Thursday, October 6, 2011

Operation Solo Flight Day 1 (Part 2): Roadtrip to Hinatuan

The roadtrip
From the terminal in Butuan, I rode a Bachelor deluxe bus  (which means non-aircon. There is really no other choice :P) to Hinatuan. It was past 1 pm by then, and from what I heard the trip is going to take about 4 hours so I was confident there'd still be enough daylight to comfortably look for CJ Hometel, where I'd be spending the next 2 days. I spent 20 minutes fending off sunglasses vendors while the bus waited for more passengers. Why are there so many sunglasses peddler in southern bus stations? XD

Finally, the bus edged out of the station and into the highway, and the four hour roadtrip commenced. The passing countryside was a refreshing view-- I spent the first hour just staring out the window, drinking in the serenity of it all. Tall, towering trees. Hectares and hectares of farm land. Houses of people living near the hi-way. More plants. More trees. And even more farm lands. Some houses.

There were a lot of stop-overs in this trip. I tried remembering each one, but gave up. Haha. My memory is never reliable. Some of the towns I remember passing by were Carmen, Prospreridad, Barobo... and no more. Sorry. XD But Barobo's the stop before Hinatuan, if I remember correctly. I remember wishing I had a map with me, as I was worried that the conductor had forgotten he was supposed to inform me if it was time for me to get off. Actually, part of my relentless viewing of the scenery was to catch any hint if I was already beyond my destination. Haha.

But after the first hour or so, my eyes felt strained and so I turned to look inside the bus and at my seatmate, who was an elderly lady. She smiled at me and I smiled back, and from my experience in the south, that was always how conversations start. Asa ka, day?, she asked. I told her I was going to Hinatuan. Alone? She asked further. I sheepishly said yes. She paused as if to take this in, and then why? I just laughed lightly. She laughed with me, and added, my, how adventurous. Why isn't your boyfriend with you? And our conversation rolled, despite our language differences. I understood Bisaya a little, and she understood Tagalog. I guess that was enough. She told me a little about her family, I told her a little about mine. I felt a little sorry when she had to get off. The trip was made more interesting because of her stories. The bus was already rolling when I remember I haven't asked for her name. But no matter, I remember faces more than names anyway.

I was seatmate-less, and so I resumed watching the scenery rolled by. I saw schools, and people going on about their business, and coconut forests, and farmlands, and more farmlands. I thought about a lot of things-- a long bus ride is a perfect opportunity for deep, philosophical musings. I dozed off, too. A lot of times I didn't notice that I did; it was only upon waking up that I realized I have fallen asleep. And then I'd look outside the window with always the same, almost frantic thought: have I missed my stop? Apparently I haven't, and the bus rolled on.

Darkness has started to spread. I guess four hours was an underestimation. By then, I gathered from store signs that we had crossed over Surigao del Sur. I actually panicked a little when I first saw the words ,Surigao del Sur. Wasn't Hinatuan in Agusan? Waaah. And then I calmed down. Thank God for mobile web. A quick search for the term revealed that it was indeed in Surigao del Sur. I could not phrase a search term for what Bachelor bus stop comes before Hinatuan, so I had to be contented with relying on the the conductor. XD

It was really getting dark by then, and we were passing by forests more than we were passing by houses and farmlands. We must be in the middle of nowhere. Cellphone signal was intermittent, I could not even distract myself with peeks at FB. There wasn't much to see outside, too. After a while, the forests had finally given way to what looked like a barangay. The bus rolled on and on and on... and wait, does that sign actually said CJ Hometel? I sat in my seat, immobilized with indecision. Finally, I did a stupid thing, and gotten off a few meters away from the CJ Hometel sign. The conductor looked at me uncertainly. You sure you're getting off here?, he asked me in halting Tagalog. All of the passengers in the bus were looking at me by then. I smiled in what I hope was the smile of a person who knows where she's going and said, yep! The conductor helped me with my backpack (which weighed more than 7 kilos, I'm sure) and I walked back towards the direction of the CJ Hometel sign. I imagine more than 50 pairs of eyes on me, so I walked nonchalantly, oblivious of the stares. Fortunately, the streets were empty. Or not, because there'd be no one to ask if it turns out that the CJ Hometel sign was just an advertisement. XD I heard the sound of the bus speeding away. I was alone in the dark street, and I absolutely had no idea where I should go. Wait, I do have an idea. I'm going to that sign. Right.

