On the Overland


This post is out of order.  Internet has been problematic.  I downloaded the start of my first blog (covering the trip from the USA to AUS) from wordpress and will finish it locally and upload later.  I’ll start on Melbourne this afternoon (12/5). 

We are heading to Kangaroo island on Wednesday for 5 nights!  Alicia was able to score us a two bedroom house, fully equipped.  A day and half to prepare.  So much fun and things to do, so little time write.  Oh darn.

First thing you have to do is find Southern Cross Station in Melbourne.  That is really NO PROBLEM.  Or as the Aussies say, No worries.  In Europe, all roads lead to Rome, so they say.  In Melbourne, all roads, trams, and busses lead to Southern Cross station.

 

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This area is incredibly busy on weekdays and even more so at rush hour.  Public transportation in Melbourne is fantastic.  Very few people drive to work.  And why would you want to.  It’s $15 per day to park your car in a garage downtown.  That $15 will buy a lot of tram tickets.

Once you find the platform 2, you’re there.  Unless you have luggage.  Bring it here.

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It’s just to your right and ahead.  Check your luggage and return here.

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And the train awaits.IMG_3162

Tuesday and Saturday morning departures at 8:00 am.  Which car?  Ours was “R”.  A conductor will check you in and allow you to board.

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Not very busy today, maybe 30 passengers or so.

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Onboard is very comfortable.  Much more room than on a jet.  The cabin is narrow, but there is plenty of room between seats.

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And we settled down for the ride.  There really isn’t much to see for the first hour or so.  The train winds through the business district of Melbourne and tidiness and esthetics are definitely not the first priority.  After all of that mess, you run into the countryside.  Miles and miles and miles and miles of wheat, oats, barley, beans, canola, hay, and sheep.  4 hours worth.

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The country is about as flat as you can imagine.  Perhaps 300 miles of farm land.  Hardy any watercourses.  Water is brought to the surface by windmills and pumps.  I ate lunch on board.  Fish and chips.  Not too bad really, this is most of the way through the meal.

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Here is an odd little thing I’d never seen before.  A ketchup dispenser.  See the little ridge on top?  That is where the ketchup comes out.  I tried peeling the lid as we do in the US .  A little pressure and?…Ketchup shoots strait out and up!  I had to wipe my face and nose off.  I realized at that point you turn it over and squeeze.  Presto, ketchup goes easily on to your chips.  It’s actually a better system than trying to fumble with those peel-offs.

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Murray bridge.   The first bridge built across this river in about 1906 or something like that.  I covered car, horses, and rail for many years.  It was so popular that the new railroad bridge that we are using was built in 1923.

The remainder of the trip wound through the Adelaide Hills area in dense forest.  Pictures were difficult to take.  Trees in the foreground blur and spoil the shots.

12/5/2016  11:30am

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Less than a month to go


Been a while since that last update.  I’ll get on it.

Typing has been problematic.  I’ve got a nerve issue with my right arm, with pain and numbness shooting the length of my arm into the shoulder.  Makes for miserable sleeping and waking. Starting to get a handle on it, and there’s a bit to write about since the last update.

Nothing really interesting until we leave.   However, scattered throughout my blogs are travel tips from a former professional.  Airline employee and travel agent.  May be boring, but if I can save someone somewhere some money, it’s worth it to me.

Working the way geographically…

I was checking google flights on Halloween to see if there was a better routing for the return flight.  When I originally booked, the return was Melbourne, Los Angeles, San Francsico, Pasco (WA).  This was a nice routing as we would arrive in Pasco at around 2:30pm.  It’s still a 3 hour drive home, but at least we would get in at a civil hour of the day.

August comes and…Ulp, airline schedule change.  The early afternoon flight from San Fransisco to Pasco was moved earlier, making us miss that flight.  So,  United conveniently booked us via Denver, arriving in Pasco at about 10pm!  That sucks.  We would have had to get a motel room, as I didn’t feel comfortable driving that late at night after 30 hours of plane/terminal time.  Plus, Denver can be a real turd weather wise in the winter.

Halloween night.  Time to start tying up loose ends as it’s a month to go and…United had reinstated that afternoon flight to Pasco!  Ah HAH!  I called their reservations immediately to whine about my lot in life.  Lucky for me, a very sympathetic reservations agent named Mary took my call.  After an explanation, she looked at my reservations and indeed confirmed I’d gotten a raw deal.

We exchanged friendly banter back and forth.  I do this on purpose.  One, it breaks that agents monotony in the reservation office.  Two, I become a person rather that a client.  Three, being nice opens doors.  Nothing puts off an airline employee quicker than an “irate”.

She went off the line twice (to talk to the supervisor) and came back on the last time with good news.  Flights back to the original plan at no charge. (This is a standard procedure, but you HAVE to ask for it.  The airline is not obligated or legally responsible to contact you in this situation.)

I casually mentioned I might be interested in upgrading to premium economy seating.  Premium economy has more leg room and better seats with more recline.  As Praxy and I are short, I wasn’t too worried about the upgrade.  But hey, why not ask?  I cautiously inquired about pricing.

Mary quickly overrode me, telling me that the upgrade would be free. ” Ok”, I asked.  “What (flight) segments?”  “Oh, Melbourne to Los Angeles”, she airily replied.  Fine with me!  Then continuing on?  Yep.  Los Angeles to San Francisco, then San Francisco to Pasco.  “Er…how about from Los Angeles TO Melbourne?” I asked VERY cautiously, holding my breath.  “I’ll do that right away for you!”

SWEET!!  $1,000 worth of upgrades, no charge.  This was easy to accomplish and justify.  I was one of the first people to book and pay for those flights, and upgrades can be based on purchase date.  We’d been negatively displaced by a schedule change through no fault of our own.   Also, they can sell our old seats at a higher rate.  The new passengers think they are getting a “deal” as the LAX-MEL flight was truly sold out in regular economy.  (I already knew that before the call, you can check online if you have a reservation on that particular flight.  I was going to use that tidbit as a bargaining chip.)  I didn’t push my luck from Pasco to Los Angeles on the outbound.  At this point, I don’t care.

So, that covers to Melbourne.  Two nights in Melbourne needed to be booked.  No way we wanted to go on the Adelaide after 22 hours in terminals and tubes.  The Southern Cross motel in downtown Melbourne fit the bill.  Two nights, near the river, near the zoo, near Southern Cross station.  Expensive, but a comfortable motel.  We’ll need it.

While in Melbourne, we’ll get a phone simm.  I purchased a cheap, unlocked, smart-phone for international travel last week.  This phone will work in both Australia and the Philippines.  A smart-phone seemed wise as you can get a GPS app.  A month of service with 2 gigs of data runs around $60 or so.  No problem.  Worth it.

Southern Cross Station is a 5 minute walk.  We have two train tickets to Adelaide for Saturday morning December 3.  Advice on Trip Advisor said to fly, but both of us wanted to take the train.  Praxy, because she has never rode a train.  Both of us, because we want to see the countryside.  This will be a rather boring 11 hour trip across miles and miles of farmland.  No problem, again.  Praxy part owns a farm and we want to see Australian cropland and farming practices.  Neither of us will be in a hurry, and when you fly you miss the land underneath.

Once we arrive in Adelaide, the future turns into black box.  Our train passes right through our final destination, Mount Barker, but there is no scheduled stop.  It should work out that our friends can pick us up after they get off work.   If not, we’ll figure out something.

