Travels of a Kinnie travel blog


Welcome to the jungle

The crosses with the rusty viewing tower just to the nright

Looking down at the winding road back to the sea

Bored of haggling with tricycle drivers, decide to hire a motorbike for the day to explore a bit of Siquijor, an island believed by Filipinos to be the abode of witches. After a bit of a nervy start, soon get the hang of the very simple gears (just tap up or down and no clutch) and in no time I'm bombing round like a pro. See a turn off down a dirt track to a monastery (though it turns out to be a nunnery) and getting there, with it's concrete walls and aura of silence, it didn't look like it welcomed visitors. I want to go in but I'm not really dressed for it in my sleeveless top, shorts and flipflops or maybe I'm just too scared. On the wall, a sign next to a metre high wooden revolving door states to ring the bell three times and sit down and wait for the sister to come. While I looked at my map, a local woman with some scales and a bucket came and rang, and I waited in the hope that I might catch a glimpse of one of the inhabitants or maybe use her to tailgate my way in. 15 minutes later she's still there, now joined by an elderly lady in an astonishing bright green skirt suit wanting to deliver a letter. Finally a bespectacled Filipino nun arrives, takes the letter through the small revolving door, and then opens the steel door to bless three kids and take a few things from the bucket. And that's it, so off I roar again on my 100cc chopper, through paddy fields crisscrossed with wires decked with streamers to scare off the birds. Lunch at the posh Coconut Grove in San Juan, my table almost on the beach, looking out to Negros with it's narrow garland of cloud, sucking down a chocolate and banana shake, looking around at how the other half live, only because of the disparity of wealth, this meal, with drink and dessert, costs me €7, including a decent tip.

Feeling a bit bored of the beach road, I make my way inland to the highest point in the island, Bandila-an, up and up on a steadily deteriorating road with more and more jungle, until suddenly the trees form a tunnel and I'm in the womb of the jungle, into the Heart of Darkness. This feels much more like a Siquijor where sorcery lives, and in fact Richie and Romain consulted a witch doctor yesterday, and got a couple of amulets and a bottle of all-healing elixir. Half tempted to try and find one myself, but then remember just in time that it's all bollocks.

A small sign in the jungle points the way up to a shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes, so I follow some concrete steps strewn with dead leaves, past red crosses inset with mildewed glass vignettes of the Passion. Carry on past the small shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes, a stamp of Christianity on this island of magic to the apex of the mountain, crowned with three large crosses and a rusty viewing tower. From the top of the tower there is too much foliage for a good view, and I'm only able to catch a tantalising glimpse of the north east tip of the island. Gingerly make my way down, some of the struts almost eaten through with rust, and then take a turn off to 'Baletes view', at some points having to breaststroke my way through long jungle creepers reaching down. Jungle sounds so cliché it feels like someone is playing a tape haunt the air until the path splits with one end leading nowhere whilst the other ends back on the road. At this point, I'm bored of using my legs so head back to the bike, and find out later that Baletes wasn't actually a person, but an enchanted tree, the same tree in fact that had the creepers coming down, and I, the blundering tourist that I am, walked right by it.

The road down is wonderful, through hills that look like they're covered in baize, and not wanting to have my ears filled with engine noise, slip it into neutral for most of the way and cruise down, winging my way down to the main highway, and back to Kiwis for a beer or two

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