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Nuttter and Groovespook go Philippine island hopping

a travel blog by Groovespook

From June 30 till August 3 2010 we will be back-packing the fantastical, tropical, untamed, 7000 island archepeligo of the Philipinnes.
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West Orange, United States

Hello there,

In the tradition that brought you Nuttter' s S.E Asia trip, Nuttter and I are about to embark on a 3 week strole through the Philippines. Journeying randomly through the major islands of the Philippines and taking in some of the awesome spectacles. Soaking up the tropical sun, snorkeling over coral reefs, boating around uninhabited islands and through 8 km long subtereanean rivers, drinking 25 cent beers and probably squeezing in a 90 minute $10US massage or 6.

Nuttter leaves on the 30th and I fly out on the 10th of July where we will rendezvous in Manilla.

permalink written by  Groovespook on June 23, 2010 from West Orange, United States
from the travel blog: Nuttter and Groovespook go Philippine island hopping
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Nuttter heads out today!

Newark, United States

So I, Groovespook, am about to assist my angelic and slightly nervous (remember this is the woman who back-packed Thailand, Cambodia and Laos last year before getting all soppy and sympathetic) Nuttter to the airport. In about ten minutes.

So the blog is officially starting now. We have had a tonne of well wishes from friends and family and are getting super excited. Well, I am not SUPER excited yet, but I am sure once Nuttter gets of the plane in Manilla, in about 24 hours time, she will be.


Stay tuned.


permalink written by  Groovespook on June 30, 2010 from Newark, United States
from the travel blog: Nuttter and Groovespook go Philippine island hopping
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Nuttter - safe and sound in Manila

Manila, Philippines

NUTTTER IS IN THE Philippines:
So I got word last night, which was the next morning for Nuttter (12 hours ahead), that all is well. An uneventful flight with only minimal amounts of bawling child over a 12 hour period at 38000 feet.

No issues with the expected taxi-scam-nightmare of Manila (thanks to a hotel shuttle bus). A quick clean out of the air-conditioner filters in the hotel room ensured a good nights sleep and now Nuttter sets off, in a wandering-no-set-agenda kind of gait for Naga City.

Has not made the bed... again.
Has almost finished consuming all perishables in the House.
Watched The Fifth Element... again.

Till next time!


permalink written by  Groovespook on July 2, 2010 from Manila, Philippines
from the travel blog: Nuttter and Groovespook go Philippine island hopping
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Nuttter: The first few steps

Sorsogon, Philippines

The Philippines and I got off to a rough start. But then my first impression was Manila after all. Manila is a distant relative to New York City. The relative who shoots up heroin, doesn't shower and just doesn't give a shit. It was crowded, polluted, noisy and just plain grimy. There were just as many buildings being constructed as there were dilapidated structures. I just wasn't in the mood for it. So, I left.
I arrived late Thursday night and by Friday afternoon I was on a plane to Naga in South Luzon. The area is known for its mountains. Sadly, Naga and I didn't get along too well, either. I had a terrific and inspiring chat on the plane ride over with a young man who grew up in Naga and was returning to visit family. He also, it turned out, used to work as a guide on treks through the mountain. He told me I could do a one-day hike easily. Unfortunately, when I went to speak with the guy who arranges such things he said that wasn't doable. He sketched out a map and told me how I could get near the mountain and do some jungle trek, but it involved taking a bus, then a motorbike, then finding a guide, then timing the return so I didn't miss the last bus. I couldn't be bothered. So I left. (Sense a theme here?)
I took a bus bound south for Legazpi. It's known for the looming, perfectly conical volcano. And it is a sight. It's breathtaking. But I was seeking a smaller town vibe. (While Naga was smaller than Manilla, it didn't feel that way with streets choked with traffic and pedestrians and major exhaust fumes). Legazpi had similar potential. So, just before I arrived to Legazpi, I transferred to another bus and headed further south to Sorsogon. I'm happy I did. It's a one-main road type of place. Granted there's still a buzz of traffic but it doesn't seem as claustrophobic. And the drive there was fantastic. The concrete buildings slipped away and were replaced by papaya trees, gorgeous blue waters, patches of rice fields and limestone covered mountains. And, I just found out, the place I am staying at has managed to track down a mountain bike for me to ride tomorrow.
So, it's all good. Well, until I get lost that is.
As for the Philippines, I'm finally getting into the rhythm of it. I'd forgotten how unsettling the staring can be here (there's no way to blend when you are white, tall and a solo female). That part sucks, but everyone has been very nice and kind. Most people speak English (some very well and some not so much). There's definitely a difference in culture here compared to Laos. In Laos, the people are very modest and reserved. Clothing that covers the shoulders and goes as low as the knees are required. Here, men wrap or tie their shirts above their navels. Sadly, it seems to be only men who look like they are six months pregnant. And why do they do this? Because it's HOT here. You know it's hot when even the locals carry around washcloths to wipe the sweat from their upper lip and brows. And they do their best to avoid the sun by covering their heads with umbrellas or whatever else comes in handy.
I'm hopeful my body will get used to the heat soon and I won't feel like I'm walking around in 90-degree weather with a wool blanket wrapped around me!

