Part 22: Our Last Week
We had a great week in Banga with wonderful participants and ended with celebrating and feasting at their graduation. The Aqua Vista Resort where we stayed, was a welcome oasis for us to relax and enjoying cooling off in the pools.
On Friday morning we drove to General Santos City (Gen San), the tuna capital of the world through which 650 tons of yellow fin tuna passes daily. Of course everyone wanted to see this though I wasn’t at all eager. Upon our arrival at the pier, we were given rubber boots and good thing. As we walked to the area, unpleasant smells assaulted me and though I tried to cover my nose, it was to no avail. It was a massive area and the concrete floors were covered with water and evidence of blood everywhere. We watched the fishermen haul 150 lb tuna on their shoulders from the boat, across a plank to the shore where the tuna was then weighed and assigned a place. It was quite an operation and there must have been hundreds and possibly thousands of tuna as far as the eye could see.
Sadly, I was the only one in our party squeamish from the gory sights and smells. From there we visited the fish market where all kinds of seafood such as crab, clams, octopus, squid, and a great variety of fish were being sorted and sold. It was to my relief when we finally left there.
On Saturday we flew to Manila then on to Coron where we would rest and relax now that the two weeks of training were over. Our drive from the airport was on good road with very little traffic on mountainous roads with switchbacks, lush vegetation, a variety of trees and again the beautiful shades of green everywhere we looked. Arriving at our hotel, Coron Westown Resort, we settled into our spacious rooms, enjoyed a swim then headed to the town for dinner.
On Sunday morning we enjoyed a time of worship together and afterwards headed to the town starting with the pier from which our boat excursions would leave, then to the open market where we’d buy our food for our day trips. From there we made our way to the main area browsing in the stores as we went. In the afternoon we rented three scooters and the six of us headed to Concepcion Falls, about an hours ride away, enjoying the beautiful scenery of mountains, islands and sea with an occasional village as we rode. We parked the scooters, only too happy to get off our sore bums and stretch our legs, and started on our walk to the falls having no idea what lay ahead. We found ourselves surrounded in a beautiful, rain forest jungle, on a rocky dirt path filled with potholes and obstacles, steep declines and wondering if I would be able to make it, but with help I did and we arrived at the teal coloured lagoon with the falls gushing into it thankful to be able to cool my hot, sweaty body in the very refreshing water. We watched as young people jumped from the cliffs surrounding us and two in our party were crazy enough to do the same! After being refreshed it was time to head back only to discover that there were steps hewn into the rock which we could take which would have made our walk in a great deal easier. It was time to ride back and enjoy a relaxing evening of swimming and eating at our hotel.
Bright and early Monday morning we headed to the pier and market once again to purchase food for our lunch which would be cooked on the bangka (boat) by one of the crew. Just getting on the bangka was an interesting experience as we scooted down the steep concrete incline towards the bow of the bangka and somehow got on to the bow and made our way to the seats. A day of exploring lay ahead. Our first stop was a group of seven islands where the guys snorkelled and I swam in the crystal clear water. Everywhere we went we could see mountainous, heavily-forested islands or islands of mountainous volcanic-like rock reaching for the sky.
After docking at another island, we started our climb up 367 steps through a jungle but thankfully these were concrete steps even though uneven and very steep but at least it was solid and we were rewarded with the most breathtaking view. The colours and the topography were something never seen before.
We could have stayed there longer but there was yet another place to go, so climbing down more steps, we found ourselves in a very large, beautiful teal and aquamarine lagoon, surrounded by the towering volcanic-like rock and jungle. Another breathtaking spot to enjoy and this time we were able to enjoy a very refreshing swim in the crystal clear water. After a lovely swim and enjoying the incredible scenery surrounding us, we made our way back to the boat where we were able to enjoy a delicious drink of coconut water and then enjoy the jelly in the coconut. From there we made our way to the twin lagoons where we docked and swam again, surrounded with the volcanic-like rock. After all the swimming and climbing we were all famished so we headed to a sandy beach island where we sat under a picnic area and our boat crew who had cooked our meal, brought barbecued chicken, pork, fish, veggies, rice, mangoes, watermelon and drinks, a feast fit for a king and starving people made all the tastier with the beautiful view we enjoyed looking out to sea. After devouring our lunch we walked on the beach and though a lovely sandy area there were stones and seaweed in the water as well as the water feeling like a warm bath, making swimming there undesirable so from there we headed to another island that had a beautiful beach and crystal clear water to enjoy. By this time I was more than ready for a nap so promptly lay my towel on the sand and enjoyed a nap while the guys snorkelled and the gals napped. Feeling refreshed after this, it was time to enjoy the crystal clear aquamarine water before returning to the pier. It had been a very full day and incredibly enjoyable with breathtaking scenery, great swimming, delicious food and great company. As I was experiencing the various areas we visited, I couldn’t help but think that this was a trip of a lifetime!
Back on land we were exhausted but thankful for a swim and dinner at our hotel and an early night. Another full day awaited us on the morrow.