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EU

A Filipina on Vlieland

Laying on my back at the bottom of the bunk bed, I watched the upper bed through my slightly opened eyelids. I was slowly returning from a dream, awakened by a soothing, serene sound. Tiny droplets fell with the thousands onto the canvas of the tent-house causing a choir of acoustic plops throughout the entire place. Most shivered at the thought of a rainy day on their one week away, however, the peace had been a party for the two of us. On these days, we’d slam open a book, sip some delightful herb-bitter and warm our feet with the little heater. With a smile, granted by the absence of work, I rolled to my side and leaned over the sleeping beauty. As I moved, the blanket descended off my shoulder into my lap and along with it, the warmth absconded and in lieu the cold transported over the island by the fierce wind had taken over. A wind all the while brushing and sporadically banging with increased force against the sides of the hut. Despite the accommodation’s main build being a thick tarpaulin, which made the hits of the wind echo at high amplitude, it seldom struck us with fright. In a way, it brought comfort. I used one hand to move away some of the hair fallen into my lover’s face and with a freed ear, I whispered her awake and into the start of our day.

Manoeuvring myself out of bed, I placed my feet on the wooden floor and bent forward to avoid bumping my head as I got up. In my near birthday suit, I shuffled out of the bedroom and into the parlor well-lit by the sun some hours into its day of work. The planks underneath my feet were coarse as it had a texture of sprinkles of sand. However, it fit well with the setting and as all did on this island, it brought out another piece in a world of nostalgia. In this tent-house, though it grows bigger with the years, many memories of mine rest as the family would take off from home and remain a fortnight here. In illness and joy I have wasted away hours on this island. Surfing down the dune of marram grass, gaining speed with each slide as the flattened grass blades would become smoother, before taking a dive head first into a bunch resulting in one of the blades stinging into one’s eyes. Then bawl for a split second before jumping on the board again to redo the whole stunt. Making friends solely for the durations of the stay without knowing when the last time will be. Munching pizza’s at the nearby restaurant, getting sand in every hole and pocket at the windy beach, poking the pink, slimy jelly-fish and simply doing what kid’s do. Standing in front of the door leading to the porch, I viewed the path of sand leading downhill and reminisced the time I had dug a hole with as only purpose to make a trap by covering it with a lid of green. The innocence of the child had not taken into account the chances of major injury and was simply out for laughs and giggles.

Soon, my love would join me and we’d sit for a breakfast to start the day. From the camping’s store, we had bought a carton set of mini toppings. This included minuscule portions of jams, sprinkles, peanut butter and chocolate paste. To compromise for the healthier, along with it came sliced cheese and bits of ham. But in honesty, our life on the island was far from the healthiest. Before noon had hit, a can of cold beer was popped open and so was a lazy chair in the warming heat of the sun. Long, sauntering walks on the cold, windy beach would be enlightened by the warmth of the liquor herb-bitter as we splashed our bare feet in the absolute freezing water. Peculiarly on a hosing day such as today, one finds a quick excuse to seek the better end of a bottle as the body wishes to flee from the biting cold. Besides, who plays Yahtzee sober? As I pondered when it would be acceptable to suggest a drink, she poured me a cup of tea and looked stunning as ever while doing so. The advantage of a make-up-less girlfriend is the akin beauty in the morning being indistinguishable from her last night’s glow. It felt special to take her away to a place of peace and comfort that for the kid of me had always been a getaway.

And befittingly, a day before we had walked the footsteps of young me as we got onto the massive jeep racing us over the beach towards the Sahara of the North, accompanied by a jolly man singing his ballads on an accordion. With a bit of luck, the day had been dry and all that poured was the sand carried like clouds by the wind forced up as the grand vehicle pushed with speed over the sand. The insides got soon filled with sand and that included the pockets of my jacket, out of which I could fish grains of it even weeks after. Parents covered their children securely as the sand was cutting and whirled around into the eyes of some. Which was a pity, as the sights were pleasant to admire. Passing by a military base for target practise of jets, we headed towards the refuge of shipwreck victims turned into a beachcomber museum. Now, it bears all found on the long strip of sand, including bits of sunken containers’s cargo that flowed ashore years ago and all else that came with shipwrecks. Inside stood dozens of jars filled with water and sea creatures resembling the serial killer’s cabin in a horror movie. After the jester’s tour of the shed was finished, as group we traversed to the far end of the island from where people admired the neighbouring island and equipped with binoculars viewed the bathing seals.

