The island of Bohol proved to be the perfect location of relative remoteness and quiet solitude. Filipino transport and undesired locations such as Dumaguete had traumatised me enough to simpy want for a rest. I arrived at Nuts Huts, my accommodation of little bungalows by the Loboc river, and once I had arrived, I didn’t really leave. I decided it would be a worthy investment to get a bungalow for myself, rather than pay half the price for a bed in a dorm, because I really didn’t want to worry about other people. It was the perfect solution.
The bungalow wasn’t the ‘unexpectedly chic and luxurious riverside chalet’ I was secretly hoping for, but I had my own door, a balcony with a chair and a cold water shower that didn’t require a bucket (although the toilet did) and I was happy enough. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, I really wanted a hot shower, cute toiletries and Egyptian cotton bed sheets with room service at no extra cost, but I am trying to reduce my desires and expectations here.) Not having a home gets exhausting, and I wished for my own space, my own things, my books, but that life no longer exists. Nevertheless, although Nuts Huts couldn’t make up for homely conveniences, they served food, and I was pretty estatic at not having to roam entire neighbourhoods in search of edible solids, only to end up with stodgy bread rolls from a dodgy convenience store.
It wasn’t until I left, that I realised I never went into Tagbilaran, the closest city into which I had originally arrived, and I never visited one of Bohol’s amazing beaches. But when I first got there I got my priorities straight, and I figured I’d had enough beach on Palawan. It was time for some inland adventure. Upon deciding where to go, I consulted the folders Nuts Huts had created, describing the best things to do (and the most environmentally friendly ones) and how to get there. Since I still didn’t bother getting a travel guide and the lodging didn’t have any WiFi, I kept it simple and stuck to their suggestions.
So, here follows a small guide on how to spend six days in Bohol when you want to do as little as possible:
Stay in. Watch the Loboc river from a distance. Watch that giant sailfin dragon arrogantly cross the trail across your balcony and eat some food that consists of more than just bread. Feel intense satisfaction through that fact alone.
Take a local bus to Corbella to visit the Tarsier Sanctuary and the Corbella Tree Park.
Of course, local transport in The Philippines isn’t quite up to standard, so you decide to walk the three kilometres to Loboc and then catch a jeepney towards Corbella. The bus goes every hour, which you know for a fact, and unfortunately you also know you just missed one by about 15 minutes. But of course the local guys on their motorbikes tell you a jeepney won’t come for hours, quoting you a price that is ten times as much as the jeepney to get you down there. One old guy is persistent, and keeps asking you where you’re going, as if he doesn’t remember he already asked you three times before and you declined his offer every single time. You remain your best self, stubborn and persistent, waiting 45 minutes for the local bus. But it’s worth it. You have the time and save the money.
Once you arrive at the sanctuary, you see the notices that state that you may not see many tarsiers during your visit. Apparently, they require a lot of solitary space and cannot be disturbed, and that’s just the way it is. You appreciate the honesty. You get your ticket and are directed into a little bush, where several people are placed to point out the tarsiers. You see perhaps three or four, and it takes hardly ten minutes before you are shown the exit, but those cute little buggers at least aren’t caged and it gives you an equally little happy boost to see them clamped to the trees, like little hairy frogs, but different.
Afterwards you decide to visit the Corbella Tree Park, which you noticed on your way in, as it’s just next door. It appears entirely uninteresting to everybody else, as there are no other people to be seen anywhere in the vicinity and it feels like you are the first visitor of the year. A long entrance leads you to a visitor centre with a lady who cracks open the blinds for you, but doesn’t speak any English. She motions for you to enter and takes her time to unfold a large sheet of paper listing every country’s vital statistics, headed under their respective continent. You sit on the floor with her and she asks where you are from.
‘The Netherlands,’ you say, ‘Holland.’
She questions, ‘Africa?’
And you find yourself pointing out Europe, after which she excitedly nods, but which also proves the end of your conversation, due to your complete lack of each others’ language and your own reluctance to continue on conversing using hands and feet.
You continue on into the forest, following a trail to a viewing platform. Some trails are closed, the lady had said, but you think you could do a round-trip, covering a viewing platform and another outlook post. Unfortunately you weren’t expecting to find this park, so you are wearing flip-flops hiking and instead of focusing on all the different trees that this tree park consists of, you are mostly looking at the ground instead, making sure you don’t slip on the wet leaves from the recent rain. Soon enough you find yourself lost, following a trail that appears to go deeper and deeper into the forest, becoming wilder and increasingly overgrown, pursuing steep inclines that lead nowhere. At the same time, the insects and bugs appear to grow bigger and louder the farther you go, and after about an hour you decide that you’re pretty much freaked out. You just pulled yourself up a wild increase, hurled yourself over an insect larger than something you’d ever hoped to see, and you have to decide that this really is the point where your trail isn’t a trail anymore, and you need to turn around and head straight back. By this time, you are so panicked that you find yourself pretty much running in the original direction, until you come to a sudden stop, because you see the sign signalling the correct trail to the viewing platform which you had managed to miss entirely. You decide to go and visit it quickly.
The viewing platform is a three storey open structure mid-construction. You have to climb over builders’ materials to get to the stairs and quite frankly, it looks like it may collapse if you enter. Still, you decide to risk it, trying to remember whether the lady said that this was an unsafe building, but you are sure that she said you could go here. You go straight to the top level, and appreciate a great view of a lot of trees. You decided this is enough for the day and rush to the exit.
