Welcome back to Friday in the Philippines. Last week we had a long night with the karaoke in Suiteroom 1 of the Superferry. Check here for back posts:
Philippines, Part 1: Have Baby, Will Travel
Philippines, Part 2: Do You Know How to XOOM?
Philippines, Part 3: Confessions of a Carseatless Baby (Vigan)
Philippines, Part 4: Strawberries and Cotton Candy (Baguio)
Philippines, Part 5: Hanging Coffins! (Sagada)
Philippines, Part 6: Voyage of the Icebox (Banauae & Batad)
Philippines, Part 7: Revenge of the Cockroaches (Manila)
Philippines, Part 8: Please Don’t Feed the Sharks (Anilao)
Philippines, Part 9: “Sexy Chic” at the Playboy Fashion Show (Field Study Research)
Philippines, Part 10: Luxury Travel, Filipino Style (Cebu)
Before leaving Manila, we had finally traded in our overstuffed frame backpacks for a snazzy matching set of rolling (and nesting) suitcases. Having performed so much research on manufacturing companies, we were ready to start our Filipino textiles import business, so we decided it would be both more comfortable and more posh to switch from intrepid backpackers to business travelers. The day we went to buy the suitcases, Tony was asked by a head-hunter at the mall if he was interested in a career as a model, further fueling our delusions of grandeur. He shortly thereafter announced that he was claiming the small rolling carryon bag as his “personal luggage,” to be used on future business trips to the Philippines. That little detail will become somewhat important later.
Our next stop was to be Bohol, a small, adventure-laden island. We bought tickets for Weesam Ferry and settled into our seats in the lower deck to watch the onboard movie. Unfortunately, the first fifteen minutes of the movie were an obscenity and violence-laden police raid on a secret KKK meeting. I covered the baby’s eyes, and Tony went to ask them to change the movie. Which they did! Their next selection, Coming to America, was also rated R, but we figured we needed to choose our battles carefully.
Once landed at Bohol’s capitol city, Tagbilaran, we caught a bus through thick jungle and quaint villages. The bus was supposed to drop us off at a boat dock where a cute little pumpboat would take us on a picturesque river cruise up the “Mighty Loboc River,” ending at a charming and authentic resort called Nuts Huts, run by a benevolent Belgian who really knew how to take care of his guests. Or so gushed our Lonely Planet guidebook. In reality, neither the bus driver nor the people we asked seemed to know where the dock or the pumpboat were. We ended up being dropped off by the side of the road at the beginning of a rough trail marked “750 meters to Nuts Huts.” 750 meters is not far, unless you are traveling with two rolling suitcases, a small but very heavy backpack/diaper bag, and a baby.
Tony was carrying the backpack and sometimes rolling, sometimes carrying the large suitcase. I was bumping along behind with the baby in the wrap, dragging the small suitcase dragging. Tony kept reprimanding me for not picking up the suitcase at the (perpetual) bumpy, rocky places. “You’re ruining my personal luggage!” he lamented. I responded ungracefully with a caustic comment about the relative priorities he was putting on his personal luggage versus the safety and comfort of his wife and baby. By the time we had bumped and dragged ourselves and our luggage past several staring locals and to the top of the steep winding staircase from which we could descry the reed roofs of the Huts themselves, we were both hot, sweaty, filthy, and very out of sorts. The larger of our two suitcases had been completely muddied and destroyed, and the smaller suitcase was not far behind.
As we wearily trudged down the steps, the Belgian hippy proprietor of Nuts Huts appeared on the porch of a large deck on stilts, which overlooked the muddy river. He gazed at us for a moment, and then commented placidly that he had never seen people try to roll in luggage before. I refrained from comment, and we dragged our bags down the rest of the steps and settled into our picturesque nipa hut on the river.
As we drifted off to sleep, the jungle awoke around us, and we could hear an orchestra of insects and other inhabitants serenading us through the trees. When we woke the following morning we had experienced enough authentic living with mosquitos, spiders, and other larger unsavories (was this the place where my breast pump was attacked by cockroaches during the night? I’m not sure . . . the various unfortunate huts we called home tend to run together in my mind now). We decided to relax and then leave the next day. Unfortunately, that night it rained hard all night and continued into the morning. We couldn’t picture either tumbling along in a small boat on the swollen, muddy river or dragging our suitcases back along the now flooded trail. So, we (more or less) philosophically slogged up a hundred slippery stairs to the outdoor balcony restaurant at Nuts Huts, watched the tropical rains come down around us from hammocks on the porch, and speculated darkly on how the Belgian must have wined and dined the Lonely Planet reviewer.
By midday the next morning, the rain had thankfully slowed down enough to make leaving possible. At least this time it was easy to find the pumpboat from our location right on the river. It took us first up the river to the impressive waterfall, and then down to a spring that created a delicious natural swimming hole. The river was high and chocolatey from the recent rains, but where the spring came up off to the side, the water turned an improbably abrupt and brilliantly translucent turquoise blue. We could not resist the opportunity for a swim, so we changed into our suits in the boat. We left Axa with the boatman while we jumped in and frolicked in the water, with a light drizzle still pattering all around us. It was more than delightful and romantic enough to make up for the squabbles and disappointments of the preceding days.
When the boat had arrived at the elusive dock, we disembarked and entered a jeepney crammed with people along both facing benches to go back to Bohol’s capital city of Tagbilaran. Just when we thought that the jeepney had reached its extreme limit of capacity, the driver produced several one-legged stools which the unfortunate passengers who entered last were required to balance between their legs as they swayed back and forth between full benches of people, bumping first into one, and then the other. We had not yet seen Bohol’s star attraction, the Chocolate Hills, but we had had enough of the island for the moment.
Stay tuned next week as we finally find our own little piece of paradise (complete with white sand beaches, fantastic seafood curry, and our very first monsoon) in Philippines, Part 11: If You Were Stranded on a Desert Island . . .