I have spent my entire life around the ocean. I grew up in a coastal country town. I moved to the city of beaches when I left school and have always lived only a matter of a few kilometers from the sea. I have written before about how you cannot help but take something for granted when you have never been without it. As hard as you may try to appreciate what you have, how can you know what your life would be like, until it is really gone.
Adventure Saturday was upon us again and SB had found a beach he said was worth checking out. One of the challenges living here is finding a beach that is decent. Most of the local beaches are polluted, rubbish lays scattered across dirty sand and floating in the water. Not to mention, they are hours away by car. Whenever we find a new location to venture to, we always feel apprehensive. ‘There is a waterfall close by we can go to as well’, SB says to me as if that will seal the deal for the trip. ‘How long will it take to get there’ I ask. These recent weeks have seen the children and I spend an inordinate amount of time in the car, in forty degree heat. It takes a toll being on the road for a good five hours a day. So for me, a car trip needs to be worth my while. SB tells me it is a good three hour drive and I am nervous. I have a look at the Facebook page and it says you can camp there. It actually looks okay so I suggest we get our tent sorted and just wing it. Let’s just go and camp but SB isn’t keen. Reluctantly I agree to this day long road trip.
Armed with travel sick tablets we get ready to leave, I look at Noodles. It is too hot for him to stay outside so he has to be shut indoors for the day. That is a long time to hold it in. After a short negotiation, and the clarification from the FaceBook page that ‘pets are welcome, not reptiles, but dogs and cats are okay, plus my pleading…’pleeaasseee…look at his little face…I promise I will be responsible for him’, Noodles has his bag packed with snacks, portable water bowl, leash and harness. Off we go.
The drive to Real is pretty easy. Basically Luzon has this little neck bit, a narrow part of the island, Manila sits on one side and Real is on the other. You just drive through Rizal Province to that other side. We did take the long way as usual but that is not unpleasant. These roads are familiar to us now; we have headed out this way enough times so looking out the windows we were reminded of our other adventures. ‘Remember we came down here when we went to Daranak…’ Noodles was having a great time. Looking out the windows, he had a huge smile on his puppy face as he jumped from side to side to look out at each view.
It was late when we arrived on the other side of the island and we needed to find food. We drove along the coast road looking in at the myriad of ‘beach resorts’ to see if we could find a restaurant. The resorts here are not what a Westerner would consider a resort. They are places that have cabanas for hire and you can hang out for the day, swimming and using the area to cook your food and picnic. Most resorts have boat hire so you can go island hopping or just out to deeper water for snorkeling if that is what you want to do. We didn’t bring our food so we were looking for a ‘ready to feed us’ place.
This is a fishing area and the road side was lined with fish markets. It looked amazing as I watched another visitor pick up an enormous tropical fish and have her photo taken with it.
We made our way to Infanta, a small town and had lunch at a local fast food place. After a super fast lunch we headed back up the coast to find Real Surf, the beach resort we wanted to get to.
On the way we stopped in at Balabag Falls. Nestled into the mountain, a small fee, then a short walk along a mossy pathway brings you to this gorgeous pool with a giant three tiered fall. This is a local spot for swimming and picnicking and it was busy today. Bamboo cabanas spilled over with visitors and the smell of local’s cooking their BBQ’s wafted through the air. Locals were jumping from the top of the falls into the pool below, with cheers from spectators. Noodles thought he had found paradise as he sniffed around. We had a quick look and decided to keep moving on as it was very busy. We also really wanted to find the Pacific Ocean. We wanted to have our feet in the water and wriggle our toes in the sand.
Outside Real Surf sari-sari’s and food vans line the street. You enter through the gate and find yourself at the kiosk. Here you pay your entry fee, weekend fees are 270php per adult and 135php per child. This place is not cheap but you can tell just by glancing around that they don’t want it to be. This is their point of difference to the roadside beach resorts further down we had passed. Those resorts are accessible to anyone. Real Surf wants to cater to a demographic, that higher end customer and that they have done.
