Why I haven’t given up yet!! (Between countries)
Day 2,136 since October 10th 2013: 186 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home and min 24 hrs in each country
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross).
Rewind and repeat
Ah yes! The Saga is somewhat repetitive sometimes. But keep in mind that new people join the blog all the time and not everyone knows the full story as some of you do. So before I describe a little about life on Siquijor and the logistical “challenge” of leaving the Philippines here’s a little about why I have not given up and gone home so far.
It has been five years and ten long months since I last saw my home country. In between I have been to 186 countries completely without flying.
There are many reasons to complete this project which we call Once Upon A Saga. However the last one I will mention is perhaps the most important!
Nobody has ever reached every single country in an unbroken journey completely without flying. So this project pushes the limits for mankind.
The Danish Red Cross gave me the honor of traveling as a Goodwill Ambassador and within that capacity I have paid a visit to the movement in 182 countries along my way. As such I have listened, learned and found a way to promote the humanitarian actions through the channels I have available.
There is in my opinion a disproportionate imbalance between perception and reality when it comes to how most people view the world and the countries we have created within it. I aim to promote every country as if it was the best in the world and shine some light on the good well-meaning people of which there are most.
Finally; the difference between quitting or completing this Saga is ultimately:
The difference between showing people that hard work pays off if you want to reach a goal in life...or to say that giving up is okay.
Kagasua Beach is beautiful but a billionaire from Manila has bought the access way to get there and made it private.
And that’s all I have to say about that (for now anyway). Let’s head to the tropical island paradise of Siquijor among its 7,640 friends which make up the Philippines. Because there I was…at the very first hostel which came to life on the island. Today there are many. But it all began with JJ Backpackers and it is quite a place. John and Jiesa Stanton run it as a lifestyle project and not out of necessity. John used to be a somewhat high profile photographer and would generally make more in a day than the hostel makes in a year. A large part of the body of his work is portrayed on the wall of the beach bar. See if you can think of an A-list celebrity John has not photographed!! Maybe you can but you would have to work hard to think of one. The amount of celebrities he has worked with is crazy. However most of his work took place some 15-20 years ago so you will get to see a really young Chris Hemsworth, a super young Scarlett Johansson, Will Smith and about a million others. Quite impressive. John is Aussie and speaks with a thick accent which for me adds to the stay. His wife Jiesa is from the Philippines and super cool and helpful. It has been fun to look through the comment section of JJ Backpackers as it appears that you either hate or love the place. I thought it was great!! It has some flavour and attitude which separates it from any other place.
I went scuba diving. I'm technically Padi Open Water Advanced. However I have not dived for many years. It wasn't successful. My left ear could not equalize and I did not go below 5m (16ft). Nice dive school though (Sea Pearl Divers).
Ordered a burger with "the works". They meant business.
What else do you watch when you are "stuck" on an island.
I was recommended to visit Siquijor by a local from the island which I met in Manila. I met Jedo on Z Hostels rooftop before things went wrong with the Manila – Zamboanga ferry. If you are lost and have no idea about what I’m on about here then I suggest going three to four blogs back and starting there. The Philippines, as wonderful and friendly as it is, has been “quite a ride” when it comes to logistics (without flying). The short version is that the weekly ferry from Manila to Zamboanga misses the weekly ferry from Zamboanga to Sandakan (Malaysia) by a day! Every week!! Who the heck thought that was a good idea when they planned it out? Well, there was a chance the ferry from Zamboanga would leave two days later last week and that I could make it. But it didn’t. And it is ill advised for a foreigner to linger around for too long in Zamboanga (read previous blogs). So I needed to park myself somewhere safe for a week. That became Siquijor. Drew Binsky (famed YouTuber) wrote me that Siquijor is his favorite island in the world! It is a good bet! Mine is however probably Principe although as a patriot I might go with Fyn, on which I was born. Jedo also suggested JJ Backpackers too me and for that I am grateful.
Some Danes set up The Danish Lagoon on Siquijor with a HC Andersen theme. They even have a full size little mermaid on a rock by the seaside.
The mandatory entry photo before heading into the cave. I've lost count of how many caves I've been inside.
Catabon Cave was quite nice though and the guides were super sweet. I had two guides who both studies criminology and works weekends.