Though not all we did was pertaining my childhood and past activities. Bringing my present and future to the past and guiding her through an island of memories, it made more than sense to create new ones and on rented bicycles we did. Traversing for surprisingly long as my child’s eyes had only remembered the island for as far as my trembling legs carried me, we peddled a distance with a map as guide to both far ends of the island. A haven of nature with plants, shrubs and flowers beaming with colour, whistling birds and gallantly galloping wild deer in a bunch. Seeing a side I hadn’t seen or recalled, I was cordially shocked. As treat for our inputs, we entered a homey restaurant and indulged in a lovely pie along with cups of tea. And though the day ended in a soaking splash as the sky tore open with buckets and buckets pouring down, it was a day of peaceful bliss.

It was hard for the travellers to not wander about and with the beauties of the island it is understandable. However the days we didn’t, beginning the day calm and loitering around the tarpaulin-cabin or ambling to the shop for fresh croissants, we embraced the lack of sound. The camping was shared with only few others due to our perfect timing and with a job draining me with the passing of days, we welcomed rainy days and listened to the singing. We welcomed days of reading books and playing games. To be honest, for short-term, the opposite of hauling heavy backpacks through humid Asian heat before embarking on the nth vehicle for a duration in the double digits to do it all over again and an off-day including an hours-long hike in the jungle, it was great. With the only downside being a beach demanding layers and layers of clothing to be worn.

Where do you catch your breath? What is a safe haven, a place of comfort and serenity for you? For me, it’s not always a place with literal quietness.

Categories
Life outside of travel

Welcoming her home

At last, the tiny Filipina hidden behind her trolley rolled through the gate with tired eyes and a dreary face that screamed to have gone through hell. Short domestic flights with her hand tightly gripped into her lover’s had been an anxiety-riddled adventure. One must imagine the peaking of adrenaline and anxiousness when she stood alone on the Filipino airport, about to embark on a multiple flight journey of over 20 hours. Cheeks came doused with tears, dried over the hour-long flight and a heart was beating at an alarming rate throughout, but she bit down and fought through to finally arrive in Schiphol, Netherlands. A smile of exhaustion and weariness painted her face as she shyly moved closer to me and my father. A father I was glad to still be there and not hauled off by the Dutch military police after a near incident. After introducing the two to each other, we walked the same route I did a month before upon returning home.

I remember the drive home being foggy as ever, diminishing the views of the lowlands from our car, however with a dozing off girlfriend simply pleased to be back in the arms of her boyfriend it hadn’t been the greatest bother. For once, the restaurant on the way as usual stop was skipped and we headed straight for the house. Her to-be home. The pets and cuddles with the dogs were curt, since we quickly thereafter had taken on a horizontal position and caught up on some due sleep before introducing her to the initial Dutch unhealthy snacks.

From the day that I met her til the moment she stood bearing her encharming smile at the airport, I indubitably got to know more about her than anyone can claim. To this point, she seemed a perfect fit for me. For reasons unknown, she puts up with my weird, childlike behaviour and accepts as well as endorses and loves the wandering side of me, which means the acceptance of staying at our future home whilst I am off and to be open to migration more than once. However, the final tests remained within the Dutch culinary masterpieces and her opinion on such. So, the same day and weeks to follow I dragged her to local snackbars, the Wall of Febo and through stands of liquorice, stroopwafels and baked goods at supermarkets. With hopeful eyes I gazed at her as she put her teeth into a soft bread with a long croquette and atop of it a mush of mustard. My prayers and pleas had been answered when she shivered out of giddy excitement and exclaimed her love for the food, along with all other – admittedly unhealthy – that I had shoved down her throat.

After the Dutch delights, it remains without a doubt important how well she fares with my family. Bearing gifts from the marble capital Romblon, the two of us trotted up and down, hopping on the train for a weekend at my mom’s, followed by cycling through town to visit the grandmother, another deceased grandma’s sister and my aunt, meeting up with my sister and bonding with the younger brothers. One of them already excelling in English would understand every bit whereas the other would progressively gain more knowledge during her stay. And besides the grandma, everyone appeared to have a handle on the language and within family she clicked in perfectly, as she learned my trait of weirdness had been an overflowing mixture of that of both my mom’s and dad’s. And having met my sister and younger brothers, it is clear that there runs no exception. Nonetheless, she coped and chuckled along with the jesters.