The first few days in Adelaide will be for us to get our bearings.  We are still considering renting a car or camper van.  Also have to figure out the upcoming trip to Kangaroo Island.

Back at home, I lined out our Australia visas.  Good for a year, we are allowed a three month stay with multiple entries.  A very generous visa for the price, around $15.00 USD.  I also messed up and got my birthday wrong on my first visa request.  After guessing a bit,  I found my incorrect birthdate.  Nothing to do about that but resubmit and pay the fee again.  At least they accepted the corrected visa with no questions.

This is an important note to readers.  BE SURE TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON EVERY THING YOU PURCHASE OR RESERVE WHILE TRAVELING.  This would not have turned out well at LAX.  Checking in with an invalid visa.  Very best I could hope for was a delay.  I easily could have been denied boarding and lost my trip to Australia.  No excuses work in these situations.  Customs and Immigration can get snotty about errors, even innocent ones.

Also have to get our credit cards ready.   Warning–Call each and every card company that you plan to use and get that card authorized for the country you are visiting!– I found out after a purchase that the Costco Citibank card has a foreign exchange fee and it’s a hefty fee.  Won’t be using that one as Capital One still does not charge for that.  Capital One DOES have an outrageous cash advance fee, so we’ll be using a debit card for cash.  I’m planning to charge most items and deal with paying when I get home.

Still have to search through my stuff and find the Aus-USA electrical adapter.  The only things we’re taking that need electrical power are cameras and computers.  All of those (thankfully) have 100-240 volt transformers.  Gotta get on this.  Might have to get one on line.  I’m sure it could be purchased at the LAX airport terminal at twice the price.  Yep, bought two on line.  Should receive them on 11/7.  

Australia’s electrical grid is 240 volts, 50 cycles vs. our 120 volts 60 cycles.   Check your electrical stuff before leaving the US.  Otherwise, you might turn something into a crispy critter.  Most newer electronics, computers, cell phones, tablets, etc. are fine.

Uh oh.  Gotta find my travel pillow too.

This morning, 11/4, I’ve exchanged emails with a possibly new friend in Melbourne.  He is a “travel expert” from the Tripadvisor forums and enjoys touring Eastern Samar and other far flung destinations in the Philippines.  Of all the people on that forum, he’s the only one that seems to be interested enough to request information from Guiuan and the surrounding area.

We had been exchanging TA messages and moved to emails as that is more convenient.  We will all be in Melbourne about the same time so Praxy and I are hoping to meet up with him.  I noticed he was in the USA this past summer, so he gets around.

That’s all I can think of for now.  Unless something comes up, next post will probably be from Los Angeles.

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2 Month Update


Been about two months from my last post.  Time to catch up; a log of what I’ve discovered about Ozzie so far.

I contacted the Australia forums on Trip Advisor about our plans.  To a person, they were negative about the train from Melbourne to Adelaide.  Boring.  Not much scenery.  Better to drive it.  Etc.

However, we’ve decided to buck the trend and do the train anyway.  There are several reasons.  In no particular order…

Most of the trip crosses areas heavy into agriculture.  Lost of farms devoted to hay and pasture type of crops.  We have no problem with this.  Praxy actually owns part of a wheat ranch and we are always interested in crops and farming.  This will give us a nice chance to see southern Australia farming.

Praxy has wanted to take a train ride for years.  I almost took her to Mexico for a trip through Copper Canyon two winters ago.  If she truly enjoys this trip, I’ll put Copper Canyon back on the to-do list.

Price is $79 AUD ($60 USD).  Cheapest way to go.

This next one surprised me.  Completely.  I was looking into renting a campervan (more on that later) and got to looking at prices.  Surprise!  Then moved on to an SUV.  Wow!  I found, per day, that it is the cheapest to rent in Adelaide and drop in Melbourne!  Unbelievable.  First time I’ve seen an “anti” drop fee for a car rental.  Most expensive-rent in Melbourne, drop in Adelaide.  Mid range-rent and drop in Melbourne.  Cheapest-as mentioned, rent in Adelaide and drop in Melbourne.  The difference amounts to about $450 USD between top and bottom.  My travel oriented mind knew why almost instantly.  Melbourne is an international airport.  Many, many foreign tourist will rent a car.  But, lots of them will drop it in Adelaide after visiting the Great Ocean Road.  It costs a lot of money to hire someone to deadhead a car one way.  I used to do it while I worked as an airline agent.  The rental companies paid me well.  So.  If we rent a vehicle, it will be in Adelaide and dropped in Melbourne.  Train ticket paid for plus some extra.

Our train ride will be two days after our arrival in Ozzie.  Jet lag.  More time to catch up to the time change with little risk to ourselves.

Flying is considered the best way, but I disagree.  The easiest way to miss out on a country is to fly over it.  Once you’ve been there, yes.  Fly over.  But until then, stay on the ground and learn.

Buses were mentioned too.  Hell with that.  I get all the bus trips I want in the Philippines.

Bonus-I don’t have to learn to drive on the left side of the road in crowded Melbourne.  Also gives me some time to learn the rules of the road in Australia.

We are almost certainly going to rent a vehicle.  Haven’t decided yet between a car or mini-camper.  I’m going to put that choice off until we get there.  The campervan sounds fun, but there are some serious drawbacks.  It will be summer in Ozzie and there is no air conditioning in the camper at night time.  RV parks are very expensive.  The period after Christmas is some of the busiest time of the year for vacationing.  Price of fuel.  Been hearing horror stories about poorly prepared campers.  No refund on deposit if you don’t like the camper.  So, I’m going to wait.  At least for now.

Our friends in Adelaide are talking about renting one anyway.  As they are already on the ground, that seems prudent to me.  I’m about ready to plan a car, with stays in motels as needed.  Our destinations will be restricted, though.

Rental cars are only allowed on paved or concrete roads.  The wisdom to this is obvious.  No way I’d want to turn a foreigner loose with my car in the mountains of Idaho.  Why would they want to turn me loose in the Australian outback?

Granted, I know I could handle the outback driving.  Few tourists could ever have the back country driving skills I’ve learned in 45 years of off-road racing and 4X4 driving.  But the Australians don’t know my bonafides and I can’t prove ’em.   Fair enough.  I’ll stay on pavement.  Besides, maybe I’ll meet someone that will take me somewhere cool.

One of the biggest posers; “Where to go and what to see?”  Australia is a black box to me.  So many things, so little time. Making a list here.

One of the first nearby attractions that REALLY caught my eye was Kangaroo Island.  It is a large wildlife preserve off the southern coast not far from Adelaide.  I think three nights there would be sweet.  Rent a car and drive around.

Murray river north of Adelaide.  This river tracks across some rather open looking terrain.  If the summertime weather isn’t too hot, this might make a nice two-three day loop.  Looking for birds and wildlife on this one as well.

Granpans mountains.  Odd looking features in a National Park setting.  I’m game.

The famous Great Ocean Road.  Fabulous scenery along the southern Australian coast.  Too bad we’ll be there around peak tourist season.

Perhaps some people oriented things as well.  Maybe a rugby or Australian Rules Football match.  Zoo or parks.

Lots of people want to visit Ayer’s Rock in the central outback.  Not me.  It will be far too hot out that way in December.  Besides, it’s just a sandstone monolith.  Seen things like that in Utah and Arizona.

There are two long train trips across Ozzie from Adelaide.  One goes east, the other north.  I was interested until I looked at prices.  Simply put, the cost is outrageous.  Not even close to what I could afford.  Darn.

