Palawan: Puerto Princesa and El Nido

In Puerto Princesa I checked into a hostel with pool and wifi, two things I like a lot. In the evening I met up with a Filipino girl Sharon and a Korean, dutch adopted guy called Ki. He was the very first make-up artist I had ever met. Anyway, the three of us ate crocodile and had some beers at the local pub. A funny band was playing some tunes they had been playing the last two years. The next day we accepted Sharon's offer and went with her to check out a small village up in the mountain side. There wasn't that much up there, but the family we visited had a funny little critter as pet. In the evening we went out again with Sharon's friends and the Fama sisters from my hostel. Warehauz 45 is the shit haha.

Sharon took me and Ki's friend Lisa, from his hostel, out to one of the satellite clinics outside of Puerto Princesa. This is where they repair the villagers and pull out their teeth for free. Lisa and I were chilling at the beach while Sharon was working. In the evening we had a nice barbecue. After a long and bumpy  bus ride the next day, Lisa and I arrived in El Nido, or Eldonado as she calls it. I checked in to my 150 pesos a night place and we started booking tours. The first day was quiet and we had some beers with some English girls. The following morning, we went on a tour with an Argentinian couple and two guides.We drove around in our boat in an area very similar to that of southern Thailand. A lot of nice limestone islands. In the evening we went to a very filthy bar. Lisa turned around after 3 seconds and went out, whereas all the guys stayed for a couple of beers. One of the prostitutes liked to dance and I danced some swing for the first time in many months. I went to bed early since I had a new tour the next day. Unfortunately I must have eaten something bad or something, because I woke up at five and had to vomit. Then, for the next 8 hours, I crapped out my mouth and pissed out my ass. It had been a long time since I was sick, so I guess it was about time. I had to cancel the tour and spent the day lying in bed and reading a Swedish book I found in my room.

I went on a tour with the Argentinian couple on my last day in El Nido. An Italian with his Filipina was also with us. It was nice with a boat ride and to snorkel a bit. My stomach was a team player the whole day as well. In the evening I finished off the book and went to bed early. My last stop before Flying out of Puerto Princesa was Sabang. Together with the Argentinian couple I took a morning mini van to Sabang. Like El Nido, this town is small and electricity is only available at certain hours. They rely on generators. In Sabang I met Marc the Swede and we did the underground river together. It was a pretty cool tour. I got to sit in front in the boat and control the light while we were going through the caves. The next morning we headed to Puerto again and I had a last evening together with Sharon, Ki, Kyra, Antonio, Fran and some others.

Next up: Cebu!


Bontoc - Tuguegarao - San Fernando - Manila

I got picked up by Mik in Tuguegarao at 01.00 am. He lives in a house with a 24/7 farmacy on the ground floor, so he had no problems with picking me up at such a time. We had some porridge from the restaurant next door and planned out the following three days that I would be spending with him. The next day we went to the caves in the outskirts of the city. Next to a beautiful river, we entered the caves with a local guide. To me this cave seemed like the middle of nowhere, but the Mik knew all the people we met inside. I found that kind of funny. After investigating the seven chambers, we went into a boat and were taken to a beach further down the river. There was a cave entrance up in the cliff side and we were waiting for sunset to see the exodus of the bats. We had a lot of fun with the local cow while waiting. A one year old, white cow was like a dog and the little girl that owned it, treated it as such. It followed after her everywhere and ate only grass if someone picked it and fed it to her. It was very cute and it seemed to like the color of my shorts, because it kept on licking. Watching the bats exit was very cool and afterwards we drove with the boat under the swarms of bats that were out. In the evening we picked up the Pastor and the Chinese and went for dinner. A delicious barbecue with halo-halo at the end. After such a good start, I knew I would have shit loads of fun in Tuguegarao.

Every morning I was served great breakfast, made by Mik's nanny. A good way to start our days with much travelling. For our second day we needed reenforcements and picked up the Graduate. It was so cool to be with the Mik, because we were never alone and his friends were great. The three of us headed down to Isabella to have a look at a big chair and some old churches. We also visited Mik's restaurant and the Graduate's former professor. She lived next door to the Mik's new flat, which we inspected. Everything was finewith the place except the pink sink. He didn't like the color, but I laughed cause the words pink and sink normally come in a different order. It had been a long day for me and I slept in the car all the way back home.

