Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mr Walky-Walky


Day four in the Philippines dawned as fair as all the others, so I decided on a proper walk. Towards town this time. Oh, I’d seen it from John’s cab, but you see ten times more when you are on foot, and I’d liked so much what I’d seen from the cab.

I’ve given up on the mosquito-protection now, as I’ve barely seen a bug all trip. But, this being tropical summer, I have not given up on sun-protection, and boy, is it needed. So the white scarf, now my trademark, was still on duty, along with my thinnest silk shirt (daringly open in front), and long shorts almost joining hands with socks and, this time, sensible shoes.

I didn’t actually mean to walk right into Dumaguete, but in the end I did, enjoying watching the folk bringing the fresh catch of the morning (how shiningly delicious those recently deceased fish looked) to the hundred little stalls that decorated my route, enjoying the welders and the builders and the housewives and the children who cried out greetings as I passed, enjoying – in fact -- everything this place has to offer. Which, as you know, in my book is a heap.

I turned round before the town centre, in the suburbs, where things got a bit scrappy and the traffic fumes a bit overwhelming, and tramped back the way I had come, counting kilometre posts all the way. How eyes popped as I passed the welding, fish-selling and building folk whom I’d stomped by two hours earlier in the opposite direction. ‘Exercise-man’! yelled one handsome, dark man perched on the edge of a roof. ‘Mr Walky-Walky’ clucked an old lady behind a much-diminished pile of fish. And the children took up the cry. I, of course, loved it all and just yelled back ‘Still going!’ ‘Still alive’ or ’20 kilometres today’ to one stalk-eyed chap who’d seen me passing by on all my tramps.

But the sun was rising in the sky. I could feel my shirt sticking to my back, my bare chest burning, and even through the silk more heat than seemed sensible. So I put my best foot forward. Which just made me hotter. I stumbled down the dust road to the ship – shirt and scarf torn off and turned to brow-moppers -- with I think, a few metres under 20k to my credit as my watch showed 11.05. A good time to be off the mad dogs and Englishmen register.

A grand morning! And the casualty list wasn’t too bad. Slightly sore feet, an incipient corn on one foot, an incipient blood blister on another, a peelable nose (so much for sunblock) and worst of all, sweat inflammation under my arms (subsequently it turned to prickly heat) and in the other odd crevice. Nothing that a good shower and a bit of lotion – plus the prevailing exhilaration -- wouldn’t mend.

But Day Four wasn’t done. I’d offered to accompany Steve the Purser on his galley-stocking trip in the afternoon. Well, fresh fruit and veg are, on a ship, to be grabbed when possible: we have a full month at sea coming up. So at 2.30 we piled into a jeepney and headed right back into town.
We started with a visit to Dumaguete’s main department store, the Lee Super Plaza, where an extraordinary amount and variety of clothing is available at what to us seem ridiculous prices. I got three nice, super-light short-sleeved shirts to replace my too hefty Hanes singlets for the next few weeks, for the grand sum of $20US. Steve, alas, got rather stymied as the Filipinos, being a petit people, don’t run to XXOS garments and only the most expensive ($30US) belt in the store fitted him. It was also the best belt in the store and I’m glad he bought it. Also the size 10 sandals (they didn’t have 11s) which ditto.
From the clothing department we headed to the food and, over the next half hour and more, filled two large supermarket trolleys with 10 of this and 20 of that from the produce shelves, under the rather dismayed eyes of the girls who, I suspect, had just done the re-stocking. The result was four huge cardboard cartons of food, super-efficiently checked-out, which we had then to hulk to the sidewalk. There, to my amazement, a tuk-tuk driver took over, piled all four boxes and me into his ‘sidecar’, hoisted the whole of Steve onto the pillion, and zoomed us teeth-curlingly off to our truck.
And so, back ‘home’ (via a couple of beers at a rather grubby, street vendor-infected, but apparently well-frequented bar) after another jolly adventure, to a shower, dinner, some more lotion, and a decidedly early bed!

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