Ferry Madness

Not every travel day is a fun day and yesterday was one of those days. Saturday was a transition day to get from Boracay to Bohol, but a couple of delays stretched it out much longer than planned.

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Breakfast view from my hotel restaurant

The day started out well enough with a leisurely breakfast followed by an 11.00am transfer via mini-bus and ferry from Boracay to Caticlan Airport. I was checked in for my flight two hours in advance and all was going to plan up to that point. Then I was informed that my flight was delayed, so I had over three hours sitting at the airport waiting for the flight.

Finally, the Cebu Pacific flight was ready to go and the one-hour flight to Cebu went smoothly. Next was the taxi ride from the airport to the Pier 1 ferry port, at 4.00pm in the afternoon rush hour. Crazy bumper-to-bumper traffic resulted in a 90-minute taxi ride to the port, arriving at 5.30pm. But I wasn’t worried, as my ferry was not due to depart until 7.40pm. I assumed that I had plenty of time. Until I experienced the madness of Pier 1 at ferry rush hour!

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Madness as the crowd tries to enter the terminal building

When I reached the front of the terminal, I encountered a crowd of passengers all trying to enter the building, from all directions. It was madness! There was no organisation, despite the efforts of two women security officers who kept shouting unintelligible instructions. Each time security allowed some passengers to enter, there was a mini surge from all directions, but the crowd didn’t seem to move forward much. After 35 minutes, I had only been able to gain about 8 feet in ground. I started to wonder whether I’d get inside the building by 7.30pm.With some jostling and maneuvering, I  managed to get through the entrance door by about 6.35pm, only to see a long line to pay the 25 pesos terminal fee (not included in the ferry ticket that I had purchased a week earlier). Realising that queues are only faint suggestions at the port, I sauntered to the front of the line and inserted myself there, saving myself a long wait. With the magical green terminal fee ticket in hand, I was able to pass through the first security check.

Next up was the baggage screening, where the madness continued. There was a single x-ray machine, through which all baggage must be screened. So the mass of passengers were all pushing and shoving, piling bags of all kinds onto the single conveyer. With bags added to the pile, passengers moved to the walk-through metal-detectors. It initially seemed odd that the two detectors were separated – one for males and one for females. But all became clear as I walked through the male detector, still wearing a camera on my belt and with coins in my pocket. Neither of the detectors worked and there were male and female security staff posted at each one to manually pat-down passengers!

Finally through the madness, I walked over to the SuperCat counter to check-in my luggage, only to be told that the 7.40pm ferry was delayed until 11.00pm. At least I could still check my luggage. The clerk told me that I could leave the terminal building and return nearer to the revised departure time (and assured me that the madness I had just experienced getting into the building would be clear in about 30 minutes). A brief look around the terminal building confirmed that was was little to do there, except sit and wait, so I walked back out into Cebu city.

I don’t think I’ve ever had to search so hard to find a bar in a city before. I had to walk for about 30 minutes until I found one. A couple of beers and some bar snacks took up a bit of time. Then I wandered around a night street market and bought some bananas and grapes for snacks, before heading back to the ferry terminal to sit and wait.

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Passengers waiting for the delayed ferry

The 11.00pm departure time came and went with no sign of activity. At 11.45pm, I asked the staff at check-in when we would depart and was told that boarding would commence at midnight. Midnight came and went! It was aproaching 1.00am before the door was opened and we were allowed to board the SuperCat ferry (which had been berthed directly outside the terminal window since I had returned from the bar around 9.00pm).

The ferry has reasonably comfortable seats and also shows a movie during the two-hour journey. But, only a few minutes into the journey, most of the passengers were sleeping. Or, at least trying to sleep. The ride was very smooth indeed, I’m pleased to say.

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Passengers try to sleep during the trip
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The three guys sitting opposite me on the ferry

At 3.30am, I disembarked the ferry at Taglibaran city, Bohol. Six hours later than scheduled. Despite the time, there was a fleet of motorcycle tricycles waiting to transport passengers. A short trike ride got me to my hotel  – that was locked up and in darkness. Fortunately, a knock on the door raised the staff who let me in and quickly got me through check-in. I was in my room at 4.00am and in need of sleep. A sizeable chunk of my first day in Bohol was spent in bed due to the delay. But, such is the nature of travel. You have to roll with the punches. Hopefully I’ll still get to see some of the island.

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