The third day was great. The three of us added Mik's cousin to the crew, and the four of us drove up to the very north-east of Luzon. We got all the way up and had a good lunch before we got a boat ride to the Island Palaui. The island was beautiful and there was an old spanish light house there. We went up and enjoyed a magnificent view. It was the first time I saw the pacific oceand and it was be the furthest north I would be until the flight to Korea. To top it all off, we went for a swim on the beach with black sand. Due to the volcanoes in the area, the sand on the beaches is black. After sunset we went into the restaurant by the beach and had dinner. This resort area has a lot of Chinese tourists that are there for the casinos and beaches. That's why I was able to have my first Tsing Tao in a long time. It brought back memories from good old China and Hong Kong. On the way back home we stopped by the Graduate's hometown to say happy birthday to his father. I got to eat a mix between Halo-halo and coconut shake, which was very good. I think I consumed a couple of kilos of sugar in the Philippines every day. To be sure of that, we got some extra coconut ice cream to eat on the way back.

During my entire stay, I've been educated a lot about cagayan and I have had friends with me who have explained everything I've seen, and then some. I had a brilliant time in Tugugarao, which is used as the term "middle of nowhere" in the Philippines. It was ridiculously hot, but this place is definitely somewhere to me! With extra help with my plan for the last stops in Luzon, I left the guys the next morning and went to Pagudpud. After a sweaty, no air-con bus trip, I was there. I slept one night in a nice home stay and spent the sunset at the beach and in the water. I then went to Laoag and had a day trip to Marcos' Heritage Home. He didn't seem so bad to me. Passing the "palace of the north" down to Vigan. I had an extra day, so I decided to stop off at San Fernando on the way to Manila. I met two nice teenagers, Niq and mr Hair, immediately after arrival and they helped me find a place to stay, The next two days I slept under the sky on a roof for 100 pesos (13 nok). Their mother Michelle came and took us all out for dinner. I love this place, even when I don't plan to meet nice people, I still do. The next day I spent surfing and met some great guys from Sweden and Australia. We had some beers and then I went to bed early since Michelle had offered me a lift to Manila the following day. My 36 hours in San fernando were great.and it was time to finish off my Luzon trip for now.





Sabangan - Bontoc (This is too long for most people to read, so skip to the end)

After  waking up early and getting homemade eggs and toast from Sexy, Russel and I went down to see Sir Ernesto. Being one of the elders in town, he is respected and has the title councillor. Russel had been talking to him the day before and Ernesto had prepared a guide for me. After an introduction and some chatting, Russel left us and my guide Roger, or Kuya (big brother) Roger as I call him, went off to check out the local hills. Not really a tourist attraction, but nevertheless we went up to the Globe (a phone company) antenna in the hills. On the way we passed a high school that was also placed on top of a hill. This made me think of something; If we built schools on top of hills in Norway, that would force the kids to sweat up there everyday. Might be a solution to our growing obesity problem. I didn't see any fat kids in the village while I was there at least. Roger was an excellent partner and his English was good, so he could explain me things on the way. We walked down again for lunch with Ernesto. He was a cool guy and we got along well. Since I still had the rest of the day available, roger took me up to the Smart (another phone company) antenna on another hill. On the way down we stopped in his village and I got to meet his very pretty wife and one of his daughters. Well back in Sabangan, Ernesto and I went to the local elementary school. They were playing gongs and practicing the local dance. A festival was coming up and all the kids were walking around playing and dancing. The gongs could be heard all over the valley. When I started showing them the pictures I had taken of them, the whole thing turned into chaos with screaming and laughing kids stepping all over me and each other. The kids in these villages are super sweet and make even a rusty Norwegian heart beat a bit. After this, Roger was waiting with an invitation to drink a bit! The three of us started the process of emptying a Matador brandy bottle and a couple of Red Horse beers. Tonight was a local meeting with the military command in the area and since I was here, and the guys seemed to enjoy my company, they let me come with them. On the walk up to the meeting we met some other guys sitting and having a little evening party. We weren't the kind of lads that turn down such a surprise party, so we sat down with them and cracked some jokes and shared their booze. In this country people still have respect for elders and guests, so the youngest immediately gave us two of their chairs. After dwelling there long enough, we walked the final bit to the meeting. It was held in the elementary school and everybody was sitting on a 30 cm high chair in a horse shoe formation. It was very cute. As a representative for the University of Oslo and the Norwegian army, as Ernesto introduced me as, I told them bits and pieces of cold Norway. After some coffee and biscuits we went down and Ernesto offered me his guest room for the night. It was a very funny day and a good start of my village life.

