A weekend in Bohol...

Trip Start Sep 12, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Nisa Traveller Hotel

Flag of Philippines  , Visayas,
Monday, October 10, 2011

After a slightly stressful wait for everyone to get out of bed and into a fit state to jump into a cab, we were off on our adventure to the southern island of Bohol. Known for it's beautiful beaches, tropical jungles and the famous chocolate hills of the Philippines. The well routined scenario with the taxi driver to persuade him to seat five of us into is four seater Kia had cost us the normal fifty Peso. We crammed into the back in any way we could. Fighting for space but achieving nothing. I was lent forward resting my head against the drivers seat next to Larrisa and Ken.

Shortly after, we arrived at Pier 1, five minutes before the recommended check in cut off time. We found our way inside. Fighting against the hundreds of Korean tourists that flock to the Philippines in great numbers. Normally looking dazed, confused and always always always in the way.

As we boarded the boat, I noticed the weather looking a little brighter than the deep grey sky we left at Bigfoot Studios. Sat next to Denise and the joy of dry wit and offensive observations, my American friend Kenneth. A constant source of entertainment for myself. The engines fired into action and we set off, hurtling towards the island we had been thinking of all week. 

After a short sleep induced from the early wake up, me and Ken went for a wonder around the small speeding boat. At the rear there was a small deck in which we stood for thirty minutes or so watching the water zoom by. I was desperate to get off that bloody boat and onto a motorbike I had arranged for all us during the previous week. Eventually, we hit land. Wet, soggy land with a deep grey umbrella. Great.

The chap we had arranged to hire the motorbikes off was waiting at the pier to insure his sale. When we arrive there was some concern as to the safety of five tourists jumping onto these semi-automatic bikes since none of us had ever ridden before. We were right to be concerned too. Filipino roads are notoriously dangerous. Constantly busy with erratic overtaking, constant horn beeping and an array of different vehicles to keep watch of. After Dammy, a fellow intern from England who originates from Nigeria, had several attempts to get going on one of the bikes without a hint of hope, our minds were set. The bikes were a big no go, and we arranged a car instead. I was disappointed at the thought of not getting to ride the bikes over the weekend, but I was the one that had persuaded everyone it would be fun and was glad to lose the responsibility of getting blamed for the opposite outcome.

An hour or so later we were in a 'new', although fully repainted at some point in its life, Kia car. Assigned the driver, I was very nervous about hurting the car but also the four other interns in which I would ferry around for the next two days. The car looks nice, but would turn out to be a bit of a bitch! The accelerator peddle stuck as you pushed in down, the steering rack had an enormous bit of play when turning right and the lights were purely for decoration. Looking back, it really was lucky to have stayed on the black over that weekend!!!

Driving along the jungle roads was an incredibly surreal experience. Great palm trees rose from the ground like telegraph poles back home. There were beautiful metal and wooden house erected in between rice paddies and the patches of land where the cows wondered around looking at their tropical world go by. Motorbikes would rush past on blind corners and so would expensive saloons and 4x4s. Everything was so beautifully green. A green I had literally never seen before. Unfortunately I had to deal with an incredibly frustrating passenger seat driver who disagreed with virtually every form of driving decision I made. Getting quite annoyed, I had to tell my American comedy partner to stop it several times, only just holding onto my sense of humor each time. The roads would often dart away into a hairpin without any warning, and with stories of coastal road deaths ringing in my ears, I wasn't in the mindset to drive any other way than what I felt comfortable with.

Despite the stressful drive, we arrive at the Tarsier Sanctuary about 40 minutes from the city. Tarsiers are the third smallest primate in the world with huge eyes, elongated limbs and fingers give them a gremlin like appearance. I still can't decide if they're incredibly cute, or really quite scary.

We wondered around the sanctuary with our guide, pointing out the five Tarsiers they had managed to pinpoint that morning on their daily hunt for the Tarsiers chosen resting place. The little creatures were very still but incredibly brave as we stuck our digital SLRs in their faces. Their eyes were mesmerising! Constantly scanning in a slow and lazy fashion. They look like toys that had been brought to life. I could have looked at them all day. The little Tarsiers themselves had such an animistic innocence about them. Just clinging to their chosen tree with their incredibly long fingers. One holding a four month baby. I think Isabelle would have died if she had seen them.

