Last weekend I was in Baler which is northeast of the farm. It was about a five hour drive to get there. The last hour was beautiful because we drove through lush green mountains. The road twisted and turned throughout. We finally arrived at our hostel, a street over from the beach. We stayed at the Circle hostel. This was the coolest hostel I have ever seen. As soon as I walked in I saw paintings and quotes all over the walls. Some of the quotes were about travel, surfing and love. There were also paintings of some animals. In the middle of the hostel on the main floor there was a small skate ramp. The common area was completely open aired with the rooms in the back.
After settling into the hostel we went for lunch at Aliyah. This was right on the beach front. There was a gorgeous view of the bay and the surrounding mountains. For lunch I had a mango shake, broccoli stir fry, and buko express. Buko express is pork cooked with coconut milk and some other veggies. It was delicious. After lunch we got ready to surf. There were two options for surfing; just rent a board or rent a board and instructor. I took the instructor since I have never surfed before.
My instructor’s name was Lloyd. He taught me the basics of getting up onto the board, and even some Tagalog words. “Tayo” means get up and “magtakda” means get set. He would tell me these things as I was preparing to catch a wave. As you can probably guess the first wave I tried to catch I failed miserably. All I had to do was get up on the board because Lloyd would push the board and yell at me to get up. I tried to jump up to stand on the board but slipped and fell off. I tumbled through the wave and got salt water up my nose. I tried again. The second time I actually stood up! I rode the wave shortly before losing my balance and falling. I surfed for an hour, well actually I mostly fell off the surfboard for an hour. I think I was slowly improving. I didn’t realize how difficult surfing is. It requires a lot of balance which I apparently don’t have. I was excited to try again, but that would have to wait until tomorrow. I spent some time just swimming in the ocean with the others and watching the more experienced surfers. They were incredible.
Photo: My attempt at surfing
Eventually we had to leave and go to dinner. We ate at a restaurant called Kusina Lunitan where we sat on the floor and ate with our hands. I had fish and rice. I’m not very good at eating rice with my hands. I’m messy and it doesn’t look graceful, but I just go for it. In total there were 14 of us total. We ate and talked for a while before leaving for a different restaurant for dessert. We had Banana Turon Choconut Alamode at Bay’s Inn. This dessert was the best thing I have eaten since I arrived in the Philippines. It consisted of raw and fried bananas, homemade vanilla ice cream, nuts, and chocolate syrup. After we went back to the hostel and hung out in the common area with some of the other guests. The people were pretty cool. They were your typical relaxed surfers that told a lot of jokes and played games. Eventually I was too exhausted to continue on so I went to bed.
Photo:Banana Turon Choconut Alamode
The next day we woke up early to go on a trek in the Aurora Mountains. We drove a half hour to reach a village near the Dieteki River in the mountains. Our guides were locals from the village and couldn’t speak English, so Raf, our main guide from the hostel, translated for us when needed. We crossed the river multiple times to get where we were going. The river was cold which felt great. Along the way we tried cacao seeds and some berries that grow along the path. Both were very sweet. Eventually we reached our destination which was a small pool with a small waterfall in the river. I jumped into the water as soon as I could. The icy cold water felt great after our walk. The guides brought pineapples with for us to eat. I’m not a big fan of pineapple but I tried some anyway. This was the freshest, juiciest pineapple I had ever eaten. I was hooked. I had three more slices after that. We all swam for a while before we all started getting hungry. We walked back the same way, back and forth across the river. We had lunch at one of the local’s houses. There was fish, crawfish, some sort of egg salad, rice, and veggies. After the long trek the food was very satisfying.
After our lunch we visited a cacao farm. We were given a short tour because it started to rain. We learned about how the cacao farm started and the products they offered. They make chocolate milk with some added sugar and chocolate ice cream with no added sugar. And of course we got to try some! The ice cream was my favorite. I couldn’t believe there was no added sugar.
Next we went back to the hostel to get ready to surf again. This time I went without the instructor. It was much harder this time because I didn’t have the instructor there to push me when the wave came. I had to pick out the right wave, paddle to catch it and then stand up on my own. I think in the two hours we spent surfing I did this once. My arms felt like noodles by the end because of all the paddling I did. Surfing definitely works up an appetite, so we had dinner after. This time one of the other people with us, Bombie, made us seared tuna and rice. I loved the tuna. After this we played some card games and then went to bed because tomorrow would be another long day.
We woke up early again to surf. This time we went to lipit, which was another beach fifteen minutes down the road. I surfed again by myself. I definitely did better today. I caught a couple waves and rode them, but my balance is still awful on the board. I wish there was somewhere I could practice when I return home, so I could get better. Anyway it was still really fun even if I did wipe out most of the time. We stayed out for about three hours before we left for lunch. We had lunch at Aliyah again. This time I had a mango shake and fish sisig. Sisig is just a mix of veggies. I loved this dish. After this we packed up to go back to the farm. On our drive back we stopped at the Millennium tree. This tree has survived through countless storms and is still standing. It reminded me of the home tree from Avatar. We were able to climb inside and outside the tree. It was pretty cool. After this stop we were finally on our way home.
Overall this was a fantastic trip. I learned more about Filipino culture, learned how to surf, and ate some great food. And did I mention this was a work-related trip? The whole time my job was to take pictures and videos of the tour. This is one of the newer trips that MAD Travel offers and they needed content to post. I definitely worked hard this weekend.