Day 339 of retirement

Hi All

Saturday 8th January 2011:

A condo full of kids greeted us this morning. Guy off to the 7Eleven to get a loaf of bread and Cheesewiz for breakfast, which worked a treat.

Guy was then off to one of her high school reunion meetings for the day so it was the kids and I. They all headed for the pool on the rooftop for most of the day. I supplied them with Coke’s to keep them going plus they had a big bag of chips and other delectable delights which turned out to be lunch as well.

Back to the condo for a few hours before the cousins are being picked up at 4:00pm. At the pick up we gave Beth Jo’s big case and some carry bags with all the stuff we are not taking traveling with us for the next 8 days. Will get it all back on our return.

Jordan, Jo and I wandered across the road to a very nice Thai restaurant for dinner. Food was great. Back for the final pack ready for a 5:00am start tomorrow morning to get back to Marinduque tomorrow night.

And of course being our last night the toilet goes and gets blocked up at 9:00pm when the maintenance office is closed. Tried reception but no joy and the admin centre was also closed so took my chances and went down to the basement to the security centre. And as luck would have it there was a maintenance man there about to go home. But he very kindly came straight up with his plunger and cleared the blockage. So not having to hold on all night now……..

Sunday 9th January:

Uuuggggg a 5:00am start. Finished the packing and grabbed a cab (and it was full with us 4 and all our luggage) to the JAC liner bus station for the 6:30am bus to Lucena. Now this trip normally takes 5-6 hours with the worst time being 8 hours. Well this morning we had a dream run. 3.5 hours later we hit Lucena port for the Ro-Ro to Marinduque. Even managed a nap on the bus.

A two hour wait for the Ro-Ro and once again a nice pleasant surprise. We had the “New” Ro-Ro, well the newest one in the fleet.

This one had one full-enclosed air-conditioned deck for passengers. The front half had wooden single seats that enabled you to watch the movie on the big screen. In the back half were these huge padded bench seats, big enough for two people to sleep on (with legs bent) but you can’t watch the movie.

So with the kids we commandeered two of these bench seats. The Ro-Ro was only about half full so was great to be able to stretch out and grab another nap.

And to top it off this Ro-Ro is faster so the crossing that normally takes 3.0–3.5 hours only took 2.5 hours.

We had Ron waiting for us at the port with his pickup so all the luggage was thrown in the back and we headed for Barbarossa for a very late lunch / early dinner. We also organized Ron for a road trip tomorrow round the island to show the kids our piece of paradise.

Made it back to the cottage by 4:00pm and relax after our big day. I moved the Thunder Monster outside and tried to start it. Alas I flooded the baby but eventually got her going and a quick spin up the road blew out the cobwebs. She is all good now and she is ready to rock and roll.

Great to be “home” with the kids. Played cards (Monolopy cards) till late.

Monday 10th January:

Up in time for a pick up by Ron at 10:00am as he was our chauffeur for the day trip round the island.

First stop was the Curba Grill for a late breakfast / early lunch. After eating we headed down south on the coastal road round the island. Stopped just off Elephant Island (The 6 Star Island Resort) for some pics. Ron had organized a visit to the Flintstone house by Torrijos so this was our next stop.

Alex (Norwegian) and Divine (Local) were both home. Last time we were there Alex was away so was great to finally meet him. Jo is currently studying interior design so was very interested in the building. Divine gave us the guided tour of the whole house, which was very interesting to see. It is a very unique house indeed with all the concrete furniture.

Next was White Beach, the only white sandy beach in the island. We were going to go for a swim but it was a little windy and as it was very pleasant just sitting in the Nipa hut we rested up with Ice Tea and Banana Que’s.

Finally just after 3:00pm ish we headed on to complete our circumnavigation. The kids sat in the back of the pick up for the remainder of the trip waving to all the locals and seeing who would wave back.

We hit Barbarossa for Dinner. Guy was going to cook but as it was getting late we decided that we would cook tomorrow after a trip to the Tuesday Gasan Markets.

Home and we broke out the BB gun, which was now all charged up. We all proceeded to demolish a Coke can and some old seashells I had previously picked up in the lights of the veranda. Full automatic BBs made short work of the Coke can and the kids loved it…….

Finally a nice hot cup of tea to finish off the day.

Once again played Monopoly cards till late. We have a running tally going and Jordan is the champ so far and I’m afraid I have the wooden spoon.

