Rum and... Coconuts

Trip Start Apr 01, 2012
Trip End Apr 24, 2012

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Flag of Philippines  , Western Visayas,
Friday, April 6, 2012


We were eating breakfast when a fishing boat approached with an offer of "catching" us some coconuts. We ordered six. Minutes later another boat came by offering crawfish. We went for a kilo of those. Future meals were looking up from the white bait fritters!

The plan for the day included checking out an old copper mine which was filled by rain water to form a lake. I'm still not sure why we thought this was a good idea. It was already scorching by the time we made it ashore and set out in search of a trike to take us up to San Jose.  The one we finally flagged down made the trike at the airport look like a limo. Amanda sat in the sidecar, I sat on a bench out the back facing sideways and Simon sat on back of the motorbike seat - also facing sideways. It was a solid 15 minute ride up some pretty steep hills. The bike felt like it could flip at pretty much any point. Apparently I wasn't that far off. Simon said at one point the driver was leaning forward in a failed attempt to keep the front wheel down. When we finally made it to the mine - which for some reason was called an "Eco Park" - we were even more confused as to why we thought the trip was a good idea in the first place. So after about 90 seconds of discussion we turned around and started walking back. Did I mention it was really freaking hot?


We stopped along the way for some ice cream and a couple of kids gave us some coconuts to drink. Everyone we walked past asked us where we were going. See, they realized in the heat, walking without a destination in mind isn't the greatest idea. When we answered we were "just walking" people looked at us like we were crazy. And maybe we were. After about half an hour we came to a major intersection and seconds later a Ceres bus stopped to ask if we wanted a ride. Um, yes please.

There was no doubt that when we arrived back at the boat a swim was in order. But not just any swim, a scrub the hull of the boat swim. Basically, the growth on the hull was slowing us down and the more there was, the slower we'd be. So the three of us grabbed masks, fins & scrub brushes and got to work. A few minutes in we heard some noise at the surface. A quick look revealed 14 boys - best guess between the ages of 7 and 15 floating around. And when I say floating, I mean floating. Four wide across a long piece of bamboo. One kid hanging off a branch that looked like antlers from a giant buck. Many of the boys were at the Karaoke house the night before - and greeted us by saying "New York! New York!" I'm going to say they were fans, not mocking my vocal performance. While we scrubbed away they just watched and floated on their sticks. When five of them were hanging off the ladder, Amanda went upstairs and invited them up. I missed the fun while I was scrubbing the underside of the boat but apparently they were pretty awestruck. Some of them spoke at least a little English and Amanda said they began peppering her with questions: Where do you sleep? Where do you cook? Where do you eat? Where's the toilet? When Amanda explained that it was all on the boat they couldn't believe it. For them boats are the little fishing bangkas. When the first of the boys finally understood he just said over and over, "It's complete. It's complete."


A couple of the boys lost interest after that and started jumping back in the water off the deck. One of them was intrigued by my mask and snorkel so I let him try them out. The mask was no problem but the snorkel, well that almost drowned him. He didn't quite understand the whole top of the snorkel having to stay above water thing so he took a deep breath and then dove down. He came up coughing and spitting out water. This particular kid had only a few words of English so I showed him that the top had to stay above water and as soon as he got it he was off and swimming laps around the boat.

Lunch time for us meant time to go for the boys - so the rest of them jumped off the deck, gathered up their bamboo floats (which had been secured in the anchor chain) and swam off. Or at least we thought they had. After heading towards the shore seven of them turned around and came back to the boat. We only realized it when the first of the bunch made it up to the deck. But we put the kibosh on that before the rest of them climbed up.

Because the trip to the copper mine and the hull scrubbing weren't enough to fill the day, we set off in the dinghy in search of a cave. A cave that we had no idea where to find other than "Over there!" as pointed out by one of the locals. It took some searching but we found it. Guess what lives in caves? Bats. Lots. Of. Bats. We dinghied around in the dark for a while before exiting back to daylight. Five minutes later we found ourselves in a little resort with an ice cold (okay, not warm) beer.


