Day 2 : Catanduanes to Donsol, Sorsogon
We had to wake up early that morning to catch the first jeepney going from Virac to San Andres. Then the ferry from San Andres to Tabaco, Albay at 8:30am. We had our coffee at one of the carinderias at the pier while waiting for boarding. It was actually my first time to ride a ferry in the Philippines and I was quite curious how it would be like. The 3-hour ride must be fun.
It was a fine day, the sky was blue, but the beautiful Mount Mayon was teasing us, hiding behind the clouds. I was contemplating on a picture format - clear blue water with Mt Mayon at the background. But all I got was this - a big ship and a hardly recognizable Mt Mayon at the background.
Frenchguy was equally impatient to see the cone. He was insisting that Mt Fuji is more perfect than Mt Mayon (he by the way saw Mt Fuji behind the clouds - may balat yata to sa p*wet!) and though I never saw Mt Fuji, I was trying to defend Mt Mayon's reputation, lol.
From Tabaco to Legaspi, Frenchguy was focusing on the volcano but the clouds were really thick at that time, we can hardly get a glimpse of the tip. But once he saw the tip, he suddenly fell in love, he forgot how uncomfortable it was inside the van. He never quitted it with his eyes so I started to remind him that the volcano erupted barely two months ago and alert level was probably still up. I think he wasn't listening to me. He was there, admiring the beauty of Mt Mayon.
It was lunch time when we arrived at the van terminal so we reserved our place in the van going to Donsol and hurried at the nearest carinderia. Legaspi to Donsol was around 45 minutes ride at P65/person.
Arriving in Donsol, we headed at once at the Tourist Information Center for the registration. Registration fee was P100 for locals and P300 for foreigners. Snorkel and fins rental was p300/day. Boat rental with guide for the Butanding encounter was P3500, generally shared by 6 visitors. And at that time, there were no problem searching for other visitors to share the fee. I was quite surprised by the number of tourist in that area. I thought it was low season.. but then, it was also Chinese New Year and winter vacation in Europe.
After gathering all necessary information about the Butanding encounter, it was time to find a resting place for us. Most of the resorts near the Tourist Information Center had no available rooms anymore but we were still lucky to find one in Casa Bianca. The rooms were not really extraordinary but I don't intend to stay inside the room during my stay there so i didn't really care.
After a quick shower, we continued walking along the beach to wait for sunset. The beach wasn't really inviting so we contented ourselves with a glass of halo-halo in a nearby resort.
At 7pm, we decided we'd end the day with a firefly watch at the river. Frenchguy and I were engaged in an uncensored close-to-horny conversation while waiting for the start of the visit when we realized that the Filipino family near us could understand French! Yay! And since the youngest was currently learning French, we finally decided it would be great if we share the same bangka with them.
The firefly watch wasn't really spectacular but it was a good way to while away our time before dinner. We had our dinner at Baracuda Bar and it was G R E A T (must try!) - ambiance, food and of course it's infront of the beach!
Day 3 - Butanding Encounter - Back to Legaspi
We arrived at 7am at the Tourist Information Center. There were already a lot of people waiting to be registered but luckily (that's the advantage of being a Filipina), a guide approached me to propose his boat because he lacked 2 more people to complete it. He then did all the registration in no time and off we went before the other tourists were even registered.
The guide explained to us all that was needed to know while we were on our way to the whaleshark watchpoint. There were already few boats roaming around the area when we arrived. We started to clean our snorkel, fit the fins and prepare the camera when suddenly, the guide asked us to get ready. When he shouted GO, we got off the boat one after the other. I couldn't find Frenchguy anymore, selfish little b*stard. He knew that swimming was not my strongest point. When I submerged my head under the water, the Butanding was there just infront of me, swimming on my direction. I swear, I was there, paralyzed, not knowing how to react (I even forgot how to use my cam!). We were warned to keep at least a 2-meter distance but the Butanding seemed to be too close I could almost touch it.
When it finally passed my way, I started to swim in its direction (with I don't know how much pair of snorkels and fins around!). It was approximately 5 minutes of overwhelming experience before the Butanding decided to swim deeper.
The experience was awesome. We did 6 encounters in 3 hours and saw 4 different Butandings ranging from 6-10 meters long.
We met 3 other Frenchies staying in the same hotel as us. Conversation was of course focused on Butanding and what activity should we do next. Everybody voted for a cockfight session but unfortunately, it was quite too late so we finally packed our stuffs and agreed to start heading back to Legaspi.
Arriving at the terminal, we learned that there was no more van travelling to Legaspi so we were obliged to take the jeepney instead. Countryside viewing is much more fun of course if you travel up the jeepney!
Since Frenchguy and I, the adventurous and well-organized backpackers, had no hotel reservation, we just followed the 3 Frenchies with their Lonely Planet guide. Arriving at the hotel, I asked the receptionist if they're organizing a trek to Mount Mayon the next day (it was Sunday, Tourist Information Center was closed). She called up an accredited guide and in no time, the fees were fixed and we were told to sleep early as the climb would start at 4:30am!
We haven't even digested the aftershock of the whaleshark encounter and here we are again, getting excited to the idea of hiking Mount Mayon.
Next: Day 4 - Mount Mayon Trek