90-degree weather? PAH! I say, it's 90-degrees here too, only I am pushing a lawn mower over my straw-like lawn instead of a mountain bike through a glistening rain-forest. PAH! Again.

permalink written by  Groovespook on July 3, 2010 from Sorsogon, Philippines
from the travel blog: Nuttter and Groovespook go Philippine island hopping
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A Viscious Cycle.

Sorsogon, Philippines

Yesterday was a day of what was I thinking? I rented a mountain bike and was drawn a map of a route to take. The entire loop would be about 60 miles. Given I haven't ridden a bike in quite some time, I decided to turn back when I reached a particular sightseeing point. My goal was also to be back before it got too hot. Ideally, before 1.

Things didn't go as planned. I left at 8:30 and returned a very tired and roasted woman at 3:30. While the ride provided stunning scenery: papaya trees, mountains encircled by clouds, stunning blue waters and fairly empty roads, it was exhausting both physically and mentally. I reached the midway point of my ride around 10:30. I pulled off to stock up on bottled water and ended up chatting with a lovely family. Imelda is a mom of two, Kenneth and MaryGrace. She talked Kenneth, who is studying to be a nurse, to show me some magic tricks. He was amazing!!! I wish I could have recorded it. We ended up chatting for about 30 or so minutes and it was a nice break. It turns out Imelda lives in the town I'm staying in. She even offered me a ride back in her van if I was too tired and she wrote down her cell phone for me. I cycled onwards until reaching the beach area. There were several unmanned wooden catamarans along the beach, half of them dipping into the blue-green waters. It was quite a stunning place. The water was so warm. I dipped my feet and then noticed a middle-aged man had appeared near my bike and bag. I went over and we chatted for a bit. He, too, offered me a ride home. He invited me to his house on the beach for some coconut milk and to avoid the midday sun and to hang with his family, but my danger-stranger instinct was buzzing and I politely declined. He seemed nice enough, don't get me wrong. But I just felt weird about it and was leaning toward taking Imelda up on her offer.

As I cycled back, I knew I was beat. I was looking forward to putting my ego aside and accept Imelda's offer. But I'm fairly certain I rode right past her van without seeing it. I kept telling myself it was just around the next bend, the next hill, but after an hour had passed, I knew I had missed it. So, I sucked it up (and had some Gu thank goodness for that!) and cycled the whole way back. The heat was brutal. It was like cycling in an oven. I took lots of stops in the shade. During one break, a pedestrian struck up a conversation with me. He asked the usual questions: Where are you from? How long have you been here? How long will you stay? Where are you going? Are you traveling alone? He also asked me my age (not uncommon here to get asked that). I told him to guess and he said 13, then 20. Hmmmmm, my guess is he's not too good with the numbers. It was a pleasant conversation and gave me the break I needed. And while I had sunblock with me and did reply -- I swear I did -- but this morning, I awoke to sunburnt shoulders, hands and face. Ouch!

Needless to say, I opted to take it easy today. A hard thing for me to do -- I always feel the urge to keep going and exploring and doing. But after what I put my body through, I have to give it a day of rest. It's the least I can do!