We’re planning to be back in Melbourne 3-4 days before our departure to the USA.  There is a whole realm of places to visit there.  From what I understand, most vacationing Australians get out of the cities for recreation.  Melbourne shouldn’t be overly crowded according to what I’ve read.  I hope.

It’s so hard for me to sit here and imagine what it’s like there.  I’ve heard about…Good public transportation. Few if any malls or large stores.  High prices.  Great beer and wines.  Warm hospitality to foreigners.  Dangerous UV rays.  Hot weather.  Unusual dangerous animals.  Incomprehensible slang.

Well.  I had a first trip driving into Mexico.  And a first trip to the Philippines.  And a first trip into Guatemala and Honduras.  And Columbia.  You know what I’ve discovered?  People.

People have one thing in common throughout the world.  Socialization.  Very rarely have I been afraid or concerned.  Lost, confused, miserable, hungry.  But rarely concerned.  People are people everywhere.

We will have a good time!

 

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“We’re Going to a Land Down-under”!


Yeppers, another bucket list item.  Lessee…ummmmm….Panama Canal, check.  Monarch butterfly refuge in Michoacan, Mexico, check.  Key West, Florida, check.  Death Valley, California, check.  Yellowstone park, check.  Oregon coast, check.  Australia, gonna get checked this winter.

While I’m here, some others.  Machu Picchu.  Antarctica.  Cape Horn.  Alaska.  Kilimanjaro (not climbing, seeing in person).   Mauna Loa.  Greece.  Cruise across the Pacific.  Three Gorges dam/Great Wall of China.

Ambitious?  You bet.  I think I can do them all after I retire.  Maybe one or two before then.  Notice, all seven continents.

I was hedging about returning to the Philippines this year, at least to our friends there.  Aussie has been in the back of my mind since Praxy discovered a couple of friends living there.  [My use of “Aussie” is by no means disrespectful.  A good Australian friend in the Philippines lovingly calls Australia “Aussie” and I picked up on it.  If I’m in error, please contact me.]  The Philippines works every other year or so, at least at this time in our lives.  I figure when we get older and slower, an extended stay in a relaxing environment would be heavenish.  For now, let’s see the world.

Praxy ran into an old school friend on Facebook.  Seems this friend married an Australian and moved to South Australia, where she is now employed as a nurse.  After chatting a bit, this friend offered us a place to stay in her home near Adelaide.  We immediately took her up on it, but I delayed doing much about it for a bit.  Such an offer is generous to the extreme, and can sometimes, on reflection, can be a bit onerous.

When we travel a long distance, we tend to stay for several weeks.  It doesn’t make sense, at least to me, to spend $2500 on airfare to stay somewhere for a week.  That is, unless someone else is paying for it.

I looked at staying for 5 weeks, but airfares were horrendous.  I finally spotted a decent fare out of Pasco to Adelaide for $1179 per person!  I hemmed and hawed, stewed, delayed, procrastinated, whatever, and that fare went away 6 hours before I was going to purchase it.  CRAP!   But patient searching turned up $1257 Pasco to Melbourne on United Airlines.  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, more on that further into this post.  I jumped on that fare yesterday with undignified alacrity.

I monitor fares regularly on googleflights.  I used to be a travel agent, and some of my friends now ask me for help on how to get good deals.  Once I saved a friend almost $1400 and word got out.

That involved that friend getting her parents from Cebu, Philippines to Calgary, Canada, one way.  The best fare ANYONE could find was $1550 per person, including travel agents.  That was purchased in the US and sent electronically to Cebu.  But, ever on the lookout for cheap transportation, I’d noticed while visiting the Philippines that…if you could physically purchase airline tickets in the Philippines, they were much much cheaper!  I told her to contact her relatives by Facebook and have them shop around travel agencies in Cebu.  Sure enough, same airline, same itinerary, purchased in Cebu, $829 per person.  Western Union or Moneygram the money to the Philippines for $25.  That little move ended up saving about $1400!  She did exactly that.

Not bad.

Typical fares from eastern Washington to Australia run from $1700-$2200 dollars.  $1500 is a sale.  $1250 is a bargain.  I suppose if I waited it out, I might see something in the $1100 range.  Not taking that chance after losing the $1179, by far the best price I’ve seen in twelve weeks of monitoring.

If $1000 shows up, so be it.  You pays your money, you takes your chances.

Why is Melbourne a better deal than Adelaide?  Train.

There is a ten hour train ride from Melbourne to Adelaide that runs $89 per person.  We could fly it for $79, but this is too good to pass up.  A comfortable 10 hour tour of the Australian countryside.  Praxy has been begging for a train ride for years.  Perfect.  It’s a done deal, planned into our arrival date in Melbourne.

The return to Melbourne is a little misty at this point.  I’m leaning towards a mini-bus tour of the South Coastal Highway.  Three days, two nights.  We’ll check that out when we get to Adelaide.   Prices are a little steep online.  Perhaps there is a “bargain” to be found locally if you have the time to shop around.  We can always fly or return on the train.  Or perhaps saddle up a kangaroo.

Looking for motels, checking out visa requirements, purchasing train tickets, talking about what we want to see and do.  A lot to plan.  But 7 months to do it.

Yeah!   I’m excited!

4/17/2016  12:15pm

 

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The Voyage Home, Another 39 Hour Day


Next day.  The second to the last of this Philippine trip.

I woke up early to find that the Gonzaga Bulldogs were on a live stream.  It was 6 in the morning in Cebu, half time of an evening game in the states.  I watched that as Praxy got ready for the day.  Game over at 7am, so we went to eat breakfast.

The Maxwell motel has a great free breakfast.  One of the best I’ve ever had in the Philippines.  Most motel restaurants suffer from low traffic and indifferent employees.  So the food is invariably cold and poorly prepared.  Many times with inferior ingredients.  Not so at the Maxwell.

Next door there is a culinary school.  The motel has worked out a deal where the students prepare and serve meals.  I’m guessing the motel provides the ingredients and clients and the school provides everything else.  Win-win.  And another win for us customers.

Those students are eager to please.  Everything we ate was cooked perfectly, hot from the stove, and tasty.  Brought to us by smiling student with one teacher watching over them.  It was funny watching a young man learning to be a waiter.  He had a heck of a time with balancing plates and was obviously very nervous.  I gave them tips the first morning on waiting on foreigners as they didn’t bring us any water.  Next morning, they were offering water to us with smiles.  We tipped them well.

Back to the room for prep, then off to the new Shoe Mart mall, SM Seaside.  We wanted to visit this “largest mall in Asia” to see for ourselves.

I wasn’t very impressed.  For one thing, it’s so darn big it takes forever to find the store you’re looking for.  Another, the stores are very upscale.  Prices were high and there wasn’t a lot of shoppers.  A third, as it was new, there were still many stores under construction.  I don’t hold that last one against them.  It will fill.

There were many foreigners in the place.  The only people that could afford it.  Lots of youngsters window shopping.  I got a big charge out of watching people learning to ice skate.  And an empty bowling alley.

Praxy went in to get new frames for her glasses.  Nothing fit and the prices were outrageous.  As much or more than the US.  I bought a new set of headphones for my computer as one channel quit on my nice Sony noise-cancelling ones after one cruise, two Philippine trips, a trip to Arizona, and 1/2 dozen Idaho trips.  Plus I used them daily at work.  No more shopping.  (I was able to fix them when I got home!)

