How plans change within seconds
When you’re travelling, sometimes you have days where everything goes right, and sometimes you have days where everything goes wrong. Well, today was just one of those days where everything went wrong.
I knew travelling to the Philippines the day after the world’s strongest typhoon recorded for the last 50 years devastated the country was going to pose more than a few problems, but even still, the day I’ve had borders on one of the most farcical days I’ve ever had on the road, though admittedly a lot of the fault lies upon my shoulders and my reluctance to organise anything.
I had originally planned to go to the beautiful pristine island of Malapasuca, north west of Cebu in central Philippines, for some down time. Unfortunately, Typhoon Haiyan had completely destroyed the little island, levelling every single building and the businesses with it. From all accounts, it was horrendous, with metal and glass flying through the air. I’ve seen the videos and it looks like something from ‘Platoon’; devastation for as far ad the eye can see. It’s stunning that more people weren’t killed, and it’s going to take weeks, if not months for a lot of businesses to reopen again, for life to resume any resemblance of normality.
As with my original plans, I still wanted to head up to Malapascua to help with the clean up, but they weren’t allowing any foreigners to travel there. I fear that I’d just get in the way anyway. Instead, as is often the case with travellers, I found myself making up a completely different plan off the cuff.
One of the things that’s been worryingly short since Typhoon Haiyan has hit is information; there’s a complete lack of it, and any information that’s out there is conflicting. On one side, you have Filipinos saying that the country is fine, that you can travel everywhere, whereas on the other side you have Filipinos saying that the country is destroyed and devastated, that you can travel nowhere.
With no concrete information, I went to the Department of Tourism to find out all the facts, and they told me two things. One, head south west; and two, be careful, because there’s another typhoon coming (I’m not even kidding).
After quickly assessing my options, I headed to the port to see what boats I could get south west. It seemed as if I wasn’t the only one, with the port teeming with locals trying to get home or see friends and family around the country. There were people there with what seemed like their whole home on their back, and many desperate to travel to the other islands. With only two boats to choose from, the 2:30pm to Bohol, or the 7pm to Dumaguete, it was a complete toss up between the two.
After discussing it with Tom, the guy who I’m travelling with at the moment, we changed our plans once again and decided against Damuguete for Bohol, an island south east of Cebu that was torn apart by an earthquake in October. However, as other people around us seemed to be arguing over the exact same problem, the choice was taken from our hands; all boats leaving Cebu were cancelled due to the next typhoon’s imminent arrival. We were stuck on the island. Or were we?
In a moment of clarity, I somehow managed to convince Tom that we should fly to Singapore and work our way over to Malaysia. It seemed like the only option at the time, and my reasoning was this simple piece of word maths; typhoon = no fun.
I managed to convince Tom with just one sentence; “trust me, I work in the travel industry and I know flights; when you’re flying this close to departure they practically give them away.” For those of you who don’t know me, that was complete bullshit. Flights are definitely more expensive the closer you are to flying, much more expensive. However, it took a trip to Cebu International Airport, two hours of queuing, and a travel consultant saying “the only way you’ll be able to get a discount is booking online.” Once again, it seemed like a lot of people had a similar idea, and the queue for booking a ticket were out the door.
So, with another avenue closed off to us, we were rapidly running out of options.
Remembering the initial advice of “head south west”, we decided to get a bus as far as we could along the coast.
Of course, that meant going to the bus station, and of course, as it was one of those days, we had just missed the bus heading to where we wanted to go, the next one being in an hour or so.
Four hours later, in the pitch black, we ended up in Moalboal, a little town perfect for drinkers and divers, luckily spared by the typhoon.
Thankfully our bad luck had ended for the day. We managed to find a lovely little place called Tipolo to stay, put our bags down, and reflected on everything that happened for the past 24 hours.
For the first time since arriving in the Philippines, Tom and I tucked into a couple of delicious beers, goofy grins plastered across our faces, glad that the day was over.
The moral of the story? No matter how hard things seem at the time, they’re never as bad as you think they are, and you can guarantee that they’ll get better with time. They always do.
When it comes down to it, I feel like I’ve had one of those days on the road, but that isn’t comparable to the 92 million Filipinos who had been hit with the carnage of Typhoon Haiyan, and its important to put things into perspective. No matter how bad it seems at the time, think of those around you…