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Chocolate Hills & Tarsiers

A perfect combination

sunny
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The bus to Carmen stopped a fair few times but it didn't take too long to get to there. Once we had disembarked it soon became apparent that there wasn't a single place to stay in the town itself and also we quickly realised that there were no tricycles. Having the huge packs on made me a little reluctant to get on the back of a motorbike but we didn't really have a choice. Adam had done it before and once we were on our way I completely relaxed.

Our options when it came to accommodation were somewhat limited and we ended up staying at a lodge just down the road. It had a slightly strange atmosphere, somewhat kooky I guess you could stay. There were two pools which were surrounded by a weirdly sculptured backdrop including a water shoot/fountain which was shaped like a hand.
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It was pretty cheap though and we stayed in a bungalow style room which we really liked.
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The motorcycle drivers who'd taken us to the lodge waited around for a bit while we tried to make ourselves feel a little more human after the hours of travelling and then they ferried us up to the chocolate hills. I couldn't tell you how many hills there are because when you go up to the viewing platform they seem to stretch on and on, there just isn't an end in sight.
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They number in the hundreds though. They are all quite uniform in their shape; small, rounded mounds, almost exactly like how you would have drawn hills when you were a child. No one is exactly sure how they came to be, but geologists believe that they were created by the weathering of coralline limestone lying above heavy clay. As ever mythology has a far more colourful explanation, claiming that the hills are the debris of a rock fight between two giants. However they came to be they are unique to the Philippines and in fact to the island of Bohol. Although for most of the year the hills are covered with green grass, by the end of the dry season much of it has died and turned brown, giving these hills their name.

A viewing platform has been built atop one of the largest hills and we climbed up to get the full panoramic view.
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The light was a little dim as the clouds began to close in on us, but it was still delightful. It may sound silly but there is something very cute about these little hills and they are well worth going to see.
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We decided to walk back to our hotel because we began to think our motorcycle drivers were trying to rip us off. Unfortunately thunder was beginning to rumble in the distance and intermittently the sky would brighten every so slightly, rain was definitely on the way. Thankfully as we left the Chocolate Hills complex a guy called out to us and his price was not extortionate so we got him to take us back to town so we could buy some dinner. It started to bucket it down on the way and by the time we'd made the 5 minute journey we were quite damp. We quickly purchased a roast chicken and got another motorcycle back to the lodge.

The rest of the evening was spent firstly drying off, then eating and finally sleeping. Next morning we planned to make our way back to Tagbilaran where we were going to catch the ferry to Cagayan. This is a town on the North coast of Mindanao, the most Southern island in the Philippines and probably the largest. We just wanted to make a quick stop on the way to see a little mammal called the Tarsier which is native to the Philippines.
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We'd heard that it was possible to see them in a town on the way back to Tagniliaran so we waved down the bus and then about half an hour later we jumped off again.

Adam had seen a sign saying “see the Tarsier” just before we entered the town so we headed back the way we came, not really sure what to expect. I was kind of imagining that we would have to trek into the jungle/forest a little bit and because we were carrying our full backpacks I thought it was going to be hard work but in fact it was all very simple and accessible. Right on the side of the road there was a small wooden shack and as we entered, a little confused at this point, we were met by a man and we enquired about the sign and whether we could see the Tarsier. He pointed to the corner of the room where there were about five potted plants and said they were in there. It took a little while for our eyes to adjust in the dim light but sure enough, spaced out among the foliage were five little, furry creatures.
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They looked a bit like shrunken gremlins with their huge eyes and they clung to the plants with their elongated fingers and toes.
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We spent quite a while there, trying to photograph them without being too intrusive and watching them scurry about. They jumped around quite a bit from branch to branch and were a little uncoordinated on the ground but quite inquisitive and undeniably cute.
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We purchased a couple of magnets and a key ring, made a donation and then went out to hail another bus. It didn't take very long to get back to Tagbilaran and then what we presumed would be fairly easy ended up taking a little longer than we expected. We made it down to the port expecting to just get on a boat to Cagayan but it turned out there were only three a week which departed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We thanked our lucky stars that it was Friday and also that it was a night boat, so we hadn't missed it.

When we boarded the boat later that day we weren't quite sure what to expect but we soon realised where we would be sleeping. The middle portion of the boat was all open and had been filled with rows of bunk beds.
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I wouldn't have thought I would like this but it turned out to be really good. There was a nice atmosphere with everyone chatting away and there was a lovely sea breeze which meant that it wasn't too hot. Before we set sail we were looking over the side at the sunset and a woman paddled over in a little boat, her baby daughter asleep in the middle of it.
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As we watched people began to throw coins down to her and she dived in to retrieve them. We threw down one as well and I guiltily snapped a couple of pictures. Another time when you have to remember that this is what they appear to want, even if it does seem a very degrading situation.
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It was a very relaxing voyage and I slept surprisingly well. Adam did too, well up until the cockerel that was in a box directly behind his head alerted everyone to the fact that it was morning. A little earlier than usual for us but thankfully the boat docked at 5am anyway. We now had to get to a little island off the coast called Camiguin, once again we just had to figure out how.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 00:19 Archived in Philippines Tagged round_the_world

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