I know! Another long wait for an update! What can I say? Between the demands of my clients, testing my first ecommerce app and coping with getting back to the gym it’s been a busy few weeks, but hey, here we are, at last!
Just to make up for my laziness this update is a big one and it’s full of images 😉
October was getting a bit stressful, family issues in the UK, financial concerns, rain and heat and to cap it all off a nasty bug-bite I picked up somewhere along the line rapidly became an infection needing treatment with pretty strong antibiotics!
You can probably understand that when the chance of a short break to a white, sandy beach in a delightful island cove came along I grabbed it with both hands!
Sohoton Cove was our destination. One of Jhunes pals had arranged a deal on some tickets for a weekend of travel, accommodation and various excursion around the lagoons of Siargao Island off the North-East coast of Mindanao.
As Jhune offered to pay for my ticket, and as I really needed a break, I happily agreed to squeeze into the jump-seat of a cramped, but air-conditioned minibus for the 8 hour drive north up the entire length of Mindanao, almost 400Kms!
We left Davao City at about 10:45 in the evening, maybe a little later and the plan was to travel through the night getting to Sohoton by about 7:00am, travelling along the rather grandly titled “Pan Philippine Highway” from Davao to Tagum, up through the Compostela Valley into Angusan, passing San Francisco and Bayugan City, to Butuan City, we passed Lake Mainit in the dead of night before finally leaving the highway as dawn was breaking and heading back on ourselves down the Suriago-Davao Coastal Road to Hayanggabon Port.
After a night of steady rain-showers the heavens really opened up as we prepared to board a boat for the crossing to Siargao Island but despite a soaking we were soon bouncing across a choppy bay towards our destination.
The boats used were typical Filipino Banca boats, built of wood with outriggers and, apparently, all powered by Toyota or Isuzu diesel truck engines, colourful canopies protect the passengers from the squally downpours that seem common in the area, but as its the rainy season the stormy weather was expected!
The morning quickly brightened up as we got closer to the island and the sun broke through at last. A blessing in disguise because things soon got pretty warm and the clear blue waters looked very cool and inviting as I sat sweating trying to take pictures of the little islets around Siargao…
We got ashore at the resort at about 8:30am, and at that point I was all for a shower and some sleep but the organisers had other plans for us and the group was swiftly transferred to another boat for a bit of island hopping… First stop an anonymous little island with a stretch of white sandy beach, crystal clear water and some big starfish!
The rains quickly returned and, thankfully, the rest of the mornings island hopping adventures were cut short, after another couple of boat transfers we finally made it back to the resort for some lunch and at that point exhaustion took over. I think that sometimes Jhune forgets I’m more than twice his age and while I did my best to keep going, after the food all I wanted was to have a shower and fall into bed… Of course it wasn’t quite that simple!
I haven’t slept in a dormitory since I was a schoolchild, and then only briefly, but when I got to our accommodation that is exactly what I discovered, we would all be showering and sleeping in an open, communal dorm, and by open I mean no walls and no windows, not just between the boys and girls, oh no… There were no walls or windows at all, the whole room was open to the outside and while this kept the temperature tolerable it also let in all kinds of tiny biting and itching bugs, ants, mosquitos, something big and buzzy that kept flitting around my head and a couple of huge spiders that had set up home outside the showers… Need I say more?
On the positive side the view from the dorms balcony more than made up for the pretty basic level of comfort…
Overlooking a beautiful green placid lagoon, calming and serene. A little later it started to rain quite softly and that just made the whole vista all the more beautiful to look at. The combination of the rain falling on the roof of the dorm and the quiet surroundings soon lulled me off to a much needed nap until late afternoon when Jhune and the rest of the group returned from a visit to the Sohoton cave complex. I missed out unfortunately but I think if I had joined the trip somebody would have had to drag my sleeping body out of the boat at some point!
We had a so-so dinner before Jhune and I retired to our bunk for the night, complete with that variety of biting bugs and ants I mentioned, and surrounded by all the sounds of nature going on a few feet outside the room, not to mention 20-odd sleeping, coughing, snoring and farting young Filipinos spread out across the dorm…
The night was sweaty and not that comfortable to be honest, but after all the travelling it didn’t make much difference, I was asleep in minutes and stayed that way until about 6:00AM in the morning when Jhune woke me for an early shower…
I say shower, what I actually mean is a concrete/cinder-block construction with a tap, a bucket and a big plastic ladle inside, fill the bucket with cold water from the tap, then ladle the water over yourself after washing to rinse off the soap… I’d had similar experiences at other places here in the Philippines so it wasn’t a surprise, all the same the dousing with cold water at 6:00AM certainly woke me up!
Following a quick breakfast we were all ushered to more waiting boats for a trip to another complex of caves, a dip in a lagoon full of little jellyfish and then back to the resort to spend the rest of the morning having a very relaxing swim before we all got ready to leave and travel back to Davao at about lunchtime…
The trip back was as long and tiring as the trip to Sohoton, across the bay, this time in the midst of a pelting rainstorm, then to the minibus for another 8 hours driving south. The big difference this time was that the scenery we’d all missed on the way up on Friday night was now all on display.
The ocean, distant mountains, green valleys, the huge Lake Mainit, The Philippines are blessed with an abundance of wildly varying scenery and the views on the coast road and then once we were back on the highway were breath-taking.
We stopped a few of times on the way home, to eat, deal with a minor collision, and a toilet break, but eventually we got back to Davao at about 8:00PM and grabbed a cab home.
It was a long tiring journey in both directions, but all in all well worth it to see a very different part of these islands, green forests, white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, mysterious caves and a variety of wildlife, mostly biting bugs but nice to see all the same.
Would I do it again?.. No, emphatically, definitely no… Well, maybe. If it was a longer trip, a week or a long weekend, but travelling all that way and back in 2 days was a real strain and I spent much of Monday in bed recovering!
So that was my adventure to Sohoton Cove. I hope you like the pictures!
To round off this update, I mentioned last time that there might be a surprise of a porcine nature… Well here it is! Let me introduce Bacon, my pig.
I have to admit I don’t know which is which, and no, they’re not pets, they are most definitely eating pigs, bacon on the hoof, Jhune and I bought one each and we’re hoping to sell them as pork over the coming Christmas season.
So now I can add pig-farmer (pig-trader?) to my CV alongside adventurer and software engineer!
Later alligator 😉