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A trip to Bohol

...Our next destination was Bohol, famous for the Chocolate Hills. We arrived there after a flight from Caticlan to Cebu, one night in Cebu, a boat ride to Tubigon and a bus ride from there to Carmen. We planned on checking out the Chocolate Hills, exploring the island a bit and staying for a few days at the Nuts Huts after which we would get some more time on the beach on Panglao.

Upon reaching Carmen (the town closest to the Chocolate Hills complex) we were surrounded by locals offering us a ride to the Chocolate Hills. We chose Victor (who is apparently mentioned in an old Lonely Planet) and two of his friends to take us there on the back of their dirt bikes, luggage and all.

Sure enough, the Chocolate Hills are everything they are made up to be: beautiful, eerie, nicest when the sun comes up and somewhat boring after a day or two. At the top of the tallest hill is a resort with a pool where the rooms have balconies looking over the Hills. The staff was bored out of their minds.

There is a tall staircase which brings you really high up, from where you get stunning views over the Chocolate Hills as the sun is coming up, lighting up the misty Hills with its rays.

We took a motorbike ride with Victor and his friends all over the surrounding area which was nice but nothing special. Due to a serious downpour we had to shelter for several hours and then had a lot of fun negotiating the bikes through the river that the road had turned into.

Our drivers themselves were having great fun, pausing to smile and point at things but not noticing water was streaming straight into the exhausts, making a bubbling sound that is not meant to come out of a healthy engine. Like most motorised vehicles in the Philippines they had survived a lot more abuse than that so we continued little more than soaking wet.

Victor then took us to a mahogany plantation, a hanging "Indiana Jones bridge" and to see some tarsiers: the smallest primates in the world which occur mainly on Bohol and look like E.T's offspring. Some one later explained the locals are able to recognise the typical smell of these tiny monkeys and thus catch them in the surrounding jungles.

They are kept as pets by the locals which engage in the somewhat dubious practise of charging tourists (like us) to fondle them and have their pictures taken with the monkeys. You can't help but adore the little creatures while at the same time feel sorry for them - one little one was shoved back in a sealed cloth bag after being put on display for us. When we suggested they not do that they just laughed and shrugged, not understanding our concerns.

As in most situations where an animal is a source of income for people, the practise will most likely continue until near extinction is reached, whereupon the world will become disgusted at the whole thing while embracing it wholeheartedly in the process. The thought of buying one of the tarsiers off them and then taking it to the nearby sanctuary did cross our minds...

Eventually we reached the town of Loboc just a short ride away from the Chocolate Hills. The Nuts Huts entry in the Lonely Planet caught our eye, since the owners are Belgian like myself. This little eco resort is indeed quite an extraordinary place in the middle of the jungle. A collection of cottages are spread out in a nice area along the Loboc river, surrounded by palm trees.

The location is very much something out of Apocalypse Now, which was mostly filmed on location in the Philippines. (The final scenes were filmed in Pagsanjan. This very intresting article describes how the Ifaguo people were cast as the extras in the river scenes in Apocalypse Now).

Chris and Rita, the owners of Nuts Huts explained the river is quite clear most of the time, but was now murky because of the recent downpour we had been in. Apparently you can go swimming in it most of the time but when we were there it did not look very inviting.

Nuts Huts has a communal area you reach after climbing too many stairs (you will swear if you reach the top realising you forgot your book) where you can laze around in a hammock, read some books out of their library and enjoy the view of the valley where the river runs through. That's what we did since most days it rained.

While we were there we observed a training session of the Peace Corps which was being held at the location and then proceeded to have Tanduay drinking games with them. We lost, but only because we were outnumbered...

All in all Bohol is an interesting island but won’t be spoilt with things to do. Exploring and relaxing are the main activities here, although the people of the Nuts Huts can organise hiking and biking trips for you if you want. Check out the map of Bohol. Not counting Panglao island, you will probably want to leave Bohol within a few days for lack of things to do.

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