Friday the 13th dawned and I was up bright and early and wondering was it really an auspicious day to be flying in a country where the domestic aviation safety record is marginally less than brilliant. After a torturously slow journey through the appalling Manila traffice, I finally arrived at one of the four terminals at NAIA, noe of which are remotely close to each other. Transit here must be a nightmare. Unfortunately, I had no option as the VT meeting was starting that evening and overland / ferry was a non - starter. Security, like everywhere in the Phils is extremely tight, I think they are worried about the guys from the South (Mindanao) kicking off again. Zest Air were late, they always are but it wouldn't have mattered if I had booked with Cebu Pacific as they were also late, they always are as well. Here is the Chariot of Icarus that took me to Kalibo in about one hour on a slightly bumpy flight.
Internal flights are pretty cheap, it only cost me about £30 for the hour flight and I suppose I was lucky as at least I got to the right airport. There are two airports on Panay, Kalibo and Caticlan. Panay island is the jumping off point for Boracay as it is too small to have an airport. Zest and Cebu are known for lumping two flights passengers on one plane if they are underbooked and flying to whichever airport they feel like. Actually, that would have suited me as Kalibo is the further and that was the only flight I could get. The baggage reclaim was carnage. It is literally about 15 yards long, three flights had landed and it was the weekend of the Ati Atihan festival, the largest festival in Panay and one of the biggest in the country.
90 minutes on the bus passed pleasantly in cmpany of an Irish guy and his Filipina wife I had met in the airport. Naturally, we did the decent thing and cracked a couple of cans of San Mig. Up to Caticlan and onto the pumpboat for Boracay. I read that one of them capsized last week with a bunch of Americans onboard but the Coastguard fished everyone out OK. Not so sure in the dark though. We arrived on the island and I caught a trike to my hostel, Frendz, well, at a sign forFrendz stuck on the side of the main road. The driver indicated a pretty dark unpaved track and said it was down there to the right. OK, not entirely sure about this but I heard Boracay was pretty safe so off I went. The lane ends abruptly so I followed the directions, calmbered with my kitbag over a small wall into a building site. Interesting but ultimately correct as I eventually stumbled into the Frendz compound.
Frendz is exactly what I expected from a backpackers hostel, lots of bamboo huts, communal area with a bar, constant music (generally the obligatory and ubiquitous Bob Marley who surely must be the most played artist in the world), Western food menu communal showers etc. and it was great. I was in a dorm with five other blokes, all long haired, tattooed, baggy native trousered suntanned types. I would suggest I was older than any two of them put together but they were all cool with the geriatric in their midst probably because I didn't complain when they would stumble in blind drunk about six in the morning, trip over something and promptly fall asleep where they fell.
This is a photo of the communal area. I didn't take one of the dorm as I realise this is an open blog and persons of a sensitive disposition do not need to see that particular disaster zone. I'll tell you more about the hostel later. The VT crowd had arranged to meet in the Red Pirate bar which is actually owned by VT member Jen (her VT name is sirenna for those of you that use the site) and her Filipino boyfriend Joey and it is a great place, proper little bamboo beach bar with a garden area right on the beach, it truly is idyllic.
Here is a picture taken at a different time and more about the comatose bod lying there later. It wasn't too mad a night as we all had to be up pretty early in the morning to go to the Ati Atihan festival, so off to bed.
Well, it was always going to happen as it does on every trip, but it certainly picked it's moment. I spent a pretty sleepless night with appallingly bad guts about which I shall spare you the details but even Loperimide wasn't efficacious against it. Needless to say I didn't fancy a trike / boat / 90 minute bus ride in either direction, so sadly I had to cry off which really irked me as I had been looking forward to it. It happens, as they say, and it is just a fact of life on the road. I stayed in bed all Saturday and dosed myself on rehydration salts, nothing else for it. Felt a little better in the evenng and headed out to meet the guys in the Pirate again. They showed me their photos and videos and the festival looked amazing. Maybe next year.
Another early bed and rose the next morning feelinbg much better and revved up for the day's activity, a boat trip up the coast in the outrigger boats called paraw. We were split up into crews and off we went. It is a bit of an odd sensation at first if you are sitting on the mesh on the outrigger, as you think it won't hold you but it does. there is only room on the boat proper for the three man crew. This is Joey whom I mentioned and who is reckoned to be one of the best skippers on the island. He regularly wins the annual round the island race.
As you can see, he is a bit of a hippy and a really nice bloke. There was some chat that a few of us might go on an inter-island jaunt sometime soon. I hope it happens.
We arrived at a beautiful white sand beach which we had all to ourselves and armed with the appropriate supplies, as you can see.
If you had told me previously that golden rum and pineapple juice was even drinkable I would have said you were mad but live and learn. Perhaps it was a thing of time and place as I haven't tried it since.
Just to let you know and make my European readers green with envy, a bottle of decent rum (not the deisel the locals drink) costs about £2 (€2:30).
Just a few more pics to give you a flavour of the day.
This is the Red Pirate beached at our landing spot. A fine craft and you cannot miss her as she is the only red paraw on the island. Bizarrely, the authrities want to have it painted white like all the others. Talk about petty beaureaucracy.
Philippinos just love to pose for the camera and our VT mob are no exception so here are a few of them. It's a hard old life I am having here, isn't it?
In a different category of loveliness, here is my mate Hansi catching some rays. I mentioned hm in an earlier post, he really is the most laid-back traveller I know. 66 (he won't mind me saying that) and still on the road with his charming wife Lori. At time of writing I believe they are in Spain having fun. I really hope I am still doing it at that age.
This is the beach we had with the VT folks chilling out.
Now that's what I call a figurehead! I told you, it's a hard life here.
This is what a paraw looks like under sail. Joey had decided on a fast run back so Stacey and I were deputed to act as weights or whatever you call it. Basically we had to stand up on the outrigger and hang out to balnce the craft. The trick is to keep both outriggers just skimming the surface for minimum drag. It is great fun and very exhilerating. Shirt off and the sun on my back, it was a magical run. Stacey is the sleeping body you saw in the earlier picture. He is a great guy. He is from the US and works as a civilian contractor in Afghanistan. He spends three months in a camp somewhere getting mortared etc. and the next three getting blasted on Boracay. Interesting lifestyle, hope we can meet up again. Here he is before we got on the rigger being like some lunatic pirate King.
We arrived back at the pirates all too soon, and went our seperate ways to prepare for the evening when the final event of the VT meet was to take place.
More of that in the next post.