From Sabang to Barton to El Nido

Trip Start Apr 01, 2009
Trip End May 02, 2009

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Well it has been a while since we have been close enough to civilization to post. Here goes ...
We left Puerto Princesa to go see the Underground River in Sabang Palawan. We avoided the multitude of Holy Week holiday makers by taking the local bus, not the air con tour bus. The local bus had no windows, we could see the road through the rust cracks and people sat on the roof. Within 90 seconds of leaving we had a flat tyre and I made the (usually) fatal mistake of saying "well at least that is out of the way" ... because we had another one, three hours in. Anyway, two flat tyres aside, we made it to Sabang. Of course the scenery was amazing ... very reminiscent of the jungle in Apocalypse Now (which was of course filmed in the Philippines, but not in Palawan).
Sabang was okay, but not as beautiful as what was to come (of course we didn't know that at the time, and we thought it was pretty good at the time). We went to the underground river which was pretty amzing - long, dark, full of bats, swiflets and pythons that feed on the bats. Well worth it. Our room was pretty awful though, near a pool hall, with nothing but two beds, a tap, bucket and basic toilet. A tip for people who get to Sabang by bus from PP and really want some accom - get off the bus, then go Right, not Left. We were on a bus full of people, including a good few tourists, so the idea was Jay would sit with the bags, and I would make a run for the first pensionne and get it before the Dutch guy or the Slovakians. Unfortunately, I went left while said Dutchies and Slovaks went right and they ended up with beautiful sea views and we got stuck with a pool hall and views of a building site.
Although the local bus was an "experience" we decided to avoid it and get a banka boat to Port Barton. We hooked up with three guys from Slovakia (herein known as "the Slovakians" because I can't remember their names). They didn't speak much English and spent most of the boat trip trying hard to down the local moonshine (40 peso rhum). The boat trip was deceptively calm (we found out how deceptively later) and we arrived at the beautiful little town of Port Barton.
Port Barton is a picturesque little beach town on the most beautiful white sand beach. Amazing. Warm water. Little restaurant looking out to the islands. Like something out of a magazine. We could've stayed for days, but really needed to get to El Nido as we had accom booked, so spent just one night at Elsa's beach cottages. Highly recommended!
The next morning, we left the Slovakians with rhum hangovers and got another boat to El nido. This time we met an Australian couple (Dan & Sally) who we ended up spending lots of time with. We were lulled into a bit of a false sense of security by the previous boat trip, but for the duration of this trip, we had what felt like buckets of warm salty water thrown in our faces. It was quite tolerable though, as the scenery was just amazing. Limestone islands, turtles, flying fish, little isolated beached, tall mountains. We were soaked and after 8 hours arrived at El Nido. We made our way to the Golden Monkey cottages, so named because of the British owners' hobby of rescuing mal treated long tailed macacques. These little critters were very endearing until they grab your finger and try to pull you through the wire. Apparently, they want whatever we have. Feeding time was fun, and the little guys ate spagetti like people. We ended up moving to a second place called Makulay, which was just sublime. Private balcony, shower, endless supply of beer ...
The main passtime in El Nido is island hopping, so we did two day tours. The scenery is really hard to put into words - it is just so beautiful. No description can do it justice. And our camera is pretty crap, so the photos probably don't do it justice either!
Anyway, we just snorkelled, swan, ate baked fish and squid on the beach, swan and snokelled some more. The only small downer, which is funny in hindsight, was the plagues of purple jelly fish which we assumed were totally safe. We snorkelled out to a little cove and before we knew it we were engulfed and itching like crazy! We managed to just swim over them and found ourself isolated and had a very difficult cliff climb to get back to our boat mooring, which was, however, preferable to more jellyfish! We got back to the boat covered in things that looked like mosquito bites and sore feet from having to rock climb with no shoes! Anyway, El Nido is amazing. I have read another blog where someone got a bus from PP to El Nido and I am so pleased we managed to avoid this. It costs more to do it like we did (ie: boat from Sabang to Port Barton, then Port Barton to El Nido) but it was undoubtably nicer and there was less travel time with better views. If you can do it this way ...
Next post - Tao expedition from El Nido to Coron.
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