Saturday, June 25, 2011

Animals on our trip

Meeting interesting people when you travel is a given. Meeting interesting animals can be fun and surprising. I have to say I am a dog person. My knowledge and imagination can be slightly limited when it comes to family pets. Perhaps yours is too. This is why I felt an "animal only" entry was worthy.

Animals like humans have interesting personalities and nuances. The best part of meeting these creatures was asking there owners specific questions about diet, sleeping patterns and interesting habits. I mean, do you know how many chickens a Burmese python can eat in a week?

Tortoises and Turtles are both reptiles. The major difference being that the land dwelling ones are called Tortoises and water dwelling are called Turtles. These reptiles are generally reclusive and shy in nature.

I met this tortoise and several others in Switzerland in a friends backyard garden. This was not my first visit to the garden but for some reason on previous visits I had totally missed the enclosure. I was fascinated by the discovery. It was my first tortoises watching experience. (As a side note, traveling this past year has given me the opportunity to sit quietly and observe. I am so thankful!)

Back to the tortoise. Within 10 minutes a slug veered straight into the tortoises path. They gently bumped into each other, knocked heads several times until the tortoise realised lunch had arrived. His bight was quick and deadly. The garden owner later told me that these animals are herbivores. I guess even tortoise like to try new things.

She also told me about hatching the eggs inside an incubator in the house as the ground was to cold and that one of the animals was 50-60 years old. I was shown a 1, 3 and 10 year old Tortoise. The animals were fed lettuce, pellets and the occasional apple that fell from the tree above. Generally they were left alone to wander through the grass and dirt. If you are looking for a low maintenance animal this would be it!

Wild Pigs, Margo and Reto
Palawan, Philippines

These babies were found in the jungle after their mother died from a dog attach. They were brought back to a friends house to be raised. Our friends ended up calling them Margo and Reto.

Bozo the leopard gecko

Bozo is a classroom pet at my niece's school. He was looking for a summer home and was adopted by my brothers family. His favorite food are live crickets. They are quickly snapped up when dropped into his cage.

Three munchkins Madeleine, Mr. Noodle and Zachary

Mr. Noodle

Meet Mr. Noodle, named after the noodle box he was delivered in. Mr. Noodle has to be the cutest guinea pig I have ever seen. My sister-in-law purchased a harness and leash for him so that he could experience the great outdoors of the backyard. He has a tendency to run away otherwise. He enjoys carrots, lettuce and lawn. Much like a dog, he rolls to one side and exposes his belly if you scratch his behind.

Toco the wild gecko
Palawan and Negros, Philippines

This wild gecko (about 6 inches long) was a resident of our friends home in Palawan. They called him a Toco after the sound he makes. It literally sounds like he is singing toco, toco. He lives in the rafters of the house and eat bugs. A very good house guess when bugs are around.

Scooter and Reto, Philippines

Scooter was my buddy. He actually belonged to friends but he would spend the night on my porch when he was not tied up at home. I miss him.

Reto and Rema

Rema was a friends puppy. We first met her at our 2011 New Years party. She knew she was loved. She was feisty and perhaps a bit bossy with the other dogs. By the end of our week stay she was the pudgiest little fur ball in the neighbourhood. Her name was derived from adding the Re of Reto and Ma of Margo together. Yes, we were fond of her.

Jillma from Manila

Jillma was rescued from the market by an American traveler named Gabe. Sweet and feathery, she liked to get into everything on the table. She quickly became the entertainment at our guest house.

Sheila the Burmese Python

Sheila is a very large Burmese python. She eats a chicken a week however we were told she is hungry enough for two. Neat to look at but I am not sure what else you can do with her.

Friendly cat in Donsol, Philippines

Sun and Moon

These cute duo were from the same litter at one of our guest houses on Malapascua island. Occasionally they would sleep on our door mat at night. They could always be found wandering around the garden chasing each others tail or playing with passers by.

The Welcoming Committee
Muang Sing, Laos

These two were so cute! I named them the welcoming committee because they were always around to greet our group. Such an unlikely duo.

My friend and I went on a snorkeling trip while in Coron, Philippines. These two must have belonged to the island caretaker. They were so friendly and obviously in love with each other!

One thing you will notice if you have done any third world travel is the difference in animal care. Some dogs, like North America, are kept as pets. However, more often than not they live on the street and are left to fend for themselves. As I learned some cultures even eat dog. It was hard to observe but this is life.

Fighting Cocks, Philippines

These birds are found all over the world. They are raised for cockfighting, a blood sport between two roosters (cocks), held in a ring called a cockpit.

The combatants, referred to as gamecocks, are specially bred birds, conditioned for increased stamina and strength. Cocks are given the best of care until near the age of two years old. They are conditioned, much like professional athletes prior to events or shows. Wagers are often made on the outcome of the match.

Advocates of the sport often list cultural and religious relevance as reasons for perpetuation of cockfighting as a sport.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Zapp Family and Other Incredible People

We had the pleasure of meeting so many great people on this trip. One of the most note worthy was the Zapp family from Argentina. They will inspire you...

Zapp family: Candelaria, Herman, Wallaby, Pampa, Paloma and Tehue

We met the Zapp family (6 of them) on Saud Beach in Northern Luzon, Philippines. They have been traveling around the world in their 1928 Graham Page Model 610 for the past 11 years. We enjoyed Christmas dinner with the family. They believe that the secret to realising a dream is to start it. Their message to one and all is simple.

Live your dreams.

If you don’t live it now…so… when? Be bold. “The most difficult moment was to begin, leaving everything behind: the family, the house, our work, and our friends, to go directly into the unknown, unpredictable, the strange…But from the time we opened the door of this car and sat down everything have changed in our lives.”