Tuesday 11th January:

Jordan was up early, as he wanted to go exterminate all the tin cans and old shells with the BB gun round the cottage. Interesting as you really struggle to get him out of bed in the mornings but this morning he was up a 7:00am. Kids and BB guns, yea I know, I am a big kid toooo…. Anyway loaded him up with a fully charged battery and 300 BBs and off he went. Kept him amused for several hours.

Guy took the kids in to the Gasan Tuesday markets and I headed for Boac as we need to get cashed up for our Boracay trip tomorrow. In luck as the ATM was working. Drizzling rain as I left the cottage, dry up Boac way, but drizzling again as I approached Gasan so I headed for home (was going to meet Guy and the kids at the markets) as I was a bit damp. Not cold just damp.

Guy bought some chicken from the market and I proceeded to cook it up adobo style for lunch. In the process of cleaning my very sharp knife I managed to slice my index finger quite badly. Cleaned it all up and wrapped it tightly in a dressing as we were heading out for the afternoon. Probably would have a stitch or two but no time for that.

Ron picked us up at 1:30am and we headed to the Hot Springs for a swim. Had a nice hot refreshing swim for a few hours before we headed up into the mountains to visit Leif, a Norwegian friend of Ron’s. Quick Coke and back home in the drizzling rain.

Re dressed the sliced finger and will see how it all goes.

Packed our bags ready for the road trip tomorrow.

Watched the Australian TV channel and saw all the floods in Queensland. Our hearts go out to all the people affected.

Wednesday 12th January:

Off on our road trip with the kids to Boracay. Left the cottage at 7:00am for our planes, trains & automobile adventure (or in our case Boats, Trikes & automobiles).

The day’s travel consisted of the following:

  • 15min pick up ride from Ron that got us to Gasan port.
  • 3h 30m Bangka ride to Pinamalayan on Mindoro. Bit rough in the middle but not too bad. Our seats consisted of deck chairs (yea good old deck chairs) on the upper deck of the Bangka.
  • 10min Trike ride to the Mini Van pick up stop.
  • 1h 15m Mini Van ride to Roxas port on Mindoro. Had Mario Andretti for a driver but we made it in one piece.
  • 4h 15m Ro Ro ride to Caticlan on Panay. The air conditioning just happened to be broken so it was bake on the top un-shaded deck or roast in the passenger cabin. We managed to open a window with a nice breeze so Guy & I chose to roast and the kids chose to bake. Once the sun sets it cooled down and was very pleasant.
  • 15min Bangka ride to Boracay. After buying a ticket, paying a terminal fee plus an environmental fee we were on the way.
  • 15min Trike ride to the Villa Camilla Resort on White Beach
  • Plus waiting time of 3h ish..

We left home at 7:00am and arrived in Boracay at 8:00pm some 13 hours later. Big day but we are here for the next 3-days for some R&R. All our connections were timed perfectly, for a change, so all good.

Wrapped the sliced finger well for protection and was all good till it got wacked by a guy in the Mini Van. That hurt…….

We are staying at the Villa Camila on White Beach at the southern end of White Beach, Boracay. It is a nice 4 person room (with loft for 2 & 2 on the ground level) with a little kitchenette. Plenty big enough for us all. Cost is P2,975 per night ($75.00 AUS) which is mid range for Boracay.

From our brief walk up the beach tonight it is very evident that this is a very “tourist” oriented place. Not for Guy and I, but the kids love it so we shall see what daylight brings.

Ooohhh and we have free Wi-Fi so even better.

Thursday 13th January:

Boracay is an island that is about 9km long and about 1km across at the narrowest spot. We are staying on White Beach, which is a 4km long and is a true white sandy beach on the western side of the island. The whole beachfront is packed wall to wall with resorts, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops and all the tourists that go with that. Along with this you have all the hawkers peddling any and all the activities you can think of. Rather hectic really.

Bit of a sleepin for us all this morning after all the travel. Once up, we headed up the beach to find a nice café for brunch. Sat and had a very yummy brunch as we watched all the people stroll by and man there are all types here.

We spent a few hours wandering up to the “Mall” (a collection of shops just off the beach) and then left the kids to their own devices as we headed back to the room for a siesta.

Kids arrive back at 4:30pm ish and went for a swim. So Guy and I hit the rooftop bar (happy hour is from 2:00pm to 8:00pm) overlooking the beach (and the kids) and enjoyed a few P30 ($0.75 AUS) cocktails as we watched the sun set. Found a very nice smooth, strong, Rum and Pineapple juice drink. A few of those slide down very nicely.

