22
Nov
13

sunsets, storms, scooters and san miguels in cebu

Our next stop on this mini adventure across the Philippines has been to the island of Cebu. A much larger island than Boracay, our destination of choice was the sleepy seaside town of Moalboal some three hours by taxi from the islands airport.

Our departure from Boracay wasn’t without a little bit of drama. We had a mix up with the hotel when booking transport to the airport which saw us storm out after finally finding out we’d have to wait for the shuttle to come in about half hour after already being kept in silence for ten minutes holding all our bags. I’d understood that we could turn up in reception whenever and we’d be able to get straight on a bus / tricycle to the ferry terminal the other side of the island. This wasn’t the case. So with an hour a forty five minutes left till our flight departed from the mainland, we were faced with two tricycle journey’s and a ferry that we hadn’t even booked. Still, with a little bit of luck we got to the airport with a few minutes spare before check in closed.

The drama wasn’t over there as we went to check in I was told by the airport manager (yes, very small airport where the boss assists with check in!) that they had no record of our e-ticket on their pre-printed manifest. As the internet was down they had to ask us to wait to one side as they rather frantically tried to find a working mobile phone to call their headquaters in Manila. Fifteen nervous minutes later she handed back my passports with some hand written boarding passes and waved me over to pay excess baggage charges as we were 1.6kgs over our 20kg total limit! I tried bargaining but she said there was nothing she could do as they were worried the plane might be overweight. Fair enough, so I paid up the 300 peso (£4.20) fine.

As our flight was called we boarded. Watching a baggage handler go by with about four bags (including our two) we took our seats on the near empty plane. Excluding me and Naomi there were grand sum of 9 (nine!!) passengers! And they had the cheek to charge for excess baggage because an overweight plane…..

Anyway that’s this entries moan done with nice and early.

The drive from the airport on the north west of the island to the eastern centrally located village of Moalboal was at times a cracker. Once we’d fought through the Cebu traffic we turned to travel through what turned out to be some of the most poetically clichéd rural South East Asian villages and towns. Passing through the municipal towns of Carcar, Ronda and others, I was reminded of previous road trips through other unspoilt areas of the world such as Cambodia and central Vietnam. Its a joy to watch the kids running through the fields whilst the families prepare the food on open fires in the open countryside.

All the little towns seemed to be very well maintained. They all had a bustling Central Market, a smartly kept Elementary School, a state-like Town Hall and of course plenty of tricycles, buzzing the people up and down the high-street! The middle part of the journey saw us travel round winding mountainous roads, giving the odd glimpse over acres of paddy rice fields through the countless palm tress that hugged the roadside. On the descent from the mountains we were greeting by sweeping views across the crystal clear seas, watching the numerous little fishing boats go about their business. There was even the odd strip of untouched golden sand to put the cherry on top of what was a superb route through Cebu.

All a tad gushing I know, but some of it had to be seen to be believed.

Moalboal itself is located about 10km away from the area we were staying, just off the latest place that refers to itself as White Beach. Sadly it turned out not to be that white and a little uninspiring. (especially the 10 peso entrance charge, what is that all about?) Still, we didn’t expect this to be a big place for swimming in the sea in a traditional manner as Moalboal’s reputation is a scuba divers paradise as opposed a beach bums.

Our resort, the Asian Belgian, was run by a lovely couple called Monique and Roland. We were made to feel incredibly welcome at the resort despite not being divers and spent the first two of three days chilling in the resorts bar and restaurant area, racking up bills galore thanks to iced fruit shakes, San Miguel beer and tasty home cooked food. Well, watching more sunsets, talking about life and playing games of Uno is thirsty and hungry work, you know….We were assured by Roland, and the half a dozen other people that we here to scuba that this was a great place to see plenty of turtles and tropical fish, plus the off chance of witnessing some whales if willing to take a day boat trip away from the coast. The resort also gave a great panoramic view over the sea to the neighbouring island of Negros. Perfect for those sunset views that rivalled the one we witnessed over at Boracay.

On our last day in Moalboal we played irresponsible travellers and hired a scooter. As regular readers of this blog will know I’ve developed quite a taste for buzzing around those above mentioned clichéd Asian villages and towns over the last few years, riding in Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand previously. In fact it was last year that me and Naomi spent happy days riding around Koh Samui – this was a must do here given our resort was a good 10km away from ‘civilisation’ in the centre of Moalboal.

We set off confidently, no doubt thanks to last years experiences, and soon found ourselves smiling away and waving as we passed the Filipino villagers that dotted the roadsides on our journey to Kawasan Falls. Kawasan was about 30km away from our resort and we arrived without dramas until the inevitable tour guides ran out in the road in front of the bike trying to get us to use their services. I tried driving off quickly up the path up towards Kawasan to get away from their catcalls, but was stopped by a friendly car / bike park attendant who calmly explained we must walk from here to the waterfalls of Kawasan.

We escaped the offers of pointless tour guides (it’s a straight fifteen minute walk, you cannot get lost) and took a slow walk beside the ridiculously clear river that led from the main waterfall. We had read up quite a bit about this place and were excited to be here. The main waterfall itself was sadly cornered by restaurants, cafés and reasonably pushy boat operatives that at first wouldn’t leave us to take a few photos and take in the impressive site that was Kawasan. Dozens of tables were empty due to the lack of tourists (we counted about 10 in total whilst we were there) but we couldn’t use one to sit down, buy a drink and have a chill without paying 300 bloody pesos. We happily took some snaps, bought a drink and chocolate (Cloud 9, great Filipino chocolate bar) and took in the site stood up away from the hawkers. It was all a bit run down, with graffiti and rust on the signs, a shame when you consider the natural beauty of Kawasan. Still it was a great site and well worth the visit, but charging for a table when there is hardly anyone here?

We headed back to Asian Belgian and all was well, this despite the storm that had quickly closed in. Naomi made a great call to carry on with the remaining 15km or so as the rains didn’t relent for a good few hours after they started. It was pretty exhilarating to ride the bike in the rain and it gave me a great deal of confidence handling it in the pouring rain safely. When we got back we were absolutely soaked from the storm.

Our final night was broken up by me heading back into Moalboal to find an ATM. I set off by myself as dusk fell, as the roads and surrounds were soon plunged into darkness, minus maybe twenty yards in front of me from the bikes headlamps. It became apparent pretty quick to me that this wasn’t a great move. A foreign learner driver on a reasonably powerful bike playing Russian roulette with flood-waters, potholes, kids, dogs, bull frogs and fellow drivers not using lights to no doubt save on fuel costs. The roads were all pretty windy and the only light around the surrounding area was the dramatic lightning in the distance. It felt like a crazy computer game. Still, riding along at times like Driving Miss Daisy, I managed to get back in one piece.

Oh, and for the record the ATM didn’t work and I again got absolutely soaked in another storm walking the last few minutes back to the Asian Belgian after dropping the bike back.

It’s not all sunsets and San Miguel’s, you know…..

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Postscript – pre-warning about moaning blog to follow from Bohol. It’s not quite gone to plan here (he says typing in-between power cuts, water shortages, countless trips to the toilet and more storms!!)

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