General Luna is a little bit strange

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July 30th 2009
Published: August 3rd 2009
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Our day started off well in Cebu city with our Maccie D’s breakfast and hot chocolate - we have thoroughly learnt our lesson about drinking coffee on travel days - it makes us need the toilet constantly!! It then turned a little bit hectic as we scrambled to find a taxi to take us to the airport who would actually turn on the metre and then when we were at the airport none of the cash machines were working for us to get a bit of ‘safety money’ out! After a mad dash and looking hot, bothered and slightly sweaty we managed to check in for our flight and had the undignified honour of being weighed along with our hand luggage so they could put the right amount of fuel on the propeller plane!

Our destination was an island off the north-eastern corner of Mindanao called Siargao, famous for it’s surfing waves the east coast of the island. We weren’t too sure what to expect but knew that the propeller plane ride would be a bit dicey, they always are...we were right and the pilot managed to land it with a real smack on the runway and we pulled into the single hut on the tarmac airport wondering what we had let ourselves in for.

After a nifty bit of haggling from Neil we got a trike from the airport to General Luna, a tiny town on the south-eastern edge of the island...the 30km journey took us close to an hour as the trike couldn’t go very fast over the bits of road which weren’t paved. It was all good fun with lots of school kids on the way looking in shock at Neil in the back of the trike, then frantically waving and trying to chase us down the road! We arrived in General Luna town which is really just two roads crossing each other with not a lot else there...we tried to find some places we had researched on t’interweb beforehand but only managed to find two of them. One of these was Patrick’s on the Beach - when we first asked about a fan room the owner told us it was 1600 pesos (£20!) this rapidly came down to 1000 pesos - he also raved on about the food in his restaurant, the menu was extensive and it looked really good (if a little expensive). We decided to have lunch first, have a quick look around and then decide...Donna then went for a stroll to see if there was any other accommodation nearby and the price of Patrick’s hit rock bottom at 800 pesos (£10). So we took the 800 pesos offer even though we thought it was a bit strange how the price had halved in 30 minutes and raced to our hut to change and get on the beach. The strangeness will continue later in the blog...

The beach at General Luna is a little bit rocky and at low tide the water is so shallow and warm. The owner of Patricks had dug out a patch of the sand in front of the resort to make a kind of swimming pool area which was just the right depth even at such a low tide. We had a lovely afternoon wallowing in the water and by the time it came to dinner we were rather hungry. So we headed out at 7pm to try some of the ‘famous’ food in Patrick’s restaurant, only to find that it was closed up with none of the staff in sight! So we went for a wander around the village...this was when we started to worry. There were 3 other restaurants in General Luna, two of these only had BBQ meat on offer and the other was we opted for one of the BBQ meat places almost opposite to Patrick’s resort. The BBQ chicken was really good but it turned out we had to have this every night for our dinner with rice...cue a lot of bowel bunged-upness from no veggies and a frantic hunt for apples and bananas for us to eat the next day! Well it makes a change from the other sort of bowel problem we have had whilst travelling hee hee!

That night Donna had a strange encounter with the owner of Patricks resort...the wifi internet went off unexpectedly at 9pm and it seemed to us that it had been turned off. So Donna went to the office to see what had happened. The owner shouted to her quite rudely through a 2 inch gap in the office door, denying anything was wrong and told her to go to bed and sleep (’s 9pm!). The next morning we enjoyed some more time in the sea - at this point the restaurant was open...half an hour later the staff had closed it and disappeared (at midday!). We went on a hunt for food and then two hours later, Neil ended up rounding up the staff at the resort to get them to cook us some food as there was nowhere else open...we felt like such an inconvenience! On the plus side the beef burritos here were excellent! It was a really strange situation in that we were the only people staying there and we were made to feel like we were constantly in the way or a nuisance to the staff. At night the gate to the resort was even jammed shut with a bamboo pole, making us find inventive ways to get back to our hut!

General Luna was a very quiet village with most of the Western tourists there for surfing at one of the other beaches called Cloud 9. We are used to divers in resorts we usually visit so it was quite strange for us and a nice change to overhear 60 year old men talking about a good fat (?!) wave they caught earlier that day. We asked around about hiring boats for snorkelling trips but had no luck on a decent price...a pity as we had heard that the snorkelling was good around here. But we were content to hang around the beach and wander the village. Every time we did wander around the village we would have a gaggle of schoolkids around us wanting to ‘high 5’ us (and of course asking for 5 pesos at the same time!). The kids were really sweet and all the locals were friendly and welcoming.

On our second to last day the owner of Patrick’s came and sat with us while we had lunch and told us about his plans for the resort. To be honest, it seemed a little pie in the sky to us with his plans for an infinity pool, conference centre, a sea wall and upgraded bungalows. He seemed set on ruining a perfectly nice resort (with a resultant price hike no doubt!!) based on his analysis that now there were flights running from Cebu direct to Siargao, visitor numbers - and therefore his bookings - were bound to increase. The flights had been running for more than a month at our time of visiting and there was no-one else at his resort but he told us he was fully booked both before we arrived and after we were due to leave (hmmm, really?). Strange owner and staff aside, our hut was lovely and we really enjoyed being right on the beach.

