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Day 61 & 62- Busy Bohol

Island number 4


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2nd February- Chocolate Hills, River Cruising & More Waterfalls
We’d planned to watch the sunrise at the chocolate hills but due to the late running of our boat yesterday, we arrived too late to find anywhere to hire motorbikes. A little relieved we didn’t have to get up at 4am, we set off for the day at the still too early time of 8am. Having rented scooters in Cairns we hadn’t really contemplated the difference. The scooter we got here was a two person one so much bigger, much faster and much more powerful than the little beat up ones we’d had a practice run with. Having had the most road experience I was nominated to drive first. Not as bad as Manila but the roads are still mental here, weaving, beeping, seemingly no lane control or rules.

Very quickly working out that the beeping is scooters telling other vehicles they’re about to over take (the Jeepneys are incredibly slow) or pedestrians and dogs to watch out; there are a lot of stray dogs that just lie in the road. I was anxious at the extra weight of another person on the bike and controlling corners and such forth, however, once on the road it was fairly easy. There was much less traffic on the highways and it was actually pretty fun.

The chocolate hills are a phenomenon on Bohol. They were formed ages ago by the uplift of coral deposits and the action of rain water and erosion. The grassy hills were once coral reefs that erupted from the sea in a massive geologic shift. Wind and water put on the finishing touches over hundreds of thousands of years. They get their affectionate name as in the dry season these mounds are lacking the grass we could see and instead are brown. Climbing up the many steep steps and standing at the view point was impressive. We marveled for a while before the other tourists annoyed me too much.

The amount of travelers visiting places to get the perfect photo for social media is outstanding, no one seems to be there to actually see or learn about the place, just take the picture and go... Well, take 50 photos to make sure you have a perfect one, then go.

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As previously stated, we love a gift shop. Having spotted some at the entrance to the hills we headed back down to see if we could find any treasures. All the gift shops just seem full of tacky slogan t-shirts and hundreds of keyrings and magnets. All of which had the large eyed tarsier monkey in some form (an attraction we had opted to skip). Nothing for us we headed for our next destination of the day, Loboc River Cruise, everywhere we’d looked highly recommended this tour. After a bit of confusion as two different companies and boats we were settled in at a table on a barge. The tour included and all you could eat buffet so we filled out plates with noodles, bbq meats and seafood (minus the seafood for andy). The boat sailed up the river with a singer entertaining the guests, twenty short minutes later the boat turned back, the woman stopped singing and the food was taken away. Feeling rather underwhelmed, I couldn’t really understand why everyone had raves about it. Half way back we pulled over to a platform where there was about 30 local women, men and children dancing, playing ukuleles and singing. Once they finished their routine they asked guests off the boat to join in with routines, games and even gave me a ukulele to play (clearly unaware of my complete lack of any musical talent). It was a nice display however the five minutes it lasted still didn’t sway me to feel the tour was worth it.

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With a day full of activities planned we made our way to the bamboo bridge, another highly raved about tourist attraction in Bohol. The bridge was originally built in (check year) for farmers to transport live stock over the River to the market. It had since just served as a tourist spot, charging 35 pesos to cross the bridges. We paid the fee and started across, this was another stop that was purely for tourists to snap pictures for social media. In all honesty, it’s just a bridge. Granted it’s cool that it’s made of bamboo. We’d read there was some market stalls the other side so went to have a look around, hoping for some cool local merchandise, there was just two more stall selling slogan t-shirts... who buys all these t-shirts? There’s about 100 different designs, all as tacky as the other. We sat down for a bit, partly due to the heat, partly to decide what to do before our next activity in the evening and partly to get our money’s worth.

We headed back on the second bridge (there’s a one way system), past several groups taken 50 photos, we took a couple and moved on. Deciding to go back to the village to have a look around, we past some small waterfalls and pulled over to go and explore.

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We came across a huge pool at the bottom of two separate waterfalls and about 50 locals swimming or swinging on the rope swing. We decided to join them in the water and the current from the falls swept us both half down the river. After a local grabbed on to me and dragged me to a rock to recover we sat there for a while just watching them all playing around. Three of them trying to persuade us to follow them to a cave behind the waterfall, skeptical as ever, wondering what the decoy was for. Slowly realizing they were actually just friendly locals trying to show us their playground, we followed them in to the waterfall and the cave was admittedly really cool.

