Rum and... Latkes?
Trip Start Apr 01, 2012
8Trip End Apr 24, 2012
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Our arrival at Buguias Island coincided with a flyover by a couple of large military helicopters. The increased presence around Puerto Princesa made sense after the bombings and there's also a conflict brewing between the Philippines and China about the Spratleys, an island group located off the west coast of Palawan. We're not sure they he flyovers had anything to do with either but they continued periodically throughout the day.
Once we felt confident we weren't under attack we jumped in to check out the long reef just offshore. Turns out it was the best of the bunch since I'd been on the boat. The spots of live coral brought lots of fish and other reef life. And the steep drop off at the end of the reef brought in some cooler water and bigger fish as well.
Now comes possibly the most unbelievable (and by that I mean it's truly hard to believe) part of the trip. It's fair to say I don't cook a whole lot. And if the degree of difficulty is much higher than boiling some water, preheating the toaster oven or setting the timer on the microwave the potential for disaster increases exponentially. And with that bit of background... it turns out there's somewhat of a tradition aboard Time that somewhere along the way crew cooks a meal representative of their home country. Uh-oh.
Asked what my specialty was, this time it was me who was staring blankly. After some thought I threw out macaroni & cheese. Of course, that's actually Kraft's specialty but I figured I could pull it off. Unfortunately cheese is like gold so that was nixed immediately. It also killed my second idea: grilled cheese. The available ingredients (and lack of a toaster or microwave) were somewhat limiting but then in a moment that would make my mother proud I offered up latkes. Traditional American dish? Not exactly. But who could say no to crispy potato pancakes? Unfortunately I didn't think the plan through entirely since latkes mean lots of potato peeling and grating but there was no turning back now. And in a stroke of luck we even had some beef in the fridge so with latkes and brisket it would be Time's first (and presumably last) Hanukkah (eight months early).
Rightly concerned about my ability to prepare the brisket Amanda took charge of that leaving me to my latkes.
I'm happy to report that the peeling, grating and mixing (potatoes, onions, egg whites, salt & pepper) went well and the pancakes were a it. Then again, when would crispy fried potatoes not be a hit?
TUESDAY, APRIL 17
Buguias Island to Ramesamey Island
In no rush to leave Buguias we went for a morning snorkel along the reef before setting out for Ramesamey Island. Ramesamey would be our last little island stop before Palawan and our arrival sadly signaled the rapidly approaching end of my trip.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18
Puerto Princesa, Palawan
The final stop for me is Puerto Princesa, Palawan - by far the biggest city we've hit in my three weeks of travels. The ride in was a bit tricky trying to keep the hull clear of the reef in some very shallow water. At the tightest spot we had about three feet of clearance. Turning the corner into the harbor there were a bunch of boats anchored in front of the Abanico Yacht Club. For those of you with thoughts of fruity drinks and swimming pools at the club, think again. They do serve a mean iced beer though (that would be not so cold beer over ice) but since our supply of San Migs had run dry (and flat) ice beer would be just fine.
Among the boats already anchored was Trevor and Ginny on the 'Fly and Tim and Barb on RStar (our daily radio check-in partners). All settled in, we headed ashore for a quick trip into town for lunch and some shopping. For the first time since Dumaguete we were back in the world of the crazy tricycles. Forget about riding in them, in Puerto Princesa dodging them would prove the bigger challenge. You see, the whole driving on one side of the street thing appears to be somewhat optional on the non-paved roads around town. Drivers just look for the smoothest patch of dirt and rock and go there.
At the supermarket I was introduced to the 64 peso bottle of Tanduay Rum. One more quick currency conversion for you, that's $1.50. And in case you're wondering, we're not talking mini-bar bottles. These are full size bottles of rum. And they cost less than Boone's. Boone's? Of all the American alcohol you could import you choose Boone's? Really? But if $1.50 is out of your price range, no worries... the smaller flasks will only set you back 54 cents.
The day however was ultimately just a means to get us to the night. And the night, well, it went as you might expect it would once we discovered a bottle of Tanduay at the bar cost less than $4.00. Not a shot. Not a drink. A bottle. And with that, it didn't take long before Amanda & Ginny were singing into Coke bottles, I was using the ice buckets as a drum set, Trevor was lying on the ground, Tim was playing bongos with the band and band Barb was trying to get Tim away from the bongos and the band. Keep in mind, Tim is 70. And I'm pretty sure Tim had more rum than any of us. In other words: Tim. Is. Awesome. Unfortunately, Tim's awesomeness doesn't translate to bongo skills.
As for the band, loved 'em. I wouldn't say they were playing traditional Philippine music (then again, I'm not sure what traditional Philippine music is) but whatever it was, wow. There were seven guys in the band (not including Tim) and they were all up on a stage not much bigger than our table. Actually, six of them were on stage - the drummer was back behind it because his kit wouldn't fit. At different times guys were playing all sorts of crazy instruments and created a totally unique sound. I think my ice bucket accompaniment worked well.
When the band finished its first set, we were treated to an intermission performer: an older guy playing an acoustic guitar. He was also really good - and apparently quite a fan of The Eagles. When it came time to break the streak of Eagles tunes he went with the obvious choice, Tracy Chapman's "Talking About a Revolution". No worries though, after that it was right back to The Eagles. We were well into our second bottle of rum & coke by the time the band came back on.
Rum math time. The grand total for two bottles of rum and coke? About $3.80 USD per person.
And because two bottles of rum wasn't enough, we ended up back on the 'Fly for a nightcap.
At this point, let me go back a little... for the previous two weeks I've been tying a lot of knots. It started with Simon showing me a simple clove hitch and from there we went to the clove with a locking half hitch, the double clove, the clove slip, the bowline, a crazy lifting/pulling knot that's name escapes me but would apparently be the knot of choice for lifting large pieces of wood up to my fifth floor window, the reef (tying two ropes together) and finally, Trevor's favorite for tying up the dinghy, the round turn with a double locking half hitch. I'd find a rope, I'd tie a knot. Once I had a few of them down, hanging the line for the wind catcher (clove hitch on one end and a double clove on the other) and the actual wind catcher (clove slip) at each anchorage joined packing the anchor chain as my responsibility.
Okay, back to the present... Simon seemed to think that now would be the perfect time for me to display my knot-tying skills (or more accurately, his knot-tying teaching skills) to Trevor. The result? A bit of a knot off in which I nailed all seven knots. Of course, Trevor had to one up me but as Simon quickly pointed out, Trevor's knot didn't really have a purpose so mine were better.
At some point the knot-off ended and we headed home. Unfortunately none of us remember exactly when that was.