The following entry will be split into 2 parts. The first part is Rob and Angie's visit and the second part is Beth and John.
Part 1 Friday 2nd March
Our first visitors. Yay! Rob and Angie had decided to bless us with their presence after Rob pulled out of his trip to Thailand. Brenden met them at the airport at about 2pm on Friday afternoon. He greeted them with a 1m wide sign that said 'Knob and Flange'. It seemed appropritate
Nothing too exciting on Friday night, just off to the local pub for a game of NRL. We look back at this and think 'what were we thinking?' Rob and Angie had flown 8 hours on a plane to come and experience a different culture in the Philippines and we take them out to the pub to watch the Broncos play the Eels. LOL.
Saturday 3rd March
Yep, as expected we're up again at 3.30am to catch our flight out of Manila at 6am. This is starting to become a bit of a joke. Any way, destination - Legaspi. First stop, Mount Mayon. This is what you imagine all volcanoes to look like. It's a perfect cone shape with the tip just poking into the clouds. It looked quite amazing. We'd organised a ATV tour around the base of it as well. So we rock up at the shop at about 7.30am. They weren't even open when we got there. That's OK, about an hour later we were away. Before we could ride they made us fill out a disclaimer form and read some rules on the wall. Basically the rules stated that it wasn't a race, any reckless driving and they'll escort you back and if you break the bike you have to pay for it. Well this is going to be pretty boring. The stupid thing was there is only 1 guide per group, and he's out the front leading the way so he can't see what you're doing any way. So Brenden just fish-tailed the majority of the way. The funniest thing of the whole trip was watching Angie go through the creek crossings. On every one her bike stalled and the guide had to go back and get her going again. We got plenty of photos. Also Rob's chain kept coming off so he ended up switching with the guide. Maybe because he was driving like a p****
After about 45 minutes we come to the base of the volcano. We jumped off the bikes and then proceeded to walk about 200m, then up an old lava flow up to the top where you get uninterupted views of the volcano - except for the clouds which were pretty thick the day we were there. It did look pretty cool though. Instead of walking back down to the bikes, they've set up a flying fox that you jump on. It's pretty long and you get up a fair bit of speed. It costs 250 pesos each but it's worth it, sort of.
On the bikes on the way back, the guide took us through the local villages where all the kids come out and give you 'high 5's' as you ride past. It was the highlight of the whole trip. Angie couldn't hide her smile.
After the bikes we jumped back in the car and headed to Donsol which was about an hour away. Donsol is famous for swimming with Whale sharks. They're there from about December/January all the way through to April/May. They congragate only about 500m off the shore as well so you don't have to travel very far. We spent the afternoon just drinking beer and watching the sun go down over the ocean. Beautiful!
Sunday 4th March
We were on the water by 7.30am. We had a boat to ourselves which was really good. There was a s*** load of boats out as well. There is all these signs up at the registration saying no more then 30 boats out at 1 time, 1 boat per shark and no more then 8 people swimming with a shark at any one time. Somehow we don't this is actually going to happen.
Not much happened for the 1.5 hrs, we didn't even get in the water. About 2 hours in we got wet but missed the Whale Shark. With about 45 minutes to go, we finally jumped in right on top of the shark. These things are huge. They look so amazing just swimming along so effortlessly. It really does take a lot of energy to keep up with them. Not only cause they swim quite fast but you're also getting kicked and punched from the other 30 people in the water. So much for only 8 people per 1 shark. The best way to swim with them is to dive down to their level as opose to snorkelling on top. You don't have to put up with everyone else swimming on top of you and it's the best way to appreciate just how big these things are.
Unfortunately the camera we had ran out of battery whilst we were swimming so we didn't get the photos we wanted to. Also the photos we did get didn't turn out that well either. They definately don't show the adrenalin we were all feeling. The final whale we swam with for nearly 15 minutes, which was really good as it didn't feel so rushed. We were all absolutely stuffed by the end but we were all pumped up with adrenaline on the way back to port. We highly recommend this to anyone. Put it on your bucket list.
We got back to the resort, had some lunch, packed up and then headed off to the airport for our flight at 2.15pm. As we were leaving, some other guests at the resort asked if they could get a lift as their driver they'd orgnised hadn't shown up and they were on the same flight as us. The van was only set up for 4 seats in the back (god only knows why) but we managed to squeeze everyone in. The only issue was the shockies weren't set up for any more than 4 people in the back. As a result we felt every bump on the trip back to Legaspi. Therefore the driver was driving about as slow as the internet here in the Philippines. We made it to the airport about 15 minutes late but luckily they let us on. We really didn't feel like the 11 hour bus ride home.