We watched them swinging on the rope swing in to the water or jumping off the waterfall for a little longer before deciding to dry off. We’d spoken to one of the older guys who said he lived in the village round the corner, seemed disappointed we were getting ready to leave and offered andy his bamboo raft to float up and down the river, we both had a bit of a play around on the raft (much to the amusement of the locals, we weren’t very stable). We were the only non Phllippinian people there. There was even locals washing their clothes in the river above the waterfall. For us, this is more what traveling is about; immersing yourself in the local culture, learning about their way of life, speaking to the people who have lived and grown up in those areas.

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Time to make our way to the paddle boarding trip, since we’d missed it the previous evening. Being early, we enjoyed a cocktail in the bar (limiting ourselves to one to avoid being at a disadvantage on a trip which entirely relies on balance). Suited and booted with board and life jackets we were given a quick briefing and simple instructions on how to use and control the board and paddle. I’ll say I think we were both a little nervous, I was strapped in and padded off to the middle of the river to wait for Stew to join me. I was surprised at how easy I found it, stew took a little longer to get to grips with it. As a group of 15 we all made our way up the river while the sun was shining it’s last few moments on this side of the world before going to wake up everyone back home. Once it was dark we turned headlights on and continued, it was so peaceful to only hear the waves hitting the boards, children playing along the river bank after dinner and the occasional music from a distant village (they really love music in the Philippines).

The main attraction of this tour was to see the fireflys- I just love any kind of light, fire, fairy lights, glow worms, fireflys. Once at the tree they all congregate at everyone sat/lay on their boards and just looked up at the tree; these little insects lighting up looking like they were all dancing together. Sitting there for about 15 minutes in complete silence just taking in the view.

We got back to the bike and realised we had to make our way back to our hostel in the pitch black with a very dim headlight. Nonetheless, we got back in one piece, this scooter malarkey is actually pretty easy- luckily as it’s the only way to get around the island!

We decided it was time to try the roadside bbqs, part of the experience and curious to see how cheap we could fill up. We had been reluctant due to a couple of factors, one it is on the side of the road with cars and bikes kicking up the dust and must be polluting the meats, we didn’t know how well it had been prepped or would be cooked or how long the meat had been sitting there. The locals were buying bags full of it and we decided since it couldn’t be that bad we’d give it a go. We opted for two bbq chicken breasts and two pork kebabs with a rice to share. The food arrived at the table (literally at the side of the road) and it was glazed in some kind of soy and honey sauce, it was delicious! Both impressed we paid the 80php and worked out that conversion on the way home, we just paid £1.20 for dinner for the both of us! Crazy!

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3rd February- Caving and Cantering Onwards
Only having two days in Bohol we had to make sure we did as much as we could. We’d heard about a pool in a cave that we wanted to check out. Another weird attraction with a small cost but totally worth it. Descending in to the cave down some questionable steps we waited for our eyes to adjust, while ducking to avoid the bats flying into our faces. More locals just swimming and jumping off the rocks built in the side of the cave. It was quite an experience and not a bad way to waste a few hours. Refreshing ourselves with a fresh pineapple slushy we discussed our time in the Philippines so far.

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With not much else on the list of things to do we decided to go to the beach. Sharing the entire beach with only two other girls (and a couple of stray dogs), both wishing there was a bar close by as it was so hot.

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On our way back to our hostel before our ferry to the next island we stopped off at a bar, there appeared to be two customers consuming the four women working in the bars attention. We sat at the table next to them and started chatting, one was Canadian and one was Danish, both living in the Philippines for four months of the year for the last 12 years, every year coming back being reunited as friends with each other and with the women in the bar. Seems the way here; there’s a lot of old white men with Phllippinian wives or girlfriends they visit for several months in the winter months Of their own countries.

During the conversations the Dane got out a bottle of liquor he’d made himself offering us some shots! One of us needing to drive back, it was fortunate I don’t like liquorice but Andy was definitely up for having a drink with them. Everyone here is so friendly, it takes some getting used to being addressed as ‘ma’am’ and ‘sir’ but the locals can’t do enough for tourists, so attentive and helpful.

The ferry from Bohol to Siquijor (Seek-E-hor) was only four hours, thankfully as the bench we had reserved seats for was pretty hard. There was two decks with six rows of beds with about 10 beds in each row. It was like the night bus in Harry Potter. A couple of episodes on Netflix, a couple of walks around the ferry and we were there.

We’d purposefully booked a hostel close to the port knowing we wouldn’t get in till late (11pm by the time we were off the boat). Once there the German owner expressed his disappointment that I wasn’t also German, having assumed from my surname I was. It was a small guest house but the owner and his wife couldn’t have been friendly with good German humour thrown in. Both disappointed we were only staying one night we made it to bed.

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Posted by Bears on Tour 02:29 Archived in Philippines

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