When you get back to the main road you intend to take a jeepney back to Loboc. Unfortunately, the jeepneys are so infrequent that you end up walking. You walk for a long time. Embarrassingly enough, you even manage to miss a jeepney because you let yourself get distracted by a local and because you are too scared to run after it so it would halt. When you finally do get one, it terminates halfway to your destination. It’s not ideal. Mostly because you are tired, and you really don’t want to walk anymore, but also because it could take an hour for the next jeepney to come. On top of that, everyone else is quite concerned about your continuing on, and they tell you that there aren’t any jeepneys anymore and that it’s getting dark. But you brush off the concerns and start to walk. After a while a man appears on a bike and insists you get on. You accept the offer and he takes you to Loboc. You also realise the concerns were right. You were a long way from Loboc. You end up walking the last three kilometres and the pitch dark access road with your flashlight in one hand, relieved you thought of bringing it, just in case.
Visit the iconic Chocolate Hills.
By this time you will be pretty peeved that you know how to take the local bus, and that you can just jump on and off one to visit the famed Chocolate Hills. You are excited about that cute little bumped landscape. In fact, it’s the key reason you added Bohol to your itinerary.
When you get off the bus, there is a bit of a walk to the correct location and many motorbikers hassle you, as always offering to take you up for ridiculous amounts of money. You annoyingly ignore them, keen to get rid of the hassle as soon as possible. But when you arrive you are quite disappointed to find that the only way to appreciate the hills is from a rather crowded viewing platform, with the result of everyone taking the exact same picture. You’re not sure what you were expecting instead, but it was definitely something a little more immersive than this.
Back at Nuts Huts, it has begun to rain and you decide to dip in the river. A few local girls from the other side, whose family members use the river everyday to bathe and wash, are excited about your arrival, greeting you and waving. You swim in the drizzle which feels refreshing and liberating, until you think that something bites your ankle (although it is probably just a small branch from a tree) and you hurry back, thinking an animal of the river is going to devour you in one piece.
Hike to the bat caves.
You’ve been eyeing up a hike to the bat caves that is arranged by Nuts Huts. You don’t want to be the only participant though, so you wait a few days until some others are also interested. Today is finally the day. With your luck though, they are a group of alternative French people who don’t actually speak much English at all, so it’s pretty much like being on your own anyways.
The guide takes you to the other side of the Loboc river where you proceed to traverse some intense landscapes and enjoy some beautiful views over the neighbouring surroundings. Once you hit the caves, the hundreds of bats flying around are impressive, and after a while, a bit daunting. After viewing the two caves, some big spiders and climbing over endless batshit, you are rather happy to leave the caves and enjoy the outside sunshine.
Kayak the Loboc river until the floating restaurants arrive, and walk a lot.
You get up in time to snatch up one of the available kayaks and to enjoy your time on the river before the floating restaurants arrive. Floating restaurants are horrible large boats that go up and down the river, boosting a buffet for a bunch of tourists, ruining the river quiet with bad live music. They start around ten in the morning so you find yourself on the river a few hours before that, kayaking towards the Busay waterfalls on the one side, and Loboc on the other. Once you’re out there, you instantly regret not going days earlier. It calms you, finally, relinquishing the anxieties of the past weeks and rippling you towards a very happy place. The river and surroundings are a beautiful blue-green, and the morning sun is clear and absolutely invigorating. You float around for hours, until the floating boats create too much af a rippling in the water, and you return to the shore, all stress-free and happy to spend the rest of the day nourishing that state.
In the afternoon you get it into your head to walk towards an Eco Park that you saw from the bus to the Chocolate Hills. Even though you know it’s far too far to walk, you still do it, passing road workers who are curious as to why you would possibly choose to be walking beside the road. Just to go for a walk, you tell them, and they seem satisfied, probably thinking you are crazy. It is painfully hot and naturally, you never make it to the park. When you wait for a bus, a local with a baby tries to talk to you, even though he speaks no English. He is more of the dodgy than the nice type, so at one point you make it clear you are waiting for the bus and cross the road (by now you have created the strange habit of waiting for a bus on the wrong side of the road, thinking it’s easier to see it arrive from a distance, when in actuality you just keep on missing buses), waiting for him to leave. You take the bus back after achieving nothing.
Kayak and depart.
You wake up early so you can take advantage of the kayaks one last time. You float around for an hour, blissfully peaceful. When at last you leave, the bus won’t show. As usual, you are forced to ignore the motorbikes wanting to give you a ride, but you stand there waiting for much too long and you’re getting a bit worried. Suddenly a car appears out of nowhere and reverses right in front of you, almost hitting you. You refuse to move, and when someone peeks out of the window, you make sure to give them your dirtiest look. Surprisingly, it is a girl with the brightest smile, insisting on giving you a ride to the airport. She explains she is a local living in Sydney and thought to do a nice thing for someone else. You have to admit she is an absolutely lovely companion, and you arrive at the airport early and painlessly, thanks to her.
With your early arrival at the Tagbilaran airport, you have all this time at your hands, and you get way too comfortable trying to eat your overpriced pot noodles and you almost manage to miss your flight, despite the airport being the smallest you have ever seen. When you hear your name called out, you make a run for it and hastily board, arriving in scorching hot Manila without a scratch.