I did stop in the local Burger King for lunch.  Notice a pattern in my blog?  I love eating hamburgers.

Anyway, a bunch of foreigners showed up for lunch and we congregated for a chat.  Lets see; Washington state (myself, Praxy showed up a little later after eating ANOTHER halo halo), Arizona, St. Louis, Detroit, Ohio, San Diego, Texas, and North Carolina sitting in the same area chatting.  Others off to the side that chose not to join us.  The guy from St. Louis, Dale,  and I spent a lot of time talking, we are now FB friends.

Dale was touring the Philippines and was wistfully looking for a place with good, inexpensive seafood.  Well, you just can’t get any better than Eastern Samar.  I suggested he take off for Tacloban and then explore Eastern Samar from there.  He is reading my blog and I hope to hear back from him if he takes off that way.  He’s retired and just wandering around enjoying himself.  I’ve got 5 more years at least before I retire.

Since prices were high, we took off after lunch for the Robinson’s mall near Osmena Fuentes.  I knew of a couple of inexpensive shops there for glasses and yep, they had what Praxy needed.  Twenty five dollars covered it.  A LOT better than $200.  That gave us time to shop up some things we wanted to bring back to the states.  My beloved pork and beans.  Dried fruit.  Facial soap.  Hand lotion ( Yeah, the American brands are MUCH better in the Philippines.  Not near as much water, as in waste filler, in them).  We tightened up our luggage with goodies so our clothing wouldn’t slide around so much (HA!).  Later, it gave US customs an excuse to thoroughly inspect our luggage in Seattle.  They let us go as we had nothing illegal.

Back to the motel, our last night in the Philippines for this trip.  It was and is a decent motel.  Location is reasonable with restaurants, both American and Philippine, nearby.  Ayala mall is long walk away, but doable.

Since the Maxwell didn’t have a refrigerator, I improvised.

IMG_2856Two Red Horses on top of a suitcase in front of the air conditioner.  They didn’t get very cold, but Philippine beer is brewed to taste good when it’s warm.

I made reservations for the final night, leaving at 9pm for a motel close to the airport.  ACE Penzionne.  Prices were high here as well.  It seems that the Eucharists and their pilgrims had every single inexpensive room in the whole area of Cebu City.  Argh!  So we got a fancy room for $27USD across from the Guisano Island Mall Mactan.  A great room for the price, with a few odd wrinkles thrown in.

Wrinkles.  Yeah, all motels seem to have them in the Philippines.  Misty Blue had a floppy shower head and odd acting power cord for the air conditioner.  Duptours had a 15 minute wait for hot water.  Maxwell had a very balky water heater and the WIFI wouldn’t work.  I had an ethernet cable that fixed that problem. Yep, I’m prepared.  Four trips to the Philippines have given me insight.

ACE had a beautiful bathroom with a divider between shower and the rest of the bathroom.  However, there was a little hole cut in the divider to drain the sink and toilet area into the only floor drain that was the shower.  But, the low point of the bathroom was next to the toilet.  So the water flowed through the hole when you were taking a shower and puddled around the toilet.  I put a plug in the hole.

I thought something was odd when the valet put two bath mats in the bathroom, arranging the second one carefully on the sill between the bathroom and bedroom.  I couldn’t figure that one out.  Until we started showering.  He knew a swimming pool was about to form!

Now why would any place have a set up like that one?

Oh well.  It’s the Philippines.  Exactly like Mexico.  It’s up to you to deal with a problem, not the motel staff.  If you don’t like it, move.  No refunds.  Your choice.

Through all this, Bill and Chona invited us over for lunch at the Mactan house.  They are seriously considering selling the place and I think that would be a good move.  It is a long way from everything excepting the fireworks factories.  Two weeks ago it took them over two hours to get from there to Chona’s father’s house (Martin’s) in Mambaling.  Horrible traffic day.  The only other close thing is the airport, but how many times a year does a person use that place?

We had a great lunch and afterwards they took us back to the Guisano mall across the street from our motel.  We shopped around a bit, then crossed the street for hopefully a little sleep.  I got a little.  Maybe 45 minutes.  Praxy didn’t sleep a bit.  We just get too keyed up thinking about the upcoming flights home.

I snuck out on an open door and shot a couple of pictures before the sun set.  Both bridges.

New bridge

New bridge

Quite a bunch of rather…er…not so fancy houses in the foreground.  You can’t see these at all from the road near the mall.  I don’t know how the people get back here.

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Old bridge

Not a bad view looking towards the old bridge.  Downtown Cebu is in the background.  This is the route the fast catamaran takes when it approaches Cebu from Tacloban and the northern parts of the Philippines.

Jhitter came by with the van at 9:15 to take us to the airport.  Been quite a while since I’d seen him, it was nice to chat a bit.  He works a Dell call center for the US there in Cebu.  His English is excellent with little accent.

Off to the airport.  Nothing unusual that I haven’t covered earlier except…YOU STILL HAVE TO PAY THE TERMINAL CHARGE IN CEBU.  People have been telling me online that the terminal charge is now included in your ticket.  WRONG!  You still have to come up with 750PHP each before they will let you into the screening area.  Philippine travelers, you’ve been warned.

No problem.  I had totally expected that and I was totally ready.  I’m not a dummy, I could clearly see it wasn’t included on my ticket.  A former airline employee knows how to read ticket charges and those charges are spelled out at the base of the ticket.  I’ve argued with people about it this year.  Everyone going in had to pay.

The only thing I could figure was that the terminal charge was being paid by the airline out of their fare.  Nope.

I suppose it is possible that the terminal charge is now included on the tickets as I purchased mine in June.  However, terminal charges were supposed to be included at the start of 2015.  Everyone I saw had to pay in Cebu and get the receipt there in th terminal.

We brought back an additional $100 of Philippine pesos for the next trip.  We also have plenty of small change for taxis and motels as those places don’t have change in the middle of the night.

Midnight rolled around, another thirty nine hour day began.  Flight about 1/2 hour late, no biggie.  We had a 12 hour layover in Seoul.  I’m going to take a break (I caught Praxy’s cold) and finish this later.

9:30am 1/28/2016

1/29.  As I mentioned, our flight was a little late, about 30 minutes or so.  Not a problem.  I managed to get about 1 1/2 hours of sleep on the way to Seoul.  Not bad for me.

We deplaned, went through customs, and found the tour kiosk near the baggage claims area.  They have several tours available, but we wanted the longest they offered that day.   Turned out to be the Gyeongdeokgung (I’m glad I only had to type that and not pronounce it) palace tour.  On to a bus for the one hour ride to Seoul.

I’m always impressed at the sheer size of the city of Seoul, South Korea.  Five miles from the airport you start seeing apartment houses.  Row after row.  Mile after mile.  Town after town.  It seems to me that relatively few people actually own houses in Seoul.  Those houses are clustered together and there is hardly any space between the few that you see.  Real estate is at a premium, at least near the city.

Traffic moves along pretty well for a large city.  We arrived at our scheduled time, even after waiting 15 minutes in a long line of slowed vehicles.  Finally, the Gyeongdeokgun palace came into view.

In front of the palace

In front of the palace

It was built in 1405, and burned during the Korea-Japan war of 1592.  Restored in 1609 and is in the process of being upgraded in 2016.  It will be another 30 years until all restoration is completed.  Why that long?  The site is huge!  It covers the area of 80 US football fields.  There are a throne room, banquet hall, servants quarters, meeting rooms, relaxing rooms.  You name it.  Anything a medieval king could want.