And remember those coconuts that were "caught" for us? Well, they - along with a nice bottle of rum - were waiting for us back at the boat. Simon chopped the coconuts open with a machete and just like that... a delicious rum & coconut water. And then another.



Nogas Island, Panay

The rum & coconut didn't mix so well with the 5:00am wake-up. My alarm clock was the motor kicking on. Once the motor starts I have about two minutes to open up the anchor bay and get on my glove before the chain starts coming in. Of course, I didn't realize things would progress quite so quickly so I went to brush my teeth first. Bad choice. I ended up setting in about 30 meters of chain with my toothbrush still in my mouth and drooling toothpaste. Good morning!

The sail to Panay was actually a sail to Panay. After about half an hour of motor sailing we turned the motor off and went full sail until just about an hour before we reached the southern tip of the island. Panay was just a quick stopover on the way to Cuyo so we anchored, went for a little snorkel and then had our crayfish for dinner. The crayfish were nicely accompanied by a rum & coconut water and then it was an early lights out for our 3:00am departure in the morning.


Cuyo Island, Palawan
At about 2:00am I was jarred awake by the sound of the motor. Since the anchorage was a bit rolly we'd be heading out earlier than expected. 3am is no fun. 2am is a nightmare. Learning from yesterday's experience, I didn't make the mistake of brushing my teeth first - I just put on my glove and stood by for the links to start coming down. Once we were underway I went back to bed for a few hours. Only problem was that the combination of very little wind and rolling seas made for a pretty uncomfortable sleep. I woke up for good at about 6am.

This trip was nowhere near as nice as the previoius day's. In fact, if I was ever going to get seasick, this would have been the time. It was the combination of the side to side and front to back rolls. I did feel a little queasy a couple of times but made it through. As a reward along the way we saw a couple of different dolphins. First up, a long way in the distance, we were treated to an aerial show by five or six spinners. These guys were getting way up and out of the water and spinning all over the place. A few minutes later, about 50 yards away from the boat some crazy looking dolphins swam by. Simon went to the trusty dolphin & whale identification guide and ID'd them as Risso's dolphins

We anchored in Cuyo's main harbor mid-afternoon. There was a bunch of activity at the pier mostly centered around a large Philippines Navy ship that appeared to be open for visitors. There were hundreds of people gathered by the entrance.  Next to the Navy ship was a decent sized ferry. Upon seeing the ferry I wondered why I considered even for a minute meeting up with Time via ferry. This thing looked like it could go under at pretty much any minute.

By time we made our way into town things had quieted down everywhere but the Navy ship. Turns out the ship wasn't there for people to check out, it was serving as a free ferry taking people back to Palawan after visitng Cuyo for Holy Week. The ship would depart on Monday morning and people were boarding Sunday afternoon to get the best spots. In all 1500 people would make the trip. And as we found out on Monday morning, they brought some pretty outrageous luggage.

The waterfront area in Cuyo town was quiet but not shut down for Easter as we had thought it might be so we walked around a little bit and found a spot for dinner. We were joined at the little restaurant by a handful of stray dogs. Right about then I was reconsidering my choice to pass up the rabies immunization recommended by the CDC. On the other hand, I was glad I opted for the Hep A and Typhoid jabs since I really had no clue what I was about to eat.  The one restaurant open on Easter Sunday was a "fast food" place. Here fast food basically means trays of food, cooked ahead of time and kept somewhat warm for a limited amount of time while sitting on the counter. Unfortunately there was no squid since the fishermen hadn't gone out for a couple of days due to the holiday. Instead I opted fot the bistek (beef) & rice which by no small coincidence was also the most recently prepared and sitting in the hottest of the trays.

The dinghy was tied up about 50 yards from the Navy ship and upon our return things were still kicking. More and more people and their belongings were being loaded onto the ship. There were a few tents popping up on the deck. The passage was scheduled to be 24 hours - and for the people with spots on the deck, the only shelter from the sun or bad weather would be personal tents or tarps. And since Cuyo had no commerical airport (just a grass landing strip used very occassionally) the only real way to reach or leave the island was a very long ferry ride. 

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