“Chapter 15”

From a hot, clear blue sky, Boracay appeared like a tropical jewel from the left side of the Asia Pacific twin otter as it swept low and fast along the beach on the way to landing at Caticlan the small town on the mainland from where Conway would disembark to catch a 30 minute banca ride to the island. At first glimpse it was the kind of picture post card paradise Sally had told him about. Dark green palm trees fringed a long beach of blinding white sand liberally sprinkled with sun worshippers. Off shore, fishermen in narrow-gutted outriggers, typical of the Philippines, leisurely plied their trade on a calm sparkling blue sea. It was a scene of such utter peace and tranquility, Manila seemed a long way away.

Climbing out of the small aircraft at Caticlan Conway had to run the gauntlet of a dozen tricycle drivers all clammering to be the one to take him to the port to catch the banca. He pushed through them and chose a tall, skinny teenager with a goofy haircut, an orange tee shirt declaring Shit Happens, bright green, silk basketball shorts and a huge smile. When Conway nodded in his direction he eagerly grabbed the Australian’s small travel bag, threw it into the trike and began to take off before his bemused passenger had clambered awkwardly into the small passenger seat. ‘Ok sir?’ said the boy grinning. These foreigners were usually too big for his tiny vehicle and it always made him smile to see them, knees up around their ears trying to get comfortable. Conway smiled uncertainly and the kid gunned it.

Ten minutes later after a noisy, cramped and bumpy ride along a sandy, pot-holed track they arrived at the port as a banca from Boracay pulled in. Conway handed 20 pesos to a woman he presumed to be the fee collector and gingerly climbed up a slippery four inch wide board which served as a gangplank. A boat boy threw his bag onto the flat roof of the open-sided cabin and with shoulders hunched and head down he clambered down onto a seat almost toppling into the water in the process. Fortunately a Filipino passenger lent a helping hand to assist him board the pitching vessel.

With much yelling and hand waving among the crew, the boat backed out from the jetty, swung in a complete circle and with its nose pointed toward Boracay set off smoothly cresting the deep blue rolling swells until they arrived in shallow water just off Boat Station three at the northern end of the island. A welcome breeze cooled Conway as he waded ashore in the knee-deep water to be greeted by another gaggle of shouting, jostling locals, mostly representing various resorts and places of accommodation.

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