The weather was also very very cold.  Maybe 10F above with a fairly stiff breeze.  I froze.  Praxy, on the other hand, was wise.  She borrowed a coat, supplied by the tour outfit.

IMG_2883I should have been as wise.  I had on long underwear a four layers of clothing.  OK, unless I was out in the wind.  She seemed pretty comfortable, even though she was coming down with a bad head cold at the time.

Some of the interior art works.  These are original and quite valuable.

Deer artwork

Deer artwork

King's receiving room

King’s receiving room

Throne room

Throne room

IMG_2891Standing out in the sun like this was almost unbearable in Asgad.  Hard to believe it’s the same sun.  After an hour, back to the warm bus.  YAY!

We had to pay for lunch on this trip.  $7.00 bought us a wonderful lunch of beef stew with all the Korean trimmings.  I should have got a picture, but there is the usual kim chee, pickled bamboo, pickled cucumber and onions, and swiss chard.  We were starved, so we cleaned up our stew plus the stuff on the condiment tray that was to be added to your stew.  It was weird, no one else from the tour hardly touched their condiments.  I guess it was because it all looked strange to them.  We had eaten all this four years before and knew how tasty all the goodies were.

We then had one hour to explore the nearby Myeong-dong market.  Lots of fun looking around.  Praxy got some salt and pepper shakers and street food granola.  I took in the sights.  We cautiously got back on the bus a little early.  They threatened to leave without ANYONE that showed up five minutes late.  Too many people making too many flights and too many different times, the company wasn’t taking any risks.  Cost for a cab one way was $70 USD if you missed the bus.  No refunds.   Everyone was there on time, we left two minutes early!

Back to the airport at 3pm.  Through customs and then a 3 1/2 hour wait.  Hmm.  I’d heard that you could get a free shower at Incheon airport if your layover was more than 3 hours.  We qualified at 12 hours.  Since I was still chilly from the tour, I searched out the showering area.  Upstairs and look around.

It was true.  I showed my boarding pass and was instantly given a towel and sent to a shower room.  Wow.  Hot water.  I could have stood there for an hour, warming up after that very cold day in downtown Seoul.  Change of clothes and I was refreshed for the remainder of the 39 hour day from Cebu to Pomeroy.

It’s no wonder Seoul Incheon is considered the best international airport in the world.  I firmly believe it, although I don’t have knowledge of most international terminals in the world.  For what it’s worth, the ones I do know:  Manila, horrible.  Cebu, mediocre.  San Francisco, Los Angeles, fair.  Seattle, Hong Kong, good.

But…Great terminal, boarding areas, and signage.  Easy through customs.  Free city tour or off site motel, and/or showers for long layover passengers.  Motel available (very expensive) on site on the international concourse (don’t have to clear customs to stay there).  Plenty or restaurants and shopping.  Simple, easy to follow transfers between concourses.  Aircraft congestion is lessened by plenty of wide taxiways for the aircraft.  Four runways with no obstructions or restrictions on all eight approaches.

Two hours till boarding.  Praxy was on the computer, I was bored.  Time to do a little looking around.  Perfume store.  Leather store.  Expresso shop.  Super expensive bar.  (yawn)  Healthy drink shop.  Fancy clothes.  Restaurant, nope still full from lunch.  (sigh)  Toys.  Too expensive and too uppity, all of them.  Oh well, cruise through the ultra-expensive duty free liquor store anyway.  Bottles of this that and the other at anywhere from $50USD to $400 USD.  No way I’m buying anything here.  Double take.  What the flipping heck?

Ginseng liquor

Ginseng liquor

I’d seen worms in tequila bottles, but how could I NOT buy this?  Ginseng liquor at a duty free shop with a big ole gnarly root in it.  21,400 Korean won.  Not bad at $21USD.  Since I still had a pocket full of won, this was a great excuse to thin that lump down.  I knew I could transfer it to my luggage in Seattle at customs, then clear security in Seattle with no liquids in my luggage.  It would make it home easily.  Done that with chop sticks four years earlier.

Boarding at 6pm for the 6:30pm flight.  And, we wait.  Finally, they take off four containers and pulls someone’s luggage out and reload the containers.  So we leave at a little after 7pm.  Why am I bringing that up?  Because, it meant another half hour sitting in the Boeing 777.

Our ride across the Pacific

Our ride across the Pacific

I don’t care how you slice it, 10 and one half hours in a big aluminum tube is a long time.   Asiana’s seats are very comfortable compared to say, a jeepney or a Duptours van.  Still, after ten hours, my butt gets sore.  And I have a lot of trouble sleeping.  I should have taken my Valium, but I hate taking stuff like that (I’d make a lousy drug addict).  Next time I will for sure.  I slept maybe a half hour during that 9 hour and twenty minute flight.  Misery.  Too tired to watch a movie, so I listened to music.

Finally, Seattle.  It was a rare clear day in Seattle.  I got to see everything as we came in.  The Olympic mountains, Space needle, Ballard locks, Puget sound, all of it.  One of the few times I’ve been in Seattle when the weather wasn’t cloudy and/or rainy.  Sweet!

Not counting the three hours we waited in Cebu from the motel to midnight, we were now five hours from the Philippines to Seoul.  12 hour layover including the city tour.  10 1/2 hours on a 777.  That’s 27 1/2 hours with maybe 2 hours total of sleep.  And Praxy was now suffering from a nasty head cold.  She was doing a lot of sleeping, but not feeling the best.

Customs.  Quite easy now in Seattle.  Everything is on the computer and your passport gets scanned before you approach an officer.  The usual paperwork is now filled out using a touch screen.  No problems.  Until we picked up our luggage.

We got singled out.  I don’t know why.  Maybe because we were from the Philippines.  They asked about food and I’m not ever going to lie to those people.  To get caught can get dicey and besides, I’m a Federal Government employee.  We are expected to be honest (it can be grounds for dismissal from your job, laxly enforced nowadays), although we all know that many are not.  The paper customs declaration had asked if we had food.  The on screen one didn’t.  I checked the food box on the paper one, so I think they spotted that and asked to look our stuff over.

There are certain items that are banned from entering the US.  I know most of them, but something can always come up that I don’t know about, something recent.  I had checked the US Customs website while in Cebu and figured we didn’t have anything questionable except some pork.  In the pork and beans.  But I knew that small amounts of processed pork, or a little bit of cooked pork (like bacon) is OK.  I was right up front with them, telling them I had canned pork and beans in the luggage, plus other processed foods like dried fruit and granola.  Once they understood that, they put our items on the conveyor without a visual inspection.  We got through immediately with a smile from the agents.  It pays to be up front and honest with US Customs.  They know instantly if you are lying, and if they can be bribed, it would take one helluva lot more money than I’ve got.

