The Tarsier Diaries: Adventures in the Philippines (5)

In Which Stacey And Rhys Are Burnt To A Crisp And Then Drenched To Their Bones.

Sunday 18th July 2010

Yesterday, Rhys and I were up bright and early at about 7am, and after a quick breakfast we met up in reception with some of our fellow guests for a trip to Apo Island, an island off the coast of Dumaguete known for it’s brilliant snorkelling and – get this – sea turtles. “Aayyye, sea turrrrtles!” (said in the voice of Mr Gibbs from Pirates of the Caribbean.)

We took a jeepney from Harold’s Mansion to Harold’s actual house (where we picked up the snorkelling gear) and then on to Malapatay port. At this point, we jumped onto an 8 person Banca and I once again had the opportunity to show Rhys just how graceful I can be during the mounting and dismounting of a sea vessel. It’s difficult when you’re short, okay?! While other people seemed to have little trouble, I stepped further into the water than my hobbit legs could carry me, drenching the bottom of my backpack, as well as my own bottom. Sigh.

Apo Island

Apo Island approached us over the horizon looking like something out of a movie – powdery white sand beaches, towering blue-black rock formations and  warm turquoise waters. Once we reached the shore, we quickly realised that the trip perhaps wasn’t quite as organised as it should have been…the banca docked, dumped us and our backpacks onto the beach and left us to our own devices with no mention of when (or if) they’d be picking us up later.
Anyways, we paid the entrance fee  and, after much debate, decided to hire life jackets for our trip to the marina sanctuary. In the end, it was just as well we did – it was much safer to be bobbing peacefully on the surface of the water than scraping ourselves on the sharp coral or impaling ourselves on sea urchins.

The trip itself was amazing – so much better than our first snorkelling attempt on Koh Tao (Thailand) which involved me snivelling and wheezing on the deck of a ship in the middle of the sea. Also a big improvement on the Balicasag fiasco. Not only was I much calmer this time round, the fish and the corals themselves were even more abundant and beautiful. We saw pretty much every fish that had a cameo role in Finding Nemo – I have never seen so many clown fish in my life. As my brother pointed out later: “See? They’re not that hard to find.” It was also the first time either of us had used flippers, so that was fun. That, in addition to the life jackets, made me feel much more relaxed in the ocean (which I usually regard as my natural enemy) and at one point we were lazily swimming hand in hand, like a very chilled and buoyant mer-couple.

Nemos

The drop off (as seen in Finding Nemo)

There were only two slight downsides to the entire trip. First…well, Rhys got a little snap-happy with my camera. Because the DIKA pack we were using as an underwater pack was little more than a glorified plastic bag, no adjustments could be made to the camera once it was in the bag and under the water. All there was left to do was to point and shoot. A lot, apparently.

Rhys, to me, as we clamber out onto the rocks: “Stace…”
Me: “Yeah?”
Rhys: “I think I need to get a new memory card. This one’s full.”

That’s right. He’d taken about 500 pictures of fish. Throughout the holiday, he was destined to take more pictures of fish than he would of me. I try not to take it personally. After all, he sees me everyday, but there’s no coral or clownfish in Asan, South Korea.

The second downside was that my bottom got so sunburnt, I looked like a baboon that was “presenting.” Nothing has ever been redder. It’s not my fault. It floats above the water no matter what I do. Rhys had not fared much better – the backs of his legs looked as though they’d been given a once-over with a pink highlighter pen.

After the success of the Apo Island trip, which we followed with dinner at a groovy rustic fish restaurant that served beautiful fish and chips with mystery pink sauce, we decided to do another adventure through Harold’s mansion, this time with another couple we had met: Gareth and Ruth. The four of us decided to do the Twin Lakes trip.

We took a tricycle to downtown Dumaguette followed by a jeepney ride to the bottom of the mountain where the twin lakes are. After much bartering, we got a motorcycle driver to take us up the mountain to see the twin lakes, wait for us, and bring us back down for about PHP400.

The bumpy motorcycle journey took us up into the misty mountains. The views were breathtaking – lush green valleys; palm trees curling protectively over the trail; cows grazing lazily on the side of the road; water buffalo ploughing the rice paddies. Friendly local people waved to us happily from their homes and their farms.
As we ascended further and further into the jungle, the temperature dropped, the heavens opened and it was time to put the waterproofs on. Since I’d purchased mine from the corner of a supermarket for about a tenner, it turned out to have all the water-resistance of a paper bag. By the time we reached the admittedly beautiful lakes, I was shivering like a drowned rat. At this point, Rhys and Gareth went on an hour long kayak ride so, as beautiful as the lake was, conditions were not ideal.

In retrospect, I should have taken advantage of the scenery and the fact that they were on the lake, painted a white hand on my face and recreated that scene from the end of Lord of the Rings where the Urukai are running along the river bank.
A wasted opportunity.

What I look like in the morning.

 

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