Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Our first day ashore

Well, that was different.  It was time to try and get some pesos.  The only place to do that here is in the city of Surigao.  We’re anchored in a small town west of Surigao called Ipil.  On the weekends, this place is rockin’.  There were at least a thousand people on the beach and 50 or so fishing canoes…and I’m being conservative.  The canoes are painted colorfully and sport some sort of inboard motor sounding remarkably like a motorcycle engine.  For a while there, we thought we had stumbled upon a biker’s rally.

Monday morning we decided to venture in and see what we could do about getting some money.  We saw a “resort” through our binoculars so we started there.  The young girl there was extremely nice and turned out to be very helpful.  We were trying to catch a trike into town, the common means of transportation here (a motorized tricycle with a few extended seats on the back), and when she discovered all we had were dollars, she gave us 50 pesos of her own to get us into town.  Who does that?  Anyway, another employee pulled up on the back of a motorbike, also a common means of transportation.  After a lengthy discussion in Tagalog, they decided that since they didn’t know any of the trike drivers passing by, that we should go on the motorbike.  There were two bikes there and they both set off to get a helmet.  We assumed the helmet would be for Jake and we would split our little family between bikes.  A few minutes later, one driver returned with a helmet and a small basketball.

This is the main mode of transportation around here.

Hmmmm……  I was still confused.  Thinking maybe they thought just Andy would go into town. 
“you all go on this…yes?”


It turns out the helmet was for the driver (I’m assuming there is some sort of law in the city about helmets for the drivers) and the basketball was for Jake.  The driver wedged the ball in front of him and made a makeshift seat.  Jake sat on that, then the driver, then me, then Andy.  There was some haggling by the nice ladies about our price and off we went….

Oh my goodness…..I prayed a variation of prayers constantly for the twenty minute ride into Surigao….
“Please Lord, don’t let us die.”
“Please Lord, take care of my baby.”
“Please Lord, keep us safe.”
You get the picture.

We went through some beautiful countryside (“Please Lord, let me relax so I can enjoy this view.”),  we passed a truck full of pigs and several cows on the side of the road (“If I weren’t terrified, this would be funny.”), and we passed some of the poorest shanty towns I’ve ever seen (“Please Lord, how in the world can we help these people?”).   There were beautiful rice patties, steep hills overlooking the bay, and entire villages built over the water.   Nothing prepared us for Surigao.  It was busy, chaotic , loud, chaotic, crowded, dirty, chaotic.  But so cool! 

We finally found an ATM (guarded by the nice officer with a shotgun…”Please Lord, don’t let us die.”) and a McDonald’s (also guarded by a nice officer, sans shotgun).  We had to dip into McDonald’s to make change for our driver and to get my heartbeat back to normal ( by the way, Jake did pretty good, although he did say he needed to pass out for a minute).  While Andy was getting us drinks, the driver tried to relay to me in his broken English that we weren’t very safe there.  Lots of “how do you say?  Kidnapping?  Robbing?  No good for Americans.”  If we didn’t have Jake and/or it was not our first rodeo in the PI, I think we might have stuck it out.  As it went, we decided not to push our luck.  One thing I’ve learned in cruising is to trust the locals.  If they don’t think it’s safe, it probably isn’t.  So we hopped back on the motorbike (the driver sat on the ball this time) and headed back to Ipil.  A bit more relaxed this time, I managed to take in some sights, Andy took some selfies and Jake chatted away (an old salt by now).

Back in Ipil, we shopped at their little store and bought some eggs, soda, rum and beer (for less than a meal at the Drop Off bar in Palau) and made our way back to the resort to pay our new friend back.  It turns out they had a fabulous little restaurant and we enjoyed a great meal and had a few “Serbesa’s” to calm our nerves. 

Trying to get the net off of Savannah.
Today, we sit on the boat waiting out the weather before we continue west.  We had an exciting afternoon watching the local fisherman catch Savannah in their nets.  Don’t ask me how they did it, but it was entertaining to say the least.  We’re going to finish our day with a homemade pizza and wake up tomorrow to blue skies and wind….we hope.  And off we go…

Jake, swimming through the cave at Bucas Grande, PI

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