Day Seven in the Philippines
We have made it to Boracay! This is the most touristy area in the Philippines and it is blatantly obvious. Surprisingly though it has not completely lost its island charm. The main beach (also called White Beach) is beautiful and it is not more dirty or tourist destroyed than any other place we have been to so far. The only difference is that it is a bit more crowded and there is a "promenade" with a lot of shops and restaurants and a big outdoor mall type area. Â
Our last full day in Puerto Galera was spent hiking and relaxing on the beach. We decided to enjoy the quiet of Talipanan Beach before moving on to the crowded area of Boracay. We took a hike recommended by the people who ran the resort to find a waterfall. It took us a while to find the right trail. In fact we had to have one of the girls that worked at the resort walk us to the proper trail head. Once on the trail it was easy to fallow. The first part lead through a small village of one room palm roof shacks. The people here were super friendly, a number of which actually stopped us to say hello and inquire about where we were going then ensure us that we were on the right trail. At one point we were heading the wrong direction and a young man actually called out to us and got us going in the right direction. Which leads me to a point: the people here are amazingly friendly. I read this and was told it by many people before we left, but I didn't really believe it. Read on and you will see some stories that prove it.
After we found the water fall and played in the pools at the bottom of the falls we took a dip in the ocean, relaxed on the beach, played cards, had dinner and went to bed.
Saturday morning we headed out to make our way to Boracay. To get here we had to take a Jeepny to Calipan (1.5 hours), then a ride in a van to Roxas (pronounce Rohas; 2.5 hours) then get on a passenger ferry to Caticlan (5 hours) finally we took a small boat to the island (10 min) where we could find a place to stay and some food to eat. We were planning on doing this trip in one day, but Â 2/3 of the way into the Jeepny ride to Calipan we ran into a little problem: I realized I forgot my little wallet that held my divers license, debit card, and credit card at the hotel we had been staying. We had to get back on a Jeepny to Puerto Galera, get a tricycle back to the hotel, get another tricycle to Sabang because we needed to get some more cash and the only place to do it was at a Western Union in Sabang because all the ATMs in the area were off line. Once done with that we had to get back a Jeepny back to Puerto Galera to catch the Jeepny to Calipan, then the van to Roxas. We got to Roxas at about 6:00 at night and spent the night there. It was fine in Roxas the people were firndly and there was a good market to find some yummy dirt cheep fruit. Sunday morning we took the two boats here to Boracay. What should have been about 12 hours of travel in one day, took two long days of travel. I felt so dumb for forgetting that, but we were able to get it back and get to where we were going. Alex was great about it, he did get mad or annoyed, his response was "stuff like that happens, don't worry about it". This leads to my first example of how nice people are here. The proprietors of the resort had already given us a 700 peso discount on our room for the two nights, and when they found my pouch after we left and realized the importance of its contents they rushed to the Jeepny depot trying to catch us and when they didn't they tried to get a hold of the driver of our Jeepny to let him know they had it and could meet us in Calipan to get it to me. Although these attempts failed it was extremely kind to make that effort and have it ready and waiting for me when we returned.
My other story about how nice the people here can be is about Dexter. When we were waiting for the boat in Roxas Alex happened to strike up a conversation with this guy Dexter who was also headed to Boracay. Turns out Dexter works at the Red Coral resort here as an out doors adventure manager guy. He knew lots of great fun things to do here and a lot of people here. On the boat ride over he texted some of his friends here to find us the best deal on a room. By the way texting is insanely popular here. Apparently Filipinos text more than anyone else in the world and after what I have seen I believe it. On of our Jeepny drivers to Calipan was actually driving (like a bat out of hell along non-paved roads) and texting at the same time - and people thought driving and cell phone use was a problem in the states J. Anyway on the short boat ride to Boracay Dexter introduced us to some friends of his that owned a resort here on the island and talked them into giving us a 200 peso discount on the room. So we are staying at a beautiful place with our own little cottage that is cleaned every day just like a normal hotel in the states and super friendly staff. The bathroom is the nicest we have had and the cleanest. On top of that Dexter also told us about some great places to eat and snorkel and attempted to talk some of his friend into giving us a discount on mountain bikes for the day. While that didn't work he did introduce us to them and it turns out that they had the best deal on day long mountain bike rentals anyway so we were able to rent the bikes from his friends. How amazing is that!? I didn't think there were really those kind of people remaining in the world. I will admit at first I was a little cautious about him, I thought he was too friendly and was trying to scam us. But he wasn't, he was just a really nice guy. So if you are ever in Boracay and what to do some adventuring like diving or island hoping go to the Red Coral Resort and see if you can have Dexter help you explore because he was the coolest person we have met so far. (He and the people who tried to get me my wallet back to me.)