Read more about their incredible adventures on their site:

Diana and Shannon Barrie

I met Diana and Shannon one morning while having breakfast on the small island of Malapascua. The girls had fallen in love with the resident puppies. We started a casual conversation about the puppies and an hour later they had told me about there travel adventures in the family catamarans and being stranded on the island of Mogmog.

The Barrie family, from north Perth, were on a two-year sailing trip around the Pacific when their boat struck a reef off the Micronesian islet of Mogmog in heavy winds and was practically destroyed.
Read more about their story here:
Mogmog island: the perfect place to be shipwrecked?

The amazing artisan, Alvin Bayking

Alvin's beautiful sea urchin art installation

Alvin is a Philippine artist living and working on the island of Palawan. He is a visual artist, a painter, a wood worker, draftsman and architect. This guy truly has talent not to mention he is a great guy and a good friend.

Crazy Canadians and kindred spirits, Sandra and Milos

You know how you meet the right people at the right time. We met Sandra and Milos randomly on the island of Malapascua. Reto and I were on one of our many walks. We had reached the end of the island. Reto was ready to return to our room but my curiosity took me up and over a small hill while Reto waited on the beach below. I like to think something other than sheer curiosity pulled me over that hill, it was Sandra and Milos. The Canadian newly weds were in the middle of a 9 month honeymoon. We instantly hit it off. I can't wait to catch up with them in July when I am in Toronto. The world really is so very small.

Surfer Pete and Margo in Samar

What can I tell you about surfer Pete, well...
Pete and his family own a resort in Borongon, East Samar called Pirates Cove. His colorful dreams have been translated into a real life size mosaic playground. While we were there he was completeting a view tower that overlooks his favorite surf break. Mounted on either side are loud speakers so that he can hear his favorite tunes while surfing. One of the best parts of his resort is the typoon room converted into an air conditioned slot car track.

It just goes to show there are so many different dreamers in the world. It really is as simple as Herman and Candelaria said:

Live your dreams.

Back in the Sunshine - December 2010

Tricycle, local transport - Squeeze in and hold on

Wow, time really does fly when you are having fun, or is it when you get older?

After a month and a half in Switzerland, Reto and I decided to substitute the falling snowflakes for rays of sunshine. We purchased tickets for a 5 month trip back to the Philippines. Narrowly missing a European snow storm we touched down in Manila on December 2nd. Reto affectionately refers to it as "the bloody hell of the world".

Manila can be a big nasty city but there are pockets of interest like the handmade gold belts on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as well as the Chinese cemetery and Chinatown.

Incredible gold belt made of individual gold drops

Tomb in the Chinese Cemetery. Larger than many Filipinos accommodation and equipped with two floors, AC and CR's (bathrooms).

Our friends were waiting with open arms and adobo on the table. Adobe is a Filipino national dish. Any kind of meat is cooked in soya sauce, vinegar and various spices. It is Reto's favorite dish to cook and eat. Filipinos eat a small amount of Adobo with a heaping mound of rice. This meal may or may not involve fried vegetables and fish soup. Following a day or two of rest we traveled South to our friend beach house in Calatagan.

Having recovered from the smog, traffic, and congestion that is Manila Reto and I carried on North to Baguio for a friends wedding. We attended the reception at the brides house following the Catholic church ceremony. 60 percent of Filipinos are Catholic and there is no divorce in the country. Most of the neighbours from the Barangay (local area) also attended the reception. When we arrived there was approx. 100 people in line for food and another 60 or so already eating. Having shot several weddings I thought North American speeches could be long but these speeches went on for almost four hours and were still not finished when we left. I found it odd that most of the speeches were done by local politicians and important people, not by the family. While Catholic wedding in the West share some similarities with the East there are also many differences.

I can't remember why or how Reto and I found ourselves on Saud beach in Northern Luzon but I am glad we did. From Bagio we traveled to the most Northern tip of Luzon.

Most of our Philippine accommodations were in home stays rather than resorts. Home stays and short stay apartments allowed us to cook for ourselves and were usually more private and less expensive. Tricycle drivers are the best way to find these types of accommodations. We found a beautiful little house only a block away from Saud beach for 1000 peso ($22) a night. It had two kitchens, two bedrooms, a TV and great porch. The beach was long, white and deserted. Many days were spent wandering along the shore shell hunting. On a typical day we would rise around 8am have coffee and breakfast. If the weather was good we would head straight to the beach to collect shells and visit with locals. If the weather did not cooperate we made jewelry, wrote in diaries, listened to music and cooked good food.

Reto loves to cook which is great as my friends and family know I do not! Xmas dinner was extra ordinary this year. One of the advantages to home stay is that you live among the locals. Reto ordered a six pound pig leg from our neighbour. He marinated it for several hours in curry powder, beer, mustard and various other spices before slow roasting it over a charcoal fire. The pork was accompanied by potatoes, green beans, tomato salad and local wild berry wine.

Reto hard at work on his pig leg, yummmmmmmmy!

Where in the world have Reto and Margo been??

I know, I know it has been a good 6 months since the last post updating all of you interested souls where I have been hiding. I am not sure my next job should be with CNN or any news agency for that matter. They may not appreciate old news but I am hoping that you may still be interested. The stories are worth it, I promise. So, here it is...

Reto and I have traveled many kilometers in the last 5 months. This trip takes place exclusively in the Philippines. From the beaches of Pagudpud in Northern Luzon to the tiny island of Siguiour in the deep South we have seen a lot. I have pinpointed our major stops on the map below. Woooph, what a trip.

View Full Size Travel Map at Travellerspoint