The rest of the week Rob and Angie basically entertained themselves. They went down to Taal one day and climbed a volcano and also went to hidden valley and spent some time in the hot springs. They spent a couple of days down at Palawan, which they thoroughly enjoyed. Then they flew back into Manila on Friday night and we took them out to Dampa.
Dampa is a wet market about 20mins from home. You walk through the market, selecting the fish, prawns, lobster, oysters, mussels, squid and just about everything else from the market vendors. Then you walk to the end of the building where there are a heap of restaurants set up where they cook it all for you. We gorged ourselves and it only ended up costing about $30 each including drinks.
On the Saturday night we organised to go to the Hobbit Bar. It's a bar run by dwarfs/midgets. It's really cool! The front door is shaped liked a circle and if gives you the feeling like you're walking into the side of a hill like in Lord of the Rings. Some of Brenden's work friends also came along. The food was a bit hit and miss. Our meals were pretty good however other peoples weren't so crash hot. The best part of the bar is the beer (and cider) selection. There must be over 200 imported beers from all around the world there. It was great, we didn't have 2 beers the same the whole night. The live band they had on was really good to. It was like this electronic rock, sort of like Led Zepplin. Was a welcome relief to the usual love ballads you here on the radio and in the Karaoke bars.
So we said farewell to Rob and Ange on the Sunday. It was so good to have such great friends come and join us for a week.
Part 2 Friday 9th March
Our second set of visitors in as many weeks. Beth and John are friends originally from Gladstone but currently live in Borneo where John works for Orica. Beth used to work with Brenden in Gladstone and they'd been with us to a couple of Splendours as well. It was their wedding we travelled back to Australia for in January. Instead of getting them a wedding present we decided we'd take them on an adventure when they came to visit us.
So Brenden met them at the Airport at about 2pm. No sign this time, Brenden had worked some pretty big days that week and didn't have time to think of anything. We picked up Jodi on our way back to the apartment and we let them know we were taking them back to Donsol for their wedding present. They were pretty excited.
Saturday 10th March
So this time we were a little bit smarter and booked some flights around midday. This was so much better than the 6am flights we'd been booking of late. We fly into Legaspi and then find the same driver that took us to the airport 2 weeks prior. This time the car wasn't overloaded so it was a more pleasant drive. We stayed in the same place as well so we spent the afternoon sitting on the beach, drinking beer and watching the sun go down over the water again. Bliss!!!
That night we went and watched the fireflies again. For dinner we had orgnised to meet up for dinner with Karweng who was also at Donsol with some of his friends from Melbourne, Nick and Erin. Penny, who had come to Mt. Pinatubo, was also there as well. We had dinner at this place that was pretty good. The food was amazing but fairly expensive, $22 each when you compare to what we had at Dampa the week before. So everything was going as planned. We'd got back to the resort at about 10 and settled in for a quiet night ready for the boat ride in the morning.
Sunday 11th March
At about 1.30am, Brenden was woken by the sounds of Jodi in the bathroom 'purging' all remnants of food and water. We're not sure if it was a dodgey prawn or some water but she wasn't well. 7am came around and she still wasn't much better so we decided on postponing the boat trip til the next day. Brenden decided to take Monday off work and we changed the flights so it wasn't too much of a problem.
So the remainder of the day was spent lazying around on the beach, sipping a few quiet beers. Jodi came good around midday so it was definately something she ate. Beth and John spent the afternoon back in Legaspi doing the ATV ride we had done with Rob and Ange a couple of weeks before.
Sunday night there was a local festival only about 200m up the beach from where we were staying so we decided to go and have a look. There were a few little stalls there including the Filippino version of Roulette. Basically there is funnel hanging about 10cm over a board that is covered in Red and White squares. Then you drop 2 ping pong balls in the top of the funnel and then they fall out onto the board. The way they were playing it was the balls have to land in the same colour squares and if they didn't, they just replayed until they did. Seems a bit strange, why not just play with 1 ball.......... We had a few games, John lent Brenden some change and he lost it all, while John won on the games he played so we came out even.
Monday 12th March
The next day we made down to the registration area and were on the boat by about 7.30am. The water was a lot clearer and flatter then we'd experience prior but it was rainy and overcast so it was harder to see the whales. We sat on that boat for 2 3/4 hours before we finally got into the water. We were starting to get worried we wouldn't see one at all.
Anyway it was worth the wait as we were the first ones into the water so there was no one around us for a good minute or 2, which meant it was just us and the whale. The second time we jumped in the water, they put us straight on top of it. Both Jodi and Beth screamed through their snorkels - I'm sure the whale would have loved that. We swam with it for a couple of minutes before everyone joined in as well and then you had to fight to stay above the water. The photos didn't turn out that well either. And that was it, short but amazing none the less. We were so happy Beth and John got to experience it!
