Foray into Overland Travel | Getting to Lake Sebu

Lake Sebu at dusk
The requisite sunset photo.

So after a travel hiatus of three months, I finally got around to riding an airplane again.  The first of this quarter’s long awaited trips, Lake Sebu promises to be a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. (And temper-inducing road congestion, I might add!)  It didn’t matter that the flight was at 7am and we woke up before the sun came out.  I was going on a holiday!

This is where my travel mojo was put to the test.  I have been known to bring the sun with me whenever I travel (at least, 90% of the time).  This trip was hardly different.  The forecast for Lake Sebu was rainshowers and thunderstorms for the entire trip. We arrived in General Santos City – our kick-off point – with the sun beating down on us at 10am.  I even had to take my sunglasses out (positive thinking whilst packing helps).

I had to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about taking public transport from Gen San to Lake Sebu.  We had to change transport three times, and I really had no idea what the state of the buses would be.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the inter-city buses in South Cotabato are fully air-conditioned, and run regularly.  We hardly had to wait for any of the buses – the first from Gen San to Marbel, and the second from Marbel to Surallah.  It helps to know where you’re supposed to be going, but if you don’t, the bus conductors can point you in the right direction.

The last leg of our overland travel was the most interesting.

From Surallah to Lake Sebu
This is as local as it gets.

We had to travel from Surallah to Lake Sebu, and this is usually through a jeep (a local form of transport that evolved from US Army Cherokees).  Sometimes, though, you luck out and get an actual mini-van.  If you can call it being lucky.

As you can see, the thing was packed to the gills.  I pretty much lost count, but I think we had – aside from the driver and the conductor – fifteen adults, four children, two infants, and a chicken.  Said livestock was alive at point of embarkation.

Oh, and there wasn’t any air-conditioning.  Not that it mattered – the average daytime temperature was at 25deg C.

So on we went, until we reached Lake Sebu town center.  Then we hired motorbikes to take us to the resort, which included uphill and downhill rides on gravel paths.  No big deal, but don’t tell my mother that I didn’t wear a helmet.

The entire road journey took us three hours flat.  The flight took two, so it was five hours from Manila to Lake Sebu.  Maybe too long for a short weekend getaway, but not so bad if you’ve got four days to spare.

The return journey was equally easy, but more draining because we took off at midday.  The heat of the sun in a packed jeepney pretty much sucks the life out of you.  I need to emphasise that the jeepyney is made of metal, with hardly any cavities and soft furnishings for insulation.  It’s almost like a moving oven.  Imagine having to wait in this condition whilst 50 sacks of rice are being loaded onto the roof.  I actually passed out at some point, under the guise of napping.

Needless to day, the air-conditioned buses were a welcome relief.

The one-way journey from Gen San to Lake Sebu costs around PhP 250, or US$ 6, including airport transfer.

Yes, travelling around the Philippines is THAT CHEAP.  Thrill rides and animal companions likely, but not guaranteed.

Not bad for rustic road travel.

(For those interested, I’ll talk about the highlights of the trip itself in a subsequent post.)

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