One of my molars fell out.

permalink written by  Groovespook on July 4, 2010 from Sorsogon, Philippines
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Ferried About.

Davao, Philippines

And so following my crazy day of cycling in the heat for far too long and becoming crispy I gave myself a day to rest. The following day was a travel day.....a very long one. I left Sorsogon feeling energized and peppy. I got the 6:30 jeepny (very artistic open air long vehicles) to Matnog, the tip of the island I was on. After that scenic and bumpy journey I got onto a ferry to cross over to Samar, another island. Unfortunately the Davao ferry didn't leave for two hours. After the two-hour ferry ride I climbed aboard a very packed non-air conditioned bus. I sat shoulder to shoulder in a three-seater. Fortunately it rained so it wasn't too hot. But it was slow going on the roads as we had to stop whenever large vehicles came our way to let them pass. It was a scenic ride with water on either side at times. And a strange ride with the chirps of a chick and the loud sounds of a rooster coming from the bus. Because it was a regular bus this meant it stopped frequently. I did not arrive to my destination until 6. What time did I leave again. Needless to say my brain and body were fried and I spent yesterday recouping as best as I could.

Dentist glued tooth back in, watched The Dark Crystal, had a beer.

permalink written by  Groovespook on July 7, 2010 from Davao, Philippines
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Air Supply in the Phillippines

Liloan, Philippines

Horses. I saw horses surrounded by lush greenery, eating and in the middle of nowhere. Free. It nearly made me weep. Nearly. And so I feel I am officially in the Philippines. The past couple of days have been a bit of a haze for me. It's been hard to get inspired and I'm not sure why. The heat? The effects of a long travel day or long bike ride? I'm not sure. But today I feel like it all clicked into place. A rhythm if you will. I left Catablogan this morning, taking a min-van for two hours and change to Taclobgon. It looked like a town with some charm (I use that word lightly) as most towns I've been in have been void of any personality (and full of pollution from all the vehicles). From there, I took a tricycle (it's basically a moped with a sidecar attached, quite fun to ride in) to the bus station. Found the van I needed for my next stop, got in and then....waited. Often the vehicles here will wait until they are full before leaving. Fortunately it only took 90 minutes before we were on the way. I also lucked out as I was able to secure a seat in the front, in the middle with a view of the road. I did not have this option on my first van ride. I was in the second row from the back, next to the window. And while we passed amazing views, I only caught glimpses as there was a large "Air Supply is performing in the Philippines" poster blocking my view. And the road twisted quite a bit. The man in front of me took out a small bottle and started sniffing it. I knew that trick all too well. Peppermint for travel sickness. You know it's bad when the locals are struggling.

On my second van ride, I was fortunate enough to sit next to a nice Filippino guy. His English was very good and we chatted the whole way. He was great and my only regret is I didn't give him my contact info as he is planning to be in NYC later this year. He is a seaman (he he he) and travels on the seas for long stretches of time. He was coming home from one of this trips. We talked about the local culture, politics, the land, etc. It really was a pleasant time. And it's the longest conversation I've had in a week! When we got to his final stop, I jumped off to use the Comfort Room (ie bathroom) and he paid for my entrance fee. He has three older sisters and they raised him well!

After he got off, I continued on for another 45 minutes. I could have gotten on a ferry that was leaving in 30 minutes. It would have been a three-hour ride, but I opted to spend the night in town and take the ferry (6 am) tomorrow. From there, I plan to take another ferry to an island I am trying to reach. The town I'm staying in is very small. And the room is definitely one of the cheapest I've stayed in. It's about $5 and it's very, VERY bare bones. I'll spare you the details. I've been spoiled by air-con rooms with bathroom towels and televisions. Needless to say, I have no doubt I'll be getting in early night's sleep! Not much to do!

Aside from a couple in Manila and another couple in Naga (only at the aiport), I have been the only tourist I have come across. The. Only. One. I am a walking freak show (or at least that's what it feels like some days). Without fail, people will stop and stare once they notice me. Conversations will end abruptly, something will be said to someone who hasn't noticed me and then all eyes are on me. Imagine walking into a restaurant and Every Single Person starting at you and continuing to glance over at you while you are there. I have to say it's been a bit exhausting at times mentally. I keep trying to imagine I'm some famous person and this is what happens when you are well-known, but it doesn't stick. Having said all of this, the people here really are very nice. They really go out of their way to make sure you are okay, have an answer, know where you are going.