Off to the Nigi Nigi Nu Noos restaurant on the beach for dinner where the food was dam good. They do a great meat lover pizza which Guy and I shared.

A walk along the beach with a stop over to watch the fire dancers and back to the room quite tired after our big day out. I hit the hay and Guy returned to kids to watch the fire dancers some more. They all rocked up at 12:30am after a great night out on the town.

Friday 14th January:

I must say that Boracay is growing on me now that I have had time to explore the place by day and night. Still wouldn’t want to live here but a great place to visit. Why you ask?

Well they are managing the whole place very well and it is a pleasure to visit. Things they are doing well:

  • The beach and promenade are litter free. Very pleasant to be able to stroll along the beach and not have to side stepping litter.
  • So you can swim in complete safety and the water is very clear, clean and fresh.
  • There is no smoking on the beach so there are no butts. It is a P500 ($12.50 AUS) fine if you’re caught.
  • All dogs are barred from the beach so no dog crap to worry about.
  • All water activities (Para Sailing, Jet Ski’s, Banana Boat Rides, etc.) are all conducted about 1 km off shore. So you can see them but can’t hear them. The beach is very peaceful as all you hear are the waves lapping.
  • They have 3 Boat Stations along the beach where the boats / bangkas pick up and drop off people who are participating in the off shore activities. These are the only areas they are aloud to land so 99% of the beach is boat free.
  • The beach has a 300m-exclusion zone out to sea that is boat free so swimming is completely safe.
  • It feels and is very safe wandering round, day or night.
  • The south end of the beach is nice and quiet (where we are staying). From about the middle of the beach north it livens up (Live entertainment as in Bands and folk singers, Fire Dancers, Bars, etc.).
  • There are lots of activities here for all the family both on and off the water and they are easily organized by local “fixers” and are reasonably priced.

After the big night out last night things were a little slow this morning. Guy and I went for brunch at 10:30am and then hit the beach for a few swims and some relax time including a little siesta.

The kids didn’t emerge till 12:30pm so wandered off to find some food. They came back at 1:30pm and decided they wanted to go Para Sailing for P1,200 ($30.00 AUS) each. All organized with a friendly man on the beach and they all headed off at 3:00pm. I stayed back as I wasn’t too keen on going out to sea on a rocking pontoon / boat (I get sea sick easily in these circumstances).

Back by 4:00pm and the kids headed off up the beach exploring and swimming. Guy and I hit happy hour for some more P30 ($0.75 AUS) cocktails. The Rum and Pineapple juice is my favorite. They slide down very nicely I must say.

Guy and I then took a wander to a little restaurant that she wanted to eat at as the kids wanted to go Mexican. Had a great La Paz Batchoy, which is a noodle soup with shallots and meat. Was really nice.

We meet the kids at the Mexican restaurant where they had Taco’s. Kids wandered off to see how their hand painted tee shirts were coming along as they are supposed to be ready at 10:00pm and we wandered back along the beach to the room for a nice hot tea and early night as we are off on a road trip tomorrow.

Saturday 15th January:

Up and left the resort at 8:00am to catch a Trike then Bangka back to the mainland. Here we caught a Mini Van for a 1h 15m ride from Caticlan to Kalibo for the Ati-Atihan festival. It is the feast to celebrate the child Christ with the name Sto Nino. Lots of very colorful elaborate costumes with groups marching round the Town Square and streets to the sound of lots of loud drums. You could feel the drumbeats reverberate through you as they passed by.

It was wall-to-wall people at times but we did get to see most of the marchers and experience the festival’s festivities. We took a stroll down one of the back street markets and found some cheap DVD’s with groups of movies on them for a particular actor. The kids went crazy and got heaps at P50 ($1.25 AUS) each. Pics will be posted next blog update.

Then back on the air-conditioned Mini Van to Caticlan, the 10m Bangka ride back to Boracay and a Trike ride to within walking distance of the resort. Rest required before we head out for our last dinner on Boracay.

A quick swim followed by a nice refreshing shower and we sat on the beach with a cocktail and watch the sunset. Very pleasant indeed.

Being our last night here on Boracay we hit one of the many buffets (P300 each ($7.50 AUS)) where you had a great selection of meats and some seafood and everything to go with it. Even had mash potato and it was actually dam good. All very delicious and even came with desert so my sweet tooth was sweetened very nicely.

Beanbags on the beach were then in order at the fire-dancing bar where a few more cocktails were consumed. There were three main dancers and along with some great DJ music they fire danced into the early hours of the morning.

