Sunday, 4 December 2011

Days 88 to 92: Malapascua

Travelling with a fellow human involves compromise: one of you wishes to drink rum, the other brandy, so you compromise and drink both rum and brandy. Or one of you wishes to play Scrabble and the other cards, so you compromise and play Scrabble with cards ("Oh, 'KA' again for six points," "What do you mean "QJA isn't a word?").

And so it is travelling with the human known as Burness. As may have been apparent over the last few months, our travels have been dominated by looking at large, impressive man-made constructions that I have nominated candidate World Wonders. Great, but this is more my mission than Burness's; he is happy to visit these places as they have all been of interest, and give us a focus to these travels, but he too has places he is interested in and would like to visit. And so, in the name of compromise, I acquiesce, and let Burness pick destinations he quite fancies seeing.

Unfortunately, Burness takes a great interest in beaches. In case you haven't met me or aren't aware of how I roll, I am not a big fan of beaches.

And so it is that we find ourselves on small Malapascua Island, just off Cebu Island, among the islands of the central Philippines. Beaches, boats, sun, sand, and scuba dominate the days. For Burness at least. I'm less enamoured.

In fact, both of us were pretty unenamoured when we arrived a handful of days ago. Burness had selected it from his Lonely Planet and it sounded encouraging. A small island, no roads, only accessible by boat, unspoilt and serene. After a hectic pace of travelling which in the end led to eleven consecutive different places of rest (smashing the previous record of eight) we wanted somewhere to simply take it easy. Even for me the idea of a secluded beach paradise sounded appealing.

Alas, in the five years since our outdated Lonely Planet was published, much has changed. Ok, still no roads, and boat-only access, but as we arrived we couldn't fail to notice the numerous hotels and guesthouses lining the coast, many of them still building sites and in construction. We were tired after an overnight bus journey followed by a flight followed by a three-hour taxi trip and the final hour of the boat across, and it was hot, but despite the proliferation of hotels, none had affordable rooms available. We sat and had a beer, and looked at each other. Burness's disappointment was many times greater than mine, as he had really been looking forward to the island, only to find it was fast on its way to becoming a tacky slice of the beach-resort cake. Sweaty, tired, disillusioned, we did manage to find affordable accommodation in the end, but we had an early night and were already planning our escape.

Things improved though. Despite the next morning finding that our pre-booked beach huts were double-booked, we found better and cheaper accommodation next to the outdoors bar we'd enjoyed a few drinks in the day before. We relaxed and realised that although this wasn't serene seclusion, it wasn't that bad either. Our accommodation had (slow) wifi and so I would be able to crack on with catching up on a lot of backdated blog, and Burness decided now would be his chance to get his scuba diving certificate. Ajoined to the bar/accommodation we were staying in was a dive centre, with two very friendly instructors that were usually found somewhere in the area. Speaking to them, he realised with a bit of effort, he could get this certificate in three days. Fine, I said, I'll take it easy and get some writing done, and you do some scuba diving.

And so it has been. Today is Burness's final day of his scuba diving, although yesterday he passed the written test. I've just been hanging around, having a few beers in the evening and writing during the day. Despite the booming nightclub right next to our accommodation, we were able to move into a quieter wing, and have caught up with some sleep. I'm now nursing what I hope is the beginning and the end of a cold, and am gearing up for some more travelling tomorrow.

Because tomorrow it's Bangkok, just for a day, because Burness has another place he's keen to visit. And surprise surprise, it's another beach, or many of them, somewhere in southern Thailand. And this time for ten days...

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