Though, 18 months had been far too long. And you might take the globetrotter and put him back in his country, but you can’t remove the wanderlust nor stop the flowing of his traveller’s blood. At times, its flow is tranquil and hardly palpable, but with every beat it flows. So, the second the commotion of welcoming and uniqueness had died down and work, the same, unaltered, routinely tasks had reached boiling point of the pot that is monotonous, stale and bleak, my lust for being on the move came to a rise. The only distinction was, with an Asian’s arm locked into mine, I became tourist in own country!

For those utterly confused regarding the timeline, this belated blog post is written about the events on begin 2019, shortly after returning home from my South-East Asia and Australia venture. However, with the rapid speed I am currently writing at, soon, hopefully not too soon, they’ll be completely up-to-date. For now, to the travellers reading this, have you been tourist in own country?

Categories
Pakistan South-East Asia (2017-2018)

A kid in a snowball fight

A minivan stood outside, parked in front of the house with the gate still closed. Loud chatters and cheering coming from a floor up filled the house alongside the stomping and fast steps of tiny feet. Cousins and nephews and nieces had come from afar to spend these merry weeks here and the result was serenity coming in scarce. Shy smiles hid behind parent’s their legs and some more brave had tried their English while others brought me tea. But today, on this early morning, everyone was up and at it, as the mentioned van would soon be filled to the brim with children, some mothers and, of course, me. Wrapped in layers, thick scarves and warm gloves on their hands, the bunch wobbled in enthusiasm to the gate like a family of penguins. Waqas, knowing the kid’s tendency to regurgitate during the excruciating long haul, had snug his blanket extra tight and faked his deep sleep while I was getting shoved into the dark corner of the van to avoid constant passport control. Though aware of the chundering children, with the promise of seeing the white we no longer get in the Netherlands, bless global warming, and that on this special day that is my birthday, I had mentally prepared myself for flying chunks and stepped inside.

Getting used to spending hours on end inside these cages, as Pakistan is a vast land, had proven one of the hardest tasks. Swinging from the left to right on the unending meandering roads with as music the sounds of multiple throats spewing and spitting acidic saliva or parts of breakfast made me regretful. “Danny, how are you?” was the phrase echoing the inside for the dozenth time as the kid with his knowledge of English consisting of a total of three words had demanded once again for my attention. Yet, when I returned the question he’d come up blank to only repeat the question. Later on, he’d simply steal my answer, but for now he rotated only between this question and an unintelligible shout. An absolute adorable kid however. Exhausted before arrival, I sat with my stomach twisting praying for the fresh air and with it an escape of the sounds and smells.

Then, some hours in, snow had been spotted and with that, we were close. Halfway up a mountain we parked the car and went for a slippery walk, with a chain of children holding hands. We kept counting heads with every turn and step to keep an eye on all the kids as they had begun wandering left and right when the first snowball had been airborne. It flew high and landed straight on the back of the sister-in-law of Waqas. War had commenced. I leapt forward, sliding into one of the trenches next to a small stairway leading to a building as I got half of the children on my side and preparing me an artillery of snowballs and, cruel as they can be, a handful of ice-balls. The latter, I had sneakily chucked away before turning the sky into a blanket of white as I flung hundreds of balls towards the enemy. Unsure of where they were landing, I had launched my ammo on the hoodie of the youngest of the bunch, followed by a mouthful to one of the mothers and a maid with white trails covering her jacket. Soon, I had imitated Italy and switched sides as I attacked the ones providing me with snow. Soon, the platoon of minions flanked me and covered me in snow until I finally waved the white flag of surrender.

Exhausted at the end, we retreated down to a cafe for lunch to metaphorically smoke the Indian peace pipe. I was out of breath, but it had been an exciting feeling to relive the moment of grasping the cold snowball, gradually leaving tingling sensations in your fingers eventually leading to the numbing, before you douse your temporary enemy in the precious snow. Then you’d return inside, leaving the cutting, icy outside as you warm your frozen hands on a hot cup of tea with a fire blazing. Today had felt like such and along with the tea had come a surprise as a cake with lit candles came brought out. Together, me and the other celebrant blew out the candles and made our wish. Though, to have been able to play like a kid in the snow as the age grows taller, had been a wish come true.

