Hanging Out at Mad Dog

Trip Start Jun 03, 2006
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Trip End Jun 03, 2009


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Where I stayed
Mangodlong Rock Resort

Flag of Philippines  ,
Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sometimes when you're on holiday you find you easily fit into the rhythms of your surroundings and everything works beautifully, but at other times it feels a bit like you're in a washing machine war zone experience.  Having visited on of Cebu's newest, shiniest shopping malls for the obligatory postcards and foreign exchange facilities we set off for the Camotes. Our first feel for the place came when the taxi we jumped into to get to the bus station offered to take us to the port for a ridiculously low price. There was an assurance that there would be a boat as if nothing could be more natural - there will always be a boat...don't sweat on it!
 
Well, he took us to a jetty that wasn't on the map or in the guide book, and of course, there was a boat - a big wooden pump boat with colourful but peeling paint. It looked like it might have been in a circus once.  Michelle ducked to the loo and the security guard shouted the guys on the boat to wait for her. Can you imagine that on the Dover to Calais ferry? "Wait, this passenger's in the toilet!"  Here, nobody batted an eyelid. As the tide was rising the gangplank (yes a real one) was pulled up and we were pulled up from the quay by a cluster of helpful, and slightly curious hands.
 
We found ourselves in what might have passed for a missionary school - rows of aquamarine benches in the middle of the boat matching the sparkling colours of the Camotes Sea.  The boat moved slowly through the water and there was no mistaking that nobody was in a hurry.  We were sitting with bags of pig feed, fertiliser, chickens, provisions for the local store which looked like it only sold vacuum packed cake and peanuts, and a rooster who decided to regale the whole boat with his musical abilities.  All of these things were the fruit of shopping trips by the Camotes Islands residents in Cebu.  We were not headed for a seat of hi-tech, luxury life, and things were certainly going to be slow. That suited us just fine.
 
As we approached the islands, we could see the strange grey stripe between the vivid blue of the water and the vivid green of the tropical vegetation. I didn't realise at the time but this is caused by the sea gently eroding and cutting into the coral island, so that if you walk to the edge of the island you are always standing on a (solid) overhang.  While I puzzled over this Michelle was scanning for beaches - of which there were plenty, scattered in small stretches of empty white sand tipped by rows of coconut palms
 
The closest our time on the Camotes came to being stressful was in picking a motorbike taxi on arrival. We were surrounded by a crowd of eager guys competing for a fare, but still desperately trying not to push the price down. It was like a bike beauty pageant. We didn't know it at the time, but these bikes are the only way to travel any real distance around the island, and over the next couple of days we would come to love jumping on the back of a bike, always getting a fair price, and chatting to the riders who would whisk us along bumpy dirt tracks, past groves of maize, coconuts and some stunning sweeps of low rolling hills and grassland that brought up images of Africa. 
 
We also came to understand and love that everything was done on trust here: riders waiting for us to find them for a return journey would never ask for money, the local bank was more like a school and contained the most cheerful bank staff I have ever met. They even told us how to get their best exchange rate.  Even running up a bill in the Magodlong Rock Resort was all on trust with no mention of a deposit anywhere. The relaxed, cheerful atmosphere was great, but the trust made you feel even warmer. It's what I'll remember most, along with the dazzling smiles that would break from the shyness of the local school children as they watched us.
 
 
 
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