It’s been a while since our last couple of posts about Malapascua. Apologies! We’ve been on the move, enjoying the magic of Southeast Asia or in places without reliable internet. We are now in Bali, Indonesia. Over the next few days we’ll have a few posts coming to fill you in on all that weve done and where we’ve been over the past few weeks. This post focuses on the rest of our time in the Phillipines.
After realizing the limitations of island travel we decided that surfing, an activity easily enjoyed in short doses, could be a good option for traveling with babe. A quick internet search led us to the town of Baler, Aurora, a small town with great surf on the pacific coast of Luzon.
So… off we went! Over three days of travel in boats, taxis, trikes, airplanes and busses, we wound our way from Malapusca to Baler.
The travel to Manilla went well. The travel from Manilla was hard. We had we had two options to get to Baler: 1) The highly reccomeded Joybus, that left hourly between 12am and 4:30am. We thought the timing was dangerous and potentially disastrous to attempt with baby. 2) The rarely discussed, local, daytime Baliwag bus.
We opted for the ‘safer’ option of daytime travel. It was absolutely the wrong choice. Rather than 4-5 hours of overnight travel, our trip took a total of 28 hours! It included 8 gruelling hours of stop-and-go purgatory, a night in a windowless hotel that charged by the hour, and a rocky morning of travel through a mountain pass that can only be compared to riding a wooden roller coaster… for hours. This was unpleasant with a baby and especially while attempting to breastfeed. Our eventual return to Manilla was via the aptly named Joybus.
But we made it! And after a few hours of searching and haggling we found acceptable accommodations at Smart Beach House on the beautiful Sabang beach. This epicly long stretch of sand is sandwiched between two mountain ranges and faces the Pacific head-on, turning large swells into excellent surf. We settled in for 10 days of lounging around and catching waves.
Baler is the birthplace of surfing the Philippines. After filming Apocalypse Now in 1979 the crew left their surf boards for the locals. Since then a strong surf culture has developed and the town has evolved into a local tourist destination. On weekends Baler exploded with weekend holidayers from Manilla. International tourists, however were a rare sight. As a result, much of the infrastructure catered to Philipino tastes and preferences. For example the streets were overrun with trikes available for hire (motorbikes with enclosed sidecars), but car taxis were almost non-existent. While we saw many locals of all ages happily piled on the trikes, we did not feel entirely comfortable riding with Finlay.
This meant our feet took us most places. Walking was lovely along the windy beach but hot elsewhere, and a bit sketchy due to the uncontrolled traffic and absent sidewalks typical of Southeast Asia. Fortunately most of our time was spent at the hotel, in the ocean, out along the seawall watching the waves and sunset, and cheering on brave surfers when conditions were fierce. Some were only 8 years old!
The locals were the best around, hands down. At high tide, when the surf was at its most aggressive, hundreds turned out to watch the spectacular performance of skill and grit. And, of course, the wipeouts! Most attempts to catch a wave end this way, even the successful ones…
Surfing turned out to be a reasonable activity to do with baby, especially with our beach-front location. One of us would surf while the other would supervise, hanging out with Finn in a covered area right by the water. We would switch up when we were tired of getting rocked by waves, or when Finn needed a feed. Although it worked fairly well, Finn was not usually impressed with her salty, sandy, post-surf snack.
Despite the post-surf feeding fusses, Finlay really seemed to enjoy her time in Baler.
As usual Finlay was the most popular person around, garnering attention from almost everyone we met. Foreigners were often surprised to see us with someone so young, and eager to learn about our experience. Locals were excited to see her, usually beaming at the sight of us. They regularly engaged directly with Finlay and often offered to hold her.
Finn simply enjoyed the slow pace, regular schedule, ocean breeze, and calming whitenoise of waves day and night. During our time in Baler she even started to laugh out loud. LOL!?!