Today, when I arrived in this small town Liloan, I asked the guy running the place if he knew what time the ferry left in the morning. He doesn't understand English. So, I went downtairs and asked two guys working a pawn shop (as you do). They translated my question to the hotel guy and he walked over to some people to find out. When he came back and said 6 a.m. and it would take five hours, I asked if there was a faster boat. The pawn shop workers and the hotel guy got a local to go on his bike to the ferry terminal to find out! Seriously. He came back in about five minutes with the news. 6 a.m., a three-hour ride and he even knew how much it would cost. So, even though I loathe the staring, they are a very nice bunch of people.

Miss you all and send me an email when you can. I might not have Internet access too often, but it's always good to hear from you!

Went to the Franklin Tavern Blues Jam.

permalink written by  Groovespook on July 8, 2010 from Liloan, Philippines
from the travel blog: Nuttter and Groovespook go Philippine island hopping
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I have arrived (Alert the media! - oh, I am the media)

Malate, Philippines

Buses for 3 hours, Ferries for 4, then another bus for 6 hours. (From dispatches)

So I got to Manila after a fairly painless but far-too-long mixture of airports, alcohol and airplanes and alcohol. Flying is a 24 passport to drinking in The Book of Porl. Negotiated my way to the hotel in Malate, threw my bags in the room and went straight down to the bustling, dirt, half constructed, cutlure-shock of the streets. Found a bar that was more like a bar than a strip club - which was difficult, not because I wanted to go to a strip club, just because nearly ALL the bars are strip clubs - and sat quietly in a corner with my first Red Horse beer and watched the Philippino underworld go by.

After a few minutes I was beckoned to the table near me by three lads, college kids areound 20 years old. They were incredibly happy and had already had a large sampling of my new favorite (despite my headache this morning) beer, The RED HORSE.

They precceded to buy me 5 of them (I didnt complain much as they were US .75 each) as I enthralled them with my exotic upbringing. Then they thanked me for making their lives interesting - hey, this was their own words - and told me of their aspirations to go out and see "The England".

Woke up early and walked down through the only slightly fecaly-infused streets to the bay. Actually I am not completely convinced that it is a bay and not just a water-logged refuse tip. It was pretty filthy.

Now I have 6 hours to kill before my flight to Davao and to the loving arms of my Nuttter!

permalink written by  Groovespook on July 11, 2010 from Malate, Philippines
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Devilish Deviations in Davao

Davao, Philippines

NUTTTER: Is asleep

The flight from Manila to Davao was uneventful, hell, flights always are aren't they?(attempts at jetsetter malaise). Oh, aside from the monumental Cumuli Nimbus I flew through that is.

Finally arrived at the Ponce Suites in Davao after a harrowing cab ride through insane slums mixed with the odd fancy house and saw my pretty princess for the first time in a number of days and the glow of love extended once more to envelope the both of us.

Then Nuttter mentioned (again - thanks to Raph) the Camp Sabros ZIP LINE EXTRAVAGANZA!!!

So off we went!

The journey to Camp Sabros featured local jeepneys trough bustling downtown Davao, a bus through tropical landscapes of breathtaking beauty, a motorbike turned into a five-seater minivan with intricately welded steal, and,finally, an old motorbike.The details of THAT ride I am leaving to the pen of Nuttter.

After all these modes of transport, it was our feet that traversed the last mile of washed-out dirt track to Camp Sabros. Nestled amongst the rain forest and pine trees commanding spectacular views of Mt. Apoand the surrounding valleys we trudged up to five young Filipppino lads , all incapable of understanding any English. Hand gestures (nice ones people) led up to the main camp administration and we (read: Nuttter) negotiated our zipline options.

We went with the 400 meter tandem followed by a whopping 830 meter solo. 400 pesos each. That's less than $10. Yeah.

