting his picture taken. Dude, you made it! Holy shit we thought we would never see you". So it goes when you are the oldest in the group on a challenging trek. There were young and energetic Aussies and had made the summit with the first group out, about 30 minutes before us.  As I sat beside them on the peak and looked at their happy and a bit shocked expressions they told me that they had been asking about me most of the night. It was really out of the concern and with the hope that I made it for sunrise. As I caught my breath after my photo they said that they heard I was far behind and would probably miss the sunrise. When they settled down at the summit waiting for the sun they saw me and that I had made it. It was a nice moment.

I also got high fives from various other guides and people that I had gotten to know along the trail. They knew my age and were a bit shocked that I did not lag as was their experience with my age group. I was right there with the main group. These people had no idea who they were dealing with dammit! I have to admit, I was crushed when I plopped down on the summit. I put in a huge effort to climb the last bit of the craggy rocks to get to the plaque. Now I wanted a long rest and I would take in what turned out to be probably the greatest sunrise I have ever witnessed. I do not have the wordsmith skills to clearly describe the beauty of watching the sunrise above the clouds while sitting on a craggy and windy peak at over 4000 meters. The greatest I have ever witnessed. Let's leave it at that.

Age and ageism. It is a funny thing. It compartmentalizes people quickly and easily. The expectations for that number are usually limiting and if something happens that is "out of the norm" it becomes "he did amazing for someone such and such an age". No, we all did amazing together as a team, but I thank you and love all of you for the support. It was needed and helpful.

The sun was up and as majestic the moment, I could now clearly see the way down. *Gulg* It was time for all the voices to go back to sleep. This was one steep ass rocky slope that had to be navigated. It required focus and a sure step. I greedily hung onto the guide ropes when they were available. I was walking with one of the guides and the Swedes and my steps down became more confident with the casual conversation.

** There are rotating mountain rescue teams that roam up and down the mountain day and night. I passed 4 different groups of 8 during my trip. They were all as fit as you can imagine and yes some were older dudes. Most were ex-military and were adept at a rescue. Yes is the answer you are looking for. Have people ever needed to be rescued on this mountain?.  Every single trip was the answer I was told. The pictures at trailhead rescue house, which thankfully I did not see before we left, proved it. It was good to know we were not alone.

Finally, on our way down our guide pointed to the rockslides that killed 18 people as a result of the 2015 Sabah earthquake. We were standing where he was when he watched the rocks come crashing down on the hikers, maybe 1000 meters away. You could see the rockslide and we would have to pass it to get to the rest stop. We were not in any immediate danger but since the Earthquake, everyone is still very aware of what can happen when the earth does its thing.

In the end, yes this was the most difficult climb I have ever done. If only because the trail is an assortment of man-made and natural stairs and there was very little path to give your knees and legs a short rest. The long sloping rock face was new for me, as I think for most people. It was steeper than most pictures will show you but manageable. The happy views of day one become the grunts and groans of day two. As many of you know, climbing is hard but the real challenge is coming down. This is where Mt. Kinabula owned me and I was humbled in every way possible.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Jungle Cruising And A Canopy Walk

Who doesn't want to go on a jungle tour that includes kayaking and a canopy walk? Although I had no clue what a canopy walk was. I have added to my travel toolbox. I have had good luck with them so far. I came across this day tour on their site, booked it and was in the van the next morning at 7:00 AM. We were driven to the jetty and had a 45-minute boat ride upriver and through the mangroves. It was gorgeous. The ride, not the boat. The boat was battered but river worthy, I had hoped.

Twelve of us got off the boat and wandered through a little market town to the entrance of Ulu Ulu Temburong National Park. A typical mixture of travelers. Russians, Germans, Chinese, Japanese, and a Hong Konger. Donna was the same girl that was on the river tour I did the previous day. It was nice to see a familiar face, no matter how brief our "boat tour friendship" was. Our two intrepid guides, Dani and Fatin we young, friendly and enthusiastic. Our river guides I never found out their names but they were great at managing the longboat which held 4 people. Myself, Donna and the Russian couple, who turned out to be really interesting. She was a lawyer and he was an Engineer. They had decided on a working a nomadic lifestyle and were the first month in. They both worked online but I did not get into details about it. They were just so happy to be out of the "office world". Donna, it turned out was an incredible traveler with great stories and pictures about being in all the "stans", including Afghanistan. There are so many non-traditional and interesting people in the world.