Lets just say that there were a few people moving a little slowly Sunday morning.

Sunday 16th January:

We awoke this morning to rainy, windy and overcast conditions. Little did we know how this would impact on our travels.

The aim today is to head back for Manila and get as far as we can, stay the night in a hotel and then finish the trip Monday, arriving at the condo Monday night.

We were hoping to catch the 10:00am Ro-Ro from Caticlan to Roxas but were told to check with the shipping lines as it doesn’t always run. We rang and rang but no answer so as the gang was a little sluggish this morning we decide to aim for the midday Ro-Ro which was rescheduled for 2:00pm (didn’t find this out till we arrived) and of course didn’t leave till 3:00pm.

Upon arriving at Caticlan port we discovered we could get on a bus that would take us all the way to Manila arriving at about 4:00am Monday morning. This would consist of 2 Ro-Ro rides and 2 bus legs. Quick family meeting and it was decided to go for it and we will just crash in the condo Monday.

Well, little did we know of the adventure to follow? This is our story:

  • 15min Trike ride from the resort to the port on Boracay.
  • 15min Bangka ride to Caticlan port. Now this was a taste of the weather to come. It was quite rough even in these protected waters and half way across we saw a smaller Bangka than ours, upside down with two men clinging to it. The Coast Guard was there in a rubber ducky rescuing them.
  • 5 hour Ro-Ro ride from Caticlan to Roxas. Now as we headed out into the open water the conditions were very very rough (forecast was for 3.7 – 5.5m waves). The Ro-Ro was no small boat but it would strain up the face of this huge waves, smash through the tops and shudder as it fell down the other side. Not good as I was starting to feel sea sick with in 15 minutes even after taking pills.
    So down the back of the boat it was for me in the open air and close to a handrail to vomit over. I lasted about 1 hour before the first vomit and believe me I wasn’t alone. As the seas were so rough the spray was continually coming in over the open area which meant that I was getting all crusty and damp as well. Not fun.
    At this point Guy joined me down the back as she had vomited and was white as a sheet. At about 3 hours in, the guy next to me didn’t even bother to go to the rail and just vomited on the deck and as it was so wet it just sloshed round with all the other vomit. This set me off again so off to the rail I went.
    As I had a talk to the sea gods I looked up a huge wall of spray enveloped the whole boat including me clinging to the side rail. Right about then I couldn’t care less if it washed me over board. I was crook…..
    After 5 grueling hours we made it to Roxas port and boy were we glad to hit dry land. The kids had survived okay and it was Guy and I who were white as sheets. A quick family meeting and we agreed to continue on knowing we had another Ro-Ro ride to endure. It couldn’t get any worse than this….
  • 2 hour 30 minute bus ride to Calapan (Mindorro). Onto the bus in a sorry state of affairs and I just curled up in a ball on the seat. This bus trip was quite rough as it felt like it didn’t have any springs. At one point we all thought the bus was going to roll over on one very rough section but looking back now it was just that everything was still swaying from the Ro-Ro ride.
    Guy and I both managed to make it without any further vomiting.
  • 2 hour 30 minutes Ro-Ro ride to Batangas (Mainland). Guy and I prepared ourselves for another bashing on the Ro-Ro. We both went down the back of the boat again and managed to get a bench seat where we could at least lay down. As we headed out into the night the sea was once again rough but not as bad as the last ride.
    We both managed to avoid the handrail visit and about ½ hour in the seas started to abate. And within another 1 hour the seas were flat calm and we “enjoyed” the rest of the ride with a little sleep on the hard bench seats.
  • 2 hour 30 minute bus ride from Batangas to Manila. We all pretty much crashed and dozed in between all the constant stops for passengers. Made it to Manila and almost home.
  • 15 minute ride in the taxi and we were at the condo. The caretaker has graciously left the key for us with security so we were able to get in.
  • 5 hours ish waiting time at terminals at various stages.

So 18 ½ hours (11:00am Sunday to 5:30am Monday) after setting off from Boracay we were back at the condo and man it never felt so good.

First order was to clean out teeth and try and get rid of that stall vomit taste that has been lingering for the last 12 hours. Then a hot shower for me to wash off all the salt from the first Ro-Ro ride. My hair was all crusty and my shirt can almost stand up by itself.

A nice hot cup of tea and into bed at 6:00am ish.

Life is good now that our feet are on dry land.

Trevor & Guy


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