I have video of our tandem ride which describes it, not only visually but-thanks to Nuttter's amazing ability to verbalize emotion--orally too but, being in the middle of nowhere in an internet cafe designed specifically NOT for people like me with USB HD video footage (Just crashed my second computer), you will not be able to see it, possibly for 3 weeks. sorry.

The solo one, as most of you can can only imagine, was like being suspended in time as this dream sequence of flying was realized. One of the most invigorating experiences I have ever had without doubt. Slowly gaining speed as the forest below dropped further and further away, the whir and hum of the harness above you increasing as the humid air refreshes and streams through your very soul. I felt my whole being open and release all fear as I ran through the various thoughts that I think all zipliners must have:

1. The Superman, complete with gestures of course!
2. The Airplane.
3. The Dream. Nutter referred to this one as The Twilight bit.
4. The Abandon. All care, fear and wordly thoughts get flushed from you.
5. The Panic.

After what seems like a minute of four, one looks up to realize that the ground and a large metallic structure is very, very quickly becoming your only concern. It is at the moment just slightly past your idea of when you can possibly safely stop without becoming part of this metal structure that you are yanked back to reality and then smoothly come to a halt in the arms of a disinterested and nervous young Filippino boy, who is more interested in getting you out of his way than hugging you and laughing and crying at the same time, which was my initial want when he unhitched me. Thankfully Nuttter, who went first, was able to attend to that!!

After a 7.5 hour bus ride through dense tropical madness on roads still being finished (or is it begun?) by people who clearly look like they have no business building roads, we are at last still. In Cagayun. A ferry to Camigun island awaits tomorrow morn, where we will spend 2 to 3 days ( if I can convince that mad Nuttter to sit still that is!)

love to all!

permalink written by  Groovespook on July 14, 2010 from Davao, Philippines
from the travel blog: Nuttter and Groovespook go Philippine island hopping
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Hop, skip, jump!

Bohol, Philippines

Hello all, Unfortunately, the internet access here is so incredibly lame that it is impossible to A. find a place suitable to sit in for an hour, and B. find anywhere were we can upload the fantastic blog entries that we have painstakingly typed into out iTouches.

So anyway, here is a brief run down of the last few days and believe me, I WISH I could fully convey what we have been doing and how surreal this life is right now!

From Davao and the Zip Line madness we took a seven and a half hour bus trek across Mindanao Island to CDO ( trust me, it is easier to say it that way) and stayed one night there before getting on another bus in order to get a ferry to Camiguim Island, then another small Jeepny to Seascape, a hostel with bungalows on the black sand beach. Really lovely.

We hired mountain bikes the next day and nearly killed ourselves cycling to a fantastic waterfall, deep in the forest and, as we found out, up increasingly steeper and steeper hills. I honestly have never exerted myself more than that day. But diving into that icy fresh water was incredible.

Then again, more Jeenpys and buses and ferries and motorbikes - yes, Maria, and I and a driver on a small 250cc motorbike WITH OUR BACKPACKS and no helmets in sight, careening through winding roads through tropical forests. I was sitting at the very back, on the handle normally reserved for the passenger. When we got to our destination, NutsHuts, it was another 750 meters down a dirt road. I N S A N E !

NutsHuts though is beyond description, we have another large bungalow nestled in rain forest next to an opal green river. There is a main hut with a restaurant that is up around 300 steps from us, and THAT is halfway up the gorge before we get to the 750 meter long dirt track that takes us to the road.

Tomorrow we are going to hike up the other side of the gorge and go to the BAT CAVES!!! (Well, I am going into the bat caves anyway)

Today we motorbiked all over Bohol and visited the Chocolate Hills, a geological anomaly (I blame the Aliens of course - testing sound based weapons about 3000 years ago) and then a butterfly farm.

Anyway, I have no water left in my body and we have to leave this closet filled with people and computers and eat somewhere, who knows, maybe the floating restaurant the tools up the river, maybe back to the cabin and the local delicacies.

Love you all and sorry we are incapable of contact and awesome stories as much as we would like.

Rest assured we are having a fantastic time. The Filipino people LOVE us, and us them!!!

permalink written by  Groovespook on July 17, 2010 from Bohol, Philippines
from the travel blog: Nuttter and Groovespook go Philippine island hopping
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