Tuesday, June 25, 2013

On the Road to Whale Sharks

We got a flat tire. In the middle of no where. In a third world country. Most people would panic and trust me, I had my times that I wanted to, but thank goodness the people in the Philippines are some of the nicest I've ever met. Oh! And most speak perfect English. I'm pretty sure my 'almost' freak out would have most definitely turned into a full blown freak out if we were in a country where we didn't speak the same language. Just another one of those times that are truly unpredictable in traveling and you have no option but to sit back, laugh, and wait as your tire gets fixed.
broken down motorbike moalboal philippines
So first things first. Let's start from the beginning. We woke up at the crack of dawn...ok, it was more like 6am but I'm pretty sure on vacation that can be considered before the crack of dawn. We woke up to the sound of pouring down rain on our little bungalow and immediately felt our hearts sink. Our plan for the day was to take our rented motorbike on the two hour trip to the town of Oslob where whale sharks can be seen daily. 

We would have been just fine waiting until the rain passed but the whale sharks usually leave the area around 11am. We were on a deadline. We were told that if we didn't leave by 7am there was a chance we wouldn't make it in time. As we looked out the window at the rain clouds that surrounded our hotel, we knew that it was now or never. 

We gathered enough determination and decided that despite the rain, we would head out anyway, through the pouring rain and onto the whale sharks. Might I add that this is probably making it seem like we were a whole lot more upbeat than we were. I believe our exact words were along the lines of 'screw the rain, let's go see the whale sharks'. 

Thankfully by the time we headed out at 7, the rain had cleared up. We went about twenty minutes out of Moalboal and were making our way through the countryside, dotted with modest wooden and concrete homes. I remember thinking how amazing this was and even with the rain, everything was working out perfectly. Tip: don't ever think that because the minute you do, your motorbike will begin to swerve and slow down and you will find out you have a very.flat.tire. At least that's what happened to us.
We rolled to a stop in front of a large wooden box of a house. No windows, no lights inside, this is what was common to see in the countryside of the Philippines. A friendly couple inside must have seen us and directed that there was a bike shop about a kilometer down the road. Well since the bike wouldn't drive, especially with two people on it, I hopped off and told hubs to go on ahead and I would catch up on foot. I know, I should have been more worried and hubs gave me several nervous looks before I finally convinced him and he slowly rode off. But it's hard to be worried or nervous when every person I encountered is so genuinely nice. I had several people stopping what they were doing to say hello and ask me if I was ok. Once I told them I got a flat tire, they nodded knowingly and pointed down the road. They must have seen hubs pass by just minutes before. When I finally arrived at the infamous bike shop, I saw five guys huddled around our bike staring at the gaping hole in the tube. Finally, the owner of the shop nodded his head and told us no problem, he'll have it fixed shortly.
I was relieved but apprehensive as I watched our mechanic use technics that haven't been seen in the states in decades if not longer. When he finally finished, and went to fill the tube with air, we were met with another disappointment. That hole was fixed, but there were five more that he hadn't seen before. He shook his head and set it down. We would have to go to the next town over and buy a new tire. By now I was getting really anxious as it was nearing eight o'clock and we had hardly begun our two hour journey. Hubs jumped on the back of a workers motorbike and I sat at the shop playing an unofficial game of peek-a-boo with the shy little girls in the shop next door. As one point, I prayed 'Why don't you want us to see the whale sharks God?!' It seemed like the trip just wan't going to work out. After checking at two different stores, hubs finally found the last tube available and returned looking triumphant. Things were finally starting to turn around. He quickly installed the new tube but the most important question was still to be answered. How much? We were obviously tourist and in a country that blatantly posts two different prices for locals and tourists, we were expecting the worst. 
The owner looked down, thinking of what to tell us, then talked with his shop mates to confirm. The total cost for his labor? 50 pesos or $1.25. As a traveler and tourist, these are the times when you double or triple the asking price without question. The total bill for labor, a new tube and paying the young man who drove to get the new tube was 280 pesos or $6.50.
broken down motorbike moalboal philippines
In our short time in the Philippines, I was amazed not only by the prices, not only by the genuine friendliness that you encounter, but also by the simple way of life. It's a humbling experience to see how others live and to see a young man's face light up when you give him the equivalence of a dollar for driving you a short distance. It is these experiences and realizations that I cherish from our trips abroad.
Linking up with Rolled Up Pretty and Shanna