Thursday, January 24, 2008

The long way around.

Helllooo everyone!

Super-tired today, can't remember half of what I was going to write so will just wing it a little.
Where did we leave you last? Catching the plane to Cebu? Remember how I said the Sinulog festival was on and we may or may not stay for it? Well we didn't! Couldn't find a cheap enough room anywhere (in fact even all the expensive ones were taken) so we moved on a day later to Bohol Island with the express idea of gawking at Tarsiers. We stayed in a nice-ish guesthouse with an enormous terrace, good thing it was OK too because I managed to eat something which didn't agree with me; long story short I just hung around the guesthouse for a couple of days, pretty much, making daily trips to the shopping mall over the road to attempt to eat without throwing up (never did, just close), watching movies at the cinema (I am Legend, much better than I expected but very depressing) and watching the Local Karaoke Championship held in the centre of the mall. I am ashamed to admit it, but we ate at Pizza Hut 3 nights in a row [bows head] but honestly, food so far has been far from enticing and PIzza Hut was the best there was (nice garlic bread though, I'll give them that!).

We did see several tarsiers though when I felt up to moving about at length, at a local conservation park that although was only 14km out of town, took us a looong time to get there on a couple of jeepneys. For the exorbidant amount of about 50c each, we were taken inside a large fenced forest enclosure where we were shown the Filippino version of the kangaroo (in that everyone who comes here knows what it is, charismatic and cute tourism symbol considered worth conserving etc etc). Our guide clearly knew well in advance the favourite perching spots of the critters, which somewhat bizarrely and surely contrary to survivial instincts is located about 1.5m off the ground in clear view. Furthermore, these big-eyed brown balls of fur with a long tail just sat there and looked at us while we ooohed and aaahed and clicked madly away. No wonder they are endangered. I'll put up a picture later as I can't describe these little primates very well, or at least no better than our LP guide which calls them (paraphrasing) 'the illegitate product of an ill-advised one night stand between a gremlin and ET', will leave that to your imagination before I put up pics in a few weeks.

Um what next? We went back to Cebu for a night, not much to report except that to my view it seemed to be a singularly scummy city. To be fair we saw it the day after the year's biggest party, but it smelt particularly bad and we were reduced to trying out another fast food chain for lunch, Shakey's. And on Shakey food ground it was indeed, the pizza especially was a big disappointment and considering the last pizza we'd had was at Pizza Hut there's little left to be said.

Then comes our marathon journey; we caught the overnight ferry (read: ship) to Manila which turned out to be a very comfortable journey albiet slow (21 hours on the boat, plus 3 hours waiting time beforehand). We paid that little extra to share a cabin with 5 other people and one woman's luggage; 18 bags. Yes, 18. And she wasn't even staying in our cabin and had the nerve to imperiously move MY bag out of the way as if to say 'who's is this crappy old thing contaminating my bags?' Raised eyebrows all round. Beautiful night out on the water, people were entranced by the moon and the clouds, I suppose if they lived in Smog-swamped Manila they'd never have the oppertunity to see a clear moon. Also finally discovered a Filippino thing worth eating: Leche Flan, which is basically an especially rich and delicious creme caramel. It went a long way towards redeming the God-Awful sweet and sour squid I'd had to eat beforehand.

Anyway, we boated for 21 hours, jumped off at Manila at 6am, waited half a hour for a taxi which wasn't going to rip us off, went to the bus station, discovered it was the wrong one, caught another taxi across the city to anotehr bus terminal and was on a bus and away to the north by 8am, traffic jams and all! The bus took us as far as Bagabag (8 hours) then 1.5 hours on a jeepney to Lanawe, then another hour or something like that to Banaue, where I write to you from now.

This is the bit where I get tired, because today we went for a 'walk' with a guide (Elvis). Banaue is home to some of the stepped rice terraces this country is famous for. This is a very vertical country, straight up and straight down and yet people have ingenously managed to build and farm on it. We were taken via tricycle to the main lookout point which is a mere 10 minutes from the centre of town and then we walked back across the terraces. I say walked but the first part was pretty much extremely attractive, lush and green Hell-with-Steps. Lots and lots and lots of steps, down and down and down, then up and up and up and then repeat. There was a nice little waterfall at the bottom of one hill (precipice more like), then we climbed (hands, knees and hands) through the mud before we got to the easier part. Which was lovely, we wandered for ages along the edges of the rice terraces, sometimes on mud, sometimes on concrete a foot wide, quite a lot of it where people had been very economical with the concrete and it wasn't wider than my shoes, with a foot drop off one side into the ancient (2000 year old) irrigation system and about a 15m drop of the other side into a pond/field/mud. It was beautiful though, really was, but very very hard work, my legs hate me, I'm not sure I'll actually be able to walk tomorrow, my legs were shaking so badly and continue to do so if I hold them a certain way. However, I only fell over once and no one saw me so that's ok (oh and Dylan decided to 'help' me down one part and we were a bit uncoordinated and I was dropped into the mud, I got shitty temporarily but all was well a short time later, hard to stay mad in such a stunning setting and anyway I was concentrating too hard on not going arse over into a pond).

So tomorrow we're up early to go south again, we're not entirely sure where to next but will update you all when we get there.

Love to all, happy Australia day for 2 days time.

From Katie and Dylan, who can't be bothered writing his own email.

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