March 4, 2014 by melcogger
After 3 restful days in Sipalay of swimming in caves, chilling on the beach and Jonty falling ill, we headed off early to get to our next stop in Bayawan. However, shortly after setting off, I had an uneasy feeling that whatever had made Jonty sick was now making me suffer. This was not helped by the fact that getting out of Sipalay required us to cycle 20 minutes on hard sand to a river, carry our bikes onto a small paddle boat, push our bikes across a beach and then cycle a further 30 minutes to get back to the main road. This would make us an hour behind schedule. The terrain also promised to test our strength. Our plan was to ‘fasbait’ (be tough) and if I felt too ill to continue, hop onto a bus. We had to cycle 90km, and we decided to take it as easy as possible. This meant cycling at a snails pace, stopping every 5 to 10 km and resting in shade. What should have taken us 5 hours took us 8 hours. Cycling slowly is no fun especially when your body is not functioning as it should be and dragging out the kilometers makes a day drag by. Morale was low on the Cogger team. We finally made it to Bayawan, in good time, might I add considering our health situation, settled at a tidy pension house and went straight to bed, only waking to eat and sleep again. I woke the next morning to a fever and we felt that it was best to take a bus to Dumaguette.
Despite the usual time we spent getting lost and the countless conversations with bystanders for directions, we finally found the port. We opted for a cheap ferry to Siquijour leaving at 4pm which did not charge us an additional fee for the bicycles. This meant that we would only arrive in Siquijour at 5:30pm with only 30 minutes of daylight left without a clue of where to stay for the night and a continuing fever. In haste, we called ahead and booked what sounded on the Internet to be a seedy and dirty guest house close to the port, not really something we were looking forward to, but resolved to look around and stay there as a last resort.
We disembarked from the ferry on out bikes towards the north of Siquijour and I surprisingly felt much better. Our travel guide ( Lonely Planet) claimed that all affordable accommodation was in the north of the island in San Dugan, 15km from the port, which we found out to be largely untrue. We stopped off 5km down the road at the first suggested accommodation from Lonely Planet. We were met with tree houses built in a mangrove forest over a motionless ocean with the sun setting in the distance. We were so pleased when we were informed that they had tree houses available for us, that was, until we saw the rooms. The first room had an unmade bed and a plate of old food covered with huge ants which were crawling everywhere. The next room was at least clean, but we soon realized that there was no mosquito net or fan, or electricity in the room for that matter. We decided that although the surroundings looked beautiful, it would not be a restful night. By this time the sun had set and we donned our head torches and back lights.
After much anxiety on the ferry about the prospects of cycling in the dark, the ride was surprisingly pleasant. Siquijour is a small island and most people travel by motor cycle or tricycle. The roads were quite, and instead of cycling in the hot sun, we had a cool night breeze (we would later hear with utter amazement from family members that Siquijour is infamous for werewolves, witches, vampires and black magic and that they would never in their wildest dreams even go outside in the dark in that place! Oh well, ignorance is bliss). We were so eager to get to Sandugan that we didn’t realize until we stopped and asked for directions that we had cycled far past our planned destination. By 8pm this was not something that the grumpy Coggers wanted to hear after a day of travel and a night cycle. We turned back and enquired about the prices of guesthouses along the way and eventually we were directed to La Villa Alta. It was dark, we were hungry, it was in our budget and we decided to stay at least one night. We were put in a cottage with a balcony with a pleasant room but we had no idea of our whereabouts or surroundings. After some egg noodles we went to bed and awoke to a gorgeous sea view set on a cliff side with a one minute walk to the beach. We had struck gold and hadn’t realized in the dark where we had found ourselves.
