Let's have another go.

Well, let's see hw this pans out.  I am going to try and post a photo here, not in itself a major operation for a blog site but you wouldn't believe how difficult it is making it for me. Here goes nothing.

The road to the mountain.
Well folks, make the most of this one because you will be getting a lot less.  It has just taken me 20 minutes to upload it.  Because of the stupid way this blog works I cannot continue writing text as I upload images so I am going to have to sort out a workaround but for the present you'll have to put up with my fairly lame prose.  This image shows the best part of the road from San Juan up the mountain to a village so remote it does not even feature on the all-seeing Google maps.  That gives you an idea.

To pass the inevitable hour or so that uploading a miserable three or four images will take, I shall compose some text elsewhere and tell you about the most wonderful blog I think I have ever read.  I have always been fascinated by travel writing and remember reading people like Eric Newby when I was much younger.  Their sense of adventure, especially in an age when mass communication was unheard of and GPS only a science fiction dream, defines these guys trips as true expeditions.  Like most people, I adore Mchael Palin's documentaries and associated books, all of which I own, but I cannot help but think that adventure travelling is slightly devalued when you have the might of the BBC behind you and a cast of thousands working on the project.  It's funny how there always seems to be a convenient military plane available should he encounter an impassable region.  I'll bet I wouldn't be offered that.

In this age when everyone, including me for my sins, has a blog it is so much easier for the whole world to know what you are getting up to.  I am not sure if the travel writing has lost some of it's magic somehow but I suppose you can't stand in the way of technological advance.  I hesitate to use the word progress here.

There is a guy called Chris Black who is a fellow member of Virtual Tourist and I have long admired his tips on that website.  He is an amazing character and I would dearly love to meet him in person some day.  There are a few real heroes of mine there, some of whom I have met and many more I would love to meet and Chris is right up that list.  I probably won't meet him this trip as I know he is in New Zealand at present.  No big surprise there except when I tell you that he cycled there from England, Devon to be precise.  Yes, you read that right, he cycled from England to New Zealand.  Well, obviously not over the sea bits, even he isn't that bloody good but he's pretty impressive.

It took Chris a few years and his travel blog is some of the most wonderful travel writing I have ever read.  I have literally been reduced to tears of laughter reading about some of his adventures.  His often brutally honest revelations about the hardships and his emotional state at times are an education for anyone that wants to do this sort of thing.  No cheating now, read right till the end and don't just jump to the last section.  It is a few hundred pages but well worth it and the final chapter is something truly amazing.  His writing style and superb photography really should be published if not made into a film.  Too late now for a documentary unfortunately.  VT really does attract some wonderful writers and proper adventurers which is why I suppose I love it so much even if my rambles are pretty tame in comparison.

Tame as they may be, I should really get back to them.  I believe we left with me heading up the mountain to go and see the witches, locally known as wokwoks.  Male witches or ghosts are known as Momos, a pice of information I use regularly for comedic effect and baby devils are called channas.  As my dear friend Sarah is fond of saying, "Every day's a schoolday with you, Fergy."  Half the barmaids in town call me Momo now.  Slightly more disturbingly the other half call me Bin Laden.  Damn it, I lke my beard and I am not cutting it for anyone.

The last vehicle that tried to get here.
The first thing I saw on entering Cantabon was this.  You see, I know what the place is called so does that make me smarter than Google?  The reason I know this is because I have been there and not just spied from 26 miles in space or whatever a satellite flies at.  What is it intelligence community people talk about?  Boots on the ground?  Actually, in my case a pair of flipflops but you get the idea.  I was thinking that if a custom made jeep was in this nick up here, what chance did I have of getting off the mountain in one piece?

In the absence of any sort of roadsign, which are about as scarce as honest politicians in the Philippines, I decided to seek help. so I wandered into the local fillng (gas) station.  Here it is.

The everything shack, Cantabon.
Honestly, this is a filling station, the sign saying "Gasolina" is the clue here.  They sell refilled soft drinks bottles of the most appallingly polluted petrol ever to fill your bike with.  Thankfully, I had taken the precaution of a full tank at a proper station earlier.  A wander in and a chat with the  lady owner, a delightful person who didn't try to wokwok me once, indicated that not only was it the filling station but also the local bar, grocery store, mobile phone loading station and probably about 13 other things beside.  A quick beer and a VT flag photo, and it was time to hit the road again.

Fergy fies the flag.

I know this will sound odd but  I was actually composing this sentence / paragraph as I was there.  Sad I know, and I was concentrating on the road as not to do so is to risk a fairly serious accident but this is the way my mind works, if it does at all.  Heading up to the national park on top of the mountain, the road noticeably improved.  I was riding all alone in the most wonderful countryside with kids in the occasional settlement shouting happily to me and this line popped itself into my head.  

Just when you thought the scenery couldn't be any more spectacular, your day couldn't get any better and you couldn't be any happier it was, it did and you were.  That's Siquijor for you. 