We all got in our longboats for a deeper journey into the Borneo jungle. There were four boats each holding four people, the boat captain, and his assistant. The river was low and they had to manage not bottoming out along the way. I had no concerns and figured they knew the way. This was not their first attempt on this river. It was a fantastic ride winding our way through the jungle with the river 4 to 6 inches away on either side of me. I took a few quick shots and then put the phone away. I enjoyed the thirty-minute ride just taking it all in.

We arrived at the park entrance and carefully climbed out of the boat. We registered and got our briefing for the day. We would be getting back into the boats for a ten-minute ride to the trailhead.
There would be a 1000 step hike which we would take our time on. There were 3 rest stops along the way. At the top, we would arrive at the canopy walk. I still had no idea what that was and I figured it was worth the surprise to find out.

The hike was easy enough and I figured this was another good workout for my upcoming climb to Mt. Kinabula. (again if I only knew then). The trails had rest stops every 300 steps or so. Our lovely guides were cheering some of the stragglers on but nobody was in a hurry. We lined up and crossed a long suspension bridge that swayed a little to much if more than 5 people were on it, so no more than five people could go on it. I like walking across suspension bridges. It brings me back to the epic walks along the Everest Base Camp in which we crossed some high and incredible suspension bridges. This time we were here not giving way to pack laden Yaks.

The views were nice and the jungle was deep green. When we reached the end of the trail we came face to face with the monstrosity that was the "canopy climb". There was no turning back now.

Well, now I know what a canopy climb and walk are. I did not take many pictures out of fear for my life but Click Here and Google will be happy to help. The actual canopy climb is a series of aluminum steps, ladders, and walkways that are covered with a "protective cage" that seems to become less obvious the higher you climb. I am sure it was stable but I was not confident with the fact that some corners appeared to be held together with large heavy-duty plastic zip ties.

As we all lined up there were some safety rules. Only one person on the ladder section at a time. Only one person on a walkway at a time. No more than 5 people on the climbing apparatus at one time going up and going down the other side. No running, jumping or horseplay because yes some people need to be told such things.

It was not scary in the sense that I was petrified that the entire apparatus was going to come crashing down into the jungle with me going along for the ride. I was not afraid I would fall because it was very safe. It was unnerving climbing into the tree canopy being open and exposed to the outside world. The higher you climbed, the wobblier your legs got but the more fantastic the views were. At 150 feet I was about the tops of most of the trees, so the name "canopy walk". There were various viewing platforms, which I hung on to for dear life. My camera was doing just fine in my pocket. My Russian friends were behind me seemed to be struggling as well but laughing none the less. I quickly took a photo of them crossing the highest walkway. Bird, monkeys and whatever else lives this hight in the trees, you can keep it. It was nice to visit but don't invite me for tea because I will have to make up an excuse not to visit again.

Every once in a while there is something a bit too much even for me and I want nothing to do with it. Welcome to the Natural Fish Cleaning Station. Dani (the girl in the green shirt and backward hat) was a hilarious guide. "We are going to go see a nice waterfall (it wasn't) and I have a surprise for you. I was suspicious. We go to the falls and she immediately took off her shoes and encouraged us to do the same. I stood suspiciously knowing something was up. She laughed at me and called me a few names but I did not budge. Suddenly as if on cue, the Japanese girl shrieked in panic. "The fish are biting me!"

This bring us to the fish cleaning station. People pay money all over Asia to put their feet into large tanks and have whatever fish are in there clean the dead skin from their feet. In this case, it was all-natural and totally not going to happen for me. I recognized the type of fish, freshwater algae eaters. I have had them in my aquariums all my life. The Chinese girl loved it and she stood and the fish gathered and hung on her feet and ankle. I counted 30 of them. The Japanese girl warmed up to it as did everyone else, except our hero. Nope, not going to happen.

The day finished with an hour-long kayak ride back to camp. the kayaks were inflatable and tough to handle. I did get stuck in the river a few times and ended up kneeling to get any consistency. It was fun enough. Lunch was massive and afterward, I walked across the river to see what was there as we had time. Dani came with me and she found various bugs to photograph that I would have never seen.

It was a nice day and again, a great reminder that outside of the capital city there is a huge jungle ready to explore. My flight to Kota Kinabula was early the next day. It was a prop plane that always freaks me out. I got to the airport early and to no surprise, there was nobody there. I mean no people what so ever. I came to Brunei as the Omega man, I was leaving as the Omega man.