They didn’t even ask about alcohol.  Each person is allowed a 5th.  We were well under that.Because of all of this, Asiana only checked our luggage to Seattle.  So, we had to haul it upstairs to the ticket counter and re-check it.  Come to find out Alaska Air had a luggage counter downstairs just past customs that we missed.  Oh well.Back through security and time for more waiting.  Noon.  Our flight to Boise connecting to Lewiston left at 4:30pm.  So five hours in Seattle.  We ate a little lunch and hung around.  Praxy got into a little adventure, you can ask her about it.  Hilarious.  Funny things happen when you are exhausted.The trip from Seattle to Lewiston takes three hours and was uneventful.  I sure hope that Horizon Air reinstates the late afternoon flight direct from Seattle to Lewiston.  I know exactly why they changed their schedule to it’s current mess (former employee here).  It’s for marketing the Seattle and Boise flights in a way that “saves” them money.  I doubt if it works.  The flight from Seattle to Boise was full.  16 people from Boise to Lewiston.  Looked like five or six on to Seattle.  It doesn’t look to me like their plan is working quite as they had planned.  Many people are now driving to Spokane, we almost did that.  Oops!Two quick stops for groceries and gasoline in Clarkston, then on home arriving at 9:30pm or so.  Now we are 27 hours to Seattle, plus another 9 1/2 while in the USA  including Customs.  That makes thirty six and 1/2.  Plus 2 1/2 hours until midnight makes a 39 hour day.  Yup.  Because of the international dateline, we spent 36 1/2 hours on January 25th getting home.   We cheated a bit and missed the last hour.  Bedtime at 11pm.  Thirty eight total.  For myself, I got about 2 hours of sleep in that time.  Praxy slept more, but was ill with her head cold.Praxy slept the clock around plus three more hours.  I was up at 9am.  It’s now Friday and I’ve got my internal clock now set to Pacific standard time.  It took three nights.   10 am and my sweet wife is still asleep after being awake in the middle of the night.  It takes her about a week to adjust.That’s about it for this trip.  I usually end up with another post as I come across things that I missed.  Ulp, here’s one.

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A Red Banana-nanana

Google says there are almost 1000 types of bananas in the world divided into 50 or so groups.  This is a red one that I tried while in Asgad.  I wished there had been more than two, one for Praxy and one for me.   Delicious.
I must have eaten twenty different kinds while in the Philippines.  This one was second best tasting.  Sweet and firm.  Many are sour or have a weird texture.  Some, plantains, are not sweet at all and could be a potato substitute.  One of the sweet harder ones makes up the banana-que that you see on street corners.  If cooked right, yummy!  Rolled in brown sugar and roasted over charcoal.  Something you just can’t find in the US.So, what’s next?  We’re talking about it already.  Maybe to the Philippines next December but I doubt it.  My annual leave is getting a little short for a two month trip and one a month trip, given the logistics, is out.  We are toying with visiting one of Praxy’s friends in Australia near Melbourne.  If the airfare comes in right, I think a month there could be a go.  Looking for $1200 out of Spokane to pull the trigger on that one.  Right now $1400-$1800.  Closely watching fare sales already.  Too early to book November and December 2016 anyway.And I have a daughter that is thinking about marriage in the summer of 2017.   When she firms up her plans, I’ll make mine.  Might have to save up some money for that!  And I’ve about forgotten what a full winter of snow and rain is like.  Darn.My sisters both have told me they’ve enjoyed following another one of their brother’s crazy adventures.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed it as well.Traveling the Philippines is not for the squeamish or faint of heart.  For those, blogs like this are the best way to get a peek at it.  Most “adventure” and “tourist” sites give only the positives of traveling.  The Philippines or anywhere else for that matter.  Beaches, food, sun, glamour.  That’s the Philippines, right?  Well, I try to show the real deal.  What it’s really like from a foreigner’s perspective.  Beaches, food, sun, and glamour all right.  PLUS…Heat, humidity, and rain.  The complicated logistics of traveling around an island nation.  Friends, family, and fun.  Hard work and frustration with the system.  The rewards of generosity from abroad; new houses, medical clinics, agriculture buildings, and town halls; and our more modest donations of books, OTC drugs, and piglets to people who can’t even imagine affording any of those.    Birthdays, holidays, lazy days.   How a pudgy, balding, sweaty, “cano” struggles to adapt to an environment totally unlike his permanent home in the good ole US of A.Been fun.  Unless I think of something else, see you on my next adventure!11:15am  1/29/2016  Pomeroy, Washington, USA

Posted in 2011 Idaho chinook tagging, 2015 Philppines, otro vez | Leave a comment

Sometimes I Kinda Wonder…


IMG_2731 

Praxy decided it was time to plant her new flowers she bought in Tacloban.  Bougamvilleas. (spelling checker can’t find it).    And, a tropical rain shower came through.  The type that simply dumps on you for about 10 minutes.  You can see the rain pelting down on and around her.  It put 25 gallons of water in our barrels.  And soaked Praxy to the skin.  She didn’t care.  She was planting flowers.  That’s the only thing that counts.  Besides, the rain felt good.  It’s always warm here.  (Am I repeating myself?)

OK, where did I leave off.  Hmmmm.  Oh yeah.  Sunday morning the 27th.

A normal Sunday around here.  Some people go to town on the jeepney.

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We stayed home and worked bit on the house.  Suddenly, an idea popped up.  I don’t know where it came from, but a bunch of people decided to head to the beach.   Praxy and I slathered sun screen on each other.  No way we were going to miss this.  Everyone pitched in for some lunch and off we went.

Sorry there are no pictures.  Somehow, my waterproof beach/snorkeling camera didn’t get packed and I’m not about to risk my nice Canon SLR or video camera down there unless I’m in attendance.  So, a verbal description.

A bunch of us got together and set up a tarp.  This was no easy task as the sea breeze was a steady 20 mph or so.  Six people teamed up and got it anchored.  Then off for the swim.  More like a dog paddle.  The swimming areas are very shallow, you have to look hard for anything more than a couple of feet deep.  The Pacific ocean breakers fall about 200 yards off the beach.  No problem.  Praxy and I sat and relaxed in the shallows as young children frolicked in the water around us.  The kids are not allowed in the ocean unless an adult is supervising.  High tide brings rip currents in the shallows, plenty strong enough to run off with an unwary child.  Lots of adults, the kids went crazy.  And worked up a huge appetite.

Leftovers from the Christmas party were on a table.  We all stuffed ourselves.  As we sat watching the ocean, the tide went out.  The swimming area became inches deep.  “Hey Ken, want to go out and explore?”  Hell yes!!

We waded out into ankle deep water for the two hundred yards to the break area.  The ocean had left a lot of old reef and rocks exposed.   I got to looking around and found a snail looking thing in a crevice.  “That any good to eat?”  A machete was out immediately and a neighbor, Maravic, pried the large snail thing out of it’s hidey hole.   They asked if we were looking for edibles.  Hell yes again!!  It turned into a treasure hunt, with the Pacific ocean crashing 20 feet away.  Barnacle looking things.  Limpet looking things.  More snails.  White clams.  Soon my hands were full as everyone pitched in to find goodies for us to try.  Kids and adults.  After about 20 minutes, we had our hands full.  It was also obvious to me that I was getting a nasty sunburn.  Time to head home.

Clams into water to get rid of sand?  Check.  Everything else soaking to keep it alive?  Check.  Appetite?  Check.  Dinner time?  It seemed forever, but it finally rolled around.  Time to cook.  Neighbors gave us advice on cooking these things as it had been ages since Praxy had done that.

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Some of these require long cooking and a lot of preparation.  The pill bug looking thing.  I’d eaten them before and pronounce them tasty.  We gave those away.   The non pill bug looking things require a quick blanch and fall right out of their shell.  They are delicious, mild clam tasting.

IMG_2719

The “eyeball snails” are incredibly good eating.  Andrew Zimmern needs to try them.  Nothing at all like escargot, which have a bit of a gamey bite in my opinion.  Almost lobster like in flavor, eyeball snails have a hard shelled plug they pull in to defend themselves from predators if they are pulled off their rock.   I saved the eyeballs as a souvenir of one of the best days I’ve ever spent in the Philippines.

