River Swimming and the oldest and smallest primate

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Flag of Philippines  , Visayas,
Wednesday, May 26, 2010

We had arranged to meet Sarah and Chris at 8.30am for a morning swim in the river up to the waterfall, well, I say that, Andrew had agreed to go swimming and since I had seen a long snake type thing in the water yesterday I had agreed to carry the rucksack and mind all flip flops etc on the river bank. I took the small rowing boat across the river to the other side to pick up the path and followed the edge of the river while the others swam.  The water looked so inviting especially in the morning heat but having not been blessed with water wings, only bingo wings, I felt much more at ease on the dry land, only snakes and rabid dogs to worry about (we skipped on the rabies injection against the advice of the travel clinic to save some more money for booze). 

Ten minutes up stream everyone realised that trying to do the butterfly stroke the whole way to the waterfall maybe wasn't within them and climbed out on to a jetty where some local children were playing.  We walked through a tiny hamlet of houses where there were hundreds of open coconuts drying out in the sunshine, until the path ended and they had to swim the remainder of the way to the waterfall.  On the way back some of the children from the houses were out playing basketball and when they saw the size of Chris, 6 foot 6, their jaws dropped and he was quickly thrown the ball to show his stuff.  We guessed that the story about a famous basketball player coming to town might become an urban myth.

As Chris missed from straight in front of the basket (bear in mind this was a Filippino height ring (i.e. not 10 feet in the air but about 8). Andrew edit – the water was a lovely temperature but the current was a bit strong due to the storms the day before. We swam most of the way but with my lack of ability to do front crawl I think I did fairly well against the current to even get within a few metres of the waterfalls. Swimming back to meet E I got very close to a very nice looking bird on the rocks (see picture).

After scaling the steps to the restaurant, that I still cannot get up without stopping at least twice, we ate breakfast of soup and pork fried rice (it was getting on for 11am) and said our goodbyes to Chris and Sarah who were heading off to Siquijor another island in the Visayas.  We on the other hand had one more day and had decided to go to the Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella.  The Philippine Tarsier is the smallest primate in the world as well as being the oldest mammal now inhabiting the earth and its body measures no longer than 6cm. 

Due to the gradual loss of its natural habitat (and the increase in the two main predators (kidnapped for 'non licensed' tourist attractions where they are kept in cages until they commit suicide due to the stress of being caged and disturbed during the day when they should sleep / rest – TRUE!!)  And the second is the domestic house cat) there are now only 1000 left in the wild in the Philippines and although not yet on the endangered list they may soon face extinction if they are not closely monitored

We took a motorbike taxi to the sanctuary which was about 30 minutes drive from the hostel through glorious countryside.  When the driver arrived dressed as the Filippino Fonejacker we were a bit freaked out at having to decipher what he was saying seeing his lips movethrough a t-shirt.  The ride was a bit uncomfortable with 3 of us and a rucksack on the same bike but we were paying just 2 pounds each way so we couldn’t complain. The rough road ride down two nights previous was replayed again but the smaller motorbike seemed to struggle to get up the hills and over the rocks and boulders. Embarrassingly for us the driver stopped in town and said we were ‘too big’ for his bike so put us on a big crosser which was a bit more comfortable. (Andrew Edit -  I had a few weigh ins here and have lost quite a lot of weight on the Asian food and lots of exercise diet but come on too fat for a motorbike.)

The sanctuary cost 70p each to get in and lived up to my expectations.  A guide took us through to the enclosure that is essentially an area of jungle sectioned off and cat proof, as domestic cats are the Tarsiers biggest threat.  As they are very territorial animals the guide was able to find them straight away, without him it would have been impossible as they are so tiny we wouldn't have seen any at all.  They were quite simply the cutest thing I have ever seen, it was a truly special experience.

Back at the hostel we grabbed a couple of hammocks and lay reading until the chef returned from shopping and brought more chillies with him (Andrew and Chris had exhausted the supply with their insatiable appetite for hot and sour soup being ordered for breakfast and tea).  We ate and tried to stifle our giggles when the German (Andrew edit - Isreali?) middle aged guest returned from his days hike with his lady boy companion to the chorus of 'She's a lady' by Tom Jones on the stereo.  We navigated the steps back to the hut as it was going dark and watched a truly terrible and predictable film called 'Step Up' on the laptop. We went to sleep for the last time in our cool jungle retreat dreading another night tomorrow in Cebu City.
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