For the last 48 hours of my journey, I have been traveling. And I dont mean in the sense of “I am in another country so I am traveling.” I mean, the physical act of traveling where you have all you own on your back and boy, you’re going places. I was also traveling in the mental sense where everything is novel and you just want to try something new. Right now, all I can say is that these crappy hostel beds have never felt better…
It all started from Boracay Island, Philippines. Part of me didnt REALLY want to leave, and if you have ever been there, you will understand. However, I was fueled by the 3 things that fuel any great journey:
Lust for adventure
A very real sense of a deadline (I fly home in less than a month)
…And the fact that I had been doing nothing but lounging on a tropical island for the last 2 weeks with nothing to show for it.
Ok, so maybe that last one doesnt apply for “any great journey,” but it did for this one, so let’s get started.
At about 3:30 Pm on Wednesday I decided it was time to leave the comforts of the hostel which I had been calling home for arguably too long. There was still about 2 and a half hours before my ferry would be leaving, but I have missed enough flights/boats/buses by now, there was no way Im going to miss this ferry.
I had my things all packed and headed away from the beach and up to the main road. After a quick, local-food lunch with my own special take-away dinner, I was ready to hail a tricycle to the Boracay docks. $0.50 and 15 minutes later I was there. So far so good. I paid the 3 redundant ticket fees and hoped onto the pump boat across to Caticlan.
By the time I reached the other shore, it was only about 4 Pm so I felt pretty good. 2 hours until my overnight ferry, and all I had to do was pick up my pre-paid ticket. A few of the local guys pointed me in the direction of the correct ticket office so things were going smoothly…until I tried to get my ticket.
The lady at the ticket counter could not find my ticket using just my name. OK, thats fine. I have my reference number. She went back into the other room and a few minutes later walked out with the news.
This is the part that surprises even me…
I missed my ferry because I was too early…WHAT!? SERIOUSLY!? …(sigh)…Im hopeless.
Well, at this point I have 3 options: Go back to Boracay, stay the night in Caticlan, or try to get on the ferry that night. I figured the last one might be best so I asked how much it would cost to change. SWEAR TO GOD this lady said 198 pesos. Considering the cost of the pump boat is around that much one way, and I sure wasnt going to find a hostel for that much I said OK.
She handled the paper work, showed me where to sign, and said, “Ok sir, that’ll be 498 pesos.” “Um excuse me?”
Let me stop myself there before I turn this into a rant. At the end of the day, it’s really not that much money, but it was mostly just annoying. What was also annoying was that the ferry actually was meant to leave at 8…so I had to was 2 hours early anyway (technically 26).
Ok, one more quick rant…Southeast Asia has absolutely no respect for standing in line. I hate that. I stood in line for hours, and was cut by enough people to make a line twice the size of mine. AAARRRRGGGGHH.
Finally, I was on the ferry…11 hours to Batangas. They do not turn off the lights, it’s super crowded, and silence is not observed. I slept about 4 hours, but with the aircon, it was so much better than the last one I took without any.
Arriving in Batangas was a welcomed feeling. I followed the long, sheepish line of people to the buses and eventually found one I wanted. A bus that was going to, or close enough to Tanauan. From there my fun travels would once again commence. This was about 8 AM Thursday.
The bus did not in fact take me to Tanauan. I got dropped off in Tambo instead. I understand this may not mean anything to you, and you really dont need to know what the geography is. Just follow along.
From there I had to take a Jeepney to Tanauan, then another Jeepney to Talisay. Finally, the port city where I could take a ferry to the Taal volcano, the smallest active volcano in the world (review to come). A boat took me there, I hiked it, I took the boat back, and basically re-did all my steps until I was on the bus again back to Manila. By that time it was about 3pm. Still plenty of time to get to the Philtranco bus terminal by 6pm.
A bus picked my up in Tanauan and without any strength left to fight it, I fell asleep. When I woke up, I had no idea where I was, what time it was, and more importantly, how soon I could be at the Philtranco bus terminal to catch the once-a-day bus to Donsol. Ideally I didnt want to stay in Manila one night.
The bus got us to Cubao at about 5Pm Thursday which was good news because there was a Philtranco bus terminal in Cubao, and even better news, the bus driver told me it was only walking distance. A few nice people pointed me the way and only about one hald kilometer later I was at the ticketing office only to find out that it was the Pasay office that left at 5:45 pm (not 6pm) and the Cubao station already left at 3:30pm. Well, the time was 5:30 which meant hope was basically lost. I also learned that the ticket cost 900 pesos, not the 650 pesos that I read online.
So I left…defeated.
Or so I thought…
Just a few meters outside of the terminal I happened across a local street vendor who…well, Ill be honest…he seemed a bit shady at best. But even with shady people, I like to entertain their musings a bit and at least be friendly. There’s no harm in that.
Anyway, he asked me where I was going and when he heard my dilemma he said, “Oh, well you should go to the Ali Mall station. Buses leave from there all the time.” A glimmer of hope.