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Cooking away.  With that many different critters, it was cook and eat on the fly.

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The white clams are the best clams I’ve ever eaten.  Really.  And no, that isn’t because I was hungry or enjoying the day.  Mild, no sand, no waste, easy to remove from the shell, perfect with a little calamancy juice(a small citrus fruit similar to a lime).   Two pounds would be a perfect meal for me.

I want to go out on the reef again sometime.   Maybe when my sunburn has gone down.

New moon is coming, that means LOBSTERS!  Maybe next week.  They are caught at night by net.

It’s a shame that the people here can’t afford to eat these goodies.  If they get them, they try to sell them to people like me.  People with big appetites and deep wallets.

Next day, another fruitless trip to Guiuan trying to find supplies for working on the house.  We decided enough was enough.  Time for a journey to Talcoban.  We needed new windows, and stainless steel bars for security.  Nothing like that around here.

Up early the nest morning to catch a jeepney.  The first one went by at 4:15am.  No room.  So we waited for the second one.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally, a little after 6:30am, here it came.  Loaded as bad or worse than the first.  Solid people inside.  Three in the passenger seat.  Five on the hood.  A couple of guys on each running board. (how can the driver see to drive?) 50 empty cases of empty beer bottles on top with maybe fifteen people up there.   Boxes and packs as well.

Alright, time to man up.  Get on or stay home.  We got on.  No place for me but hanging off the back.  Not even any room on top.  Praxy disappeared to the front.  Much talking and arguing went on up there and suddenly people were scrunching up inside.  They made a tiny bit of room, took the extra “seat” (a board) out of the doorway and Praxy shoehorned a place three people in front of me.  (The driver was incensed that Praxy had to ride on a hot jeepney hood [she is very, very popular around here.  I had to stand on the back!] and forced people to make room inside, which they did.  Don’t ask me how they did it.)  One guy crouched on the roof behind the empty beer bottles to make room for me to stand on the back deck.  The board was reinstalled, passengers reseated, and we took off.

The guy on top, me, and the guy hanging on beside me were exhausted by the time we got to Bogton.  My right hand went numb.  The guy beside me, an older gentleman, had his right hand go numb as well.  The guy on top, his legs were getting stiff from crouching and dodging palm fronds.  He couldn’t stand or sit on the bottles because the tree limbs would have “low bridged” him.  Misery.  It was a slow drive, maybe ten miles an hour.  Those jeepneys are licensed and registered for 30 people.  My guess is there was at least 50 on board.  Plus freight.

People waiting at Bogton got one helluva kick out of seeing me, the local “cano”, riding on the back of a stuffed jeepney.  I was just glad to get out to the highway safely and get off the jeep.  Cost was pretty reasonable, about 30 pesos for the two of us.  My hand was so numb I could hardly dig out the payment.  It wasn’t a limo ride, but it worked!

We waited about an hour and a Duptours van finally stopped for us.  We knew the driver, Victor.  Paid 150 pesos each for the ride to Tacloban.  Note to Philippine travelers.  Try to avoid the back row on one of the Region 8 minibus/vans.  Very rough ride back there.

The ride in was uneventful and took a little over three hours.  In Tacloban at 10 and it was too early to get a room.  The motel by the Duptours terminal was nice enough to store our bag so we could do some shopping.

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Motel in the back, a nice one.  I’ll write up a review for Trip Advisor later.  Both restaurants near the terminal are marginal.  Better food on the next block east, a Jo’s Chicken Anatto.

Anyway, we took off to a hardware store to pick up windows and stainless rod.  Which we found easily.  We had all our shopping list fulfilled before we even checked in to the motel!  We thought about going back the same day, but decided against it.  It was time for me to reconnect with home and Praxy wanted a massage.   The masseuse showed up almost immediately, so I decide to take off for…McDonald’s.  I hadn’t had a hamburger for over a month except for the one at the Misty Blue Boathouse.   No beef hamburger since the states.  The place was totally packed, I had to wait in line for about 1/2 hour.  Tricycle rides each way were 20 pesos and I got my burger fix.   Finally, I uploaded the blogs you’ve already read. 

Tacloban is booming.  I think it is because of the large amount of typhoon Yolanda relief money that has been pouring into the area.  For instance, four years ago there were around 1,050 tricycles registered to ply the streets of Talcoban.  This trip, I saw tricycle numbers up to 1,900.  That is an almost 100 percent increase in tricycles.  Daytime traffic in Talcoban is crazy, almost like Cebu.  Lucky for us, Tacloban is a much smaller city than Cebu.  There are hundreds, maybe thousands of relief houses and apartments being built in the area.  And a huge, brand new, hospital.   While everyone still talks about Yolanda, the scars are quickly disappearing.

First trip to Guiuan the next day was at 5:40am.  No way!  We ate a leisurely breakfast that was included with the room, food quality only fair. Then, Praxy made an announcement to me.  “I saw a flower and garden shop on the way into Tacloban and I want to get some flowers!”  Oh boy.  Rent a tricycle and we retraced our steps. 

Sometimes, I kinda wonder.  We found the place alright.  Right where she said it would be.  No way she would have missed a place like this.  A huge nursery with greenery and flowers everywhere.  Her eyes glazed over as she looked paradise over greedily.  Stepping away from the tricycle, she stepped right into a deep, muddy, puddle!  No problem, nothing could get her down.  Muddy shoe and all, she bought four of those flowers I don’t know how to spell.  We returned to our motel room, lucky we didn’t check out, and she washed her shoe and foot

Downstairs to Duptours and we booked four seats.  Two for us and two for the flowers, windows, and steel.  Someone else had booked the other back seat for two boxes, and another seat for a large suitcase.  The gal up front had another seat reserved beside her for her shopping.  So the return was half people and half freight.  The van companies don’t care what is in the seat as long as the seat is paid for.

I also saw a “firefly” brand fan that runs off of batteries for 8 hours sitting in the waiting area at Duptours.  Might have to get one of those on the next trip.

Easy return to Asgad.  The van to Bogton, then rent a tricycle for 300 pesos to Asgad.  Expensive trip, but the road is rough and the driver is unlikely to get fares for the return to the highway.  We paid it gladly.

Next day, we started on the windows.  I’m not going there now.  The title of the post will be Window Woes.  Nothing in the Philippines is easy, except for shopping in Tacloban.  And for me, getting sunburns.

4:55pm 12/31/2015  Asgad, Eastern Samar, Philippines.

Posted in 2015 Philppines, otro vez | Leave a comment

Window Woes


How about portal problems?  Or Framed by a frame?  Juked by a jalousie?

I’m going to keep this part brief.  It’s purpose, aside from me venting, is to warn other people or foreigners that try to get work done in the Philippines on ANYTHING.  Houses, automobiles, motorcycles, or work on your body at a hospital.  Buyer beware!

We pulled out an old window.  While that may sound simple, it was a hassle.  The wood in the frame is exceptionally hard.  Nails bend in it.  But we got it out.  Bent screws came out the right side as the wood was soooo hard, screws wouldn’t penetrate.  So off to Salcedo to buy 1/8inch drill bits for pilot holes.  I eventually broke both 1/8 bits in that wood and we fought a new frame in to find that the new frames were one half inch narrower than the old ones.   Grrrrr!