I found a table to put our stuff on, a place to tether the dog and then looked around. An undercroft attached to the kiosk had low laying tables and bright colourful beanbags scattered around. Young hip groups lounged drinking bourbon and icy cold beer as they talked, laughed and played cards. The notes of chilled out music wafted through the air. Cabanas with draping curtains and hammocks hanging effortlessly within, lay around the area. Each cabana had a table and chairs next to it and you could pitch your tent there or in the designated tent area just a few meters away. An undercover grill area was provided for cooking meals.
We quickly dressed the children in their swim wear and SB ran off to the surf with them. I took Noodles for a walk down to the water, looking at moored fishing boats as we wandered. Noodles had never been to the beach before so this was an auspicious occasion. His little tail was wagging as he tried to pull off his leash. The water here is lovely. There are small waves to splash in and it is a great beach for small children and those who are not strong swimmers. Noodles padded onto the wet sand with trepidation, and the first small wave came to shore and covered his little feet. He had a sniff and thought this was okay. Then we were off. Walking up and down the beach with the warm water on our feet I noticed that this patch of beach is enclosed with the volcanic rocks that line this coast line. As we were driving up the coast I had noticed the water looked gorgeous but access was difficult. Most of the coastal area was covered in these sharp black volcanic rocks. Real Surf is set in this secluded area.
Noodles and I returned to our table and I brought myself a cold San Miguel Pale to cool down with. I struck up a conversation with Ellen who is the manager of Real Surf. She told me how this was the area she grew up in and this used to be her families land. As a child Ellen moved to Manila and back in 2007 her family sold this land to another family. They did not realise what potential it held. The family cleared this land of the mangroves and rocks, creating this space to build their resort on. Now, Ellen is back in her Province and has been working here since late last year. She told me that only a few short years back the road to access Real Surf was just a provincial road, used for locals in the area. Now the road is established creating access to a new market of visitor.
As I spoke to Ellen, Annie, a young Occupational Therapist from Manila started playing with Noodles. Annie was missing her pup, a black Shih Tzu named Snow. ‘People ask me why I named him Snow, I say why not?’ I like her instantly. Annie has travelled up by van and trike for the weekend with her friends. A small group of OT’s, Speech Therapists and one Engineer, they are here to celebrate Labour Day which falls on the next day. Their tents sit pitched close by and they lay on the beanbags sleeping in the heat of the day. Annie grew up in Bicol, a province down south. It is a place we have been planning a trip to. Annie tells me growing up near the beach was special to her and down that way there are some beautiful islands to visit and white sand beaches. That appeals to me. Snow lives with her mum down there and Annie visits as often as she can. Living in Manila, she works long hours and is not allowed pets where she lives. It took her group five hours to get here today as the van was old and kept breaking down. They explored the coast like we did and found the falls too. Annie tried surfing once and wanted her friends to have the experience, she was hoping they could borrow boards and have a go today but at Real they are only available for surf lessons which cost 500 peso per hour. I looked out onto the beach as we chatted and watched the surf instructor on the sand showing students how to stand and get balance on the board.
The afternoon wore on and the temperature started to drop. I suddenly realised it was now a comfortable high 20’s with a gorgeous sea breeze blowing the heat out of the day. It was such relief from the heat wave we have going on at the moment.
SB brought the kids out of the surf at last, exhausted and hungry. We got them dressed and let them rest on the beanbags. I brought more beer for us, and fish and chips for the children to eat before we headed back home. I took Noodles for one last walk around the beach, getting his feet wet before we loaded up the car at 5.30pm and drove home. I had packed the kid’s pillows, knowing they would want to have a sleep and within minutes of leaving Real Surf the children and the dog were all blissfully dreaming. Salty, sandy and happily exhausted from a delightful day at the beach.
Located in Real, Quezon.
The entry point to the falls is located at the bridge in Tignoan.
Cost of entry: 20 pesos per person, children free. Then another 20 pesos if you have a car.
Located in Real, Quezon.
Check Facebook for all details: https://www.facebook.com/RealSurfPH
They are really quick at messaging you back if you have any further queries.
You can buy food and drinks on site and road side.