And so I walked. A pedicab passed by but I waved its driver off. Hah. I know where I'm going. I'm going to that sign. The pedicab left me alone. I looked uncertainly at it, wondering if I should have asked it to wait for me. Oh well, trust the sign.

Finally, I came upon the house upon which the huge CJ Hometel banner was attached to. I knocked, and asked the man who answered, is this CJ Hometel?

Yes, he said.  He said yes.  Yes. I'm home(tel). Told you I knew where I was going.

CJ Hometel
CJ Hometel is right along the road to Mangagoy and very near the enchanted river.
I got the tip about this dorm type accommodation from Kuya Elde (09285013174). He has a van that can bring 10 people from Davao to Hinatuan Enchanted River and Tinuy-An falls for 10k (not sure. For more info, send him an sms). In his email, he mentioned that the overnight rate in CJ Hometel is Php 150/person/night. Uber affordable, right?
Some of the 14 double decks. With pillow and sheets
So anyway, there I was, trying so hard not jump up and down as a celebration for actually walking right into the place. It was Ate Jane and her father, sir James, who attended to me and prepared the room. My, it was huge. There were about 14 doubledecks inside the airconditioned room, a sink, and a comfort room with a shower. 25 people can party inside the room comfortably. Not sure if it would be allowed, though. Haha.

Ate MJ explained to me that since the room was huge, the rate Php 150/person/night would only apply to groups of at least four. Since I was alone, I was supposed to pay Php 600, but she generously asked for only Php 300 a night from me. Yay. They were expecting a group that was also supposed to stay that night, but they didn't arrive. So I ended up having the room to myself. XD

PS. Please visit this FB page for more info. They offer affordable tour packages, too. Email CJ Hometel at or text/call them at 9169019196/ 9296651641/ 9278024498

I decided to go out to look for a place where I can have dinner. I walked until I found a place that sells lechon manok. I asked the man there if they also serve rice, but he said they didn't. Then he pointed to a house at the back of the store and told me to go there. I wasn't sure at first if that was what he really mean. This place serves dinner? I tried to convey the question in my expression and again, he gestured towards the house. Oh well. I took a peek inside. It looks like... a house. You know, with somebody watching television on a bed piled with pillows. Erm... I look back to see if the man was still there, and yes, he was, and he's watching me, gesturing towards the house. Not wanting to insult him or anything, I took tentative steps towards the interior of the house. The one watching tv took no notice of me. I made my way to what looks like a kitchen. Turns out that was the carinderia, which opens to the other side of the street. Ah.

I went to the counter to look at the food. There weren't lots of food, and the only one I can identify  is dried fish. Then I noticed they were also selling grilled stuff like chicken intestines (isaw). I asked if they're selling barbeque. The lady pointed at the isaw. Barbeque, she said. I decided I could live with just isaw as dinner, so I ordered five (Php 2 each) and half rice(Php 5). Good thing I ordered just half rice, because her half rice was about two cups! They were supposed to re-grill the isaw and I was supposed to eat it back at the dorm, but it rained very, very hard I decided to stay and have dinner while waiting for the rain to subside.

I finished dinner but the rain hasn't stopped yet. The lady told me I could stay longer, but I said I had to get back soon because I'm already sleepy, and I don't want to get in their way while they're packing up for the night. I went back the way I went in, and the one watching television just gave me a bored glance and went on watching tv. Guess he's used to strangers walking in and out of their house.

And back.
I reached the dorm soaked. I gave up trying to use the umbrella that ate MJ's mom lent me because the wind was strong. I changed clothes, opened my laptop and reviewed my Butuan city tour pictures, and was about to fall asleep when I heard it. Worship songs. Live.
I guess the songs were His way of telling me that no matter what, I can count on Him looking after me. <3 I gave in to sleep, reassured that tomorrow, I may not know exactly how to go to where I want to go, but oh, I'll get there all right.


For details on expenses, see: Expenses
Read about my 5-day solo adventures in the south : Butuan city tour, Hinatuan Falls and Enchanted River (and more), Lolong the giant croc, Davao, Samal, and more Davao.

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