A cautionary tale.

Read below for an explanation.
 Well folks, it is early in the morning and I have girded my loins, so standby for the horror story that is to unfold.

You would not think that transporting yourself and a very small motorcycle on a 90 minute journey between two parts of the same country would be so difficult.  For UK readers, imagine the Portsmouth / Isle of Wight ferry, for example.  Not too difficult, right?  Wrong, very, very wrong.  You are not thinking the Philippino way.  OK, it is probably my own fault for not doing the research.  I know there are many RoRo (roll on roll off) ferries in the Philippines and I stupidly thought that I could get one to Siquijor.  Far too simple. 

I turned up at the gate of the ferry port, and the heavily armed guard told me I had to go to the other gate despite the fact that numerous locals were driving unhindered through it.  I could see the ticket office but had to take a mile or so detour to the other gate.  Twelve pesos or something (a few pence) port tax.  No problem.  I was then "assigned" a porter, properly accredited as shown by his officially numbered T-shirt and badge.  Follow me in international sign language, so I did, to the ticket office where another heavily armed guard extracted another few pesos off me for another ticket.  This was not a ripoff as they were for different amounts and I received proper receipts so I can only assume one was for me and the other for the vehicle.

I had just missed the 1000 ferry so booked myself onto the 1200, 350pesos for myself and my trusty steed who I have not named yet.  Suggestions in the comments section please.  I had thought about Suzi as it is a Suzuki but I am open to suggestions.  In fact, that may be my problem, I am far too open to suggestions, it leads me into no end of adventures.  Back to the now totally disjointed narrative.

My appointed guide / porter then took me off to the window of a largish office block on the quayside, demanding more money.  What for?  You will love this.  Customs clearance.  Again, this is not a ripoff and I shall explain the lead photo here.  This is just a selection of the paperwork required to undertake this short journey between two parts of the same country.  I had to surrender some of the receipts at the far end and similar on the return.  The bike is properly registered and totally road legal, which is more than you can say for most bikes hereabouts.  Imagine requiring customs clearance to go from London to Bristol and you get the idea.  It is completely insane not to mention a huge disincentive to the expats / tourists who basically keep Dumaguete going.

After a long wait in the hot sun, another guy approached me and pointed to a speck on the horizon coming from the direction of Siquijor.  That was my boat, he informed me.  Great stuff, it might even be on time, in itself something of a bonus here.  It got closer and closer, obviously making good speed and as my aged old eyes managed to focus on it, I began to have some misgivings.  It was obvioisly a banqua which I won't try to explain but show you here.

Banqua, Dumaguete.
I know my readers are both intelligent people so I will let you gess what I was thinking.  How the Hell am I going to ride even a small bike onto that?  I am reasonably proficient on a bike and used to ride trials bikes (non-competitively) as a youngster, but this seemed a little too much.  Flying ramp leap onto the foredeck perhaps, braking hard before I smashed my skull on the superstructure?  Not a good option.  All was explained as Mr. Helpful the guide summoned a few of his mates to perform this operation.

Money for nothing (chicks for free not included).

That'll be another 300 pesos, thank you very much.  Now, 300 pesos is only about £5 in my currency ($7US or thereabouts for non UK readers) but put it in context.  I know that waitresses, even in the more upmarket bars, earn between 125 and 150 a day.  Cut 300 between these three guys and they have made damn nearly a days wages for 10 minutes work.

In fairness, they did not scratch it and between them and the boat crew stowed it very securely midships.  I was later told by bikers here that taking a machine on this boat is madness.  Thanks for the advance warning guys!

Thye boat is pretty cramped, smells of diesel, wallows about like a beached whale but that is all OK.  What is decidedly not OK is the garbage soft rock played at ridiculous volume through the crappiest tinny speakers in the world.  I swear, if I ever meet Celine Dion I will strangle her as a matter of principle.  I'm sure she is a lovely woman but I HAVE HAD ENOUGH BLOODY SOFT ROCK BALLADS.  In this instance the caps were intentional, not just my typographical ineptitude.  This is what the boat looks like inside.  Be grateful there is no soundtrack facility on my blog.

Siquijor ferry.
The orange things draped over the back of the seats are not actually pillows, which everyone uses them for, but lifejackets which I believe you are required to wear on these boats by law.  Frankly, having seen, poked and prodded them, I think they are more effective as pillows.

We arrived at Siquijor port without mishap and the same performance in reverse.  Porters rubbing their hands in obvious glee at the stupid longnose with his precious bike.  Only 200 pesos this time.  Perhaps things are cheaper on Siquijor, although I didn't find it so.  It transpired the customs documents were actually legit as they checked them (and obviously charged me another port fee) on the way off the jetty.

Just to jump ahead slightly, I had exactly the same procedure on the way back although my customs clearance was good for a return trip so that saved a few pesos.  I did have an interesting run-in with the Customs officer on Siquijor pier though.  The porter took me to the Customs office and indicated I had to present my papers before they could load the bike.  I went to the office, knocked politely on the door and waited.  All I could see was a guy in uniform and obviously in need of a personal trainer lying flat on his back on a bed watching American college basketball.  "Excuse me, I have my papers to go to Dumaguete".  He never tok his eyes off the screen, waved a cursory hand at me and I departed, my papers evidently in order and rigorously scrutinsed.  I will leave you with an image of the notice outside "Slims" office.  Probably the biggest joke since the Parliamentary enquiry into Dr. Kelly's death.

These are the rules.  Feel free to ignore them.
So there I was, on the island of Siquijor, Isla del Fuego, the land of witches and I was rearing to go.  I'll deal with that in the next post.

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