Hi all, after our island hopping week and search for paradise here is a brief account of what we have been up to....
Before leaving Davao it seemed that everything we did revolved around the game of tennis. After determinedly hanging up my racket eight or so years ago I surprised myself by really enjoying getting back on court, with the help of a kind brother and some very kind local players. But tennis here is a bit different to the UK. There are ball boys here, a small gaggle of them in Rick's club, who fag your balls and keep score for a few pesos. They do not go to school, tennis is their code of conduct, they have mischievous looks on their faces and wide smiles. Tethered towards the back of the courts are fighting cocks, that are being raised by older tennis boys, the cocks cluck away in fright when the balls whizz through. Our visit coincided with an annual tennis event, it had the most variety of any event that I have ever been to. The main purpose of the event was to swear in new members and a new committee. However it started with prayers, the national anthem, then moved onto speaches, the swearing in ceremony, eating, drinking, songs, games, jokes and lots and lots of fun. The people were all friendly, making us feel extremely welcome, we loved it. We then went in search of paradise. I have just uploaded lots of photos that are far more articulate than I am at describing how we got on.
We went to the island of Bohol, by plane and ferry. We stayed at Alona beach at a budget chalet style hostel close to the lovely beach. We went on a tour of Bohol, there was lots to see. The Chocolate Hills are an unusual geological quirk, where mounds of earth project in strangely regular conical shapes, it is well worth seeing. We stopped at a river crossing where we were brave to walk a suspension bridge that deposits you into the arms of waiting local tat sellers. A river cruise at lunch time, with buffet and singer on board was great fun. We stopped to see the Tarzier monkeys, the smallest primate alive. We stopped at a few Spanish colonial churches, crumbling relics of past glories. We were glad to get back to paradise beach and enjoy a swim followed by (honestly) just a few beers. On our second day we took a small boat that took us to a nearby island where we went snorkeling in a protected coral reef area, an astonishing variety of fish in vivid colours, the best snorkeling I have ever done. Tours on these islands are personal, whereby you can influence what happens, rather than being told. Our boat men friends recommended an eatery and we became a target for tiger keen local women to sell us their stuff, we were lambs to the slaughter. We ate there, Ann helped with food preparation, eating is far too important to be left to chance, we resisted buying stuff until ready to leave and then we fled. We left for Virgin Island a picture of paradise perfection with white sands and palm trees. Our entourage included of course Annika and Germaine Annika's yaya, or nurse maid, actually she acts like the best big sister in the world, we all set off for our second stop, via two ferry journeys, to Siquijor.
Bohol is a large island, say about the size of Wales, Siquijor is a much smaller sleepier rural island, we found a great beach resort to stay at, the kitchen churned out food slowly, but when it came it was delicious. On our first full day we were lazy and enjoyed paradise's facilities, and yes we drank some more beer. On our second day we took another personalized tour and we loved swimming in picture perfect waterfalls and we swam and snorkeled and lunched at a nearby resort. Did we find paradise? We certainly swam in and saw some amazingly beautiful ocean sights but it wasn't quite paradise, I am fairly sure it does not exist, however it is great fun looking. We loved our island hopping trip, we are going to do some more in a few weeks.
For the next week or so we are going to take it easy, phew. Rick has lots cooked up and if I know him (and I do) he will have a few things up his sleeve, I will let you know what we get up to. Love to all, from Liz and Andy and Rick and Ann et al here in the Philippines.