Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Here today, where tomorrow?

There are chartered boats that plow the route up and down the West coast of Palawan, offering a more relaxing connection between Sabang, El Nido, and the mid-point station of Port Barton than the jeepney-beast.

Wednesday, December 16th
@ the boat 'office', which is housed in a beach-front restaurant, Sabang, Palawan, Philippines

"the boat is running on Friday. The charge is 1200 Pesos for Port Barton and 2000 Pesos for El Nido. We need five passengers to go to El Nido, we currently have two, if you want to go, that'll make three, and we just need two more"

Sounds good - count me in! I'll talk to my friends about coming, but I'll go to Port Barton too, if you don't go to El Nido, and just catch the bus from there

Thursday, December 17th
@Dab-dab hotel, Sabang, Palawan, Philippines

I'm having a few drinks with Till and Hannah (the German couple from the bus-beast-jeepney from the day before) and Marty, a Canadian we met on the way back from the caves this afternoon, when the guys from the boat company show up

"Ok, if you guys are going, the best price is 1800 Pesos! Otherwise we just lose money on the diesel..."

"How much is the diesel?"

"Dunno, captain says 5,600"

Marty's on a budget, so he declares he's out, Till demands 1,500, and says they'd think about when the price doesn't move off of 1,800 Pesos. I quietly observe and sip my 6.9 percent alcohol Red Horse. Once the boat guys leave, Till and Hannah are in, of course, but prefer to make the announcement the next morning, hoping to finagle more of a discount. Marty says he'll stop by in the morning to say good bye, we all got back to our drinks. I promise to buy Till a beer if and when we actually get to El Nido for 1,800 - I reserve skepticism for all unsubstantiated promises made to foreigners.

Friday, December 18th
@ the boat office, again

"Till, Hannah, you should catch the bus before it leaves - our boat is going to Port Barton"

"What!? But, we're now in for El Nido, which is all you needed yesterday to make the trip to El Nido!?"

"captain says no" [I think the captain may not be of legal drinking age in the States]

"but what about yesterday!? You promised..."

"Well, you see, the French couple canceled yesterday, and if Marty's not going, the three of you isn't enough..."

"That's bullshit! That's not what you said yesterday, and we've made plans based on what you said!"

[sounding conciliatory - good thing we are not in Vietnam or Russia...] "Let me ask the captain..."

captain: "2,000 pesos each"

Till: "fine..."

me [silently], so we've gone from 2,000, minimum five passengers to 1,800 "for you guys", to 2,000 for the three of you? Guess diesel prices have dropped, but I think, overall, my situation has only improved... Tally-ho!

And so that's how Till, Hannah, and I ended up on board of the bangka Sweet Reeza May, having waved good bye to Marty and joined by a couple from the Australia's Northern Territory (where noone else is from, as I helpfully pointed out), and a German tourist filling the role of Sketchy Man - local superhero accompanied by a Filipino girl less than half his age... Of legal age though, I'm fairly certain, so maybe those crazy kids are really in love... Till, who exchanged a few words with our superhero in native German, may have been somewhat more skeptical as he referred to him simply as the "German sex tourist."

After all that negotiation, this was our boat for El Nido

The views of the Bacuit Archipelago on the way do not disappoint!

Our captain hanging out on the side of the boat

Reefs and islands of Bacuit Bay dominating the foreground in front of El Nido

Similar view at dusk, from atop a hill at my hotel, run by the most incredibly friendly couple I have yet to meet! In fact, the Makulay Lodge here in El Nido may very well be my favorite place of any of the lodgings I've tried in almost two years of traveling - highly recommended!

And a solitary patrol boat keeping the peace in the middle of the Bay

After exploring the bay, we decided to rent motorcycles and explore inland a little too

Till getting ready for a full day behind the wheel of a motorcycle

First stop was the Nagkalit-kalit Waterfalls

Hannah getting into the relaxation spirit

Hannah, Till, Ria, and I at the waterfalls. I met Ria the day before on our dive trip in Bacuit Bay - more on that in another post

Further along on the island - it's a beautiful beach you've got there, but I think your bridge might be missing?

Getting up in the mountains up North offered breath-taking views of the islands

Arguably the most famous site in the Philippines is the rice paddies in the North of Luzon island - I skipped those, but I'm not sure these ones are all that much worse!

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