It wasnt a short walk with my packs and everything, and I needed some help getting there and finding a bus that was going, but eventually I was set up on one on it’s way to Legazpi City. It wasnt Donsol, but it was close enough. Sure it wasnt aircon and the seats didnt fold back and I was the only westerner. None of that mattered. I was DETERMINED. I would be departing at 6pm and I was unaware that soon into the journey, some guy who I dubbed “Rooster Master” would take the seat next to mine along with his 4 boxes of roosters (none of which would wait until the sunrise to begin their singing).
11 hours later I was in Legazpi, driving by the Mayon volcano (the world’s most perfect cone volcano), but not able to truly take it in because I was wishing that I had done a few more Jane Fondas in my trip to put some more junk in my trunk. The seats were padded, but I’ve never been more aware of how much lacking I am in that department…but I digress.
I was dropped off on the side of the road and told to wait for the right jeepney…and that was it…they left.
Well, at this point I am used to feeling like a lost lamb. Things just tend to work out.
Some locals nearby were very friendly and informed me that the right jeepney would be coming by soon enough. And they were right. I had barely finished my apple before a jeepney with a small placard reading “Donsol” drove up.
A heard of people jumped out of the back as another herd jumped in, and as I was handing some guy (presumably the driver) my backpack to put on the roof, he asked quite nonchalantly, maybe even jokingly…
“Do you want to ride on the roof?”
While most people might not even think twice about this, my thoughts went like this: Have I ever rode on the top of a jeepney (or any vehicle at that note)? No, I cant say that I have. And it really cant be THAT far…
“HELL YEAH ILL RIDE ON THE TOP OF A JEEPNEY!”
As it turned out, I would not be alone on the top (but I sure did draw a lot more attention than the others). But it really didnt take long on the metal and bamboo roof to be reminded of my lack of padding.
For about 45 minutes we zipped and weaved through jungle, up and down hills, and past several small villages before finally reaching Donsol where once again I would be dropped off with no idea or instructions on which direction to take. The awaiting tircycle drivers were more than willing to help, but I know better than to take the first offer when you step off a bus.
For a while, I just wandered around, bought some water, and pretended to know what I was doing. A few people answered some of my questions about the town and the distances to places. It didnt take long before I had to settle for a tricycle, but by now I had gotten away from the main rush and I found someone with a reasonable price…about $0.25 🙂
He got me to a nice beachfront resort with a good price and it was close to the activities that I came for. My body was had been deprived of food, water, and sleep, and I was so close to having my own bed to recover in, but before doing that, there was still a little bit of wanderlust in me as well as one more priority. Before I could finally fall asleep, I had to walk down to the Tourist Center and book my trip for the following day to go do the number one thing I was looking forward to doing in the Philippines, SNORKELING WITH WHALE SHARKS. So I booked it. I also booked a tricycle driver who asked if I wanted to go to a cock fight (sorry to any animal lovers, but it’s a normal Filipino activity and that makes me kind of want to do it).
Then, to cap it all off, on the walk back to my room I was distracted by a small village on the far side of a rice paddy. I couldnt help but answer it’s call, and as is often the case, I was greeted with a small little gift upon arrival. I got to sit with and be welcomed in by several locals playing Bingo. They could not help but smile at my presence and pointless attempts to help fill out their cards. It was one of those small and simple, yet amazing experiences that keeps me stoked on travel. After that, I headed back to my room for some WELL deserved rest…and it wasnt even 3Pm yet..
OK, now let’s recap what those 48 hours looked like:
I rode a tricycle to the Boracay port, a pump boat to Caticlan, an 11-hour overnight ferry from Caticlan to Batangas, a bus from there to Tambo where I could get not one, but two jeepneys to Tanauan, then a boat to and from the Taal volcano, then a jeepney BACK to Tanauan to get on a bus to Manila, an 11-hour overnight bus to Legaspi, a jeepney from there to Donsol, and finally one more tricycle to get to my accommodation. According to Google, this was about 900 Km.
I drank one bottle of water, ate 2 solid meals, 4 apples, 2 mangos, and about 10 clementines.
I climbed a volcano (the world’s smallest, but still), drove past another volcano, rode the joined in on a game of Bingo with some local villagers, booked a whale shark trip followed by some cock fighting, and put out so many little fires along the way.
Not to mention, in this whole time I slept about 6 hours combined.
Im not trying to impress anyone by this, Im just still blown away by it and felt like sharing it because it has to be the MOST intense travel experience, the physical process and the mental drive, I have ever had in 48 hours. My goal is really to share one example of what sorts of challenges and experiences you are willing, and even excited about going through when you travel.
I know that reading it doesnt give the same effect as actually living it. In fact, Im sure that a lot of you are thinking that it sounds like hell. And at times, it was. But for those of you that have been out there and done something similar, you can relate because you know deep down there is something that drives you and keeps you going through ANY troubles, mishaps, and challenges.
IT’S TRAVELING AND IT’S AMAZING!!!
Now, Im sure there are some of you our there that have had some similar or probably even greater experiences and I would love to hear them in the comments. Surprise me, shock me, keep me stoked, together we can keep pushing our own boundaries.