When did March happen?
Im going to try my best to catch myself up to the past few weeks’ events and I’ll stick to the most memorable (translated: what I can most clearly remember).
Somewhere in February it hit me – I need to go home. The reasons were threefold (mainly)
1) My money is running out!
2) Every day I stay makes me want to stay longer.
3) Winter is approaching in SA…flying back in the middle of winter would be flying into certain depression. No jokes.
So here is where my bucket list began. The Camotes is relatively small, but also relatively big. I have been told that I would need at least six months to explore South America. The Camotes is minute in comparison and I have thus far managed to scratch it’s surface in over four months! The amount of time required to travel is not measured by distance, it is measured by depth of integration into your surroundings.
The more I learn about the Camotes, the more I want to learn.
In a recent conversation with Felix, I explained to him that I do not want to be a tourist anymore. I want to explore the islands the way he would – as a local.
SNORKELING IN SAN ISIDRO
Long before short, we rode our motorbikes to San Isidro – a nearby Barangay which was also nominated the cleanest Barangay on San Fran island. (side note: San Fran is the cleanest town in this province and the vice mayor even attended COP17 in Durban as a speaker…more on this later). San Isidro plays host to a beautifully managed marine sanctuary. The locals took us out on a small boat to the nearest coral “rocks” in the sanctuary for a snorkel. The corals seem very healthy in this area and there are plenty of fish to be seen 🙂
Afterwards, we had a beer at the local shop before heading back.
Felix invited me to a church event which had finished by the time we got there, and so we headed to the town bbq for some grub – great way to end that day.
SUROY-SUROY IN THE MOUNTAINS
Both Poro and San Fran islands have tarred roads which circle the islands. It takes a good hour or more to circle an island by motorbike and the drive is spectacular. However, in the middle of this circle are mountains, and on these mountains are houses, people, farms, caves, trees, animals…and whatever else I was about to discover.
On a day off, I mentioned to Felix that I would take a drive into the mountains, hoping that I could borrow the XRM (motorbike) instead of driving the fancy city scooter. He offered to drive with me and we would take both motorbikes – in case. I drove the scooter. Believe me when I say I was scared! The roads are washed away and for most part, your drive over rocks on steep hills…and down again. An intense ride to say the least! Those little wheels weren’t made for driving over big rocks and loose gravel.
We started on top the highest peak on San Fran where the communication towers are located. We stopped at a local house, were welcomed inside and had a chat with the residents for a minute or two. We continued over rough terrain on to the mayor’s “resting house”. This is what we would call a “lapa” overlooking the island where the mayor entertains, holds meetings, etc.
Felix recommended that we head over to the adjoining island of Poro and explore another mountain “range”. Starting in Pagsa, we continued east through a few Barangays, stopping here and there to see some of the land owned by Felix. We eventually visited the church of Christ where I had a long chat with their Minister about Christian belief and different denominations. We discussed biblical matters and faith in general for about an HOUR! I always count myself lucky when I can sit down with a theologian and connect as brother and sister in Christ. Refreshing… We drove on for quite some time and came to a stop even further off the beaten track. Here, we parked and proceeded to walk further until we reached a house. Friends of Felix!
This household is exactly the description of Camotes living. Town is far and thus they are, in most part, self reliant. The family prepared a lunch of lechon (spitbraai) chicken and maize. Delicious!
After this lovely rest, we ventured further, followed by two of the boys to another random bamboo hut. This lot is also owned by Felix, and so, the boys climbed a coconut tree and opened it for us to drink its sweet juice. They then fashioned a spoon-like scraper from the shell and we used it to scrape out the coconut meat as our after-lunch snack.
I LOVED this day. Thank you Felix!
Mindy (bless her) has a boat! A small pump boat with two paddles… Since moving to Vall Hall, I am staying on the water (south side of San Fran island). Mindy lives on the water on the south side of Poro island. Quite some time ago, we pondered the possibility of rowing from her house to mine, and back again. Last weekend we decided, “it shall be so”.
I made my way over to Mindy’s on Saturday, parked my motorbike and we set off into the big blue with her boat at around 3pm – each with a paddle in hand.
Most boats, I thought, adhered to simple physics. Paddle left – turn right, paddle right – turn left. Not this boat. We paddled as straight as the footpath of an Irish alcoholic on St Patties Day. We even made a few circles before attempting to go in the direction of my house. But we did it! It took all of two and a half hours, but we did it. We successfully paddled from Mindy’s to mine by boat! We reached Vall Hall at sunset and the view was the perfect frame for such an awesome experience. Thank you Mindy!
The adventure was not over though – that boat had to go home the next day. On Sunday, after breakfast and some networking (more on that later), we got back into the boat and this time ventured a far less curvy route back to Mindy’s in one and a half hours.
There is a slide at Vall Hall which leads straight into the ocean. The trick is of course to wait for high tide before attempting to slide. On Monday, just before sunset, the tide was up and I was feeling adventurous. It was scary! The slide is really high up and once you’re in a sitting, “sliding” position, it’s hard to adjust before hitting the water. What this means is that you end up falling far and hard…on your thighs / bum. It was intense and I was too frightened to enjoy the first attempt, so I tried again. Exhilarating! Many veins in my left thigh burst and I am left with little blue spots all over, but it was totally worth it.
Next on the adventure bucket list: Snorkel / dive in Southern Leyte. Mindy and I will hopefully make it to Southern Leyte this weekend for a dive and a snorkel. I have heard that this area is extremely beautiful and worth seeing so I hope I get to see it before I leave the Philippines.