From Diary 1
9. We're trotting out to Peter for the last time. Get breakfast and pay our debt. Walk out to catch a bus or jeepney, but must walk the full 15 meters before one arrives. In Massin we have a little hour for the bus towards Tacloban over Bata and Bay Bay. Should actually find some money, but you can't do that in Massin, not at all on Saturday.
We drive with a
violent fast bus, that can handle the journey in six hours. In
return it costs 14 kroner!
We land at Tacloban's harbour at four o'clock. Here is a huge open market with vegetables, fruits, small and large fish, meat and hardware. We find a somewhat western café, and have to drop nine kroner for three coffees, three large cakes and four small ones. Finds a vending machine that will provide cash from a Master Card. Raises 1000 bucks, it should last a while!
The first hotel we find is just too bad. The next one costs double, but for 60 kroner, you get a nice double room. Here is even, for the first time, hot water! It's a big city after all. Despite that, the traffic is incredibly calm and polite. Not much is being honked much, and the cars, though reluctantly, are holding back pedestrians. Here in the centre there are many restaurants of the MC Donald type. However, they mainly carry only locally-sourced food. The shops close at seven, and then small street restaurants open in front.
10. We have breakfast at Chow King. The name may seem logical, but it does provide some nasty associations! Well, the food is fine. Outside the window, a 10-12 year old boy is sleeping on the sidewalk. He wakes up and begs once, but then gives up, just like the street vendors. We find the bus to Samar where we want to go to see Natural Brigde in Natural Brigde National Park.
We land in a small town after half an hour. Here we find the tourist office, where we are sold a pre-packed tour. It doesn't seem like you have much to say yourself, but it does cover our wishes. Must drop 55 kroner per nose. Next week they get busy. The TV show Jungle Challenge is coming to town.
We are registered on endless forms and in various books. Then we wait for our boat-man. Jesper checks to see if his cover for his backpack is waterproof. We haven't been out in the rain, but the river's chocolate brown water can be used. Fortunately, it's works.
We sit on boards, lying across a narrow canoe
with an unusually noisy engine. Have no idea how far we are going to
sail, and end up finding my ear-plugs.
We are at the entrance to a huge cave complex. We are left with a guide and two lamp bearers. They each have a large acetylene lamp, that really produces a lot of light. In addition to the cave's many large and small chambers, with countless exciting formations, here are some exciting animals. Tailless scorpions, with huge long forelegs, crickets with huge horns and a small sweet frog with colossal eyes.
Like everywhere else, the formations have names. Thinking of what it would be like to see: The rice fields, snow white and the seven breastfeeding mothers, and all the other acidic formations, after a pipe of giggle-grass? After a good long walk, we get out in the heat again.
Trot around a bit, while waiting for the boss to be our guide through the jungle to "The Natural Bridge". Tiny, smiling man who loves his country's nature. We see some butterflies, kingfishers, red lizards, a skink, big snails, some huge and some armoured millipedes.
There is a huge amount of different plants. Some are known from the florists in Denmark. Here are wild begonias, huge ferns whose leaf stalks are thicker than my arm. Different beautiful flowers, different insects from large leaf-like grasshoppers to brightly coloured beetles.
We reach the bridge, which is huge! The river has cut through the limestone mountain, forming a cave. The roof in it has collapsed and we stand between two bridges, one bigger than the other. The opening is about 15 wide and 25-30 meters high. It stretches 20-30 meters across the mountain, then opens out to a dense primeval forest.
A single shower comes, and we sit under a rocky shelf, and relax and chat with some "local tourists". See even more animals and plants on the return trip, which is completed by another noisy boat trip. The water has fallen a bit, while we have been trotting, and the next trips will be cancelled. You can't sail on the river and there are no roads.
We get back to the bus at six, and drive the 180 kilometres to Calbayog in three hours. The last stretch of a very bad road. We book into the Edvardo Tourist Hotel, where they do not speak a word of English. Late dinner at the local barbecue. By barbecue I mean barbecue. They lit a fire under the coals on the terrace, with an electric fan.
11. Early up, as usual, and by jeepney the 60 miles to Allen. The asphalt is used extensively on the road. We zigzags between rice, coconut and fish lying to dry in the sun. The landscape is unchanged: Dense forest of coconut and banana, intersected by tongues of rice fields. Fortunately, salespeople come up to the jeepneys in the larger villages with food, drink and snacks.
In Allen we find the first post office. It's part of the municipal office / town hall / telegraph / police station and what do I know. They are a little impressed, we have stamps! After a longer walk, we meet King Fredrich. It is the ferry that looks like a Samsø ferry from the old days, just in scale 4: 5. I can't stand upright in the salon, and not get through the doors at all, without bending a lot.