This concludes my posts on Pakistan and with it, I wish to deeply thank all who have been involved in my trip. Waqas, who shared his room during my stay, drove his car hundreds of kilometres to show me place after place, endured the North with me to admire the massive mountains and faced the secret police when a suited man became nagging regarding the strange foreigner. And his family who welcomed me inside, made me feel at home with small to big efforts and with whom I have had many conversations. This includes close family and further relatives. Thank you all and you are welcome in the Netherlands.

Categories
Pakistan South-East Asia (2017-2018)

The bitter-sweet Pie of Pakistan

In attempt of transparency, I tend to write in honesty and it would be unjust to gloss over the issues that certain places face. Though I have far from written all negative that occurred during my travels over the world, leaving a country such as Pakistan, I cannot write a threesome of appraisal blogs without a pinch of cold-hard truth. More than once, I have been shown a paper that crowns Pakistan the number one destination for travellers. Puzzled, I wonder who wrote this, however I admit this massive country beholds many wonders for those of wandering nature. Incredible mountain ranges in the North, a stunning coastal line along the sea in the South and between the two are a whole bunch more to discover and with it tons of welcoming people. With lots to do and see, delicious foods and copious cups of chai tea to indulge in and getting seen as a fellow Pakistani due to its diversity in colour, there can be a lot of quality time spent travelling here.

As introductory to Pakistan, we had commenced with a meal and drink in Lahore. With a chai tea still steaming in one hand, I admired the views around and began to vision what lays further. As I sat there, seeming to wait an eternity to gorge on one of Pakistan’s many extraordinarily delicious meals, a tingle of excitement of the beauties to come brewed in my lower abdominal. Though I hadn’t been completely dreamy, having crashed upon multiple burning heaps of garbage in South-Africa, the same country where naive me had begun getting his feet wet with trusting people which resulted into the “neighbourhood-watch” Expendables acquainting the head of my phone’s thief with the pavement. Over the years, I met copious ill-minded people and witnessed horrors of countries and cultures that had me frustrated with the lack of respect and decency. So no, my head wasn’t in the clouds. Though, despite the traffic in Lahore which was frightening to say the least, for a city of eleven million, I would say that as far as my nose had gone, Pakistan had given me a warm welcome.

During the drive to my friend’s house, I learned the way of fining as my friend had slightly sped over the limit. Apparently, your reckless driving gets waved off with a minor, and I mean minor ticket which you pay and then gets shred the following day rather than put into the system. With a fee insignificant and little consequences, many behold the limit signs as advisory and drive away. Though this incident and majority of them can be waved away by calling it that what makes this country wild and exciting, opposed to the boring ‘nanny-state’ Victoria in Australia, taking Islamabad as example is proof changes are required. When accidents leading to injuries and at times even death happen on the daily, there is a large problem. When touring the capital, passing by a vehicle torn apart by an oncoming vehicle or watching a young man get back up with jeans torn and his scratched up bike some meters away had been far from rare occurrences. A danger to people with the way they drive and to imagine these are the same people cruising over the mountainous roads or zigzagging left to right on a crowded six-lane road without glancing behind them.

However, what had really gotten me interchangeably bitter and somber was the dilemma of waste. A nation filled with people exclaiming their love for their fatherland and praising it heavens-high had been the same group to have taken littering to a complete new level. Turning this massive chunk of land into a wasteland of garbage, muck and junk, they have managed to leave me in shock and surprise. Having witnessed parades in South-East Asia leaving the streets full, passed by pigsties created by humans lacking decency and having admired garbage piles in the South of Africa, I had now stepped onto the ground of professional litterbugs.

I meandered the streets in dismal as along the paths I walked on was a haven of mishmash. A river of plastic, cups, decaying food, fast-food bags and boxes, complete bags of rubbish from the homes and the list goes on. Piles after piles. Every step I took, I passed by filth and trash. There was no escaping it. Not in the villages, where fields or small creeks were dedicated as bin, not in the mountains where it gets thrown into the ravine, not even in the inner city where alleys and streets are full. There was no break. With that, I for so far of the countries travelled to, wish to crown Pakistan the country of garbage.

