For those old enough, you may remember “Tales from the gold monkey”; a TV series in the 80’s based on an American pilot who smuggled goods on a seaplane around the south pacific at the turn of the 20th century. I’ve had my fair share of scary plane rides, not smuggling may I add in the past 25 years, but nothing gets close to Boracay back in 1996.
Now Boracay, like many backwater islands in Asia, was just that, a backwater with a shed for an airport lounge and a smooth landing if the guy had cut the grass the day before. Unlike today, where there are now golf courses scattered across these remote islands, Boracay, unfortunately, didn’t have one, it opened 6 months after my trip and for 20 years I’ve been meaning to go back to play there, but the story I’m about to tell, kind of puts me off a little still.
So back in 1996, pre-tinternet, I trusted my buddy who lived in Manila to sort out the domestic flights from Manila to Boracay for us. He wasn’t able to get us all on one plane, so off he went 10 minutes before us on his nice plane, while we boarded what’s best described as a school bus with wings and 2 propellers. Despite the weight to power ratio of the magnificent beast, we made good time and arrived at Boracay Island an hour later. Unfortunately, when we arrived, so did the kind of storm we have come accustom to these days. So after three attempts to land on the finest of a Brazilian strip between palm trees while been thrown around like a rag doll in a Rottweilers jaws, our pilot announced we had to go back to Manila as we didn’t have enough fuel to hang around until the storm passed, something it did 5 mins after we left according to my buddy waiting on the ground.
As we glided into Manila international airport, I was kind of glad the pilot took the decision to do so. However, on enquiring on when we would be able to fly out again, we were told Tuesday the following week, but they would see what they could do in the morning. Next morning we battled the Manila traffic and arrived back at the irrelevant helpdesk at 8am, just to be told no planes for another week, all fully booked, but if we went outside, we could hire a plane from the nice gentlemen offering their services by the taxi stand. OK we thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so off we trotted and sure enough, there they were, five or 6 guys with cardboard signs held high offering their services.
After a 15 minute negotiation, we managed to secure our winged beast for the bargain price of US$750 between the 5 of us. Our saviour then drove us to the other side of the airport to a very quaint little hanger and showed us our plane, a very dashing red & white 6 seater Cessna. We were then escorted to a lounge where we were weighed with our bags and asked to wait for the pilot to arrive, as he was on the 4th tee at his local course. One hour later he arrived all dressed up in his fantasy Island uniform with a big smile on his face and off we went.
Now at this point, I was wondering if Manila international had a separate little runway for the small private planes. Nah, we taxied out to the main strip and queued up in between two 747’s that looked very large and imposing, but they were nice enough to shade us from the sun for the next 30 minutes. We eventually trundled down the big road and floated into the air, where we proceeded to bob along for the next 2 hours, making sure we went around clouds so we didn’t get any turbulence. On arrival in Boracay, we discovered why the pilot had aborted his landing three times the night before, as I’m not saying it was tight, but I’ve played many a hole that had more room for error of the tee than the planes were allowed and I was glad he hadn’t attempted to put us in the trees again.
The rest of the trip continued to be full of interesting moments and it’s when you reflect on how basic and rustic Boracay was then, that even though our trip would have given lesser a man a heart attack on many occasion, we were very lucky to visit during this time of innocence and $10 accommodation.
Next week, I’ll bring you a golfing adventure from Hong Kong that involves a large man, a snake and Carl Lewis running shoes. All for now, dapper dan.