Tarsiers, hills and cheese!
Tagbilaran City, Philippines
I’m starting to realise the disadvantage of bamboo walls. They may as well not bother being there. By 5am my next door neighbours thought it appropriate to have loud conversations and turn on a tv full blast. I didnt agree quite so much.
My face was starting to feel quite uncomfortable, then I realised I could barely open one of my eyes. After looking in a mirror, I had quite a shock. One side of my face was totally swollen around my eye, with what looked like a lot of mosquito bites all around. My lip was in a similar state.
I had had enough. So picked up my bags and left! By 7am I was back out on a long walk to get back to the main strip, found myself a motorbike and headed back to the main town.
I picked a random hostel out of the lonely planet book and it turned out to be great! I was able to check in before 8am, had a nice clean room with a good comfy bed. But best of all, the hostel was located right in the middle of town – cafes all around and a shopping centre right opposite. Normally, on a holiday I guess you would want to get away from McDonald’s, all the busyness and all the shops. But after living on an island with nothing for 3 months. Actually this was perfect!!
The main bus terminal is based outside of the town in Dao, a 10 minute tricycle ride away. As soon as we arrived I was shepherded across to the right jeepney, headed to Corella. Inside the small jeepney, two benches line the sides, I thought it was pretty full inside – there were about 18-20 people, but apparently not as before we left, we collected even more people. There were people sat on the floor down the middle (quite how they fit there, I’m not quite sure, lucky they are small!) hanging off the back and sitting on the roof!! This must be quite normal as no one seemed too bothered!
The ride to the Tarsier Research Centre was about 30 minutes, I was quite pleased when I was finally able to get off! A 10 minute walk down an unpaved road brought me to the centre.
Tarsiers are the smallest primate in the world. They are found across several islands in the Philippines as well as in Sulawesi, Indonesia (where I went looking for them last year in Tangkoko National Park). They have very large eyes and the ability to turn their heads 180 degrees around both directions.
I was assigned a guide and we went off into the large ‘enclosure’ (a natural wooded area that they have put a fence around to contain the tarsiers). The guide knew exactly where 4 of them were, so took us around the spots they were hanging out. They are really cute.
These are a different species to the ones I saw in Indonesia last year and look quite different. They weren’t bothered by us standing around looking at them. But as the guide knew exactly where they were hanging out, it wasn’t as fun. In Indonesia we had to hunt around for them, which was a lot more exciting.
The centre is located next to a pretty stream with some nice flowers around, after having a look around, I headed back to the road to wait for the jeepney. After about 20 minutes, one drove past. Luckily not as full as earlier!
The Dao bus terminal is located next to the Island City Mall, so time for a spot of shopping! A popular Philippino dessert is Halo-Halo. It’s a sundae of jelly cubes on an ice slush, then at the bottom a sweet liquid containing more jelly cubes and small beans (like kidney beans), I wasn’t too sure about it….!
I spent the rest of the day hanging around the town, overdosing on cheese and sweets (things I’ve not had for 3 months!). The Philippines is also famous for its mangos. So far I’ve only had mango juice and dried mangos, both of which have been great. So I headed to the market to buy a real mango. Unfortunately it was a bit of a let down – not ripe enough, so was a little sour.
Sunday 20 May 2012
Breakfast was rather entertaining. This is the first place I’ve stayed in that includes breakfast. The guy asked me what type of eggs I would like. I politely told him I don’t eat eggs and did they have an alternative. So he went away and came back a short while later with an omelette. Oh dear.
Another day, another busy bus! This time headed to Carmen. The buses here don’t have windows, they just have holes where the windows would usually be. And they are very very old. It was quite a bumpy ride and after a short while I wasn’t feeling too good.
The bus was very busy, with 3 people sharing each bench as well as lining the middle aisle. The man next to me thought it was appropriate sit on me. Not quite.
We drove through some beautiful scenery, small villages turning into rice fields, then some coolers forest, which then turned back into rice fields.
It took 2 hours to reach the turn off for the Chocolate Hills, again, I was very pleased to get off that bus! To get to the view point, you can either hire a motorbike driver, or walk for 15/20 minutes up a steep hill. Given my recent experience with motorbikes, I decided for the latter.
The Chocolate Hills are a collection of 1,268 mounds ranging from 40m to 120m high. In the dry season, they are brown (chocolate coloured), but given the event rain they are a little bit green right now. There are several theories for how they were formed, ranging from giants teardrops, to the result of uplifting of ancient coral reefs, followed by erosion and weathering.
I was feeling quite pleased with myself after getting to the top (not a single other person was walking, every tourist was being whipped to the top of the hill by car) until I saw some runners. I had seen quite a few runners while on the bus, I thought perhaps they were enjoying a Sunday morning jog, turns out quite a lot more than a jog – the Chocolate Hills Ultramarathon – a 50km run beginning at midnight. It was now 11am, so they had been going 11 hours. The winner completed the track in just over 9 hours. The finish line at the top of the viewpoint hill. Wow.
The viewpoint was pretty cool, could see the hills across to the horizon all around.
After heading back to the road, just a 5 minute wait before the bus rolled up. If I thought the previous one was busy, this one was beyond. I didn’t think I would be able to get on, but apparently leaving someone behind doesn’t happen! So I ended up hanging on (just about) by the door. After a short while a few people got off, so I ended up with enough space to perch on the step of the door!!
I was only on this bus for half an hour, to Bilar where I was headed to a butterfly conservation centre. I love butterflies so had to stop off on my way! At the centre, they are breeding butterflies and had many of the species found across the Philippines. They had caterpillars, cocoons (really cool bright gold ones!) and then the butterflies.
The butterflies are housed in a large net enclosure. There were lots of them around. The guide even caught a few so I could hold one….not too sure that is a good idea, but it wasn’t harmed! They were really pretty. There were a few couples mating, apparently they sit together all day.
The butterflies feed on mango juice. There were a couple of cheeky lizards hanging around the outside of the enclosure, they eat butterflies!!
I had to wait around 30 minutes for the next bus to pass by. Again, this one, if possible was even more crowded. But I squeezed on. Eventually a few people got off and a space opened up right next to the driver! So I spent the next hour sat right up at the front of the bus! It was awesome! Although a little scary as we overtook other buses and motorbikes on blind corners….
It was 4pm by the time I arrived back into Tagbiliran, plenty of time to head to the supermarket (I’m going to miss all this good food!).