The next morning I had breakfast with Ernesto. We liked conversing with each other and got along well. My plan for the day was to meet up with a group of guys coming from Manila to climb Kalawitan mountain. Russel had made some stuff up there and I brought with me a marker to tag the equipment with it's appropriate name. Ernesto, Kuya Roger, some more guides and I then went to the rendezvous point at a cafe with panorama view over the mountains. The crew from Manila were coming with a bus from Baguio. Meanwhile Roger and the guides prepared the equipment while Ernesto and I ate pancakes. The Tagalogs (people from Manila area) showed up and the leader Tesa was very eager to get drunk climb the mountain. After lunch and briefing, base camp awaited us. Only a small walk away were some huts and a nice camp area. We spent the day bathing in a cold mountain creek and eating food made over the bonfire. The guides started playing the gongs and doing the ritual dance around the fire while Ernesto was dancing the eagle dance. After some minutes of watching, we all ended up joining and it was actually very funny. Very different from Norway to see quite tough guides dancing with gongs without being drunk. Nico was probably the happiest eagle dancer of all. The Tagalogs got themselves a hut down in the camp while I went up in the hill side with two guides and shared a hut with them. The guides were Ronald and Buds, two really nice guys that I will remember forever since I promised to:). The hut used to be where Buds lived when he was younger. We went to bed early since the alarm was set to 4.30 am.

"Wake up Hawk!". That's my name in Asia for those who don't know. I went down and we had nice warm breakfast. It was quite cold during the nights in the mountains, so warm food was very welcome. We headed up for the summit after food. Buds and I went in front and had a good pace to the top. We chilled a bit up there and enjoyed the view from the trees we sat in. The others came with the food and we had a delicious lunch on the top. The sun was shining and life was good. We got some nice pictures and headed down again. At base camp, wine bottles and brandy waited together with food. Buds gave me a hand made miniature of a fish trap that he had made out of straws. He was pleased with the speed I had held down and rewarded me with this prize. It was very cool since I seldom get presents with some sentimental value attached to them. Sitting around the fire and tables, Tagalogs and guides, we all had an excellent evening with gongs and eagle dancing. I was supposed to dance the wedding dance with Lyka, one of the girls, but alas, Ernesto snatched her in front of me. I had such a great time and the guides sang songs for me and made promise not to forget them and that I would come back. Such an awesome group of guys. I wish them all the best until I see them again and everybody who likes trekking should definitely check out Sabangan! A great experience! As the evening got colder and darker, people started to tuck themselves in. Buds and Ronald kept it going by the fire, while Roger, a very drunk trainee guide, Lyka and Tesa sat at the table. They were pretty hammered and had half a bottle of vodka left when I went to bed. Apparently they finished it all and Tesa passed out on the table. The others managed well, but Roger's Indiana Jones hat felt tighter the following day. I went to bed alone, but I definitely wasn't alone. I could hear the rat but was never sure if it was under me, in my room or over me. In the end I was so tired I didn't care and slept until the next day.

Third day of the hike was a walk in the park, i.e. rice fields. At the village we split up and I said good bye to the Manila crew and the Sabangans. I had to move on to Sagada and I thanked them all for a brilliant four days. Russel and Sexy were home and gave me the instructions I needed for my next mission; delivering some books at a village close to my next destination. We parted and I headed for Sagada with the local bus. There I checked into a hostel for the first time since the one in the jungle in Sabah. A cave tour was on at one o'clock and I joined for a very cool experience under the ground. On the way to the caves. we saw hanging coffins and lime stone formations. Inside the cave were some beautiful rock formation, ponds, rivers and coffins. The group that went through included a guide, a gay Filipino, a fat, annoying Spanish girl and myself. The Filipino was funny because he knew he couldn't do anything and was laughing and scared all the time. The Spanish girl always did the opposite of what the guide said. smiled foolishly and explained that she knew best. Smiling to the guide all the time and asking why he is mad didn't make it any better. If you are a girl, which always says the opposite of the guide and does not follow instructions, and laugh stupidly after every hazardous thing you do, please change personality. The caves were amazing and definitely worth exploring. It was cold in Sagada and I actually went to bed because I was freezing. I also needed to get up early the next morning.

