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.

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A MARBLE-OUS ISLAND

Romblon, known as the capital of marble, is home to a mesmerising marine life, picturesque beaches, a historic fort and over 38,000 people that are all but rude. It being one of the few islands with an actual tourist office, standing lonesome on the main square near the harbour, it is actually welcoming. Welcoming in the sense that a friendly – and chatty – woman awaits you with with advice on all surrounding islands, but also that wherever you venture off to, you are met with the smiles and waves of the friendly locals. Though the globetrotters come in scarce here, there are a plenty foreign, usually European entrepreneurs, having their business here. Therefore, even those that get overwhelmed by other cultures can find their peace here and enter a restaurant for a chewy German schnitzel or have a chat with the friendly Brit and Italian next door. If you wish to do a bit more than amble from diner to diner, worry not as this tiny island will surprise you with the beauties it beholds.

Now, aside from a presence in the cuisine, Europe has wiggled its roots in the history of many a island including Romblon, leaving various historical and heritage structures after Spain’s reign. The historic fort San Andres stands out the most as it looms over the city and sea, making it the absolute perfect spot for a sunset view. Since the climb there is on a set of tall, steep steps, the time the sun sheds its final lights is indeed best, as these steps paired with the Asian heat can be more than harsh. Expect to be met by the head of the organisation for reparation and maintenance, aka the guard and his friendly pup. This man, indubitably, will welcome you and if the place is not too hectic give you a free tour – but do tip. He will show and tell you all about the crumbling fortress that due to the massive and diligent restoration with the help of copious local as well as foreign volunteers remains to be a highlight of the petite island.

Of course, one does not go to these parts of the Philippines to solely admire the remainders of European influence. Though we did not get to experience the outer islands or any water-based activities due to harsh weather, we did get to tour around the island. On this ride-around, we came upon what in my opinion is, after Cresta de Gallo, the allurement of these waters; Bon-bon beach and Bang-ug island. Depending on which way you go around the island, this is either the final or immediate stop being close to the main city Poblacion. After stalling the scooter we rented for the day, we arrived on a long stretch of glistening, white sand. Sauntering along the water, the two of us headed for the island. Since the stretch is a fair walk, a ton of sunscreen is necessary to leave unscathed. Because the sun shone bright, at times feeling like a scourging whip of heat, but adding to the picturesque view that was sand, sea and sky. As if it was not enough, a rocky island of greenery fills the view with a breathtaking walkway of sand leading you through the sea at the right tidal. To our surprise it had been us, and us alone to admire the piece of art and without a queue or wait we took some of my favourite pictures before continuing.

Though this visit will leave the stops to follow in the dust, it is worthy to follow the not-so descriptive map and try to navigate yourself around the island in the search for the competing beaches, a lighthouse, a waterfall and to pass by the quarries before making your way back to the city or your accommodation. Romblon, of the Romblon province is a challenge alone to get to, but aside from dismaying the mass, has got an arsenal of sights. And upon departure, there is a world of souvenirs to take with, as the islet brings a strong game in the marble universe with competitive quality and for a reasonable price. Time to stuff your bag with gifts for the family!

How much effort would you put in to getting somewhere lovely but hard to get to? Or are you one that would put in effort not to have to go there and rather relax at the beach of your hotel?

The Marvels of Melbourne

Should I write about the time I drove over the Great Ocean Road? The mountain hike I did in Geelong area, or walks near? The day trips in Geelong and Melbourne? Perhaps the alcohol fuelled foolery with my mates? Or simply a summary of the great times I experienced? To be frank, there are many stories I have for my time here, but none I could be bothered getting too deep into, or that qualify for a whole post. Unless anyone wants to hear more or I decide to do a post of multiple short stories and pick one or two, this is last of Australia as I don’t like to wring my experiences. Instead, I would like to shortly give my opinions on Victoria and Australians in general, before I initiate the travels that followed shortly after.

Victoria had been my place for nine whole months, of which majority was spend between Geelong and Melbourne. Both these towns have a highly present Dutch community, due to a Dutch refinery and an increase in migration in the wake of World War II. Despite this, not in the slightest, apart from some integrated foods, had I felt this. Instead, I experienced a lot of the Australian attitude. Their laid-back nature, interesting sense of humour and the way they talked. Incapable of not abbreviating words and phrases, in a matter of time you will pick up a complete new vocabulary here. I caught myself having early brekkie before riding my pushie to work.

As I said before, people from and outside of Corio had warned me for the locals there, however I found each of them approachable and easy-going. One cold evening I had stumbled upon a man granting himself the bed of grass beside the pedestrian path in a daze of alcohol. Upon waking him – come on, the nights get cold – he cheerfully wobbled and stammered away. No, the way I saw it, I encountered the Aussies as erratic, lively and humoured as well as great conversationalists. They know how to have a folly. Although I did find Victoria to be a bit of a “strict” state, or as it is called there a “nanny-state”. They have rules and laws for every simple and tiny thing and they work hard to implement them. But once you do a little research on the amount of DUI’s and alcohol-induced accidents, you start to wonder if a nanny-state is truly the worst downside.