Siquijour was a blissful 4 day holiday and our best stop so far. I had recovered from my illness (or so I thought) and we spent most of the time on our balcony reading, eating, and sleeping. We even got invited to a birthday party on the island, which we politely attended. We feasted on beer, wine, soda, two spit braai pigs as well as a feast of Filipino food. We were soon exploring the island on a motorcycle. We swam in a turquoise waterfall with deep pools and caves and saw the whole island by motorbike, a nice easy change from cycling. After such a wonderful day Jonty fell ill again and I felt lethargic and weak. However, this was the worst I had seen Jonty. He had a high fever and was shivering with hallucinations, while waking up and confusingly telling me that he was a rock? He was stubborn and did not want to go to hospital despite my sobs and telling him that it could be something more serious. After some flu medicine and praying, he woke the next day feeling slightly better, but the fever returned just before we needed to cycle 7km to the port to head to Cebu. The guesthouse owners Mercy and John insisted that we did not cycle and offered to take us by tricycle because of Jonty’s fever (he sat shivering with a blanket wrapped around him in the sun, in 30degree heat). They even sent their daughter to get Jonty more medicine. After squeezing the panniers into the side car and tying one bicycle on the roof and one on the back we were off. This is a testament to the amazing hospitality, generosity and caring nature of the Filipino people.
We took an overnight ferry to Cebu where we arrived at 5am in the dark. It was not worth getting accommodation in Cebu as we were scheduled to board another ferry at 10pm for a 20 hour journey to Manila so we waited at the port until sunrise and then cycled off for some breakfast to find a base for the day. We eventually found a base at a food centre in down town Cebu after an eventful expedition (3 hours of cycling in circles without a proper map).
We had booked our ferry tickets to Manila online and we read the terms and conditions carefully to see whether there was any mention of excess baggage and sporting equipment, which there wasn’t. Satisfied that we would not be slapped with an additional charge to travel with our bikes, we booked the tickets. Now, our lawyer friends will know that there are 3 ways for terms and conditions to be included in a contract, which we will not bore anyone with right now. However, upon arrival we were fuming when we were told that we would have to pay extra for our bikes. This was highly irritating especially since the ferry tickets back to Manila were our most expensive purchase yet at 2800 pesos. We demanded to see where in our terms and conditions it provided this, which I duly printed and read aloud to the assistants. It only referred to “personal belongings not exceeding 70kgs for each passenger. They told us that personal belongings meant clothes and socks, not bicycles. This we said was complete rubbish because personal belongings were not defined and each of our bikes with panniers did not weigh more than 40kg. But we got blank stares, confused looks and and an insistence on following their rules. We stood our ground, partly because we were fed up with Cebu, had nothing better to do with the remaining 4 hours of the day, and we knew our contract law. They could not explain why the policy requiring additional charges was not on the website or accessible anywhere else except on a ruddy piece of paper being shoved in our face
Our efforts failed, we got tired and we were told to either refund our tickets (the nerve) or LEAVE OUR BIKES IN CEBU. What the hell. We were fuming by this point and loudly said that “this would never happen in our country”. As if by procedure, we pulled out a piece of paper and took every ones names down, asked for head office’s email address and said that they would all be getting a rude email about the lack of regard for consumer protection and basic legal principles. In the end we grudgingly paid 300 pesos and made our way to the ship. The ship was nothing short of a sky scraper in the water – loads of space left right and center for our bikes, which we loudly pointed at in disgust, “look at all this open space my lovie, our bikes would so easily fit over there for free”‘, why on earth they charged us more we don’t know. The ship was a cruise ship with TVs, a cafeteria, play station games, a lobby, a karaoke bar and a disco.
We arrived in Manila at 11pm and were ready to peddle to our guesthouse 10km away. This news was met with complete horror to one of the cruise ship staff who said that if we cycled on the road outside of the port, we would be hit on the head and our bicycles would be stolen. After a 20 hour ferry ride of feeling anxious about cycling during the night in Manila, this news made me feel completely defeated. We were in a really dodgy part of Manila and this poor man was practically begging us not to cycle. After my short tearful cry Jonty decided that we should probably take the advice of a local and find another way to our guesthouse. After many taxi drivers insisting that they could fit our bicycles into their sedans, we eventually arrived at our guesthouse by taxi at midnight.