Afterwards we headed to the famous Chocolate Hills. We drove over the river where they had shot Apocalypse Now and into the mountainous region of Bohol. Well, hilly region anyway. Upon arrival a local pointed at our tyre and shouted 'Flat' as we parked. The little, god awful Kia had let us down. Ken, Dammy and myself changed the wheel with the spare as the girls wondered up the viewing hills long, steep steps. The spare tyre was completely deflated! A very kind local jumped onto his motorbike and shot down the hill to pick up a hand pump from out of nowhere. Before long we had a half inflated rear tyre. Just enough to get home on safely. Well, get home on. 

The Chocolate Hills are truly beautiful. Encased in fog from the rain and humidity, it was the perfect weather to view them. They were mystical and enchanting. They looked exactly like what I had pictured Vietnam to look like. It reminded me of a book about the Vietnam war I had read some months ago and thought about how hostile an environment it was to spend long periods of time in. But here, it was a thing of beauty. A scene from an exotic tropic travel guide with the added bonus of the sounds and smells.

Driving back through to tall hills with their sudden tight corners in the Kia was truly frighten. The lights were awful. We spoke about staying the the 'Nut Huts' prior to leaving for Bohol. They are traditional wooden huts in the jungle in which you could spend the night. We had past the Nut Hut sign on our way to the hills, so we decided to head back there to book a few rooms for the night. When we reached the roadside sign, we pulled into the track leading to the huts, lightly grounding our little hire car on the floor. We drove about 500m down a winding track, covered in jungle and slopping down one side. The car ground several more times as the terrain became more problematic. Eventually we came to a steep slope riddled with wet grass and sharp rocks. After a brief discussion, the decision was made that our expensive hire car was more important than the huts and we backed the car all the way back down the long narrow track until we could turn it around. I was so pleased to have managed to get the car out of there. At times the wheels would spin up and everyone would wonder if we could actually get our little motor back onto the main road.

The following day we ventured out to a zip line strung out over a jungle valley near to the Nut Huts. Not before heading to a Vulcaniser, who fixed our punctured spare. We were there 30 minutes and must have seen five tyres repaired and eight tuk-tuks zoom in to pump their tyres up. It was great to get a glimpse of the real Philippines. At the zip line we zoomed over the canopy looking down into a beautiful winding river, dotted with bright white breaks as the water rushed over hidden rocks. I managed to tie my Canon 60D to my wrist and record the beautiful river and it's encroaching green jungle as I speed over them attached by 8 thin wires! 

Later that day we worked our way over to Panglao, famous for it's perfect beaches. We headed for Alona beach. The sand was beautifully soft, dotted with coconut trees and Filipino men selling knock of sunglasses. Restaurants lined the beach where dread-locked men sat watching the Asian boats bob on the nearly waveless ocean. The water was lovely and warm but wasn't as clear as I would have hoped. After eating and settling up the car and fuel costs with each other, we were on our way back to Cebu.

We dropped our slightly scratched car off. I was incredibly worried the guy we hired it off would want to charge us for the light damage, probably from our adventure down the jungle lane. Thankfully we handed the key to his wife, retrieved Larissa's ID and wondered off at speed

We arrived at the port an hour early. There were some food stalls at the far end and we wondered over to sit by the waterside onto of a sloped concrete platform. I bought a Puso, which is a coconut leaf wrapped into a triangular basket with white rice inside. I ate my plain rice watching the tropical fish swim around the boats. It was a beautiful scene and one which truly summed up what I wanted Asia to be for me, but I so desperately wanted to be sharing it with Isabelle. We had spoken about traveling so much and it just wasn't the same without her to share the experiences with. I learnt at that moment in time I had been fantasying about seeing all these places in Asia and trying all sorts of new things, when I should have been more focused on actually sharing that moment with her. It was the first time I felt incredibly down about not being with Izzie in 4 weeks.

We jumped on the boat around 6pm after talking to an English couple who were traveling the Philippines for a month and then moving to Australia for a year. Ken, Larissa and myself wondered out to the ships deck in the pitch black. I looked up at the stars and was transported to the memories of my childhood, sitting outside in the garden with my sister and parents looking for shooting stars. Normally, getting very excited when the rare falling rocks rushed across the sky. It was a nice memory that made me feel warm and happy. Home has always been a happy place to be.

I stood on the deck staring into the boats wake for about an hour, missing Isabelle. A couple came out momentarily to look into the black ocean. The Korean man had has hand sitting on his girlfriends hip. It made me feel comforted to see such a emotional but very simple bit human contact, and made me very excited for the arrival of my very missed girlfriend! 

2 1/2 weeks and counting!
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Linda on

Excellent Matt

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