We’ve been travelling seven months now, and one thing we have learnt is that it’s tiring. I remember when we first left England and were in Beijing, we met someone who had been travelling for about six months. They were cutting their trip short because they were too tired. At the time I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing, but now I appreciate it a bit more. The constant moving, the endless search for cheap but acceptable rooms, the long and uncomfortable bus journeys all add to it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for sympathy, and I wouldn’t change anything about our trip. It’s just been a learning experience.
What’s made me talk about it this week was a moment Katy had as we walked to a beach called Corong-Corong. After breaking her beloved flip-flops and having to walk bare-foot across rocks, she exclaimed “Sam, I’ve had enough of beaches and being hot. I just want some home comforts, like air-con and a swimming pool.” I did point out to her that we have neither air-con nor a swimming pool at home, but it didn’t seem to help the situation.
The Philippines has been a hard place to get around; probably the hardest out of all the countries we have visited. It’s something I didn’t really expect as I thought countries like Laos and Cambodia would be more difficult, but it was quite the opposite. Anyway, this is what I think led to Katy’s mini meltdown. To be fair it didn’t last for long, as after a long walk in the blistering heat we eventually got to the amazing beach that is Corong-Corong. We spent the afternoon relaxing in hammocks, swimming in the crystal clear sea and playing frisbee on the on the white sandy beaches. Then we watched the sun set whilst enjoying a few beers with fellow travellers.
It was a great day that was finished with another Katy treat. We had pizza and white wine for dinner. This may not sound like much of a treat, but wine is something that we really can’t afford on our budget, and pizza is…well pizza. It was more like a shot of wine than a glass to be honest, but it was nice to have a change.
We decided to change rooms as after having no electricity on the first night, we then had no water on the second night. So after a few hours walking around and checking prices, we settled for the Nido Bay Inn; slightly more expensive, but with hot water and WIFI. El Nido itself only has power between 14:00 and 06:00, which takes a bit of getting used to. It can make the morning quite hot in the room when there is no fan blowing. But it’s the price you pay for staying somewhere like this.
After spending a couple of days doing very little, we booked two more dives. We were the only people on the boat other than the dive master and the captain, and we headed off to the island of Miniloc. It was a beautiful day, and we were really looking forward to our first fun dive, with no tests, skills or exercises to do. We didn’t even have to set up our equipment, so we just sat back and relaxed as we headed to the first dive site on South Miniloc.
The first dive was almost like diving in an aquarium, with thousands of different types of fish everywhere. We saw enormous schools of yellow snapper and jack fish, some massive puffer fish along with countless others that we didn’t know. It was a great dive, and very different from our last dive in Malapascua with the sharks.
We got back on the boat and had a break, with coffee and cake served by the captain. We talked about what we had seen and enjoyed the sun before heading to our next dive site, Twin Rocks. This was a very different dive from the first one, but one that made Katy very happy. We saw our first turtles here, and they were huge. We had been hoping to see some for a while now, and they are so nice to watch under the water. We also saw some sting rays and other fish, but the turtles were the main attraction. It was another great afternoon diving, which only makes us want to do it more. It’s very addictive, but sadly the one thing stopping us from doing it more is the cost. It’s very cheap to dive here in the Philippines (£18 per dive including all equipment and boat etc), but that can quickly eat into a budget.
For the next few days we did very little other than a bit of exploring. We walked around the coast to see what beaches there were on offer. They were quite nice, and deserted, but not a touch on Corong-Corong. So we decided that we would explore some of the islands by kayak to see what we could find.
The last time we went kayaking (in Vang Vieng, Laos), we spent the first ten minutes bickering about getting in rhythm and who should steer. It wasn’t any different this time either, but once we got going it was ok.
We didn’t really know where we should head to first, so we chose a beach that was just in sight on an island called Cadlao. We were quite relieved to get there as it was hot and tiring, and we cooled off in the sea to relieve our slowly fatiguing limbs. I even managed to find and open a fresh coconut for Katy to drink.
Once we got some of our energy back, we continued on around the island, until we found a nicer beach. Again it was quite hard work getting around there with the currents (and Katy’s steering), but once we did it was worth it. It was a lovely beach that was totally deserted. We spent a few hours there, and literally didn’t see another soul. This is how I pictured the Philippines before we arrived here, and it was great.
The area actually reminded me a bit of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, with its limestone cliffs strutting out from the water. The big difference here is the beaches. Beaches like the one we found are common, and it’s easy to find your own private beach for the afternoon if you venture out by boat or kayak. There are over 7000 islands in the Philippines, with over 1500 just off Palawan.
For the last couple of days we have done very little, again. Tomorrow morning we leave on a rather epic journey to get to Bali. First we have a five-hour journey to Puerto Princesa and then after a couple of hours break we have a flight from Puerto Princesa to Manila.
We have about four hours to amuse ourselves in Manila airport before another flight to Singapore that gets in at about 01:00. We then have six hours waiting at Singapore for our flight to Bali. It will be quite a testing day I’m guessing, but we should be used to them by now.
The Philippines has been a combination of ups and downs. Very bad travel days combined with amazing diving, beaches and surroundings. Overall I think it is worth the effort because there is nowhere we’ve been so far that has had the wow factor that we’ve found here. Hopefully Indonesia will give it a good shot.
Until the next time…