One good thing came out of it.  Tiki eggs were tucked safely at the bottom of the old channel. 

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They are about one quarter inch long on the long axis.  The one farthest to the left is a little dark on the top.  That is the head of a tiki gecko embryo inside the egg.  Two were dark, two were clear.  Looks like the little females lay two eggs at a time.  The spot these two females chose was excellent until we came along.  There were also four broken shells, babies that had hatched out earlier.  They rolled like crazy so I confined them in a jar lid with toilet paper to keep them still.  I hope they aren’t dizzy or addled, they rolled a lot for a while.

Next day, in to Guiuan to buy one half inch spacers in the form of molding.  Brought them out, painted them.  The next day, replace all the windows.   WRONG.

Somehow, one half inch and one half inch are two different things in the Philippines.  Nothing worked.  Now the gap was one quarter.  What the heck?  So we hired Imone to plane down our painted spacer.  His power planer quit, so we resorted to a block planer.  And, it still didn’t fit.  We were forced to use pliers and carefully trim the edges of the window jalousies.  And it went in.

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Struggling all the way.  I tried a trial stainless steel bar to find that the spacing isn’t going to be correct.  A welder will have to finish this job.  But at least the window is functional.

We did another window across the kitchen and found that one half equaled one eighth.  So, no spacer at all.  Those windows are hanging by a thread.  A windstorm might remove some of the panes.  Egad!

Totally frustrating.  After asking around, we found that the contractor rushed the window part of the job and used inferior framing wood that was not properly sized or aged.  It’s twisted in the frame, requiring that every single window now be hand cut.  Also, our house had poor supervision while being built as Praxy and I weren’t here to oversee the construction.

Two other solutions.  1. Take all windows out and use the window glasses wherever they will fit.  We would have to replace a bunch of windows at the end as many window remnants would be way to short.  2.  Pull everything out including the wooden frame.  Hire a concrete contractor to come in and cement the window frame size perfectly in every single window.  It takes a week for the concrete to cure and put the new jalousie window frames up using concrete anchors.  Then we’d have to replace every single pane.  Some people in the barrio have done this already.

We’ve cried uncle, deciding to leave window replacement off the work list for the time being.  At one window a day plus library and security bars, we will run out of time before we run out of windows.  We will concentrate on the library and security bars.  Time to hire a relative to do the work now and after we leave.  If a window breaks, we’ll have him do it on the spot.  Let him fight ‘em in.  I’m sure he has more patience than I do.

We now need more parts.  Off to Guiuan tomorrow for more drill bits and a different size of spacer.  And hope for the best.

We had two and one half days off,  the afternoon of the 31st, New Year’s day, and Sunday.  So we’ve been lounging and making plans.  I’m going to try to rent a motorcycle tomorrow so we can get things done more efficiently.  If I can’t rent one, progress is going to be slow. 

We were invited to a New Year’s eve party, but didn’t attend.  You can’t sleep in the Philippines on New Year’s eve unless you are deaf.  Firecrackers, motorcycles, banging pot lids, anything to make noise.  And a new one on me, chainsaws.  Revved up with no muffler, a perfect way to wake everyone up.  Of course we were awake.  The party we were invited to was after midnight and neither of us wanted to get up, even after the people sent someone to remind us.  They didn’t hold it against us and in the morning, this showed up.

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Most of the front shoulder of a pig, roasted the night before and still warm.  Plus the bread.   Nothing else for it.  I sliced it all up, ending with about 10lbs of excellent, tender pork.  We gave the bone and about 2lbs. to our next door neighbor along with a bunch of the skin.  Then, I fired up the charcoal grill and finished cooking the rest as it was a little under done.

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Plus a couple pieces of beef that was given to use that morning.   If we had a freezer, this is about a week’s worth of meat, maybe more.  We’ll have to give more away.  We gave a couple more pounds to other neighbors around us with more of the skin.  The skin is a delicacy around here.  I know where that skin has been laying so I’m not interested.  I’m sure it won’t hurt me, but I just can’t bring myself to eat it.

Noon time and another party for us to attend.  This one was easier as it was during the day.  Us old fogies have to get our sleep, you know.  We had someone show us off  to the party.

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A very brave little skink, the locals call it manananglaw.  It was sitting on our gardening trowel next to our stove and didn’t move a muscle when Praxy walked by.  Weird as most lizards around here flee at the slightest disturbance or movement towards them.  I was able to get my camera and get a couple of good shots of it staring me down.  I firmly believe I could have reached down and grabbed it, 40 years ago I’d have done just that.  It’s big enough that it would have defended itself by biting.  While uncomfortable, this guy wasn’t big enough to do any real harm with a bite.  Body length of about six inches with about another five of tail.  I now don’t pester wild things like this, just get pictures.

A couple of weeks ago, I rescued one of these out of a bucket.  We had captured a snail thingy called a ganga and I put a couple of inches of water in the bucket to keep it over night and hope it might expel sand.  It crawled out, the neighbors got a laugh out of that.  We never saw it again.  Anyway, I left the bucket when we went to town.  Upon arriving home I looked in the bucket and a small manananglaw was in the bucket with just it’s head out of the water.  Another inch of water and it would have been a goner and I would have been bummed out at my thoughtlessness.  I reached in and grabbed it out, it didn’t struggle a bit.  Glad to be out of there!  I relaxed my grip to look at it more carefully and it shot off my hand in a panic and it was aimed at our open front door.  I herded it out the front door and I haven’t seen it since.  The pictured one was much larger, maybe twice the size.

The ganga snails are a delicacy around here.  Everyone that saw it mentioned “good eating” and I was totally looking forward to giving it a try.  They have spikes on their shells and are good at climbing, especially climbing out of buckets.  It takes a strong lid to hold one in.  Praxy used to know this but had forgotten over the years.

Its two hundred and fifty yards to the ocean from our house as the crow flies.  I wonder if the ganga made it home?

Ah well, on to the party and lunch.

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Another picture of Pilar in Asgad.  I mentioned her four years ago in an earlier blog entry.  She is now ninety one, and still pretty perky.  No one could remember the name of the lizard but her.  Her daughter is on the right.  Pilar doesn’t drink much hard liquor any more, so I bought her a bottle of Red Horse beer.   She really enjoyed sharing a beer with me.  I enjoyed sharing one with her.  Another good memory.

The water rose about four feet into this house, destroying cabinets, furniture, and the television set.  Five families cowered on the stairs and tables during Yolanda.

Speaking of memories, the town mascot has a new home.

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This buoy came ashore from the Pacific ocean before Pilar was born, perhaps in the nineteen teens or nineteen twenties.  It’s now just inland of the destroyed Catholic church in Viejo Asgad.  The tip is buried and large pieces of church rubble make it a sort of monument.  It’s old location?  Well…

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This is all beach now.  Our old house (behind the buoy), the tennis court, trees, gone.  Long gone.   Sand and a bits of rubble.  Buoy now fifty yards inland.  We compared some pictures, the ocean’s edge is now 150 yards further out and the beach is lower.  Maybe over the next hundred years or so, the Pacific will deposit replacement sand and build the beach back up.

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One last picture from 2011.  The edge of the new beach is even with the old foundation of the church.  The church has been bulldozed into a breakwater for the town.  Ugh.  A break-water, chairs around the buoy, and paver stones.  Ignominious memorials to a once beautiful church. 

2:30pm  1/2/2016  Asgad, Eastern Samar, Philippines

Posted in 2015 Philppines, otro vez | Leave a comment