Friday, October 29, 2010

Bohol Sundae: Nuts Huts, Chocolate Hills

Well, there weren’t bedbugs in my bed, but there were ants. And I was staying at a nicer place. I woke up at the crack, and decided I needed to get out of Tagbilaran. There wasn’t much there, and I found a place called Nuts Huts on the road to the Chocolate Hills. The place was described as a backpackers Shangri-La, which was enough of an endorsement for me. At my early morning breakfast that came with my ant-infested room, I ran into my Dutch friend John, who was also staying at the hotel. We decided to head on to Nuts Huts. Since I was only staying a night before I had to catch the ferry back to Cebu and on to Manila, I left all my stuff at the hostel.

We caught a tricycle to the bus station, then a cramped jeepney with 24 people packed in. We hopped off the jeepney at the turnoff for Nuts Huts and hiked our way some 800 meters past simple village huts. We descended down the long staircase and arrived at the wonderful bamboo backpackers lodge overlooking the verdant jungle-covered mountainside that was green as the eye could see. A lazy river meandered below. We headed down the mountainside checked into a dorm called Finding Nemo, past a few goats and some coconut footpaths. We then trudged our way back up and to the roadside to catch a bus to the Chocolate Hills.

The bus arrived at the roadside juncture, and was packed, so we opted for the convertible option- riding the roof. We climbed up and were told to sit at the front. We sat at the tip of the bus, arms locked in to the front luggage rack. The bus was a little taller than previous minibus convertible rides and we had to block low hanging branches with our feet and duck low hanging wires. We sped through jungle canopy and forests, and past little one-donkey towns. The bus was going so fast we looked like memorex ads with the wind whipping our eyes, faces and hair. The bus was speeding a long, a little so much so that it felt like we were pushing our luck a little too much, so we climbed back down and into the cabin.

We arrived to the Chocolate Hills, giant round cones that look like giant Hershey Kisses.  We climbed up the vista point and looked out over the giant mounds. They looked absolutely Jurassic.  It seemed as if some giant dinosaur should come bounding out.  The natives believe the hills to be the remnants of a war of fallen giants.  We took pictures, and the locals took pictures with us.  I can't really imagine why someone would want me in their family vacation album, but I took pics with mom, grandma and sis.  We climbed back down as a rainstorm came sweeping over the hills, and sat back on a veranda watching the rains come down.  We caught a bus back that was literally a karoke bus.  Old 80s glam rock and pop blasting in the bus.  I have a post coming about Lionel Richie Diplomacy to the Philippines, but I am short on time and will write more later.  For now, all I can say is that the Scorpions are still rock gods here.

John and I took a brief detour, hopping off the bus to get some early dinner in a tiny town.  The town had a market on one side of the street and a few stores on the other.  We bought a whole chicken, and proceeded to chow down on the bird, sitting on the market steps as the locals looked on in disbelief as these gringos tossed chicken bones into the trash barrel.  We washed our hands in rain-water, and grabbed sweets of caramelized coconut on glutinous rice for dessert.

We got back to the hostel, and sat out on the balcony overlooking the jungle.  We sipped Beer beer.  That isn't a typo, the beer is called "Beer."  The slogan is "Beer na beer," Beer is beer.  That's simple marketing I can respect.  Wasn't so bad either.  We met some frauleins on a six-month trek and spent the night sitting out chatting with the rest of the EU I invited over (France, Slovenia, etc).  We were even joined by a fairy- a giant flying cockroach that was the size of a coke can.  Tinkerbell, it wasn't.

The night got interesting as we all turned into our hostel room.  As we were all brushing our teeth, John plugged in his phone and the outlet short-circuited and started spewing fire.  Some combo of wiring and rain that was coming down- really, really bad in a bamboo and wood bungalow.  A strange scene ensued of the bucket brigade running around with toothbrushes still in mouth.  We luckily got the fire out without the tinderbox catching, and cut the power to keep any more electrical mishaps from taking place.  I went to bed with the sound of the jungle in my ears as I lay under my mosquito veil.

I awoke early to the sound of the jungle, and we EU went swimming in the river.  We hiked along a trail until we got to a waterfall.  We splashed in and out of the fast moving current and rode the rapids about.  All but the Frenchy, who decided it was too dangerous and sat in the kiddie pool.  When we returned, he shrugged and said "I am French."

We caught the currents back down stream, and I showered and dried off.  I bade farewell to the EU and hopped a few jeepneys back to town.  I am about to hop on a 2 hour ferry from Tagbilaran to Cebu, then over to a 22 hour ferry from Cebu to Manila.  Why not fly, as asked?  Because I know what I get with flying, whereas I have never done it this way, and expect the morning view to be exquisite as we pass islands.

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