Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Trip Start Apr 01, 2012
8Trip End Apr 24, 2012
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Getting from Dumaguete Airport to Tambobo Bay, where the boat was anchored, was easier said than done (and it wasn't really easily said either.) Simon & Amanda had been anchored in Tambobo for about two weeks and had spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out how I could get from the Dumaguete Airport to Tambobo. In the end it was determined that this was the way to do it: Take a motorized tricycle from the airport to the bus terminal just outside Dumaguete City then take the bus to Siaton terminal. From the terminal take a push trike (basically a pedicab) from Siaton terminal to the market area where Simon and Amanda would meet me and then a habal-habal (a motorbike with a long seat) to Tambobo. It sounds a bit complicated but it was actually pretty quick and efficient.
After grabbing my bag I walked outside the tiny airport and was greeted by dozens of people waiting to meet family coming home for Holy Week, resort shuttle drivers, "car services" and off to the side, the trike drivers. The trikes are basically a motorcycle with a sidecar that has enough room for up to four (very small) people. There's a windshield and a roof of sorts to keep the sun out and the sides are open.
Once we agreed upon a price (100 pesos or about $2 USD) we set out for the bus terminal. Driving in Dumaguete is an experience in itself. There are no real traffic lanes. Intersections are jam-packed with bikes, trikes and cars slowly trying to weave their way through and on to the other side. Somewhere between Los Angeles and Dumaguete I lost my rain jacket so I asked the driver if we could stop at the mall near the bus terminal so I could pick one up. He said the mall didn't open until 10:00am (it was 8:45) but he knew of another place. Let me say this... I really hope it doesn't rain. My new jacket is an orange piece of rubbery plastic with no ventilation, big square pockets on the front and a shoelace to tie the hood.
Armed with my awesome new jacket we continued to the bus terminal and pulled in just as a bus towards Siaton was getting ready to leave. The ride wasn't bad at all. The trip was a little more than an hour and the bus never got too crazily packed - there were certainly more people than seats but the windows opened to help air things out - and I had window seat. With it being Holy Week a lot of people are heading home to see family so my bus was a mix of residents returning from Dumaguete, visiting families and people on holiday making their way to some of the resorts on the coast. Then there was the rooster guy. A couple of minutes after we passed the Dumaguete cockfighting ring a guy got on with a couple of roosters. But things were looking up for these roosters, the bus was traveling away from the ring.
At the Siaton terminal I received a text from Simon & Amanda telling me to hop a pedal-trike to the main market area to meet them. Five pesos later I was at the Siaton market. After a quick reunion and some shopping it was time to get the habal-habal. S & A had rented a motorbike and they would lead to the way to the anchorage. Unfortunately there was a slight shortage of habal-habals around so a friend of the guy at the place we stopped for lunch offered to give me a ride on the back of his motorbike. When in Dumaguete...
The driver had my duffel wedged in between his chest, the seat at the hand grips and I wore my backpack. And for the next half hour or so I held on for dear life. The paved roads weren't so bad. Unfortunately, the dirt and rock roads greatly outnumbered the paved roads. On the bright side, I could distract myself from my impending death by looking at the beautiful coastline.
We eventually made it down to Tambobo Bay and the dinghy. As we approached the boat there was a familiar sight in the harbor... The 'Fly. Yup, Trevor was in town as well. Although we wouldn't be sailing in company.
We used the rest of the afternoon to take care of some last minute stuff... First we hit up a fresh water well, where in addition to catching all the local gossip (mostly about a French boat that was taking on water) we dumped buckets of water over ourselves after the sweaty dusty trip from Siaton. Remember the whole being on a boat with shower thing? Well, since Tambobo was crowded the water wasn't really great for the water maker. And since the boat had been in Tambobo for almost two weeks, there wasn't water left for showering. I thought it was just a cruel joke. Nope. But have no fear - once we get underway in the morning the water maker would be going full throtle.