After making it back to shore, we headed back to the resort to pack up, have some lunch and then off to the airport. Beth and John had planned to fly to Cebu and we were heading back to Manila. This time the car wasn't overloaded so that was a bonus. The airport was reasonably crowded when we got there but we didn't think too much of it. Beth and John checked in straight away but our line was nearly out the door. Karweng and his friends were also standing in line but they were near the front. By this time, the rainy, overcast weather that we'd experienced all day had turned into more of a drizzle with low level cloud. Hmmmmm......
So as Karweng was checking in, all of a sudden all the staff behind the counter ran out the back and had a quick little meeting. They returned to let everyone know that the Legaspi-Manila flight had been cancelled due to weather. Farrkkkk!!!!!!! This is the reason why the airport was so crowded. It turns out that the 2 flights earlier that day had also been cancelled so everyone was there trying to get a seat on the final flight of the day. However, the Legaspi-Cebu flight wasn't cancelled and there were 6 seats left on that flight. So Karweng and his friends and us tentatively booked ourselves on those seats hoping we could just fly to Cebu and get a flight out of there back to Manila. We also found out that there was a bus service leaving at 3.45pm back to Manila, arriving at 5am the next morning. So we hummed and harred about this and finally decided to get the bus. We weren't sure if the flight to Cebu was actually going to be cancelled or not and we needed to make sure we got the bus if it was. And there was no guarantee on getting on the flights the next day as the flights prior to us had been cancelled so everyone would have booked any remaining seats. Plus we had both had to work the next day.
So we left Beth and John at the airport and caught a taxi to the bus terminal. We booked 2x rows of 3 seats for the six of us. Then we had just over an hour to prepare ourselves for this epic bus ride. Luckily right next to the bus terminal there was a shopping complex that had food, clothes, etc etc. We went straight to the top of the department store and proceeded to buy blankets, pillows, socks, jumpers/long sleeve shirts and most importantly toilet paper. We must have looked so ridiculous, 6 expats running around like chickens, 4 or 5 shopping bags hanging of our arms and trying desperately to mentally prepare for this bus ride. We smashed some McDonalds and then headed back to the bus terminal with the bus scheduled to leave in 15 mins.
On the way back, Brenden received a call from Beth and John saying that their flight had been cancelled and they'd been put on another flight from Manila to Cebu at 7.30am the next morning. That meant that they needed to jump on our bus or possibly miss their flight the next day. So when Brenden got back to the terminal, he purchased 2 tickets for them whilst they found a taxi at the airport and made their way to the terminal.
They got there at about 3.40pm. When we finally sorted out our s***, we jumped on the bus and then went to sit down. We probably should have realised this when we booked our seats initially. We booked 2x rows with 3 seats in each. Don't buses usually sit 2 people each side of the row. This bus had 2 seats on 1 side of the bus and then 3 seats on the other side of the bus so when we all went to sit down, by the time 2 people sat down, there was enough room for half an arse cheek of the third person. Great! This bus ride is going to be like 13 hours long. This just wasn't going to work. So we all chipped in another $5 each and bought 2 more 3-seaters so we can put 2 people on each so we had some chance of getting some sleep on the way home.
So it turns out the bus ride wasn't as bad as what we'd all thought it was going to be but it wasn't that great either. They played a couple of movies, stopped once for dinner and toilets and we finally made it back to Manila at 3am, a total of 11 hours. It probably had something to do with the way the bus driver was driving. It was like he had stolen it or something. The entire trip was made up of hard accelaration and then hard braking, so much so that you had to brace yourself from falling off the seat. So when we did manage to get to sleep, it was only short lived as the sound of the air brakes echoed through the bus. To top it all off, when we got to Manila, the taxi ripped us off big time. He wouldn't put the metre on and we ended up paying 240 pesos for a 80 peso trip. We couldn't be bothered arguing though, it's the whole of about $4 and we just wanted to get to bed.
The alarm went off at 5.30am. It felt like we didnt sleep at all. We bid fairwell to Beth and John for the second time. We definitely hadn't planned this into our itinerary but it was good to see them for a little bit longer. We hope they enjoyed their wedding present, you guys mean a lot to us.
So there must have been an underlying reason for the flight being cancelled and us having this hell of trip back to Manila. The reason is so obvious. It's because we didn't get the early flight out of Manila. It has to be it. If we had have caught the early flight, none of this would have happened.
Now we need to decided what to do in the future - early flight out of Manila or s*** trip back to Manila. It's one or the other..........