It’s finally here. The end is truly here. After 320 odd days on the road we’re heading home (albeit slowly and dragged out) after this last leg of the journey. Obviously this meant we had to make sure we went out with a bang!
After the lengthy journey back to Cebu City from Malapascua, we jumped on another bus straight to Moalboal, a town on the west coast famous for canyoneering, the infamous sardine run, and awesome hiking across some pretty mind-blowing terrain. With our new travel buddy Sarah, we checked into quite possibly the weirdest hostel we’ve stayed at so far! Surrounded by odd statues of superheroes and steampunk style characters, and with absolutely no social life we ventured further to the coast and stayed at Chief Mao, a relatively new hostel with a great reputation. As soon as we arrived we were made to feel like part of the family, and immediately bonded with a bunch of the other guests. We were really fortunate to be staying alongside some bloody awesome people, all of whom got on with everyone else there.
After an evening getting to know everyone, the whole hostel signed up for a canyoneering trip early the next morning, so an early(ish) night was on the cards. The next day, we set off just before 9 to the falls on the back of a pickup and filling this hello kitty party bus (yep, it was as weird as it sounds).
To get right to the falls we had a motorbike ride to follow, and our first experience going 2up on a bike (so 3 people on one motorbike). The rest of the day was non stop laughs and excitement as we progressed through the valleys along a number of different cliff jumps. Starting off the group easy, we took on a poxy 3m jump, followed by a natural water slide which we all took on backwards.
Over the rest of the day the jumps grew, finishing with a 15m, jump into the famous Kassawan Falls.
Throughout the day, we’d had rain so the falls weren’t their normal crystal clear water, but the rain I think added to the whole experience (plus, it livened up some of the waterfalls which was a plus). Our whole group did all the jumps; something our guide was overjoyed about, and apparently is quite the rarity. The day overall was absolutely perfect, until the daredevil member of our group Jonny decided to smash his head on a rock after taking on a canyon swing. A quick and relatively painless (well, not painless for Jonny) trip to the local A+E, £2 worth of head shaving, Lidicane and sutures later, and we were back on the road back to the Hostel.
Needless to say, we were all pretty exhausted after the day we’d had, so spent the rest of the evening vegging around the hostel, sharing GoPro footage from the dozen or so cameras being operated by our group.
Our new found squad agreed the following day, we should all just hire bikes and ride out to the less well known parts of Cebu. Leaving about Midday, we set off about 20 miles South East inland, heading to sites like Osomena peak, relatively unknown waterfalls, and along some breathtaking coastline. Armed only with a bunch of downloaded Google Maps accounts, a member of the group who speaks Filipino (Jonny from the last paragraph), and a bunch of scooters, we didn’t really know where we were going half the time. Once we turned off from the coastal road towards the ‘town’ (not really a town, but as close as you get to a large population in the Philippines without being a city I guess), we took on the advice of some locals, who inadvertently sent us on a total wild goose chase up and over a mountain, taking on some pretty ropey roads and terrains. We didn’t manage to find the final waterfall we initially set off to search out, but it didn’t matter. The rides and the views were so worth the effort, and having a good ol’ explore with our new group of buddies was as always, great. However, the weather took a turn yet again, resulting in us taking refuge under the canopy of a local shop. This continued for over an hour, but we didn’t give up. Setting off upstream on a short hike, wearing our helmets for rain cover, we continued until we found another ‘local waterfall’. Sadly, after the pretty treacherous hike down to the falls (the ladies decided rather sensibly to pass on this one) this was a total let down (I think we’d all been treated too well the day before with regards to waterfalls). Again though, it didn’t matter. Just being out on a bike exploring some truly picturesque landscapes and sights with great people made it all totally worth it.
To finish off our time in Moalboal, we had to take on the Sardine Run. This is a naturally occurring phenomena, which results in a shoal of millions of sardines circling just off the coast by the reef wall. I had heard a bunch about this, and had a preconceived idea of what it would be like, but all my preconceived ideas were totally wrong. This was way bigger, more immersive and in general awesome than i’d ever imagined! It’s quite hard to describe how massive this is, and how pathetic you feel when surrounded by them. The sardines seem to flow through the sea like one single organism, shifting around falling objects and people flawlessly. Watching this almost dance like activity through the sea was utterly mesmerising. I think we all could have spent all day in the sea with them, but sadly our plans were thwarted by a jellyfish tentacle rubbing itself up Kelly’s face (the little bugger, we were having so much fun)!
Before heading back to Cebu to take our flight (with a day or two in a swanky hotel before that), we took another couple of buses to a tiny fishing village called Oslob. This has gained quite a reputation over the years as a place you’re assured to see whale sharks. However, this is for a reason. As the decline in fishing began to have a major impact on the local economy, partly down to over fishing but also the whale sharks gobbling up all the surrounding krill, the local fisherman decided to make a career change and use the sharks. These guys are now fed, day in day out, attracting hundreds (if not thousands) of tourists. Because of this, the whale sharks that are found at Oslob have stopped migrating. Whilst they aren’t in captivity, can leave any time, and are free, this level of domestication and the impact that tourism has had on their migration left me with one hell of an ethical dilemma. Having said all that, getting to swim with so many massive creatures was absolutely mind-blowing. You can’t actually fathom the sheer size of these SMALL whale sharks until you’re in the water with them. On a couple of occasions, I honestly felt like I was about to be sucked up into their massive mouths as they gobble up all the plankton and krill on the waters surface.
For the first 15 minutes, we were lucky. We’d stayed at a hostel called Sharkeys, literally 30m from the starting point, meaning we were in the first boat and basically alone with the sharks. The latter half of our time in the water though, was almost ruined by dozens of boats arriving, bringing in hundreds of people. The sea quickly became dominated by clueless tourists donning their life jackets, oblivious to the impact of their splashing and shouting on the creatures and other tourists. Note to self guys, if you are going to do this, get there EARLY and try to get the first boat out!
The last few days of out time in the Philippines were certainly an emotional rollercoaster, but in such a good way. Finishing off this trip with a great bunch of people, doing amazing things and seeing the animals of the area really showing off was just the way I wanted to end this trip. After a pretty intense few days, we used our last day (Kelly’s actual birthday) to achieve very little! The majority of the day was spend vegging in bed watching TV (thanks to poor weather again sadly),but it didn’t matter. Just spending some quality time together was all we wanted. Cebu city isn’t the most exciting place in the world anyway!