I'm VERY happy with my new Salomon shoes which I tested hardcore in the cave!! 800 m (2,625 ft) in and out. My shoes were dry a few hours later. #TimeToPlay
I had my last can of Faaborg leverpostej (sort of like liver pate) while my Salomon shoes and socks dried :)
Interestingly the Saga went "mini-viral" in Brunei all of a sudden. I traced it back to this post which you can find by clicking on the image. It is not the amount of likes which is interesting but the amount of shares: 270!! Brunei is home to less than 500,000 beating hearts. Welcome everyone new! :)
People say all sorts of stuff about Siquijor. Some say they have powerful witch-doctors, some say the island is haunted, some say it is magical and the overall story is that it appeared during a strong storm long ago. I don’t know enough to confirm any of that…I mean…I didn’t see any unicorns either. However there are many things to do on the island and lots to see. I rented a scooter for the week and blasted around “Born To Be Wild” style.
A magical sunset on my last night on Siquijor.
Getting away was something else. The ferry which leaves Zamboanga every Monday (except when it doesn’t) was scheduled to leave Zamboanga Tuesday this week as Monday was a holiday. So I figured I would stick around on Siquijor until Monday morning, take the ferry across to Dumaguete, catch another ferry from there to Dapitan and reach Zamboanga by bus by Tuesday morning. What could go wrong? Fun fact: I have been with ELEVEN ferries within the Philippines. Anyway, I got up early, crossed Siquijor and caught the ferry to Dumaguete, where I had been just a week before (the ferry from Manila to Zamboanga made a stop in Dumaguete). Then I proceeded to the ticket window and learned that the 2pm ferry to Dapitan had been cancelled. The next one was at 6pm. It takes about three hours to sail from Dumaguete to Dapitan so now I would definitely arrive long after dark. But furthermore I had to wonder if I could find a bus to Zamboanga that late and if so what time it would arrive? I had been told to be at Zamboanga at 06:00am for immigration and that the ferry would leave at midday. I asked a security guard in Dumaguete what the reason for the cancellation was? His answer could give me a clue to if the 6pm ferry was likely to be cancelled as well. The security guard replied” the 2pm was super delayed”. Aha?! So I wonder how they grade delays around Dumaguete: delayed, really delayed, super delayed, insanely delayed…?
I got the 6pm ticket, waited it out at a café where I got a lot of work done and then boarded the ferry which left around 6:40pm (sort of delayed?) It took a while to cross and it was almost 11pm before I could disembark the ferry. Why is all of this even important? Well as some of you might be able to judge by the length of my beard it won’t be long before my wonderful fiancée will pay me another visit. Do you have any idea how mad it is to try to plan out a place where we can meet up? Because she needs flight tickets and has a life we need to coordinate her arrival some time in advance. But how the heck do you do that in a project like this? She is due to visit me in Kupang (Timor, Indonesia) on August 24th. The ferry from Nunukan (Indonesia, Borneo) leaves on August 20th and reaches Kupang on the 23rd. So far so good. But if I was to miss the weekly ferry between Zamboanga and Sandakan (Malaysia, Borneo) then I would miss the biweekly ferry from Nunakan to Kupang. So what did the 2pm cancellation mean within all of this? You could say that I should have left more air in the program, which I would ordinarily have done. However keep in mind that it is ill advised for foreigners to spend time in Zamboanga so I had to limit my time there. Few will ever understand the complicated logistics which goes into pulling this project off. However it worked out. Because as I disembarked the ferry in Dapitan I immediately spotted a bus marked “Zamboanga” and raced over to say hello. The steward bid me welcome on board and I pretty much got the only available seat. We were due in Zamboanga at 05:00am.
We actually arrived around 05:00am. I did not get much sleep on that bus. Perhaps a few hours. A taxi then got me to the port and security at the gate could tell me that immigration wasn’t due until 07:00am. Oh…I almost forgot to tell you…my return ticket did not have a fixed date. So the day before taking the ferry to Siquijor I visited Aleson Shipping’s office in Dumaguete to confirm my ticket. That was however a big ordeal for their office and at first they referred me to get it confirmed in Zamboanga?!? However after pushing the office ladies for a while one of the finally called their office in Zamboanga (the patent for the telephone was given in 1876) and kind of confirmed that I would be onboard. I was however still advised to go to the office in Zamboanga although it was now confirmed? No worries…I was in good time and at the port I met Kevin who’s a Frenchman on a bicycle. He has covered 20,000km (12,427mi) across fifteen countries with his bicycle. Kevin looked out for my bags as I approached the Aleson office which opened at 07:30am. Meanwhile the gate security had informed that immigration wouldn’t actually arrive until 07:30am. I got my ticket at Aleson Shipping and immigration did not actually begin processing passengers until 07:47. Then there was a lot of “hurry up and wait” and we did not board the ferry until 11:58am. Kevin and I had long since become friends.
