Battles with Ants and Mosquitoes
The late afternoon, evening, and night were times of third world battles and I think I came out on the losing side most of the time. For one thing, this room is infested with ants, many different types. And these ants get into every bit of food no matter where it is. I tried all manner of methods to keep the food out of their reach, but it only works for a short time if at all. At least this battle provided me with some entertainment. It’s astonishing to watch the ants form up their troops and go after what they want. And the distances they travel are extraordinary, not to mention the tiny spaces that they can fit into. The speed with which they track down food is also incredible. I came back to the room with a bag of rolls from a bakery in town. I simply tied the bag tight and set it on the table for a short while. I intended to have some a little later on and didn’t think the ants would find them so quicky. But when I got around to untying the two layers of bags to get at the buns, I found them swarming with tiny ants. Absolutely swarming. It took a while to blow them off and brush them off, and I never could get rid of them. They had burrowed inside the buns and came swarming out of the buns. These were a tiny species of ant. They are almost invisble singly but do their work in fantastic numbers. I had some experience with these ants because they also inhabited the hostel in Legazpi. Each morning, the staff put out rolls and fruit for their guests. The rolls were often covered in these ants, and I learned to just brush the worst of them off and eat the rolls anyway. There was nothing to be done to get rid of all the ants. Here, I did the same and got rid of as many ants as I could and then ate the buns.
I also found myself battling with mosquitoes. I had no trouble with them the first night. That could be because the windows were all kept shut the entire day. The problem was that the room was an oven. Yesterday, I opened the windows during the day to allow for some air to flow and to keep the place from becoming too uncomfortable. I did not see mosquitoes around outside, so I felt I was safe. It turned out that I was not safe. They managed to get in and they hid themselves about the room until night when they emerged to torment me. There is no way to put up my mosquito net, so I could only endure them and occasionally turn on the light to try to kill them. During one killing spree, I noticed that the bathroom door was slightly ajar. That is probably where the worst of them had come in. The bathroom has large holes in the cement wall to serve as windows. There is no glass in them at all and they are open to the outside world to allow any manner of creature entry. I kept the bathroom door closed because of that, but it had someone opened a bit. (I suppose I should count myself lucky that there is a door at all.) There used to be some kind of spring attached to the door to keep it closed. The two hooks used for that purpose were still there though the spring was long gone. I spent a few minutes rigging something up with my bungee chords to keep the door closed.
That is a theme of my time spent in hotels in this part of the world. I’m always glad to have my bike tools and other gear with me because I have to do so much work just to make the rooms somewhat livable. I end up doing little bits of maintenance that the staff have long since given up attempting, if in fact they ever did any kind of maintenance. My sense is that in the third world there is ever only enough money to build things, and that cheaply. There is never a thought given to maintenance. Buildings are erected and then allowed to crumble and disintegrate. They are perhaps in useable and functional shape on the very first day. After that, it is a long and steady decline.
My prickly heat got progressively worse until I thought I would go out of my mind with the irritation. I was in the bathroom almost constantly, sluicing my body with cool water to find some relief. I would do this every few minutes and then lie down on the bed and allow the fan to cool me down.
I cooked another meal of spaghetti in my room last night, and that, too, was a challenge. The heat was quite bad and I found myself drenched in sweat and very uncomfortable as I tried to cook. I did it in the end, but I was a physical and emotional wreck by the end of the process. I likely would have been better off going hungry. I would have been more comfortable.
While I was in Tacloban, I watched some travel shows on TV. I noticed that the travel shows have changed since last I watched them. They almost all head to the third world now and they try to represent some aspect of adventure travel. Yet, I never saw anything like the discomforts and challenges that I have to put up with. Everyone just has lots of fun and has all kinds of new experiences. I tend to have the same experiences over and over again and pretty much all of them are negative and uncomfortable.
I suppose I can’t complain. It’s not like this is the only side of the Philippines. I chose to see and experience this side. There are expensive hotels. It would be possible to come here and not have to deal with ants and mosquitoes and prickly heat. Even this “resort” offers air conditioning. My regular room costs 300 pesos a night The air con rooms cost 600 a night. I could easily afford the 600 pesos, and yet I chose non-aircon. So I can’t complain. I had air conditioning my entire time in Tacloban and the result was that I wanted to just stay in my room all day. So there is that to be said for traveling cheaply – it forces at least some contact with the “real” Philippines.
One last silly adventure from yesterday. Just an hour or two after I left from Tacloban, I noticed that my CatEye cycle computer wasn’t working. It was showing just a blank screen. That seemed typical. I could easily have fixed it or replaced it in Tacloban, but it waited until I left town before it died. When I got to Carigara, I checked it over and discovered that the battery was dead. I’ve had a spare battery in my tool kit for years and years and years, and luckily it still seemed to be holding a charge. In any event, the unit turned on when I put in the new battery. I got out the manual to figure out how to reset the thing. (It’s quite complicated.) Then I realized that all the settings had been lost including the key setting that defined the rolling distance of my wheel. You have to measure how far the front wheel travels in one revolution and then input that number into the CatEye in order for it to accurately track speed and distance. Unfortunately, I did not remember what the number was. In the end, I made a typical Doug decision and I just bought a tape measure in Carigara. I only needed it to make this one measurement, but it was an important measurement. Luckily the tape measure was only 100 pesos or $2.50. So I guess it isn’t that terrible to spend the money and then toss it. I would have tried to borrow a tape measure from someone, but that promised to be a huge hassle. I prefer to just do things on my own.
I broke out the tape measure when I got back to my room and I went through a careful procedure to figure out the correct rolling distance. It turned out to be 209 centimeters. I input that number and I should be good to go, assuming that the battery lasts for a while.
I spent much of the afternoon hanging out down at the beach and reading “Our Mutual Friend.” Whatever image that conjures up – relaxing on white sand in a nice lawn chair while sipping cool drinks – you can forget about it. I was just perched on a cement wall over black mud – my Philippines beach vacation. It was nice, though. The sky was overcast, so the sun wasn’t beating down. If the sun were out, I wouldn’t have been able to sit there anyway. My friend, the growling, tail-wagging dog joined me from time to time. She and her main buddy would leave me occasionally to bark at some local boys that were jumping in and out of the water a bit down the beach.
I would read for a while and when my butt and back got too sore, I would get up and walk along the beach and check things out. Despite the muddy shore and the black sand, it’s a beautiful area with high mountains set just a short distance back from the ocean. The coast is dotted with fishing villages. Standing there and looking about me conjured up quite a romantic scene. One could feel almost like an adventurer standing there. And I suppose a scene like that is the reward for the cycling. Right now it doesn’t seem like much, but I guess I am just used to it. It seems normal to me and I don’t really appreciate it. It has been so long since I’ve done any typical backpacking that I don’t really appreciate where I am. I don’t have anything to contrast it with. But were I traveling amongst the backpackers, I would never be standing on a beach in Carigara. There would be no reason to go to Carigara or to any of the places I’ve been.