My official travel day 4 started with a sunrise down in the local village kind of area where I was staying. By address, the name was San Miguel, by accident I forgot to ask if that was the actual place San Miguel beer was brewed. Either way, after a perfect sleep of roosters crowing and bees buzzing around in an open air house, I awoke before the sun, sorted my belongings and dusted off the ants. Twenty minutes later we were on our way! I am currently traveling with a girl from Germany and a Canadian couple, but one who is a native Philippino and has been amazing for explaining new local dishes, negotiating prices and insightful conversation. Not to mention, my three companions are on their 6th month traveling and my pen has been busy taking notes.
Now, back to the sunrise. I am finding, just as I expected, traveling with 60 pounds (as strong as I might believe I am) really isn’t the most convenient thing. I will be promptly disposing of these excess goods soon!
Our first mode of transportation was a tricycle packed with the four of us and all our belongings jammed into, costing about 50 cents a piece. Our destination was the bus terminal. My stint in Puerto Princessa ended before I thought it would, but it feels good to be beach bound and in good, knowledgable company who have a similar travel mindset. After bartering for the price then almost riding atop of a jeepney (how about that for adventure?!), we settled for the practical side and waited an hour and half for the next van to drive is to Sadang. There is an underwater river that ranks highly on the Unesco World Heritage site that the others had gotten a permit to the day before. After a winding road and amazing scenery we made it to our destination. We had high hopes I’d be able to get a permit the day of by just paying a but extra, but that wasn’t the case this time. No problem for me! I’ve been getting lots of comments and looks (in Asia? Imagine that) mostly because of my pale skin. They are a lot tanner here than Korea!
Upon reaching the beach and finding it ranks probably top 3 of beaches and water I’ve ever seen in my life, I was happy as could be. I set up my sarong and layered once more in copious amounts of sunscreen. I took my time to breathe in my surroundings: the plush, rolling mountains, beach full of rustic, discarded boats and the warmth of the ocean. Not long after I had moved to the shade, I was greeted with three smiling 11 year old faces. They eagerly asked my name and then after a couple questions we started singing songs and playing hand clapping games, followed by my best Tagalog (Philippino language) lesson yet. They were excited to teach me and now I can roughly introduce myself, say where I’m from, count to 5, say I love you and beautiful. It’s amazing how beautiful language and learning really are. Seeing it all with the help of these bright eyed children makes it even better.
Quickly after reuniting with my crew, we swiftly secured a van to take us 45 minutes away where we could catch a junction to catch a passing bus up to El Nido. The busses come every two hours so we were in a hurry, and it was apparent the driver knew because no one takes turns that quickly on a windy road the way he did unless there’s a baby on the way. Within a minute of being off the van, a bus which clearly stated El Nido on the front passed by. Running over to it, the bus stopped and we were told the price and that we’d have to sit in the middle on the bus. Not wanting to wait another two hours we squeezed our baggage below, we made our way to the back of the bus just to find that there were actually a row of pull down seats we could sit on between the actual seats! I’ve never seen this before and was thankful to have a seat. A few surprises were that Carrie Underwood was playing and that country music is so common in the Philippines.
In retrospect, it was extremely serendipitous that we made everything on time. The winding road took another five hours with stops to drop off and hop on for the locals and to stop for some food at road side stands. Towards the end, the road was undeveloped and made for quite an interesting twist as we powered through our thick conversation and anticipating our arrival in paradise.
Arriving in El Nido I had my first backpacking taste of bartering. It was both encouraging to know there were so many options to choose from for housing, and very tiring. Somehow the bags on my back and front seemed to multiply in weight and I was beginning to stagger. Eventually we found two guest houses next to each other that all four were satisfied with. Free wifi, yay! Feels good to take off my bags knowing they won’t be packed again for quite a few days. Next up? Beaches, island hopping and diving certification!