I lied. I did not tell any of my Family members that I was back to the Philippines. I immediately rushed off to catch my connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur to Butuan City leaving my suitcase at the airport to be fetched by my friend. Thank God for a friend like her. She took good care of my stuff. The next thing I know, I was at Jollibee with the boyfriend waiting for our boarding time. God, I missed CHICKEN JOY – Emphasis on the CHICKEN JOY. The moment we arrived in Butuan City, we instantaneously skipped the jeepneys that go forth the Bus terminal instead we chose to ride on a van for PHP200.00 to save time and to make ourselves comfortable to the entire road trip.
We only have 3 days to explore Surigao Del Sur and on our 2nd day, we traversed to Enchanted River from Bislig through Habal – Habal for 2 hours. It was literally a butt-numbing journey. I thought about giving up during the first 45-minute ride under the scorching hot without scarf, hat or anything to cover myself from the agony. It was a punishment. I wasn’t prepared. It was the 2nd time in my entire life that I rode a motorcycle. First was when I was in High School that almost scared me to a near death experience. Since then, I hated motorcycles! So when I went to Surigao, I thought maybe I should give motorcycles a second chance.
The road to Hinatuan’s Enchanted River is not yet cemented. There were moments when I thought we were almost there when in fact we weren’t close to near at all. it was just bumpy and dusty and I was just glad I am not an asthmatic patient. Every time we reached a wooden bridge, our driver instructed us to just hop out the habal habal and just walk. According to him, there were a couple of accidents on the bridges. It was good that he was taking precautions. The trip was long and patience is really not my strong suit.
We were almost near when the habal-habal lose its power uphill. We were terrified! We rolled off downhill. That was when I realized there was one thing that was hotter than the blazing sun – my leg on the exhaust of the motorcycle I could barely move. I screamed and the boyfriend pulled me over. He, on the other hand, had no scratched at all. I got two burns on my right leg, a small one near the knee and large one on the ankle. It was nauseating! I felt sad when I saw our driver; he got burns on the right side of his leg too and it was bigger than mine.
It did not stop us from riding the motorcycle again. Of course, we didn’t have a choice but to see the stunning Enchanted River. I told our driver that Enchanted River must be worth it. When we arrived, the boyfriend was really amazed by the blue river; I, on the other hand, couldn’t praise the river at all. It was beautiful but the pain I felt on my right leg was more powerful. The photos that I saw online were exactly the same view. It was indeed aquamarine in color.
The boyfriend walked through the nearby canteen to order food while I was sitting there dehydrated and God knows what sort of severe pain I was suffering. He requested to serve the food by 12. He was really eager to jump into the crystal clear waters of the river. He dived in first while I watched our belongings – well not really guarded them as I fell asleep on the wooden chair with my backpack as my pillow and the beach towel which served as my bed sheet. I barely fit in but I slept for hours. The boyfriend woke me up to have lunch. I felt sleepy like as if I can clutch the covers of a queen size bed. The spicy buttered crab, grilled tuna, marinated grilled pork belly, rice, mineral water and 1.5-liter coke greeted me. I tried to avoid too much seafood that time because prior to the enchanted river I had diarrhea which I got from eating kinilaw na seashells – raw seashells mixed with vinegar, sliced cucumber and whatnot in one of our layovers somewhere in Tandag. I attacked the grilled pork belly since I hardly eat pork and it’s rare in a Muslim country like Malaysia.
Exactly twelve noon, we heard the bell rings and there was like a somewhat chants from the radio or something. It was when they feed the fishes and people were requested to clear the river and watch for a while. The fishes that came out from nowhere were really huge. I noticed even the staff asked the people to go up there were still people who can’t follow simple instructions and still remained in the water. The whole thing did not get me excited because I felt weak. After the fish feeding, I swam in the waters of the river. It was just perfectly cold after for what seemed like a heatstroke experience. I forget that I have burns and enjoy that moment. After all it was really what I wanted in the first place. The water is brackish. It was the only blue river that I saw in my whole life and I was amazed with the mixture of the salt and fresh water. There were times that I gulp some waters from swimming and it was like a few hours of free drinking spree. Despite the pricking ache brought by my burns, I still soaked myself in the water.
The burns were still excruciating and there were some blisters all over it. It was awful. There was this part of me that I wanted to go back to Enchanted River maybe next time when the road is cemented. Enchanted River is wonderful but it could have been amazing if I did not experience the accident. It was my first travel accident. I barely walk and the burns took a month to heal; I don’t think I could ever forget my trip to Enchanted River. As long the scars remain, nothing can ever make me forget my trip to Enchanted River. In fact I hear it every day at work. My Filipino Boss calls me “Enchanted River” perhaps to tease me of what happened to me in Enchanted River. Ever since he saw the disgusting burns he never stopped giving me that nickname. So is Enchanted River worth it? Yes it was. I even recommend it to my Malaysian colleagues who kept asking me about the place when they saw my photos on Facebook. I just hope that the Government will do something about the road. Will ever ride a motorcycle? Maybe! I’m not ready yet.
When we left Enchanted River, we asked our driver to drop us off at the nearest waiting shed where buses en route to Butuan pass by. When we were at the waiting shed, I realized that the accident happened to me was a potential Karma for not telling my family I was back. The trip to enchanted River serves as a moral lesson to me. True enough Karma is digital.