The bus from immigration to the ferry.
We eventually left Zamboanga and I fell asleep. When I woke up around 6pm we had barely left Zamboanga however we were at sea. Kevin told me that we had some engine trouble. Ah – great. However I was now onboard and there was plenty of “air” in the program once we would reached Sandakan on Borneo (Malaysia). The ferry was due to arrive august 14th and it should take less than a day to reach Nunakan from where the biweekly ferry is set to depart on August 20th. That is by the way a Pelni ferry!! Pelni is a friend of the Saga and helped us get from Jakarta to Pontianak last month. The Aleson ferry eventually left and we sailed into the night. The next day we reached Sandakan around 2pm but had to lay at anchor as there was no berth for us at the port. Don’t mind us…we are just some 3-400 passengers. We can wait. Around 6pm we were making our way into the port but now we had issues with low tide. Albeit it all worked out and we came along side. Then it took another few hours before they allowed us to disembark. The rain was pouring down outside and the sun had long since set. When I finally got off the ferry I had to queue for the harbour bus to take me to immigration. Kevin could just ride his bicycle. The harbour bus was not free so Kevin saved a bit there. At around 9pm I was finally back in Malaysia with a stamp in my passport and at 10pm I was back at the hostel I had stayed at prior to heading to the Philippines. What a ride!!
I am genuinely SUPER HAPPY about everything Salomon sent me!! The pants are just perfect!! Lightweight material and zippers on all pockets! Great! And they fit me well. The socks are good too: not to thin and not to thick. And my new shoes were more than welcome as the old ones had been resown and had holes. The Saga is TOUGH on everything! Mind, body, soul and equipment. Cheers Salomon! #TimeToPlay
Okay, so we are good on time now. I need to get from Sandakan to Tawau (Malaysia) and take the ferry from there to Nunakan (Indonesia). The bus between Sandakan and Tawau takes about six hours so we are fine. However I do want to get there ASAP and set up base…near the ferry terminal…just in case. Yesterday I did however decide to get up and out the door at 07:00am hoping to reach the Orang Utan rehabilitation center at Sepilok near Sandakan. It is a world famous center and I did not have time during my last stay in the region. I went but it is “fruit season” so it is not hard for the apes to find food and none of them appeared at the feeding platform. The feeding began at 10:00am and the center closed at noon to reopen at 2pm. But I was out of time because I wanted to reach Tawau with an afternoon bus. Before leaving the center I did catch a glimpse of a young Orang Utan in a treetop far away. It was observing those of us at the viewing platform and then left unimpressed. For me the visit was quite unsuccessful however one could argue that it was highly successful. It is a rehabilitation center and the point is to rehabilitate the apes back into nature. So when they do not appear at the feeding platform then it is a good indication of a successful rehabilitation of the Orang Utans as they can find their own food. Still…it would have been nice to see them though.
Orang Utan feeding platform.
I left on my way to the main road hoping to catch a bus from there back to Sandakan. I was fortunate that a bus arrived almost immediately and I hopped onboard. Unfortunately this was the SLOWEST bus I have come across throughout the entire Saga!!! And saying that goes a long way!! Or top speed on a near empty road was 35kph (22mph). Ridiculous! However I made it back and decided that I wanted to cheer myself up with a nice laksa soup at a great café I know in Sandakan. And the soup was good! But while I was eating it the last bus towards Tawau for the day left (2pm). I did not know that though. I finished my soup, headed over to the hostel and collected by bags, walked over to the bus terminal and learned the hard facts. It was 35 degrees Celsius (95 F) with a humidity of 93%. It was 2:18pm. Why the heck is everything always late around here until you need them to be? The bus had left…no worries…another night in Sandakan. Fortunately there is time in the program…
We will reach the next new country by the end of this month. It is about 3,100 km (1,920 mi) away…but we are not flying. Let’s keep on keeping on ;)
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - looking forward to shave.
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga