Nuts In Huts!
Andrew and Paul had waited for over an hour in searing heat on the pier at Tagbilaran, a small scruffy city on the island of Bohol in The Philippines. The taxi which Paul had ordered to collect them had not materialised. Instead, they drank the local ‘Red Horse’ beer with a bunch of local taxi drivers and did impressions of Rod Stewart.
For some reason Paul had recently been getting a lot of folk telling him he looked like the Scottish rock star. He was kind of thrilled, although Rod was easily old enough to be his father. He presumed the Filipinos only knew Mr Stewart’s early back catalogue – the presumption made him feel better!
Even if he was kidding himself.
He was well aware that although he loved travelling it didn’t always love him. Ten quid guest houses with cold showers, concrete beds and cranky fans could play havoc with the complexion. He knew he was not looking his best. Still The Philippines were such an eye opener he didn’t care about the puffy state of his own.
When he and Andrew eventually got to Nuts Huts, nestled in the jungle clad hills outside the small town of Loboc, they were less than thrilled to see a steep set of stairs which they had to negotiate with their rucksacks and bags. All of which had grown heavier with some of the unnecessary trinketry Paul had accrued along the way. There was also a bottle of cheap gin he had purchased, plus a tin of Spam and two cans of condensed milk which were now beginning to feel like lead – he daren’t tell Andrew about the groceries – he knew what his response would be. Quite rightly. What an earth was he thinking of buying Spam?! But then he knew nothing of the climb down to ‘Nuts Huts’ – one had to be a slight nut taking it on. And completely insane when making the return journey.
‘Nuts Huts’had been recommended to Paul by his friend Wendy Colcomb. She was a globe-trotting ex-copper with a penchant for maps. Much like himself. Although he’d never been in the ‘old bill’.
In fact, he’d been on the wrong side of them a few times during his misspent youth.
He’d once been arrested for walking out of a sweetshop with an unpaid for double decker.
The chocolate bar not the bus!
He had left the stealing of those to his bi-polar father who had once driven the 208, topless and shoeless, through a lady’s wall in Bromley whilst on a high. He’d not been taking his Lithium. She had not been amused.
The young Paul had also been detained for whipping a theatre poster,(Forty-Second Street!), using a penknife whilst riding an escalator at Chalk Farm tube station – a terribly gay crime if there ever was one.
And there had also been the incident when he had sung ‘The Laughing Policeman’ to a copper on the underground after being told to shut up whilst he and his National Youth Theatre mates had been singing from ‘The Wiz!’
The policeman hadn’t laughed!
Wendy had a much better sense of humour – it was probably why she’d left the force. But she hadn’t mentioned the climb at ‘Nuts Huts’ – her and her partner Graham were obviously slightly fitter than Paul and Andrew. Or they had wanted them both to suffer. Paul made a mental note to interrogate her fully on his return home.
Paul told Andrew not to kick off about the missing taxi on their arrival at the hilly establishment. The lovely receptionist Lily was most perturbed as it was. She had called the absent taxi driver only to find out that he had been waiting inside the port for over two hours – assuming the boys were alighting from a boat, and not swilling dodgy lager at the pier entrance.
‘You’ll have to pay the driver the waiting fee,’ Lily was telling a sweaty Paul, who had no energy to argue due to the intense step class he’d just undertaken. Andrew unfortunately had a little more oomph.
‘No! I’m not paying him anything. Why? We didn’t come on a boat. Why did he wait for two hours. Is he stupid? Why didn’t he look for us? We were the only white people there!’
‘Andrew!’ Paul chastised. ‘Just leave it!’
‘No’, his partner continued breathlessly, the steps now taking their toll, ‘we just paid 700 fucking pesos for a taxi. Why are we gonna pay again?’
‘It is a mistake’ pleaded Lily, who was now wilting, ‘I ask taxi driver to come and see you tomorrow.’
‘Do that,’ said Paul, with a weary smile, and advised Andrew in no uncertain terms to go and have a fag! He wanted to get to their room. It had been a long day already.
After a lengthy check-in, he and Andrew made their way down another hundred steps to the riverside.
He now felt like killing Ms Colcomb!
All of the huts were named after old movies. They passed ‘A Star Is Born’ which Paul was obviously keen to stay in. Then they struggled on past ‘Moonstruck’ and ‘Mahogany’, which both had obvious appeal to a homosexual. Diana Ross and Cher not being remotely camp!
The camp was hilarious.
Eventually they arrived at their new abode. About as far as one could walk. Lily had obviously been displeased with Andrew’s rant. Or they could have been holed up in ‘Moonstruck’ by now – Cherring a beer.
As they approached the ladder which lead to their small verandah they saw it’s name.
Their Nut’s Hut was called ‘Nine And A Half Weeks!’
Paul couldn’t help but laugh. It was highly inappropriate.
The walls were papyrus thin, with gaps at the top meaning that one was really sharing a room with one’s neighbour. He and Andrew could hear their housemates thinking. It was going to be nothing like ‘Nine And A Half Weeks’ – they would shock the poor gits next door if they had any culinary experimentation.
And there was no fridge. So Kim Basinger would certainly not have approved.
But the location was so beautiful.
The river Peacock Green.
The paddy fields an emerald hue and the jungle every verdant shade one could describe.
They spent their days walking to and from town along the riverbank, taking the odd boat trip and sinking beer outside the ‘Seven Eleven’, which seemed to pass for a local.
It was beautifully bucolic and the people the friendliest they’d come across in The Philippines- and that was saying something.
They made friends with a Filipino guy called ‘Winny’ who told them of his exploits in Vegas. He had apparently been the famous taxi driver who had ferried the injured folk to hospital after the mass shooting at ‘The Mandalay Bay’ hotel in 2017. Winny had become quite a celebrity. Although Paul and Andrew remembered the hideous event, neither could recall the identity of the hero cabbie. They knew there had been one, courtesy of the BBC, but would never have recognised him in a month of Sundays. A day that was very important in The Philippines. But Winny seemed genuine so they took him at his word – and the words were terribly interesting. He had rescued six people whilst being fired upon himself. The police took cover as he ran into danger to save lives. The story seemed unbelievable, but Paul checked Winny out online later on. The power of the ‘intermittentnet’ was often quite marvellous. And it turned out Winny was truely a local hero.
Paul had been glad to shake his hand.
On their final day in Loboc, Paul and Andrew found themselves stranded with their usual junk on the wrong side of the river. There was no boatman in sight, and with the light dying fast, there was nothing to do but chance the current.
Paul stripped off and clumsily climbed into the river. It was like bath water. He felt something riverine moving beneath his feet but kept his mind from it. He didn’t want to know what lay beneath. He swam swiftly over to the opposite bank with Andrew filming him and offering unnecessary advice on his stroke. At one point he thought he might have one. He did not enjoy being out of his depth since nearly drowning on Ipanema Beach in Rio.
That had been no carnival.
But he managed to pluck some confidence from somewhere and made for a canoe type of craft that was moored up and paddled it over to rescue his partner, with yet more nautical advice being shouted from Andrew onshore. Paul eventually managed to get them both back to the right side of the river and in a fairly dry condition. He tied the line to the wooden jetty using a sheepshank knot – his nautical school days sometimes came in useful. And he didn’t want to be in trouble for ‘borrowing’ a craft that wasn’t his. The ferryman usually charged ten pesos for his services so Paul thought they’d been a touch cheeky. But then again – he hadn’t been anywhere on the horizon. So Paul really had no choice but to take piratical action. He and Andrew had been stranded on the wrong side of the creek without a paddle, and both in the same boat. So there was no option but to steal one for a few minutes.
The following day, the boys made their way up the hundreds of steps, cursing Ms Colcomb, and waited again under the sultry sky, for a taxi which again didn’t turn up.
It eventually turned out that the driver was waiting for them on the highway, a kilometre down the road.
A rocky, rocky, road.
Long and winding. And hot!
The boys set off along it to find their ride. Thankfully, halfway along the strenuous walk they caught sight of their taxi – reversing steadily along the tricky lane. It was a sight for sore thighs! They jumped in with relief and headed back to the port. ‘Nuts Huts’ had been quite an adventure.
They were now seated in comfortable ferry seats on the way to Siquijor.
An island awash with witch doctors and wildlife. They couldn’t wait.
The Philippines continued to be an absolute delight.
Paul made a note to thank P.C. Colcomb on his return home.
She’d given him a superb recommendation- it was a fair cop!
Or rather – she was.