The road improves.
I rode back down a brand new tarmac switchback road to near Larena and I swear I must have had the broadest grin in the world.  The views back over Negros were panoramic in the truest sense of the word.  As is my wont I took to singing old 70's rock songs.  God knows what the occasional loocal I passed thought of all that.

Not a bad setting for a singsong, is it?

I got back down on the Highway with a great sense of achievement.  Some of the road had been physically quite demanding and I had to manhandle poor little Suzi the road bike over the rougher bits.  I'm afraid her paltry 125cc just weren't up to it, hard as she tried.  She is just not meant for work like this.  I would love to do this and even more offroading up the mountain on something like a 400cc dirtbike.  That would be magical.

Man at work, Siquijor.
I am not sure if I have previously described the complete bloody mess that constitutes the Philippino ferry system, if indeed system is the right word.  I think I probably have so I won't bore you with the complete frustration of trying to deal with it but another night in Siquijor, which is what it had left me with, wasn't going to be too much of a hardship.  The photo above shows you just one of the wonderful sights I saw whilst taking a very leisurely ride.

I thought San Juan was a pretty good place to stay and I couldn't face the racket of the previous night in Castaways, so I set out on the road back towards Czars.  That had been mentally lively on the Friday as I told you.  Well, all afternoon to go and nothing much to do so I thought I would check out some of the numerous resorts along the Highway.  I know I have mentioned before that the region, by general consensus, is experiencing the worst tourist season in memory and this was certainly borne out by what I saw.  Everywhere was completely dead.  On a whim, I took off down a track, actually officially known as H.C Andersen Drive, which was probably the only proper road sign I saw on the island.  This gives the clue to the fact that this is the Danish resort.

Into an absolutely delightful compound I rode, and the look of slight surprise on the exceptionally well turned out, perfectly English speaking girls behind the bar said it all.  This place just does not get passing trade.  I ordered a beer and had a look at the menu which was exclusively European and pretty expensive by local standards.  I was told that the chef was actually European, which is a rarity here and frankly an expensive luxury as I knw a girl here (my mate's girlfriend)  who had graduated from a catering college in Mindanao and showed me photos of her work.  Obviously, photos give no conception of taste but it certainly looked first class.

Anyway, back to the bar (as always) and I was having a chat with the girls whilst enjoying a stunning view.  This would be a wonderful place to stay if my budget ran to it but the beer was not overpriced.  After a while, they produced the small barrel you see here, poured me a shot and challenged me to tell them what it was.

Odd Scandinavian drink in Siquijor.
Bearing in mind this was a Danish resort,  I was actually rather pleased with my response.  The "barrel", as you see, shows Nordso olie which I believe translates as North Sea Oil.  A quick sniff, however, told me istantly that it was nothing to do with the North Sea but rather a thing that I had encountered in Finland which phonetically sounds like selemeurka.  It really is the wierdest thing.  For UK readers, if you remember Army and Navy lozenges, think about them.  For other readers, such as they may be, think of a vaguely medicinal tasting boiled sweet which is used for sore throats etc.  What they do is mash these up and infuse them with vodka.  The result is somewhat akin to cough medcine but then again I always liked cough medicine.  I described the process to the ladies of the bar without even drinking it and was awarded a round of applause for my efforts.  Very satisfyng.  Apparently, I was the only non-Scandinavian to ever have identified it correctly and they were very impressed.  Seems my time in Finland playing with the Irish Dancers wasn't wasted after all.

Another resort visit showed just how dead the place was as this place (Coco Beach) is supposed to be one of the best on the island and I met two other people at the bar.  The place probably accomodates 200.  Visayas is really suffering, whether from world economic downturn or recent meteorological events or even something else, I really coudn't say.

VT flag with some random female holding it.
 Honestly, I only took this photo for the VT flag.

Not a bad little bunk.
I had already checked into Czar's which, in contrast to the previous night, was completely deserted.  I literally was the only punter there and got the only ensuite single.  Well, it is a backpacker pace after all.  500 pesos secured the bunk, that's about £8 or somethng, not bad.  I was told that if I wanted to go out that I should let myself and my bike in through the pedestrian entrance as the main gate would be locked.  The concept of having no security in this part of the world is unheard of but I suppose with nobody there, there is nothing worth stealing.

Back into town, remember this is Saturday night, and look for something to do.  Might as well look for an estate agent that isn't a wide boy.  Nothing going on so I returned to my little haunt down by the springs.  Another decent meal and a fairly intersting conversation with the local senior policeman (who had confirmed my assessment of the previous night's numbers at Czar's) led to another fairly early night in slightly spooky surroundings.  All alone in the middle of Siquijor in the dark with only the geckoes for company is an interesting experience to say the least.

Another early start the next day and off to the ferry (more bloody expensive hassle) and I was off Siquijor, but the journey home is for another post.  I need to go to town now and have something to eat.

Stay tuned.

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