Secret Beaches and Hostel Hell

Trip Start Oct 02, 2012
Trip End Mar 31, 2014

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Flag of Philippines  , Palawan,
Saturday, November 3, 2012

Here we come El Nido! At breakneck speed on a twisting dirt road, with a suicidal driver, in a minivan that contained the start of a joke...there was an English couple, a French couple and a German couple....  The drive started off okay, we even had tarmac. But for the last hour we have been on loose dirt. Our thoughtful driver let the tyres down a bit when he got out to take a wee. We are hoping this will prevent the minivan skidding off the dirt road and tumbling into the jungle below. On the up side, the views on the way have been great.

El Nido bus station is out of town, so when we miraculously arrive in one piece six hours later, we get a tricycle to the main street and try a few guesthouses. Tired and weary we agree to a tiny room. At first glance it is do-able for the 2 days we want it for...however once we get the key and look properly it turns out to be a little piece of hell. The bed fills the room. It isn't a big bed. There is nowhere for our packs, they will have to share the bed with us. But we do have a balcony! Oh wait, it overlooks a building site and there is no wall between the room and the balcony, just a curtain. The toilet is grim and the previous tennant has left a rank deposit in it for us to deal with. It is filthy and the small bin is overflowing onto what floor space there is. We also have a colony of ants covering everything and a grubby toothbrush under the bed. We sit in it for about 20 mins angry that we have agreed to stay here. After discussing our options we get up and leave. We haven't given them any money so we hand the key back and make a mental note to avoid the place from then on in. We go back to a place down the road that is 3 more expensive but includes breakfast and is on the beach - it is a good move and we end up staying 4 nights!

Anyway, after the days travel and the stress from the hell-hostel, we are feeling done in and haven't eaten since breakfast, about 8 hours ago. We popped our malaria tablets (on empty stomachs) about an hour ago and now we both feel ill. Seriously ill. As we sit waiting for food we are close to passing out and/or vomiting. The heat in the resturant is unbearable and we struggle to say five words to each other over dinner. After food we head straight to bed still feeling awful. We will not be taking the pills on empty stomachs from now on. Lesson learnt.

After a much needed nights sleep we awake refreshed and head out to follow the advice of Airportman. He told us to head north and eventually we will find a beautiful deserted beach. The beach our guesthouse is on is nice enough but if you were to critisize it you would say it is a little busy on both sides. The water has lots of ships floating in it which makes swimming hard and the beach is crowded with guesthouses. Its alright but nothing special. So we pack water and trek north along the beach which soon thins out and then turns to a mudflat. Walking is tricky but it soon opens back up into another beach. This beach is still fairly unimpressive. Less guesthouses; its more spaced out resorts now, although most look like they haven't seen a guest in years. Theres only 3 or 4 people on this stretch of beach and no ships bobbing in the sea. The sand is still quite coarse and the sea a bit too rocky to swim. We stop for a while wondering if this is really the amazing beach Airportman had told us about. It seemed altogether disappointing if it is. We look further north but all that can be seen are waves crashing on an outcropping of black rocks which look jaggerd and dangerous. There is no path leading beyond this beach, only the rocks and sea on one side and the dense jungle on the other. We stare north for a while longer and talk about heading back, but as we are now hardcore explorers we walk towards the dangerous looking rocks instead. We council ourselves that if the going gets too tough we turn back, and if we can't see anything once we round the corner, we turn back. Progress is difficult and slow, but as we make it halfway we catch a glimse of white sand and it looks like our quest is actually going to end in glory. Finally we are stood on a long stretch of white beach with clear warm water on one side and lush jungle on the other. There are no people here, no boats, no resorts, no guesthouses, nothing. Just a few fallen coconuts and a few little beach crabs. We stay for hours, swimming, playing, sunbathing and congratulating ourselves. Thanks Airportman, we owe you one.

On the way back the balance of nature is restored and we get some bad to go with our massive lump of good fortune. A strap on one of Anna's favourite flip flops snaps - actually, her only pair of flip flops, and Ian catches his ankle on a rock while telling Anna to be careful! It's a smallish cut but he braves the agony (with minimal whining). We improvise a makeshift strap for the flip flop and slowly trudge home. It turns out that we are also very, very, sunburnt. Ouch.

We return to a beach restaurant we passed earlier in the day for our evening meal. The Danish owner is hanging about, meeting and greeting and generally looking after things. We spend all our time watching him. Its impossible not to, he moves in the strangest way and we can't take our eyes off him. It's like he has had his spine fused, has had robot arms and legs attached, is utterly blind drunk, and is wearing someone elses skin. We are mesmerized by him. The food is wonderful and the setting romantic. So romantic that even the camp waiter is giving Ian the eye - he may be attracted to the new glowing red tan Ian had just acquired. Tomorrow we stay in the shade.
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