"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu
It seemed like we were at that moment. No, not good travelers exactly, but travelers not intent on arriving.
My first clue? A 6-hour wait to board the bus. It was a long weekend, and the PARTAS bus station in Cubao was packed with all sorts of travelers heading north, young and old, and surfer dudes in between. We were at the station by 10PM, but was able to board the bus only at 4AM the next day. By the time we were on the bus, I am already awake for 24 hours. Nevertheless I was happy to start the trip.
Manila to Laoag: 477 km, Laoag to Pagudpud: 78 km. Plenty of time to sleep.
The ride was mostly uneventful. Since it was day time the VERY small highway, ironically its a National Highway, passing through the towns of Pangasinan and La Union was clogged. Our bus crawled. It way past noon and we were still in La Union, halfway to Laoag.
Side trip to Vigan: scrapped. Sunset shoot: out the window.
Most of us are getting restless, well me mostly. I kept checking my travel buddy's map. How far are we from Ilocos? Many times I've been tempted to blurt out "are we there yet?" but looking at my friends weary faces I dared not to.
We were probably the subject of the travel gods' practical jokes that day. Just when were about to cross the border into Ilocos Sur, a makeshift traffic light stopped our bus. Road and bridge construction up ahead and there is only one lane.
Several idiots on both sides decided they can't wait and zipped past the warning light, to the chagrin of the traffic enforcer. What do you get if you have several cars on both directions of a one way road? Deadlock. And Deadlock has a sister called Long Wait.
The travel gods' practical jokes didn't stop there. While in a bus stop somewhere in Ilocos Sur for a late lunch, I noticed several of our co-passengers taking their stuff out of the bus and heading to the road side.
When I asked the bus conductor what was up, he nonchalantly replied: "Oh our aircon is busted, they are transferring to a new bus".
"You could have told us sooner! What about the rest of us?", I replied.
"Well you can wait for our bus to be fixed if you want".
I was too tired to protest. Dragged our bags out the bus and headed to the road side. We boarded the next bus that came along, unheeding the protest of the conductor that they are already full. We will get to Pagudpud tonight, by hook or by crook.
The last leg of trip was soothing despite the cramped seats of a small provincial bus. Fresh sea breeze and the thought that soon we will be in Blue Lagoon proved comforting.
By 8PM, after 16 hours of butt-numbing bus rides, we were finally standing on a dark coastal road in Sitio Malingay in Blue Lagoon. And without a place to stay in. It was too dark to look for a place to pitch our tents on.
I cannot recall know how long we went to and fro looking for a place to spend the night. One resort was too classy for our taste (read: way too expensive), the others, home-stay accommodations with a couple of rooms, were fully booked. Finally a kind local offered us the use of his hut.
The next day I got a first time glimpse of Blue Lagoon. Its a quaint village if you are willing to overlook a glitzy looking resort, lighted like a Christmas tree at night, at one end of the cove. It certainly looked out of place with its villas desecrating the nearby hills.
We chanced upon a fisherman selling fresh catch and bought several large ones. We had grilled and sinigang (sour soup) fish for breakfast, or make it breakfast and lunch, or maybe dinner. In places like these, time stops and watches don't work.