After our fresh water rinse it was time for a delicious 30 peso beer (or two) with Trevor. Some quick math... 30 pesos is about 80 cents. No chance that'll come back to haunt us.
My first Philippine dinner was... interesting. We had picked up a few different types of fish at the market in town. I have no idea what this one was called but it was a tiny little thing - maybe pinky length. What it definitely wasn't was what Simon thought it was. So, unknown little fish for dinner it was. And it was pretty good actually.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4
Our first sail was an uneventful one. Well, except for when I found out exactly what the chain running through my room was. As Simon got the motor running Amanda showed me my responsibility while we were lifting the anchor. I have to make sure the anchor chain (yup, that's it running into my room) doesn't get tangled as it comes up. Then I cover it back up with the board and pillow. And voila... bed.
We sailed about 40 miles on the first day and stopped in a little bay on the way to Sipalay.
Tonight's dinner was, to put it mildly, even stranger than the first. One of the other fish we bought at the Siaton market was white bait - which is apparently quite the delicacy in New Zealand. The first night's fish were small but could be eaten like any other whole fish. These guys were chopped up and fried into a fritter. I'll say this... it certainly tests the "anything is good if it's fried" theory. Everything was going okay until I cut off a piece and there was an eye staring back at me. Safe to say after finishing my first fritter, I didn't go back for seconds.
THURSDAY, APRIL 5
The views on the way to Cartegena were stunning - alternating between lush green mountains and palm tree lined beaches on land and crystal clear water and tiny fishing boats with tarp sails on the sea. As we got closer more and more tiny islands (probably more accurately classified as big rocks but in a country with more than 7,000 islands, every one counts!) appeared off the coast. We anchored off a fishing village around midday and as soon as the anchor hit the sand were in the water for a quick dip and the rest of the afternoon was spent snorkeling and trying to avoid jellyfish stings (with limited success).
Before it got dark we loaded into the dinghy and headed ashore where we were met by more curious kids and a few adults. From the beach we wandered around a little bit crossing over a wood-plank bridge that led to the village's basketball court.
Basketball is the sport here and you'd be unlikely to find a village without at least some semblance of a court. This one had a couple dozen kids playing or watching. It didn't take long before the game was forgotten and everyone was over checking us out. A few of people spoke a little English and were asking our names, where we were from and what we were doing there. Questions that we'd be asked many times in the following days. We spent 15 minutes or so at the court - the highlight being all of the kids in awe at seeing themselves on Amanda's camera - and then headed back towards the beach - with a parade in tow.
Our return to Time was delayed by the Philippines other national pastime... Karaoke! We ended up at what we thought was a bar for a quick drink but what was actually a woman's house... with a full Karaoke setup. And to top it off, the song lyrics were shown over NBA highlights from the 80's & 90's. There were even some makeshift bleachers for Karaoke viewers. It all seemed a little overdone... until it didn't.
Within minutes of the "yachties" & our parade walking in, more and more people followed. Simon unsuccessfully requested a Red Horse beer - not fully understanding that we were in someone's house and not a bar. And I unsuccessfully turned down the invitation to sing. So hey, if I could bring St. Patrick's Day to Melaka, why not introduce Duran Duran to the Cartegena. And with that, the lyrics to Hungry Like the Wolf (as if I needed them!) started playing over some vintage Celtics/Lakers highlights and I channeled my inner Simon LeBon. Since each song cost 5 pesos and all I had on me was a 50 peso bill I funded Open Mic Night at the Karaoke House. First up a young boy, maybe 12 years old, who kept the 80's theme going with some Europe. Next up was a woman singing something by Roxette.
I orchestrated the 25 or so kids gathered in the bleachers in a chant of "Simon... Simon... Simon..." to try and get him up there but Simon didn't bow to the pressure and before I knew it I was belting out "New York, New York" with some help on the chorus from my Philippino back-up singers. We left the remaining 6 songs in the hands of the kids and headed back to the boat for dinner, a couple of Red Horses and glorious versions of Dancing Queen and My Heart Will Go On carrying across the water.