Aside from the people, without a doubt you will find Melbourne worthy of praise when it comes to places to live. If my words are not credible enough, there are many other blogs and papers that place Melbourne high on the list. Coming near the liking of Vienna or Zurich, it is a beauty of a city with lots of grand parks and it is filled with happiness. Close to the Great Ocean Road, having national parks and many great dining places as well as pubs, Melbourne won’t leave you bored. Often I would be in the city solely for walking about – and admittedly getting a burger from either Betty’s or 8bit. Having done numerous of long hauls from far outside, as well as within Melbourne, I am also convinced that the public transport is both fair in price as well as punctuality, making the commute from anywhere possible. During one of these long rides, I have had a detailed conversation with two police officers manning the platform, and with the information and numbers given, I dare to say that it is also a safe and secure city. The “nanny-state”, annoying at times, has created an increase in the safety of its inhabitants.

So, with a town that holds creative street art, a culture that speaks to everyone and where you get served a beer during a haircut, filled with people you can’t help but love, I am not surprised that Melbourne claims the Aussie crown.

A Temporary Goodbye

Tears flooded over her precious cheeks. We had spoken of our time together, our “December” frequently, holding on to the tiny thread that held us sane, yet when it was finally within our grasp, the moment had just as soon passed. Begin of December, we finally intertwined with the longest of hugs. I then met her family, we travelled together, went on ventures normal couples go and made life heaven and hell during the two glorious months spent together. All the time that we had already known each other cramped into two measly months. Two bloody months of passionate love and happiness and then life takes it all back. Kicked out of the garden of Eden, my paradise. Back at the airport, with parents and daughter in tears. The hourglass’s sand had gone and there was no way to turn it back around. We already used up that trick on my 2nd one month’s visa. Time’s up, money’s up, get out of the Philippines. We both wished it to be easier, but we knew then and we know now that not all passports have equal privileges. So, morosely, I swung my bag over my shoulder and trudged my way to the security while she remained. Gloomily, but nonetheless a little excited for the land they call Down-Under I boarded my flight.

It won’t be the last time this gets mentioned, but the toughest part always lays in the first and the later stage of a long distance relationship. Upon the onset of being companion-less, it is the change that crashes upon you. Alone, there is now a constant silence. For many years, I had embraced that silence and been happier within that space. After finding my true love, that changed a fair bit. Because she is the only one with whom I don’t filter my personality. Then, getting used to being on your own again, you begin with accepting the temporary forsaken feeling. Not being able to communicate the random, silly thoughts that pop up or discuss the topical events of the day. It’s what makes the first days or weeks hard.

For every person it works different, but once you get there, to the accepting the distance and working with it, life is good for awhile. You do your thing, whilst often in contact with each other. Loving messages, late night calls. All the good stuff. But, slowly yet steadily, the later stage encroaches, when it has been months since you have been within miles reach of your lover. This, is when you go down the slope of insanity. At the brink of, you crave the touch and sight of your partner. The need to breathe the same air, share the same space. Honest to god, it doesn’t even matter what you do, all you want is to be in the same room, because where you are now is a lonesome pit that craves the feeling of being filled with love. Love that is at a distance had oft been worse than the life of a lone wolf I lead previously, as the latter would not feel the lacking of it. In lieu of, I knew what I could have and yearned for more. Friends and family could be all they are, but being months, a year, or more for some, away from the one you love so dearly, it would drive almost anyone mad. This, we experienced every time we had to say goodbye – and also explains some of the future decisions I made, but more on that later.

Luckily, still deeply embedding the happiness this trip had brought me after ages of waiting and bearing the excitement of a little kid in a candy-shop as I was headed for a work opportunity in Australia, it could have been worse. I felt more grateful for the life I had than the solemness of who I lacked. I am young, healthy, got an amazing girlfriend and have the opportunity to travel in this manner, so stop bitching, amirite? Australia would be exciting and could help with the funds for a return. Some weeks ago, I had contacted the owner of a backpacker’s motel and there was a promise of farming jobs. Eager as ever, I flew to Mildura with a stopover in Sydney and Melbourne. Forced to linger a night in Melbourne, as a flock of birds had flown into the engine, Qantas Air had provided me with the nearby upscale hotel. I paraded in my fancy room upon having graced my body with the bathrobe and ordered myself some late night costly dining on Qantas’s credit. Australia had welcomed me with a grin from ear to ear and delirious from lack of sleep I fell onto the soft mattress for a long due rest. The following day, full with good spirits and believing nothing could bring me down, I would arrive in the insignificant town 500 km North of Melbourne. There, the lady from the web would bring me to the wee village Wentworth and soon that smile turned to a frown.

What are similar unexpected surprises you got from an airline?