To top of, as cherry on the pie of junk, Pakistan is faced with a fair amount of corruption, though I hadn’t sensed it in any extreme form. One could say there is still a present homophobia and a slight inequality between men and women, however, if so, I’d say it’s more of mind than tangible. People seem to be more open-minded, men and women share the work-floor and there are even towns where the fairer sex leads in entrepreneurship. Everyone has their right to an opinion, but the way I see it, Pakistan is far ahead of what they could have been and with that, a progressing country. There is a strictness with religion and its customs and it’s a land with past conflicts, but I have not experienced the daily bombings I was promised by outsiders to be met with. Instead, it was open arms, people wishing me to be in their pictures, friendly chats and a helluva lot of tea.

Although I wish more compatriots would take on to the streets and sweep and clean every once in a while, to show the patriotism they claim to have, before we all sit and judge these people’s manners there is also a lesson to take. The bond of the family is one unbreakable and strong, entire families living in a grand house in the city and over the holidays in their second in a village. Affordable due to all working members pouring their wallets into a single account managed by the accountant of the house. That person is then responsible of feeding the cousins and nieces, brothers and sisters, daughters and sons with whatever money they require whenever, which releases all tension involving the green paper. When not working, siblings are willing to step the foot onto the gas for hours on end simply to drop off or stop by, which is huge as the nearest rides alone are a consecutive driving of minimal three to four hours. The ones rich enough to hire a guard or maid welcome them into the family and wind up paying expenses made by them. Be it college or trips. They tend to live their lives well and often caring for family.

So, Pakistan can seem cold, harsh and wild when viewed from afar, but once you’re in, you’re part of one big family. I am immensely grateful to have been part of it and I wish to one day experience it again and possibly tread to the North in the summer.

What has shocked you in countries you travelled to?

Categories
Pakistan Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

A caffeinated drive down

The ending of the story

Returning from the top, my slumber had passed and in a drowsy state I let my stubbornness fade and at last agreed to seek medical help. Waqas had swiftly deviated his mocking jesting into genuine concern and was on the fence whether to continue his banter. He had persuaded me to go to the doctor, despite part of me still believing it would pass. Since not even Ahmed, the fastest driver of Pakistan’s North was capable of getting to the capital within the coming and passing of the night, a small town in the mountains had to suffice. After some hours of adequate driving pass, we entered said town and through the noisy and crowded streets we zigzagged to our motel of the night. According to our driver, from here, it ought to be possible to return to the home of Waqas if driving from dawn til dusk, given that breaks are kept to a minimum and he drove his foot into the pedal. We unloaded the car before heading to the chilling and bare hospital. The moment I set foot into the grim building had been when I felt a slight terror overcome me.

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Pakistan South-East Asia (2017-2018)

Pakistan at an altitude

Continuing the story

Though as aforementioned frightening, the road to the North was one of beauty. Over the course of two days, we ascended to a town named Karimabad, located in the Hunza valley. The car had become a nauseating and dull cage after these endless hours and it felt freeing to have time in abundance as we arrived mid-day. Cruising through the meandering streets of the peaceful town, I had long noticed the fort that loomed over all other houses. Another fort was situated on the opposite end and stood far less high. A strong guess had been that we would soon wander over the edges and be admiring its stunning views. Call me clairvoyant, because as soon as our backpacks had been unloaded and we had gorged on lunch, we set foot for these medieval buildings. Entering the forts Altit and Baltit, we leapt back into the past and barged into the heretofore home of the hereditary rulers of Hunza. Bringing us back to the era of Huns, our guide summarised the past 1100 years inclusive of heirs, war and religion. Originally spirit worshippers and followers of Hinduism and Buddhism, Islam introduced in the 15th century became the main for the town around 1830. The forts, though crumbling, still remained most of its past and make a fascinating addition to the town with astonishing viewpoints. Being that the tour was in clear English and with a guide of knowledge, I was pleased to have my hunger for a bit of history silenced.

