In spite of my last blog post – it’s not all been turquoise seas and sunshine when travelling in the Philippines. While it’s fun to post envy-inducing ‘island life’ photos – #nofilter – I’m not immune to grey and rainy days, either. And, let’s be honest, I’ve experienced my fair share of shitty hostels, run multiple trips to the hospital and suffered long and uncomfortable modes of public transport, too. But posting about them doesn’t make me feel as smug…
I actually haven’t seen the sun since my last Instagram (the photo above) and that was 7 days ago. It’s not always picture perfect and yes it sucks when you are stuck inside because of the weather (without wifi) knowing there is so much to explore outside of your wooden hut. I didn’t leave the UK for more rain, come on now.
We’re in Siargao Island, famous for its surfing, crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches, but it’s the sixth day of grey skies and torrential rain and we have already been out of power for 3 full days and nights. So island paradise seems a distant memory right now. I even started writing this huddled miserably over a bowl of hot soup with a hoodie on.
Four days ago we were hit by Auring. We woke up from a crazy night of storms and lashing rain to a near flooded bungalow and a swampy garden. We waded through five inches of water (ponchos and all) to check out the damage, en route to getting our morning coffee – as was our routine. Was being the operative word.
Lo and behold, the storm had killed all the power on the island, which meant no coffee. And this was just the beginning, day 1 of 3. Cue the chaos.
‘It’s a typhoon!’ we cried, in wild excitement. No, just a tropical depression. Gallons of rain, howling winds, upturned roofs, flooding, no power… and it barely scraped a scale 1 weather warning by Filipino standards.
But living without power did have its larger grievances. While candle light makes everything seem far more romantic, it was a pain when you needed to navigate your way to pee at 3am in the dark.
Water (including the toilet) also ran on power so ‘if it’s yellow let it mellow’ became our unabashed rule as we mastered the Filipino flush method. Washing with a bucket, the Pinoy way, also made me really appreciate a hot shower when it came back.
One night when the power was out, we sat near blind in our pitch black room at 6pm, plunged into total darkness until sunrise with just one little torch, and we wondered ‘what did people used to do when there was no electricity? Did people just go to sleep?’
We decided that clearly there was nothing to do (how did people cope?) and that the best – and only – option was to get drunk on red wine. We figured you didn’t need a fridge for that.
Courageously we adapted to and wisened our ways with no power over 72 hours; we embraced a damper and darker waking life, we found generator-run coffee suppliers and survived on limited wifi spots. We made it through.
Before soggy Siargao, we spent about a week on Malapascua, a tiny island just north of Cebu. It was another of the hidden gems in the Philippines. No cars, no roads, just sandy lanes and beach front cafes with beanbags to while away the happy hours. It was dreamy and a welcome respite after 24 hours of travelling from Zambales – via Manila, then via Cebu, by coach, plane, bus and boat.
It was dreamy, until our third day, shall I say.
We decided (perhaps one more keen than the other) to go cliff jumping, one of the ‘top things to do in Malapascua’ according to a blog we’d read. Off a craggy cliff at the head of the island by the lighthouse, was a vertiginous rock face which, for 25 pesos (41 pence), you could climb up 10m and jump off into the sea as many times as you wanted. Great, sounds fun 😳
Watching Lucas do it immediately and (almost) expertly – with a video to prove – I thought, how hard could it be? So I took my turn at the edge of the cliff, peering over uncertainly, willing mind over matter as my heart raced with adrenaline.
Encouraged by the patient bobbing heads down below me in the water who had already done their leap of faith, I decided it was another YOLO moment.
‘Jump!’ they said,
‘You’ll love it!’ they said,
‘Ok!’ I said.
More fool me.
45 minutes of extreme procrastination and mild sunburn later, I lept in on the count of three with an adrenaline-junkie German. It was his 8th successive jump. He made it look so easy.
One, two, three… I barely remember leaping off, all I do have is a flashback of the searing pain up my legs and back, crashing into the water (which felt like concrete) straight on my arse. No expletive or superlative is strong enough to describe the pain I felt.
This happened on the 30th December. Barely able to walk or breathe, I spent New Year’s Eve tucked in at 9pm, with Lucas who was bed bound with his own bout of ailments. This was travelling at its finest – and what a way to bring in the new year on one of the best islands in the Philippines… Rock and roll 🎉
I was out of action for a solid week with limited mobility (even laughing hurt, how sad) and murder-scene looking bruises down my thighs. I’m still taking painkillers now, but on the positive, I do have a lovely souvenir of an X-ray taken to double check I didn’t break my spine.
So from the highs of 10ms and the lows of tropical depressions, most recently (and ashamedly) I’ve been hobbling around the Philippines like a crippled old woman and getting trench foot in the puddles. It’s not all been plain sailing, this island life.
It’s still paradise, really – despite the pain, rain and power outages. But don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to see the sun again. And I really should start weaning myself off Ibuprofen…