Sand in the cracks

Trip Start Feb 12, 2006
Trip End Mar 02, 2007

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Wednesday, December 27, 2006

So many things about our arrival on the island of Boracay should have made us squeal with excitement. Our first ride in a trike, piled in with our bags under our feet, clinging on for dear life as we tore through the streets choking on the petrol fumes; the aquamarine sparkle of the ocean that winked at us flirtaciously through the palm trees; the unmistakable scent of salt water and sand that was getting closer and closer every minute; the boat trip across utterly transparent water that revealed all manner of creatures underneath us; all these things should have made us scream with maniacal happiness - but we were just too damned tired.
Instead we fought to keep our eyes open as we were herded at breakneck pace through the streets to our hotel.
We were eventually flung from our trike, bags and all, and directed to walk the rest of the way to the beach our hotel stood on because there was no more vehicle access.
The staff of the hotel eyed us warily as we practically fell in the door covered in the filth we had dragged along with us from the mountains over 16 hours before.
We almost cried when the owner told us our room wasn't ready - it was only 9am after all - but he took great pity on us and sent us to the empty hostel above his dive shop to take a cold shower. The hostel was actually where we had booked to stay, but it had been damaged in the monsoon that hit the island only a week before we arrived. The floor was soggy and sinky and there was no hot water, but by God, it was pure heaven.
I must say, it was the best cold shower I've had in my whole life. Feeling caked-on dirt being scrubbed away with the scent of those tiny hotel soaps, scratching my fingernails into my skull the way hairdressers do (the good ones anyway) getting down and thouroughly scrubbing at my filthy feet, all under that inconsistent trickle of cool water that spat like a bad tempered python. The window was open and I got to rest my eyes on the coconut trees bouncing about outside. My fatigue melted slowly into relaxation and after patting myself down with enormously fluffy towels I was ready to just lie down in the warm breeze and never get up again.
My stomach however had other plans, and feeling stoned with divine happiness, we made our way to the closest resturant that offered bacon and eggs for breakfast. We spent more times having innocuous conversations; this time we listed all the different ways one can order their eggs, sounding scarily like Bubba on Forrest Gump. Coffee was ordered, re-ordered and re-drunk underneath the palm trees that hung over the beach like bowing actors before an enormous stage.
We spent the day not really doing anything except lying around like the goddesses that we are, which was entirely fine by me. I could feel the strangled muscles in my legs start to knit themselves back together and I happily lay in the sun turning a delicious shade of pink.
A blanket of dark clouds crawled low across the south side of the island and seemed to stay there indefinately for the rest of the trip, but never actually got around to dumping a hefty load of water on us.
As the first wonderful day turned into night we strolled up the beach to a pizza place that cooked with a real woodfire - something truly lacking in korea. As we ate our meal all the lights went out, which is apparently quite common, especially since the typhoon came in to rip the island apart.
We saw stars for the first time in months. (We missed out in Banaue because of the rainy weather.) The fairy lights strung through the palm trees all up and down the beach twinkled like the fireflies did in Batad ,and the moon hung low over the ocean creating a stairway to heaven on the tidal waves. It was enough for us to spend a few hours lying on the beach just staring up above and remembering what it was like to be beneath an open, uninteruppted sky.
I reverted to my childhood by making turtles in the damp sand while we all chilled out with a few San Miguel.
It wasn't long before our goddess-likeness attracted a group of boys on their high school reunion. We were invited along to join their party and after some hard-core arm-twisting we went galivanting off into the night to enjoy copious amounts of beer and dance for hours. The music pulses out over the waves and bounces back to the beach, offering a natural surround sound experience for those of us dancing our butts off, so much that you could actually feel the rhythm through the sand under your feet and vibrating through the trees and the air all around. We eventually got back to our hotel in the wee hours of the morning and collapsed in our swishy swanky room (at hostel price!) with big smiles on our faces.
On the island of Boracay the time is always either 12 am, 5am, or 3pm. I'm not sure why, but everytime I checked my watch (rarely) or asked one of the friendly dive-shop folk what the hour was, it was always one of those.
It's almost impossible to discern the differnt tongues you hear people speaking up and down the beach, and it was really refreshing to be reminded that people speak languages other Korean and Ingorish. I was pleased to see that I wasn't the whitest person on the beach, but I still all but disappeared when I lay on the sand. If I had taken off my bikini I would have been impossible to find.
The girls and I worked up the energy to cruise up to D-Mall, the shopping mecca of the island and found ourselves in the same sarong and Hawaiian shirt stalls we could find anywhere. We ate in an amazing Italian restuarant  - a little put off by the security guard who stood 3 metres from us with his finger never leaving his rifle's trigger.
The whole time we were in Boracay time seemed to slow, almost to a halt, but it still slipped by us so quickly. It felt like we had just arrived and we had to leave again. we bade fond farewells to all the amazing new friends we had made and danced with, climbed on a trike and watched the beach recede behind us through teary eyes.
The airport offered another unique experience for us, when Erin and Veronica found themselves surrounded by a group of men armed to the teeth with enough weapons to kit out the local militia. We attracted a lot of attention for some unknown reason when we checked in our baggage - at least seven luggage handlers gathered to watch as we got our boarding passes.
Watching the tiny planes come and go, buzzing around like dragonflies and taking off with enough speed that it felt like you had momentarily stuck your head inside a vacuum, there was a palpable aura of sadness and resignation which was a stark contrast to the excitement of everyone coming through the arrivals gate. Pastey white folk were arriving and pink and brown ones were leaving.
The same dark clouds which had been threatening the horizon for the whole trip, seemed to be directly overhead which made the depression more turgid and the strong winds blew the palm trees completely horizontally as if they were trying to play a suicidal game of limbo with the power lines.
We sadly got on our plane and flew back to Manila for one of the craziest New Years Eve's we could possibly have imagined.
Stay tuned...
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