Friday, October 21, 2011

Crossing the Road on Boracay

Carolann's thoughts on the other side of Boracay

"Butterfly" Boats
I start work early this morning.  At 6 a.m. I take my coffee to a shaded table overlooking the beach. The touts on the beach also start early. A young man waves sunglasses on a string. Another man who wears sixteen cowboy hats walks by, head high, calling out buyers. A few devotees are climbing the shrine on Willy's Rock. It's Sunday and the butterfly boats are moored, resting. Our restaurant is separated from the beach by a veil of fine netting that filters the sun but permits the view.

Another cycle has passed; it's become high tide. The beach sellers are squeezed, their activities confined to a slim corridor of sand.

I open my laptop and enter my password, the usual routine. Today however I'm more conscious of my password, a symbol of entry. I stare at the veil and think back to yesterday evening when we crossed the road.

All of the beach resorts have a back door or laneway that gives out to the busy village. A hornet's next of motor-tricycles converge on the tiny street, each stuffed with people or cargo and some threatening to topple over. There's a tiny sidewalk. You check your feet to avoid the chipped cement and keep guard overhead for low awnings, dangling wires. We walk single file, cough on the dust, and shout instructions to each other over the din of the street.

I didn't want to cross the street, but Dan was on the hunt for photos. Dan hates it when I whine.

"Why do you need real life today? I'm on vacation. It's hot. There's sand in my shoes."

Dan is not listening. More real life.

Dan's goal is to cross the street and find the laneway that will take us to the opposite side of the island. It's not far geographically, but a million miles away economically. I take a deep breath and accept this excursion as practice for India.

We stumble onto the laneway thankfully with less traffic. There's a few mangy dogs and Dan asserts himself as pack leader to clear our way. (He's a keen student of Cesar Milan).  We pick our way along the edge of muddy pools, collected from heavy rain the night before. I'm careful to avoid touching rusty barbed wire lining the stone wall I hold for support.

Families live along the laneway, partly outdoors and partly indoors. Children spill out these rough dwellings, some with sticks to herd escaping chicken. Homes look unfinished, building materials scattered, it's unclear whether the work is in progress of creation or demolition. Time will tell.
A sign over a well ventilated shack reads "Boraclay Chess Club" and four men are intensely laying down bets and turning over cards. In another hut, a twenty-something man has built a "hot wheels" racetrack and invites people to pay to put a race car through the loop-d-loop. A toddler squats at the side of the lane grasping a spoon which he bangs into the puddle. Occasionally, a motor-tricycle negotiates the muddy center. Someone is grilling chicken satays under one of the corrugated tin roofs.  Situated at the heart of small, winding paths is a church where people assemble to give thanks. Go figure.

We arrive on the other side. It faces east and there are no glorious sunsets like on our side. The surf pushes sea debris on shore, coconut tree branches, bamboo pieces torn from the outriggers, carelessly dropped packaging. There are "room to rent" signs nailed to wooden building flanking the seaside road. On the balcony of one such guesthouse there's a party of Australians. Bearded, tanned, and thin, they throw back their beer and laugh and share war stories. This is the serious back-backer zone of Boracay.

Funny that some things have not changed over a generation. There are still youthful travelers who pay for $10 guesthouses. You find them on the edge of real life.

Farewell to Boracay

We're leaving Boracay today. Closing my computer it's time to pay our bill and distribute tips. With mixed feelings, I put on my hiking boots for the journey onwards, first to Manila and then to Bangkok for our connection into Bhutan. I pack my bag differently now. The fleece goes on top, the bathing suit at the bottom. The vacation's over.

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