I got the 6.30 am Jeep to Bontoc. There I dropped off my stuff at a local inn and got some books that Russel had delivered. The owner drove me one kilometer up the hill before he got a flat tire. I got off, burnt my leg on the exhaust pipe for the n'th time and started walking to the village. Walking uphill and running the flats and downhill brought me to Guina'ang before schedule. I met the principal of the local school and we chatted a bit before I gave her the books from Russel and she took me to see some of the pupils. I visited two fourth grades and one fifth grade. I had a little talk about Norway and they got to ask questions. Now the kids know my grandparents names and that we don't have mammoths. The most fascinating  was the concept of winter darkness and midnight sun. They found that very hard to believe and very exciting. That is actually true for everybody, also the adults I tell it to here. I had lunch with two teachers and the principal. They had made delicious food which I could eat as much as I wanted from. But I had to say grace first. I shared with them a tone deaf "Å du som metter en liten fugl" and we started eating. (I just googled this little prayer and I found out I've been singing 23% of the prayer wrongly all my childhood).They also got themselves some fun facts from Norway. After running a kilometer I got a ride with a truck down to Bontoc and picked up my stuff and took the bus out of the mountain province.

The whole province reminded me a bit of Jesus. Son of god born in a stable. The best humans I've met, live in the humblest homes I've seen.




Manila - Sabangan

Friday night I spent with friends at the weekend market. There was so much good food there and the crew I was with was very nice. The next day I went to Vikings, a luxury "eat all you can" place, to show them what a viking is good for. The biggest buffet I've ever attended. They had so much there, and I could make my own desserts and tap my own beer. I ate so much, I didn't eat for the next 24 hours. It was so cool and I recommend everybody that goes to Manila to pay it a visit. Go hungry and make you money's worth!:) Sunday I checked out the American memorial cemetery.I spent some hours there before meeting with Mike and some German guys for dinner. At midnight I left for Baguio with the night bus.

Early morning in Baguio and Mike and I went up to the fancy country club to test out their breakfast. My place in Baguio would be up on the hill in an international school. My new hosts was a lovely American couple with a small kid. They were so friendly, almost difficult to describe. When I got there, the nanny let me in and I was shown my room. Being knackered after the short sleep on the bus, I fell asleep on the bed immediately. When I woke up, the Americans were home and we sat and chatted for a while. They were both teachers and they explained me how things worked around in the area. Another couch surfer that I had contacted was going out and invited me to join. I said good bye to the Americans for now and went off.

High five! That's how I got greeted by Gay, which is not gay. That made me smile right away and we walked over to her friends. After a short jeepney ride we ended up at a bar with live music. Her friend's boyfriend was playing and we were checking it out. Accompanied by six cute girls and a tower of beer, life in the Philippines continued to be great. All the guys in the place smiled and came over to shake my hand, and all of them were jealous haha. The second day in Baguio I spent walking around and checking the market and town. The flower festival, highlight of the year, was on and the whole city was quite busy. In the evening Gay and I ate and went up to my Americans for a round of Carrcasone! I hadn't played boardgames in a while and we had loads of fun. I also got crushed, which was not so much fun.

The next morning, a rough five hours bus ride would take me up into the hills of the mountain province. Parts of the road missing from mud slides and steep cliffs on the side don't make this a trip for the faint hearted ones. While I was there, there was a bus accident with fatalities. I got off in a small mountain village called Sabangan. The only reason I did so, was because my next host lived there and it sounded interesting. I got off at the local police station which didn't seem very busy. They even offered me to sleep in the cell for free if I needed to. While waiting for my host, I played volleyball with the police officers and the staff of the town hall. They were training for the local derby.

Russel, my host, showed up and brought me home to his place. He's helping out villagers in the surrounding area and is very passionate about his work. It is fun and nice to see someone who has an inner fire for something. One of his projects makes useful stuff out of rubbish and the brand is called Trashure. If you ever see it, now you know where it's from. I slept at his humble home in the guest room. I also got to meet his girlfriend who is called Sexy. The cold evening air in the mountains was soothing and I fell asleep early after a Chaplin movie we watched. Tomorrow would be the first day of my magnificent mountain experience!