Philippines : Boracay Island : April 19 - 28 cont'd

25- 26 April

A fine day for kite-surfing.


Written by Patrick

After five long days of hoping and waiting to get kite-boarding to work, the situation finally improved. But before I go into detail, let me explain a little bit about kite-surfing on Boracay:


The beach is about one to 1 1/2 kilometers long, has nice white sand and about 500m out is a reef. That reef keeps the waves out of the bay, specifically at low and medium tide, and offers very smooth waters for Kite boarding. However, the tide can get so low so that you have less than a foot of water between your board and the ground. For beginners that is not enough water to ride safely. Some other challenges come up at high tide. With rising water more and higher waves come all the way through to the beach making it a lot choppier to ride. Second, with high water you cannot, as a beginner, walk out to the middle of the bay and since the wind is coming directly onshore you also cannot really body drag yourself away from the shore. Third, when the water is very high there is almost no beach left. Hence, launching your kite becomes a very difficult task and prevents beginners from going out on the water, even if the conditions are perfect otherwise. Lastly, you depend on the wind for action and in May the kite-boarding season comes to an end as the wind becomes unpredictable. So, to sum it up, in the last five days, one of those variables prevented me from taking to the water.


Until the evening of the 25th of April. Full moon was just over and that meant that the low tide was always coming in at the later hours of the afternoon and the early hours of the evening. However, on this day the wind was strong enough to try some kite boarding. I had 14m kite and a relatively big board of 1,55m. I launched the kite and walked out into the water, dropped myself into it and put on the board. Then I used the kite's momentum launch out off the water and was riding. There was enough wind power allowing me to edge in and lean back as I went out for about 500m before getting ready to turn around. I tried to turn by slowing down and then swinging the kite over to the other side hoping not to get pull out of my board or crash into the water one way or the other. This actually worked, so for the first time I made a solid turn, which was really exciting, and then continued in the other direction. The second thing I was able to do for the very first time was to not lose so much height as I went back towards the shore. By that time I was already ecstatic. A little later I was able to ride a full "eight" pattern by completing two turns without a mistake. Now I was in heaven. Soon after this, it was almost dark, the wind softened out and eventually died completely. It was not a problem for me as I was very happy after many days of waiting and we celebrated this with a a few bottles of Filipino beer. For the first time I felt very close to mastering this sport - I just needed a little bit more time.


Well, little did I know that that "little bit more" was just around the corner. The morning after, this time it was high tide, the conditions were very good again. So I was out on the water by 7 a.m. in the morning and for the next four hours had an absolute blast. That day was the first time when I was able to consistently ride the board up and down the bay and gaining height against the wind. This was just flat out exciting. I knew that I had accomplished one of the missions of our trip: I learned how to kite surf.

[This is a playlist with several videos, click on the film strip button (next to the play button) to see all]

26. April 

Our last Cheese Fondue 


Written by Alex

We realized that we have eaten Cheese Fondue exactly four times on this trip. The Germans and Swiss who travel, and then grow roots in these new exotic places, tend to bring a piece of home with them…or at least see the benefits of serving traditional German cuisine as an alternative to the local favorites. We have been stunned to find German gastronomy in some tucked away places. So when we read that Cheese Fondue could be savored on Boracay, we couldn’t resist. (Our rule of staying away from Western food and eating only local food does not have to be followed, if the actual owner of a restaurant is a native to his/her type of cuisine. The owner of this Steakhouse and our guesthouse is German...we allowed ourselves to eat German cuisine in his restaurant.)


We dragged Bernadette with us and were seated under the protection of the thatched roof right before the downpour began. And did it rain. It was only a small foreshadowing of what must stream from the heavens during monsoon season, but it was enough to inspire a bit of awe. Our melting pot of cheese arrived, accompanied by a slightly vinegar like white wine and a basket of acceptable bread. And so we dipped and talked and listened to the rain. Occasionally Bernadette and I would feel the drizzle and cold of the fleeting drops, but we stayed in our seats. It was just a bit of rain.


However, that bit of rain did not stop. In our first attempt to beat it on our way home, we were drenched to the bone and found shelter in the local watering hole. A cast of characters, along with an obligatory gin’n tonic, entertained us as we waited for the break in the weather. We watched others walk by; seeking refuge under the huge table umbrellas that were “borrowed” from whatever local restaurant was not paying attention at the moment. The Bacardi umbrellas looked tempting but we instead made a run for it at the slightest break. The walking path had transformed into one big puddle, though the bigger shock was the small market that lead between the White Beach and our side of the island. We were greeted with knee deep water – brown, dirty and home to whatever miscellaneous things had been lying on the ground. Bernadette and I looked at each other and realized we could not think about what may or may not be floating in the water, or worse, what microorganisms we weren’t able to see. Just walk, don’t think. One slow step at a time, amongst all the locals, we walked. For a moment, I could imagine what experiencing a flood might be like. We made it to our side of the island, just before the rain began again. We were again greeted with the light show in the sky, from the distant lighting over the sea.

27. April 

Money changes everything 


Written by Alex

This morning’s first boat arrived packed again full of building materials. Not yet 8am, the boat rounded the tip of the peninsula and I watched the silhouette approaching the beach. Slowly, as it neared the beach, I began to hear the faint sounds of music cracking through the one loudspeaker attached to the mast. And Cindy Lauper’s familiar voice belted out her “Money changes everything” song. The young men will once again spend their day, unloading bags of cement and stone, to finish the building project for the American who bought the plot of land next door. Perhaps they didn’t realize the irony.

28. April 

Planes, trains and automobiles: Leaving Boracay and the Philippines


Written by Patrick

Today would be another long day of traveling. We had to make our way from Boracay, Philippines to Tokyo, Japan. After getting up and enjoying our last paradise breakfast, we said goodbye to the owners and of course the little puppy we had dubbed worm. It was kind of sad leaving the little dog alone but we knew he had a good life in paradise. So we walked for 750m back from our hotel to the street along the beautiful sandy beach. It was the first time we had used our bags as backpacks since South America and it would be the last time on this trip. In hindsight we have to admit that we hardly ever used the backpack functionality of our travel gear. 99% of the time, I would say, we rolled our backpacks through whatever terrain was necessary. Fortunately, the young Filipino with his powered tricycle was already waiting for us as we had discussed with him the evening before. He took us to the harbor and we hopped onto one of the trimaran-like ferries that would take us across to the mainland. From there was only a short ride to the airport. And soon we found ourselves on a plane flying back to Manila. At the international terminal we checked in, this time, with a lot of hassle and even a exit row seat. Not much later we were sitting in the plane taking off towards Japan.


The day looked something like this:


Departure time: 7:30 am

By foot – to the tricycle we had ordered the night before

By tricycle – to the pier

By boat – to the pier in Caticlan

By tricycle – the airport at Caticlan

By plane – to Manila Domestic Airport

By free shuttle – to Manila International Airport*

By plane – to Tokyo Narita Airport

By train – to Ueno station with Keisei Railway line

By subway – to H19 Minowa station via underground Subway

By foot – to the door of Andon Ryokan

Arrival time: 10:40pm


*We held our breath this time as we approached the ticket counter. And of course, no e-ticket, no seats. “Are you sure you don’t have your ticket?” she kept asking. This time I produced the e-ticket itinerary from my bag and the supervisor’s keen eye found the lucky number. This Quantas locator number unlocked the mystery and in a few minutes we had boarding passes in hand. And then a few minutes later we had a revised itinerary for the rest of our flights, to keep this lovely interaction from happening again. This woman was a gem.



next: Japan