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The second half of the journey with Robin and Jorn
Tacloban (Philippines) to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), August 2012

The weather changes significantly when we travel from the Philippine island Leyte to Samar. It is very cloudy and the dark clouds make a threatening impression. We are on our way to the small city of Calbayog, where we want to change to a jeepney that will bring us to the small village of Victoria, from where we want to cross with a small boat to the tropical island of San Antonio. But during the bus ride we have once in a while sight on the furious sea, caused by the heavy wind. By the time we reach Calbayog we decide to spend the night in the city. The sea is too rough, which makes the crossing to San Antonio impossible. We are currently travelling at the beginning of the typhoon season and we heard from locals that Manila has big problems due to the heavy rains that plague the metropolis.

The next morning we decide to skip our visit to San Antonio. The wind is still very strong which means that San Antonio is off limits. We take a bus to Allen and take from there one of the big ferries over the strait of San Bernardino to the huge northern island of Luzon. The weather is still ok for us, because the wind does not really influence our travel plans. In the evening we arrive in the city of Legazpi where we spent some days. Legazpi is famous for the huge and perfectly conical volcano Mount Mayon. This deadly volcano can be seen from most places in the city, but due to the heavy clouds, we never have a full sight on the giant. We only saw the lower half of this impressive volcano. We undertake some daytrips around the city and eventually take a bus to Naga, a two hour bus ride to the north. Naga is a friendly student town with a huge shopping mall. The main reason for us to visit Naga is the famous wake boarding track. One of the worlds most renowned surf magazines mentioned Naga’s wake board track as one of the best tracks in the world.

Jorn and Robin in action gear

To be honest, we never heard about wakeboarding before, but Jorn and Robin, who travel with us for six weeks, did. Wakeboarding is a kind of water skiing on a snowboard, but not behind a speed boat. It is some kind of a cable system that pulls the surfers around the track. In the water are all kinds of jumps that can be used by experienced surfers to make spectacular jumps. Jorn and Robin spent two days on the track and had a great time. We saved our bodies for our visit to Papua next month and enjoyed the activities of the youngsters from the terrace. After our visit to Naga we take a bus and jeepney to the small fishing village Sabang. This is the place from where we take a small boat to the Caramoan Peninsula. This peninsula is famous for its beautiful limestone formations in the beautifully coloured blue/green sea. You can compare the landscape of the Caramoan Peninsula with northern Palawan, which makes Caramoan a great alternative for people who want to see spectacular limestone formations without going all the way to Palawan. The boat ride with a Bangka (small wooden boat with outriggers) is already a big adventure. The loading and unloading of the Bangka is a great sight to see. There is no fixed jetty, so the locals made some kind of a floating jetty to get the passengers on and off the Bangka without getting wet feet. The luggage is carried to the boat by porters who wade through the water while holding the luggage above their heads.

The Caramoan Peninsula is a great destination to go to. It is not really easy to reach which means that it is not run over by tourists. The area makes a remote impression. The boat ride to Caramoan is already beautiful. There are great views on small coastal villages and with a little bit of luck you have clear views on some great volcanoes, including Mount Mayon. However, the boats are small and tight. That makes the crossing in some ways uncomfortable, especially when you know that sometimes a wave makes it into the boat. So keep your valuables dry. From the little Caramoan village we did some island hopping daytrips in the area. The landscape is spectacular and some of the limestone islands have stunning white beaches with ultra-soft sand. We are not the first travellers that ‘discovered’ these islands. The Survivor and Robinson Crusoe TV-programmes of some countries are filmed on these islands. So everybody who has ever seen these programmes know how beautiful these islands are is.

One of the beautiful limestone islands in the Caramoan area
When we are back in Naga we immediately book the tickets for the eleven hours bus ride back to Manila. On the internet we read that almost 80% of the metropolis is flooded due to the heavy rains. A situation map of the city shows us that the area where our hotel is located (Malate / Ermita) is still dry. Also the airport is still fully operational which means that we probably have no problems leaving the country in a few days. We also read on the internet that a plane of Cebu Pacific Airlines (the airline we fly with to Bangkok) almost crashed on Manila’s NAIA airport. One of the engines failed and thanks to the tremendous skills of the pilot 180 lives were saved, a Philippine newspaper wrote. He put the plane safely on the ground on one engine. The bus ride from Naga to Manila is comfortable and just after dark we arrive at Philtranco’s bus depot in Manila’s Pasay district. It was a further 20 minutes taxi ride to our hotel. Both during the bus and taxi ride we saw nothing of the flooding. It looked like nothing had happened, while we knew that already 85 people died and almost 800,000 people had to leave their homes.

We spent one more day in Manila and brought a visit to the spectacular Chinese cemetery where wealthy Filipino-Chinese people built temple-like graves. On August 13th we flew back to Bangkok and just after midnight we arrived at our hotel in central Bangkok. The remaining days of the visit of Jorn and Robin to Asia were spent shopping for souvenirs and spending some time in coffee joint to afterglow this great journey. We also spent a night in one of Bangkok’s infamous red light district to observe the things going on there. On August 16th Jorn and Robin left Asia again.

From that moment on we started preparing our journey to Indonesian Papua. We visited the Indonesian embassy to apply for a visa and went to the Thai Tropical Institute to buy anti malaria tablets. It was not easy to get them because the Thai government is reluctant to sell these medicines because they are afraid of anti malaria medicine resistance in Thailand. But when we ‘proved’ them that we want to have the tablets for our journey to malaria infested Papua, they provided the tablets to us. On August 27th we flew for one day to Kuala Lumpur where we applied for our new Dutch passport. After handling all these actions we were ready for our long hankered for journey to Indonesian Papua.

Robin in action
... and Jorn also
Unloading of the passengers from the bangka by floating jetty
Another picture perfect island in Caramoan
Enjoying a cooling coconut
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