Speaking of true hunger, with the passing of hours it had grown weaker. And in hindsight honesty, my body had felt off for the larger part of the day. I pushed through the rest of town with my head pounding as if it were an ancient clock and a tiny guy kept slamming his hammer on the bell. A constant shiver rested on my skin and my mind had become foggy. It had felt as if I was faded into the background and my body and brain went on auto-pilot. Luckily enough, I functioned well enough to attempt ignoring the oncoming symptoms and with a smile trotted up and down the streets with Waqas. I do not enjoy the being of sick, therefore I try not to accept it. If anything, as per usual during my travels, I had an inferno-raging crave for an alcoholic beverage. With my mind shifted to that, it had become a hunt to have a gulp of the local hard stuff. A task which proves significantly hard in a Muslim town, or for that matter country. Instead, we settled for the indulgence in a cup of Chai tea alongside of a set of boardgames. The tea does get extraordinarily delicious, though it is sweeter than my usual cup tends to be. Seated in the tiny yet cosy restaurant with a vanishing appetite I savoured the hot cup before we returned.

The day that followed was the day we were headed for the Chinese border at a peak altitude. On this day, it had become harder to deny my ill-being as symptoms worsened. Cursed with the family’s trait of stubbornness, I remained in denial and had convinced myself to be fit and healthy as we drove onward. Half delirious, I sat in the car attempting to keep sight with tired eyes and sight fading. Half of the ride has vanished from my memories as I kept dozing of. Not long in, we got to exit the suffocating cage for exhilarating fresh air at our first stop; the hanging bridge. Facing the long-stretching bridge, I had noticed there was a fierce and icy wind, however it hadn’t bothered me. Even the absence of my comfort and clear-thinking had not been a burden. It was a relief to be walking and have a scary bridge as distraction. With now watery eyes, I shuffled from plank to plank. The bridge had gaps wide enough for an obese midget to fall in – and thus this skinny Pete. Others had been frightened by it and our guide, despite trotting ahead, was not a big fan either. Though surely intimidating, after the disappointment of a bridge in the Philippines, it was an exciting experience to have an attraction live up to its expectations. Heck, exceed it even.

Would I have called myself sick and quit the journey ahead, I would have damned myself for missing this. Though the altitude had far from helped, I see no fault in pushing to the top and letting the illness run its course after all is finished. Then again, I am no doctor. But the snowy border was close and to-be magnificent. Few turns away, I had in bewildered state signalled the driver and rushed out of the vehicle to regurgitate my insides. Admiring my barf, chunks and pieces spattered all over the once bright snow, I wondered how many got to say they chundered their breakfast here. Then I realised, with the altitude, most likely many stood in the same scenario of kicking snow over there half digested food. Moments after the spew, we arrived. My mind had been in such a haze, however I clearly remember the breathtaking fields of snow surrounded by peaks continuing to break through the sky. Wanting to not waste this moment, I had glanced in every direction with eyes wide as they could, considering the icy wind. I’d pet myself on the shoulder for remembering to shoot a dozen pictures, however upon viewing them all I could see was my fat thumb in a thick, winter’s glove. After this miserable attempt, I took in one final view before rushing back to the car where I fell into a deep sleep.

I do not recommend anyone to push through when these symptoms appear, especially not at these altitudes. It can be highly dangerous if it is altitude sickness, especially at its extreme. Stubborn me got lucky, but it could have ended a whole lot worse. Don’t be like me and get treated instantly when suspecting to have altitude sickness and when losing a lot of liquids.

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Pakistan Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

Admiring the daunting, yet breathtaking mountains of Pakistan

The start of the story

Three quick consecutive honks and our driver nearly slung us all over the cliff before dashing passed the car in front. In Pakistan, traffic resembles that of a Nascar race and this does not change when in the eerie mountains. High up, the three of us drove parallel to the Old Silk road and a tumble off the edge would surely end our story. Despite the immediate danger, our insane transporter had many times, in effort of darting ahead of cars, shown us the depth of the valley by flying along the edge. Seated in the passenger-seat, it gave me some dragging seconds to gaze down into the abyss. It oft followed by being blinded by the bright lights of an oncoming truck or speedy bus. A deafening honk resonated from the nearing death-machine. As the sound culminated, our chauffeur bolted through the two vehicles and with it avoided an imminent crash. I was baffled by this man’s driving. The sheer balls he had to speed through traffic at an altitude so high and on such a terrifying and peril road mere moments upon showing us what could happen.