It takes an hour and a half to sail to Matnog on the large island of Luzon. This is where Manilla is located, just very far north, by a narrow ledge. Before we leave the boat, we watch a bunch of small boys frolicking on the sidewalk and a small boat. At countless requests, I throw out a handful of small coins, and then they dive!
The views of the numerous islands we pass are stunning. One Bounty Island after another. Quiet crossing, the big waves are never shown here.
We quickly find the bus to Daraga, where we have to sit in the back seat. It is raised so that there is a large trunk, but then you sit over the windows. Or rather; holes. Many buses do not have glass in the holes. There is a wooden board that can be raised so it closes the hole, that's all.
We stop once, so we can make provision and
pee. The bottles are pledged, so you get your Fanta in a small
plastic bag with straw. The so-known minute soups in flamingo cups
are very popular.
12. The silence is broken by 500 mad cocks, some pigs and a single dog that has set the alarm way earlier than us. I walk around the garden to photograph insects and orchids. After breakfast we head out to the tourist centre, where we are the only ones. Very new, nice and functional. We book a boat for the rest of the day, rent snorkel gear and sail out with our four-man crew and guide. It costs 140 kroner! After admonishing words and an explanatory video we are ready.
We haven't sailed for more than ten minutes before the lookout shouts "Shark". We jump in the gear and out over the rail with the guide. We are sailing around the beast, but cannot see it. Suddenly it comes sliding. Fighting us out to the side, to let two square meter of mouth, and a body like a bus pass! We are snorkel with whale sharks - the world's largest fish, that can grow to 18 meters long. Fortunately, they only feed on plankton and small fish.
In the next three hours we will see between 20
and 30 of these gentle giants. We have been warned not to touch
them, but the guide shows us how. I'm swim down once to measure the
distance between the eyes. There are two meters! Get hit the beast
on the back, with my one flipper, and it gets scared. Strikes a
single blow with its huge tail, and slides away from me at
incredible speed, without wake.
After three hours, we are saturated with the impression of the huge bodies with bright stripes and white spots. Also, some exasperated by swimming along them, and crawling back up the boat, again and again. We skip the rest of the day, and still feel we got plenty for the money.
Home to the lodge for lunch, and then into town to find a jeepney for Doroga. The driver points out the huge smoking volcano Mayon, which appears between the trees in split seconds. Get a long photo series of blurred tree tops, the facades of the local houses built in spotted bamboo and parked trucks.
When we finally find the airport, it is closed. In addition to a boxer that is getting gloves on, there are not many people around. Finds an open office that can report; everything sold out tomorrow. Hmm, then to plan B. After photographing the huge, and still smoking volcano, we drive down to the bus station.
An air-con night bus sets off to Manilla in half an hour. We find some snacks for the trip, and prepare for a long night. It takes eleven hours to get to Manilla. The worst thing is the temperature. Despite that, Jesper ajust the regulator as we make a stop, here is just insanely cold. This is the only time of the tour I wish I had more than my kilo and a half of luggage. I could have used a fleece jacket - or a polar sleeping bag!
We drive almost around Mayon, at whose foot, countless horticultural gardens exploit the fertile mass of low gravel. There are many flower shops along the road, with countless jars, infinitely many different flowers. Would like to have a closer look, but what if I found something really exciting?
We struggle to find comfortable sleeping positions. Jesper and Morten's battle incredibly reminds me of the sloth on a rock, in the movie Ice Age. In addition to the temperature, here are some children on board. They are not nearly as annoying as the adult cell phones. I don't understand what's in the way of silencing it, and engage the vibrator?
13. It's going to be a long night. We arrive in Manilla at four o'clock, slightly frozen. Crawling out with aching limbs into the heat. Find a taxi and drive to the airport. An Asian Spirit plane head north at half past ten. Then we save eight hours in the bus. Also book flights from Manilla to Pawlan and back. Not many planes to choose from, but those that go, seem to be used diligently. It would be a pity to sit at the other end of the country, when we should be flying home.
We sit and wait for an eternity at the national airport. I optimistically ask an English-speaking guard, where I can send postcards. He says there is way too far for the post office till I can reach it. I was just, rather naively, hoping for a mailbox in the airport.
There are about ten planes flying before ours, and they all on time. Ours is exposed, again and again, while even more depart on time. If we had found a bus this morning, between four and five, we might have been up there just passed twelve. Here we sit until twelve o'clock, where they then regret: The plane is cancelled.
Then we can spend an eternity getting the tickets refunded, and we can forget all about the airport charge. Then we are off to plan C. We just drive up to Subic Bay by taxi. It takes close to four hours, and costs more than the air tickets. Here we arrival a little to five, slightly worn.
