Sorry, but no photos unless I can recover the ipod.
The island is advertised as having great nature (check), wee mini tarsiers (saw them, and they ARE super wee, and cute), and this place called the chocolate hills which I had thought I would skip... but then rented a scooter and whizzed around and went right through the area so did end up seeing them. The scooter trip was a great way to get out and feel free to explore some distance, but also stop when the mood struck and it looked interesting to step off the paved path. The first diversion to a waterfalls had me also stop to take pictures of a quintessential rice paddy with farmer who was even wearing the stereotypical wide-conical thatched hat... who then walked up and started chatting to me in pretty good English. He had relatives in the states and had been in business but decided to go back to farming. Photos are from that area, but not the actual rice paddy scene itself.
|Riverside rice paddies, coconut palms... just another typical view on a Bohol gravel road|
|Probably poor resolution, but a larger perspective....|
The chocolate hills are a really interesting geologic area, just pretty exact conical-shaped hills, and just look sort of alien and trippy from an elevated view. It was cool, but really just a sideshow. You can google it and see the same photos that I took/saw. Really the scooter ride around the south part of the island was just a nice way to get out and about. Just lots of village scenes, cows in fields, people going about daily life in all sorts of ways. Then I wanted to get on the water, after enjoying the terrestrial side of things there. And I'd heard of this phenomenon where lightning bugs would congregated in trees and would have a synchronous flashing thing going on... so if you went out at night to see it, it would be quite a show. So I did that. And it was awesome. Still don't know exactly the biological reason behind it, but they gather in groups at the highest part of trees alongside the waterways of the delta. I went out at sunset with a small group and the bugs did their thing... was like a pulsing, starry-night, lava lamp sort of effect. Very cool. Then the next morning I went out for another kayak trip in the same area, which was cool to see the same stretch of river but during the day, and we got in a little closer to the mangroves, went exploring in the forest itself, paddling between trees and roots... trusting my guide that he'd know his way out. And, eventually, he did ;)
|Nipa palms lining the river|
|Navigating the "mangal" or mangrove forest|
The "forest" in the river delta system was really interesting, with nipa palms making up the majority of the "forest" at water's edge... which is used widely to thatch roofs and weave walls for the traditional housing option in the region. If you have more money etc. now you'd be building with concrete and corrugated tin, but dang those buildings get hot. The thatched ones let the air circulate which can be critical in the hot and humid times. But insects, cold, rain... I'm sure there are tradeoffs. The morning before I left, as my guest house hostess and I were watching the morning news, we saw that there had been a "terrorist attack" on the island... and I got a facebook message from Katherine asking me where I was and telling me to get out asap. There had been some armed men and they were apparently wanting to target a touristy area just a couple of towns away (if you divided Bohol into quarters-- 12/3/6/9, I was at about the 9:00 position, and the attack scene was happening at about the 11:00 position). I thought this was a bit concerning as it was in the same "quarter" so to speak, so I asked my hostess about it, and she said "oh, no, it's so far away, no problem!" I'd already stayed the night and paid her so it wasn't necessarily to make sure I stuck around, and her sentiment was echoed by the kayak folks I went out with that morning-- who also had already been paid etc. So they were all confident that it was no big deal. All the same, I was happy enough to be leaving that afternoon on a ferry to the island of Cebu-- to stay at a guesthouse run by the relatives of a friend of mine, which I found out about via Facebook. I tell ya, for all its ills, FB has proved to be an amazing way to make connections while being on the road... make one post and you just never know who will pop up saying they're close by or they know someone at X place so go see them, etc. More on this later. But to the Cebu ferry... it was pretty average, just seats since it was just a couple hours, but interesting was some of the cargo...
Do you see what's sticking out of one end of the woven bag there on the floor? It's a rooster tail! It was still holy week and folks were traveling far and wide to go and visit family... and many men were traveling with their fighting cocks-- which they had secured in these woven bags with just tails sticking out. Kind of a "you know you're in the Philippines when..." sort of a moment it seemed like. The BnB in Argao (BJs by the Sea, highly recommend!!!) was really lovely, a sweet neat town, a great place to relax, eat amazing food cooked by Joy, and have excellent conversation with Billy-- he had a career in the diplomatic service so we got to share some perspectives on places and cultures, really lovely. This image is from the rooftop of the BnB.
After the mini-relax session, I got an early morning transfer to Cebu's airport, and flew up/over to the island of Palawan... renown for its limestone karst geology, underground river, and amazing island scenery and marine life. I did the tourist trip to the underground river, which was interesting for the geology but certainly had to buck up to "suffer through" the mass tourism scene. But then I was able to book into a three-day "expedition" boat to go island-hopping off of El Nido... the town was touristy but I was able to find a peaceful place to stay on the outskirts for the days on either side of the boat trip. AirBnB was a great resource to find more of a local connection rather than the larger hotels/hostels. Here are just a few shots from that trip... want to get this out for y'all to see and I've got free internet here in Skagen, Denmark (yay to the Seamen's/Visitor's center at the port) so we'll see what I can throw out...
|Every island seemed to have its own version of the local rickshaw transport... this was a full-cab thing with all sorts of decorations, pretty sweet!|
It was a pretty awesome trip. We slept on land in thatched huts and spent the day on the boat, stopping at various islands to check out the beaches, snorkel, kayak... the water was clear and turquoise, the plants growing out of the sheer limestone rock were amazing (fat-trunked begonias!), and fishing for our dinner... awesome. Then I took a ferry up to the island of Coron/Busuanga off the tip of Palawan... for more limestone and snorkeling. Wish I'd had more time up there... could only hire a boat for the afternoon before catching my booked flight out the next morning... but totally worth it. Spectacular snorkeling with really healthy coral-- that was the most stunning bit. The first time, from Australia, Maldives/Seychelles, and even around El Nido/Palawan, where I saw really health staghorn corals. Stayed at a really neat guesthouse on stilts over water, all bamboo and such, totally local, had to follow a very obscure winding alleyway passing through what felt like peoples' living rooms and backyards to finally emerge on a walkway over water to get to the guesthouse. Very comfortable and very friendly-- highly recommend the Krystal Lodge of Coron Town. Here are a few shots from that experience:
There's so much more... but will leave it here for now. From Busuanga, I flew back to Manila, and then bussed it into the interior to check out the world heritage rice terrace region around the village/town of Banaue, with a visit to Sagada, known for the funeral practice of coffins being hung in caves/off sheer cliffs. That'll be the next post. Until then, have fun and enjoy! :)