This now brings me to our activities today. We rented snorkels and masks and the mountain bikes and cursed around the island. The island is actually really small and a big chunk of the roads are unpaved so mountain bikes were a great way to go. You can also rent motor bikes, ATVs or buggies, but mountain bike are the cheapest and I think the most fun. Along our ride to find a good snorkeling beach we ran into this guy named, Yolando, who showed us where a bat cave was and guided us though it. Without him and his really big flashlight we wouldn't have found the bat cave or been able to see well enough to climb down into it. The cave was formed of sharp slippery volcanic rock, and our guide had been giving tours for something like 15 years so he knew the easiest ways down, and it was fun to climb around on treacherous rock. Not only were there hundreds of bats in this cave there was a very large number of water snakes which we did not expect. Again with out our guide we very well may have stepped on one of these snakes, pissed it off then had it bite us. Though the snakes were a little bit creepy they were also really cool. They were a unique green stripped color and thetail end was flattened like a flipper, which aids in swiming though the water of course, but it was really awesome to see it.
After the bat cave we found a great mostly deserted beach to snorkel at. There was a huge coral reef only a little ways out with lots of fun interesting and colorful fish and other random sea things. The star fish were bizarre. I can't even describe them; I wish I had an underwater camera to take a photo. We had a school of fish fallow us. They were these small almost neon blue fish. I was fallowing Alex and he said that he would turn around to see me then just see this large school of fish right behind me. When I turned around or stopped they would just swim right around me. A few apparently thought my legs were food because they nipped at me. Â The reef and snorkeling was fun.
We knew we would be in the sun all day today so we were really good about putting on sunscreen to avoid another sun burn (by the way the "bit" of a sun burn I mentioned earlier was actually much worse, as I discovered later. I think that is the worst sun burn I have had.) I think we reapplied about three times in a 5 or 6 hour period. I inadvertently conducted an experiment on the effectiveness of sunscreen and discovered spots I wasn't applying sunscreen to well enough or at all. It does work very well when used correctly and I am not very good at putting sunscreen on the back of my ankles/lower claves and on that area right below my bikini bottoms because the back of my ankles are burnt and yes part of my bum is very sun burnt. These areas would not have been such a problem had we not been snorkeling, but I have learned my lesson.
Not all the parts about this trip are great. Laundry is a little annoying. We do it by hand and have to let it dry and we haven't quiet gotten the hand of it because our cloths don't ever smell clean (any suggestions would be welcome, and yes we are using soap). The traveling can be unpleasant especially the way we do it. Jeepnys are packed as full as they can get them maybe even beyond capacity, as well at the vans. The van we took to Roxas that would have been a 12 person van in the states held over 20 people. Fortunately it was air conditioned and not everyone made the whole trip, so as it went on we were able to gain a bit more room. Also travel takes a long time, but this way we meet more people and see more of the country. Despite the nice people like Dexter there are those that try and scam you, so we always have to be careful to ask how much a service is before we use it to ensure that we are willing to pay the price and we have to be weary. This can be annoying at times and tiring, but it is necessary because it would be more annoying to lose important stuff or pay way too much for something.
The mangos and pineapple are amazingly delicious and so much cheaper then in the states. I love fruit and I think I am now spoiled and will not like any tropical fruit I get at home. It will just not be able to live up to what I have had here.
I bought a sarong they while we were in Puerto Gallera, and I think it was one of the best purchases I have made. It is light weight and breathable and it is great on the beach to throw over my swimsuit and it is wonderful after a shower when I don't want to put other cloths on I can just tie it was a halter top and it makes a great light weight dress. The other thing I love it that I can wear it as a normal skirt. We all know I am a bit of a tom boy, and as great as my long baggy adventure shorts and loose tops are for the hiking and the traveling they are not super flattering nor do they make me feel all that feminine or pretty, so being able to wear a skirt when we get dinner or while meandering down the beach is really nice. It is also very relaxing not worry or thinking about anything besides what we are doing. We don't have TV and we don't have phones so all we have is what we are doing. I didn't realize how nice this would be or how much I needed this kind of a trip.
Finally for Sarah weather observations: there doesn't appear to be too much change in the temperature, it has stayed between 78 and 90 F and it is very humid. The tides also don't change much at all. I know the weather is due to the tropical climate and being closer to the equator, I wonder if the lack of tide fluctuation is also due to the proximity to the equator. We are defiantly moving into the "rainy season" we have had a couple crazy thunder storms that turn the sky grey and it looks like twilight it is so dark. There are also thunder storms on the water every night. So far every night we have looked out to sea we have seen lightning. It is pretty cool, but I hope no one is out on a boat in it because that would be unpleasant.
Well that is enough for now. I hope everyone is well. Know that I am doing great and that we are getting the rhythm of the people and learning the ropes quickly so please don't worry about us to much.
Look for anther message in a few days.