More rooftop travel and the islands around El Nido
Trip Start Feb 21, 2010
40Trip End Aug 12, 2010
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The journey was ok for the first few hours as the sun wasn´t yet at full blast but as we approached midday it was scorching even with the wind factor. To make things worse the sun lotion was in our big backpacks which were at the bottom of the huge pile of luggage on the roof and therefore inaccessible; we resigned ourselves to burning horrifically at this point!
Respite came from the burning sun with a heavy downpour. We both thought that this would quickly pass and so passed up the opportunity to shelter under a large tarpaulin, and as a result we both got soaked to the bone. Like a true gentleman I gave Rachel my coat, a decision I regretted as I sat there shivering and unable to believe that only minutes ago I was complaining about the ridiculous heat.
Being Palawan, the road hadn´t been fully concreted and there were sections that were still compacted mud, and with the heavy rain these sections got more and more treacherous until we reached a short but sharp hill. The bus started up the climb but lost grip before we got to the top and began wheel-spinning, then slowly sliding backwards. The bus reversed up, tried again with the same result. The bus took an even longer run up the third time and it looked like we were not only not going to make it up but were going to slide into a ditch as we slid slow-motion rally style towards the edge of the road, but against the odds the ancient bus made it to the crest of the hill to much relief from the 50 odd people on board. Only ten minutes later the bus got stuck in deep mud and sunk almost up to its axles. For some reason none of the trucks that went by whilst we were stuck offered to help pull us out and so the bus had to manage by itself. I thought we were going to have to get off and help push which would have been quite fun I guess but somehow the bus again defied the odds and pulled us through.
We arrived in the small town of El Nido at about 3. We were both looking quite sun burnt by the time we arrived and very happy to be off the roof of the bus as the novelty of roof-top travel had worn very thin indeed. Our oracle, the Budget Guide to South-east Asia had very little information on El Nido and so I left Rachel with the bags on the beach and went off looking for cheap accommodation. This was a bit of a fruitless search as El Nido is quite expensive, by our meager standards at least. Eventually I found a room in a hotel above a corner shop, with a balcony over-looking the beach. It was a bit weird as we had to go through the shop's kitchen to get to the hotel and the family were normally cooking or eating when we walked through!
El Nido was was really nice though with lots of fairly cheap restaurants right on the beach and set in lovely scenery with views across the bay towards a few of the many islands of the Bacuit archipelago. We ate on the beach most evenings and found a bakery that we bought bread and corned beef from so we managed to eat breakfast and lunch on the cheap!
Whilst we were in El nido we went on an island hopping tour, which is probably the most popular activity for tourists in the town. We went on a banca to 4 or 5 islands, and kayaked and snorkeled around for the best part of a day and enjoyed the spectacular scenery.The next day we hired a kayak and went off by ourselves to an island across the bay from El Nido which took about 40 minutes of paddling to get to. The beach we went to was deserted and beautiful so we spent a while there before paddling to another equally nice but less deserted stretch of sand and then heading back for home at about 4. That evening we had dinner with the French couple that we had met on the bus from Puerto and kept bumping into in El Nido which was nice and somewhat shaming as Olivia hadn't spoken any English prior to coming to the Philippines and now she could just about hold a conversation with us! It has been a bit of a recurring theme being shamed for our lack of foreign language skills by traveling Europeans and of course locals. Nearly all the Phillipinos speak English and so it has been very easy to get by, and we have rarely needed to resort to pointing and gesticulating when communicating.
We stayed in El Nido for three days in total and really enjoyed our time there as it was a really beautiful place, three days there was enough there wasn't a whole lot to do other than island-hop, and having done that a few times now we felt we had seen enough pretty islands, for a while at least. So we left El Nido for Coron, another long journey but this time by banca across fortunately flat seas.