My favorite days of traveling are those when I’m both relaxed and busy: when I see or do something active but also enjoy a leisurely meal – ideally with someone whose company I enjoy; when I eat a new food or witness something unique to where I am; and when I end the day with a drink, I wind up in conversation with people who become friends. These are the days when I don’t stop smiling; when I’ve learned or experienced something new; put my body to work but also cared for it; and when I’ve shared a laugh with a friend, old or new. In the last fourteen months, I’ve had many of these days and last week, I had one in Moalboal, on the west coast of Cebu.
After a lazy breakfast, I grabbed my mask and snorkel plus my Polish traveling companion and dive buddy of a few days, and walked off the shore of Panagsama Beach in Moalboal. We swam out toward the dark clouds below us, looking for the schools of sardines known to inhabit the area. For the next hour, we snorkeled and free dove with and below thousands of fish. Watching the schools dance and shift was nothing short of beautiful. We weren’t planning to SCUBA dive with the sardines but soon realized it would be worth it to spend some time below the schools, floating on our backs in 7 meters of water while the fish form patterns and shapes above us. But the dive would wait for the next day as we had other plans for the rest of the afternoon.
Having seen a picture of Kawasan Falls – and been told that getting to the really good parts would require a bit of a hike – I wasn’t going to leave Moalboal without getting there. So after some serious negotiating, we found someone to rent us a motorbike for 4 hours (the locals insist on a full day for one price and finding one willing to cut the price for a shorter period of time was a challenge). My hatred for scooters – whether driving myself or riding on the back – is something I’ve mentioned before. But for the first time in my life, I liked it. Good roads, beautiful scenery, and a driver who really knew how to ride all combined to bring me joy in something I’ve barely been able to tolerate.
And then, there was this:
Kawasan Falls has three levels with seating areas and good swimming spots and although the hike is far from rigorous, it still counts as exercise. The surprising force coming off the falls at level two made swimming underneath the curtains of water impossible for both of us, no matter how hard we tried. Perhaps with fins it could be done but the fun of trying to swim to the falls then relaxing and floating away was enough to keep me grinning.
It was dark by the time we made it back to the parking lot and although we were both hungry and ready to head back, we stopped twice along the way. Once for water and a snack of grilled meat on sticks (only the water for me but it was nice to pause at a roadside grill and listen to local residents gossip and chatter). Our second stop came when we saw a crowd gathered just off the road. We were hoping to see a cockfight but instead came across a bit of gambling that I call basketball roulette. Once bets are placed, the basketball is dropped and it rolls around the table, pausing in the numbered divots until coming to a stop. The stakes are low with a maximum prize of 500 pesos (about $11) and players ranged in age from 10 to 65. We stayed long enough to lose about twenty cents before leaving the happy crowd to continue our ride back to town. It wasn’t a cockfight but it was definitely unique to the Philippines.
With an excellent dinner at a local bar followed by a few beers with new friends, I fell into bed that night pleasantly tired, a smile playing at my lips. These are the days when I love traveling, when I know I’m in the right place at the right time, when I feel so incredibly lucky to be living this life.