Tomorrow, we move on again. But for a change, it’s after a (for us) long pause in one place. We’ve been here at Sugar Beach, near Sipalay, for a whole week, after deciding that our girls would benefit from slowing down for a while.
Whenever we ask them where they’ve like best, all three girls invariably name the places where we’ve stayed the longest – Chitwan, Savannakhet, Ko Tarutao – even though their favourite experiences aren’t necessarily from these place at all. I think they just like these moments of stability where they can get to know somewhere and feel like they’ve got a home from home.
After racing though Malaysia, never stopping more than three nights anywhere and dashing around Singapore for six very packed days, we decided to head to our girls’ top type of location: the beach.
Unlike most beaches in the Philippines, Sugar Beach is good for swimming (others tend to be too corally, too rocky, too tidey or too sea urchiny), it has nice, wide sand and lots of Western-run places to serve up the kind of comfort foods our kids love (spag bol, sandwiches, pizza, bacon and eggs, fried rice, French fries) but at the same time is remote enough to feel off the beaten track and for the resorts to be idiosyncratically-small scale enough for me and Janet not to feel like we’re in a tourist trap.
Each day here has consisted of little more than trying to ensure our kids at least brush hair and teeth before letting them run off to swim, pet the resorts’ dogs, dig in the sand, climb coconut trees and make friends with the staff, then, later, trying to round them up to scrub the salt, dog and sand off them (and patch up coconut tree grazes) in time to eat. They’ve loved it.
The other thing that we’ve noticed makes them happy is routine. Too much idleness and there’s a noticeable increase in bickering and boredom. So staying still was also an opportunity for homeschool. In between running wild, we’ve been corralling our girls and working on more maths or letting them carry on with long-form stories they’ve been writing since Nepal (after 2 draughts, we’re finally onto writing them up).
Towards the end of the week, however, while the kids were now ecstatic, me and Janet had begun to get restless. Particularly Janet, who I sensed had maybe had enough lazing around on the sand when she screamed, “Aaargh! I want to climb a mountain!” over breakfast, There weren’t any mountains. But we did walk over the nearest hill that afternoon to snorkel in a remote, uninhabited bay.
In fact, we got rather lost going up the “mountain’, a wrong turning taking us into a rather smelly section of forest we realized rather too late served as the village toilet. We got to the bay eventually though and had a magical time. The bay was coated in sea grass so felt like flying over a strange, otherworldy moor; a moor dotted with enormous, brown starfish and inhabited by beautiful but highly poisonous banded krait sea snakes, sliding sinuously through the “air”. We swam right up to them, marvelling at their elegance and thrilled by the danger.
I guess travelling as a family requires a lot more compromise than travelling alone or as a couple. Just like normal life with a family does. Janet likes seeing sights best, the girls like getting to know one place and my favourite part is the actual adventure of trying to get around, not knowing how it will turn out. Although, to be fair, we all enjoy all of these things to lesser extents. And, of course, we all enjoy eating our way around the World.
So, while all three girls seem rejuvenated by our time on Sugar Beach, it’s time to move on now. It’s been good for them to get a little R&R. After all, we’ve been on the road for a long time and our next destination is Indonesia, which everyone warns us is exceedingly hard work.
But tomorrow we’re leaving. We’ll be spending the next seven days on another Visayan island: Sequijor. And this time we plan to be much more active. There’s old Spanish colonial buildings to visit, waterfalls, caves, coral reefs, even a mountain (well, a big hill). And the whole place has a spooky reputation as the home to witch doctors.