The city is a little hard to find. It's actually the old town of Olongabo, where the Americans have built a huge base. Some of the area was transformed into a free trade area when the Americans were thrown out, and there are guards at the bridge to the area. Here is more money than we have otherwise experienced. Huge big and new cars, great houses and overall prosperity / western decadence. Attempts have been made to exploit the abandoned buildings of the Americans, to create a gigantic industrial area, but it did not work.
There is not much city or commercial area and we cannot immediately find a hotel. Get a quick cup of coffee, and plan a bit. We have read that just outside the city is the world's largest bat colony with 10,000 animals. It even is the world's largest bat, with a wingspan of two meters! These are really flying dogs. We find a bus that head out to the area. It is on the other side of the bay, near the airport.
On the outskirts of a residential block
neighbourhood, the primeval forest starts. Really crazy. We have a
great view of a dense valley. Huge trees, completely covered in
vines, many flowers, and in the back corner: Naked trees, completely
covered in huge bats' bodies. After a little search around, and then
I walk around the area, while we wait for it to get dark enough for the big beasts to start flying. Finds different seeds of the large flowering trees. Here are Fabaceae in various varieties as well as others, with huge fruits. Photographs and collects for the Botanical Garden, which gets very excited. There is a few parrots flying over us; unless it is parakeets? The air is echoed by countless birds' evening songs, mixed with some screams from the big flying dogs. Watching swallows, crows, bee eaters and a lot of "smutters" and singers.
It gets darker and darker. It has been a long time since a bus has passed, but finally our wait pays of. There has been a growing noise from the colony, and after it has become completely dark, some animals leave the colony and begin their hunt for ripe fruits. We try in vain by photographing them, but it is now dark black night.
After three hours of studying, we start to head back again. We go pretty far, and wander around a bit, to get the right path. It is roaring dark and there is not a soul in the street. Hear some sounds from the dense forest that surrounds us, and the huge flying dogs cross the stars in the narrow cracked sky above our heads.
We reach the closed airport. A jeepney comes by, but does not want us. Maybe because he wasn't going down to town. An old Toyota with father, mother and two or three children stops. They ask if we wants a lift into town. There are five to eight kilometres and the missing the night's sleep, is beginning to be felt. They clump together on the front seat, and with the springs at the bottom, we drive gently towards the city. They ask, if we should go into "something" and we will. Over the bridge, where people/guards,/police/military asked something, and light to get into the car a little, and then we are in a vibrant city.
Here are plenty of restaurants, bars, strips, hotels and the like. In fact, only thing missing is 30,000 US soldiers land law. We settle for a cheap hotel, after trying some sold out, local food for 12 kroner and an Internet cafe.
14. A little worn out after only six hours of sleep, we begin the hunt for breakfast. Ending up on the local joints, as we would rather not use one of the many MC Donald-like ones. I get rice with fried eggs and ham, as well as two cups of coffee for seven kroner. Then we head towards the harbour area. Turns out, the guards at the bridge will see ID. The brothers have their diving certificates and I just sneak in.
Get to walk a lot along the water, before we find a dive shop. They will have 300 kroner for two wreck dives and we are game. They have a small dive shop and I find some glasses, that I am allowed to try. We wait for a while for the divemaster, who is a substitute they call in. Finds the gear and sails a little out into the bay to US New York, which is 15-30 feet of water and is 112 feet long.
Of course, it is very impressive, but I find the dense sheath of coral covering the wreck more fascinating. We also swim in through the wreckage. Inside there are quite large fish and a better sieve. The water is 29 degrees, my mask works really well, it's a pleasure. Don't get worse, I'm not the worst diver. We have two ex-Filipinos with one of them being experienced, but obviously out of routine.
After a proper break, we dive down to El Capitan, which is a Spanish ship from 1898. Better visibility, great corals, great dives. We swim outside one way and back through the hull. Stick your head up in an air pocket where the air could be better!
I decide to buy the mask and have to drop 130 kroner. It may not give the best wide-view, but it fits my narrow face well. Use significantly less air by now. That means longer dives - more for the money. I forgot my dive log and and have to walk all the way back to the hotel. It is not possible to get a taxi out here.
Drive back with one, but he gets called up with another tour, so he leaves before we all three can drive back to town. Get my stamps, and then we head into town. Morten has been watching the 50 watercraft at the neighbour's. We have been watched by three or four sunglasses / watches / pearl necklace sellers. We are just the only tourists. They must either be based on old days (a few years ago) or also huge cruise ships. From our point of view, it has a favourable impact on prices.
Take a walk around the trade area. It consists almost exclusively of hairdressers, mobile phone shops, strip bars, restaurants, plastic ornaments and street vendors with pirate DVDs. After dinner, I find a hairdresser who can trim my beard.
The last part is in Diary 3