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Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

All must come to an end

Coming back from Cresta, we had been bedazzled by its beauty, but we knew with it, our trip was to come to an end. Our last day had arrived and dazed by the heat, we thought the Cantingas river to be best for letting the final hours pass before a needed night’s rest. The river was so clear, that it was hard to believe to be exactly that. Its water had enough cool to wash away weeks of unabated sun’s fury and with a lovely view all we needed. Many Filipinos had gathered here, as usual eating and drinking the local whiskey, and my pale skin seemed to stick out. Their eyes had lingered and glared at us resulting in a few initiating small-talks. Others would simply stare and wave. For a slight bit of privacy, we had gone downstream to bathe and savour our final moments while we could as the sun sank down out of sight.

Categories
South-East Asia (2017-2018)

The Pearl; Cresta de Gallo

Cresta de Gallo, a name alone so charming it propelled the idea of the entire trip. Upon further investigation of the tiny, captivating island, my love and I were enticed by its beauty. Having set our plan in motion, it also came as last due to its location. But finally, having hopped from island to island and so on, touring with a tight time-schedule, we had arrived on an early morning at the shore of departure. Going from the nearest land Sibuyan, we headed to the dot in a minuscule boat. A boat that remarkably took us there unscathed through the boisterous waves. I had not figured it would take us out that far, as it is the smaller version of a bangka, which might explain why the way there took unexpectedly long.

Neither of us minded the long haul however, since we had come from far to visit this pearl. When we arrived, I had been surprised, near shocked, when I found that it was only us. Us, the two guys manning the boat and the care taker of the island – plus his moonstruck cousin. We had been told stories before by the locals of previous islands and from what we had heard, there used to be a couple on the island. They had lived there and been granted the island by the government. Yes, they actually owned the island, though it was under the condition that they would not sell it. Now that they had grown old, they had moved and their family would upkeep the place. After a welcome, we began to wander around. The entire island was vacated, the most breathtaking combination of beach and sea I had ever seen and we had it all to ourselves for as long as we wished it to be.

Accompanied by a dozen starving dogs, we could not help but have mixed feelings about the gorgeous place. No matter how bewitching it is, there is little crueller than to keep dogs on an island that bears little to nothing and to then treat them poorly. As a small consolation, we fed them most of our snacks before venturing around the island. One dog of the bunch had decided he wanted more of the peanut-butter crackers and had separated himself from the pack to join us. We wanted to experience as much as we could, as well as bring home a picture captivating enough to draw envy from those back home. Thus, with a little canine sauntering behind us, we filmed and photographed the beauty spots, meandered the perfect white sand, soaked up the sun fierce-fully blazing us on this blessed day and went for a dip into the refreshingly cool and blue water.

Hours had passed and it felt like an endless experience no one could take from us. Though these hours could fill many pages of enticing reasons what makes this islands a paradise, as the evening grows late, I will keep it short and simply let the pictures tell my tale. When enough time had spent burning to a crisp, we had decided to unhurried return to land and say bye to the paradise and the adorable puppers on it. We left bewitched and in amour. Would we ever return, it would be bearing dog treats and a tent.

Categories
Personal Favourites South-East Asia (2017-2018)

Chasing Waterfalls in the Philippines

A truly young girl, barely in her teens had shyly approached us. Lorraine was the name. She was to bring us there. Last time we had a guide take us, I had objections. This time was different though, as, despite the misleading age of the girl, it was quite a hike away. It wasn’t the fact that it was far, but that where we were headed, Cataja Falls, was hidden away. So well hidden, that with clear descriptions we’d not be able to find it. On my shabby slippers I followed the young lady trotting away over the rocks. It wasn’t really a path, but it was obvious this wasn’t the first time someone tread over here. We had to pass through a few bushy trees whereafter we entered into the open. From here, we could already see the waterfall crashing down, though it was far in the distance. Truly massive. Water at large quantity ceaseless chugged down the mountain. It left a perpetual trail of cascading water trickling to the river we walked along. We had been told that we could reach way up, though it would require adding some hours on top of the initial agreed hike. My love and I agreed that a total of three hours – back and forth – would suffice.