In the interests of not retracing our steps back to Cebu, we decided on an alternative route back to Manila...well it was cheaper too! In the past our plans to do alternative routes back to places have turned out to be nightmare journeys, so to say we were a little apprehensive about this one was an understatement!

We had to take a combination of transport and it was a mammoth journey to a city called Butuan on mainland Mindanao. Our travel day involved a 4am wake-up call with a 4:30am pick-up from the trike driver who had brought us from the airport...Donna was very grumpy that morning but the chiffon cake we found at Dapa port went a long way in cheering her up! The ferry ride ended up being 4 hours long, we were lucky that the air con section of the boat (which we had wisely opted for at a bargain 100 pesos!) wasn’t full so we could have a lie down and a sleep for most of the way.

We docked in Surigao del Norte city and with the help of a friendly jeepney driver we made our way to the bus terminal. In the jeepney Neil got talking to a guy who was interested in where we were from, where we had been etc, and on arrival at he bus terminal we easily found our non-air con bus to Butuan and settled into our seat which was only just big enough to fit both our bums! After being settled for a couple of minutes, we were surprised when the guy from the jeepney we had been talking to came to check we were ok...such a nice thing to do! We were soon on our way, going warp speed as usual for the buses in the Philippines...and every time the bus went around a corner, Neil had to hang onto Donna to stop her from falling off the tiny seat! The countryside we drove through was stunning - moody mountains with really lush palm trees and so many rice paddies. The roads were lined with banana and palm trees, there were a few little
The road from Siargao airport...The road from Siargao airport...The road from Siargao airport... was a little bit bumpy
villages we passed though and in one the driver stopped the bus so he could have his lunch and he actually came and told us what he was doing and for how long...we have NEVER had this anywhere in the world on a bus journey!

We were naturally a little apprehensive about travelling in Mindanao as all we had heard were bad things about kidnappings and Islamic militants, yes we saw about 150 army personnel on the road with their guns during our bus journey but we never felt unsafe. Arriving into Butuan was the same - everyone was super-friendly and willing to help us get jeepney’s where we wanted to go...stopping in at Maccie D’s for an ice cream sundae (mmm, hot caramel!) the server girl said she liked the way Donna talked - what do you say in response to that? Erm...thank you?! That’s nearly as good as the compliment we get all the time here...’I like your nose’!

Our brief visit to northern Mindanao has definitely inspired us with the amazing scenery and friendly people...we will hopefully find flights so we can explore the southern areas which are safe for us to go to. Sorry there are no pics of Butuan we forgot the camera as we were rather tired by the time we arrived!

In the meantime our 3 year ‘travelersary’ (yes a made up word!) is coming up...3 years, wow how time flies when you are totally and completely having fun! Our next stop is Malaysian Borneo, well Sabah to be precise to visit Kota Kinabalu and Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre. Excitement levels are building!

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


Neil testing the water...Neil testing the water...
Neil testing the water...

...the tide had gone out so far it stayed calf depth for about a mile!

3rd August 2009

The Philippines yet again?
See that you guys made it back. Great blog. Would you guys recommend Siargao? We're planning to visit in November.
4th August 2009

Siargao in November
Hi Marco...nice to hear from you. Siargao is a really, really quiet place with not a lot to do. If you don't surf (like us) then probably 4 days is more than enough time. In November the rains will be hitting Mindanao (best weather we have heard is May - October) and there will be waves on all the eastern side of the island, so no calm seas. It's very different to other beaches we have been to and enjoyed it because we had really good weather, in the rain we don't think it would be much fun as there is not a lot to do!
4th August 2009

hi.fantastic blogs really enjoy your write ups.Looking to go travelling myself-how can you afford to still be travelling 3 years on ? cheers bob
7th August 2009

i enjoyed reading it!
At the first glance on the second picture i knew it is in Philippines. That made me proud of myself that i'm really a Filipino. I enjoyed reading your trip in here. i know you had fun despite the situation and everything that has happened to the three of you. i'm from cebu to be specefic and good luck to your next trip.
17th August 2009

Nice Trip but
Nice blog guys, Mindanao is a good place to visit if you want to tread the path less travelled. But, much as I love seeing tourists visiting our country, It would be sad to hear another foreigner get abducted largely because they were too daring and some even refuse to have security provided them for free. In this regard, I wouldn't recommend that you guys go too far south of the island since there are still risks with regards to kidnappings and rebels as you're probably aware of .To give you an idea just get a map of Mindanao and make a horizontal line across its midpoint and that will be your demarcation point that I would strongly advise not to cross for reasons already mentioned.
10th June 2010

Im so envious
I just stumbled across your blog and I absolutetly love it!! its making me laugh I have always wanted to do something like what you two are doing..maybe soon!! Keep having fun and I will keep reading..Take care the both of you.. If you two are ever in Saskatchewan Canada look me up hahaha

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