A Travellerspoint blog

Day 76- 78: El Nido; Instagram Vs Reality

Boat tours & toilet trips!


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17 February- Tour C
El Nido is definitely the tourist capital of Palawan and maybe the whole of the Philippines with a plethora of white people. It was certainly a place that pops up a lot on Instagram and one of the locations Izzy was most excited about.

El Nido tourism is basically all about 4 location hopping tours; inventively called A, B, C, D. You can't really come to this place without doing one and most blogs we read recommended two. Tour A is overwhelmingly the favourite with tour C second. Tour B gives something a little different with cave experiences and Tour D just isn't really spoken about. We had selected to do two tours as we had a decent amount of time and as I said there didn't seem to be too much else going on. We selected A for its popularity and mainly for the promise of the big lagoon, a place on Izzy's hit list since we decided on this trip, and tour C as it sounded the best of the rest.

Today's tour was tour C. On the beach nice and early we were ready. Unfortunately it seemed someone on our boat wasn't so we were delayed setting of (bloody Daniel!). Once all aboard we were away. It seemed that having booked online for a slight discount meant that we were sharing a boat mainly with local people. Now this isn't a problem but we have found that generally these are not as up for mingling, which can greatly impact the overall tour experience as demonstrated in Port Barton. There was however one group of Filipino girls that had made friends with two guys from Belgium. One of these girls was basically a Filipino Katja, full of energy and beans; giving you no choice about whether you wanted to speak to her. Such people really do help interaction among the group. However even she couldn't generate a lot of conversation from the locals. We, on the other hand, were happy to engage with her.

The first stop was a brief snorkel at helicopter island (or as some of the locals call it Jollibee island. Personally I like this better as it does look more like a chicken drumstick). Next up was Matinloc Shrine; a small beach a short distance from where we stopped, surrounded by atmospheric looking limestone cliffs and blue waters. Here there was the opportunity to rent a kayak. Although as we were unaware of the this additional charge we hadn't brought enough money. In any case it didn't seem to be that worth it. So we opted to swim in the crystal clear waters. We don't regret tired decision and if we were to go again we still wouldn't rent a kayak but it did mean that we suffered a few minor stings from the small jellyfish in the waters.

Drumstick or helicopter... You decide:
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Next it was time for lunch. Where we pulled up we were surrounded by picturesque scenery. These islands really are idyllic. Although this happy feeling was soon replaced by a bit of resentment as we had to pay an additional charge to enter the place we were stopped for lunch as it was private land. Now I understand this, but considering we had already paid a decent amount for the tour itself, had no choice where to stop and as the island literally had a derelict house, a barely functional toilet and a few steps it seemed cheeky. Again I get that you want to get as much as possible from the tourism and people will pay, but it along with the kayak it just seemed like loads of hidden extras and put a dampener on things. Regardless, lunch was another tasty BBQ complete with grilled fish, chicken curry and fresh fruit. However when the food was opened our Filipino shipmates went to town on it. Pilling their plates high. It really was a bit of a scramble to get the popular food like the fish. Being already in a bad mood this lack of courtesy had us both in a little funk. Especially when iz spotted one particular woman continually going over to the bench and shovelling food into her mouth and filling her plate like she hadn't eaten in weeks. She was on like round 5 before some people had eaten round one. The final straw was when we saw she had taken one of the 3 bottles of coke for her family of four leaving the other 10 of us with 2 bottles. This was a red flag to Iz and being the brave bear she is she went over and poured herself a glass from the confiscated bottle much to her annoyance. I faced a similar injustice as I went back to get more pineapple and Daniel (remember him from earlier) just took all of the remaining pieces... You know despite this being over half a pineapple.

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Not feeling the communal love it was back to the boat. And off to our next stop hidden beach. These was a gorgeous little beach slightly hidden from view, unless you know where to look, and required you to swim up as the entry was too narrow for the boat. Now this place did cheer us up as we managed to put Daniel and co to the back of our minds. After completing a mini photoshoot our new friends insisted on (see below), we had fun with some panoramic shots and playing with some of the features on my phone.

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We could have happily stayed here a little longer but it was off to the final spot; secret beach. I imagine when people first stumbled across this place it would have been breathtaking. You had to swim through a gap in the rock and popped up the other side in crystal clear waters, enclosed by huge cliffs on all sides. Now the thing that took away some of this charm... Was the number of people. Me and Iz imagined what it would be like to bring a small picnic and bottle of wine and here a little date afternoon here just the two of us. But the problem with secret lagoon is it is no longer a secret. It was still impressive nonetheless. Another thing we have encountered during our time here is the level of sexism. This was demonstrated very clearly when Iz asked if she could climb a rock like she had witnessed someone else do for a cool photo. However our guide informed her she couldn't as she was a woman and therefore it is too dangerous. It is funny as Iz is a better climber than me and nowhere near as clumsy. Yet I would be able to climb where she couldn't. So as not to rub it in, and for my own health, I stayed in the lagoon too.

Then it was back to the boat for the trip back to shore... Well close to shore you still had to wade through chest high water to get to the beach.

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The rock Iz wasn't allowed to climb:

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During earlier exploring we had come across a really cheap local and tiny burger place. As I write this it has dawned on me we have had a lot of burgers here. But they are everywhere. They seem to love their fast food and with a few exceptions the local cuisine hasn't recently been a taste explotion. Albeit small for the price the burger and chips were decent and filled the gap we needed. Patrick and Lizzy had messaged as promised about their arrival in El Nido and wanted to meet for drinks. This is one of our favourite parts of traveling and having got on well in Port Barton we were up for a catch up.

As we both had early boat tours the next day it wasn't a partically late or wild one. But it was great getting to know them both a little more and discuss their remaining plans for the Philippines, passing on our tips for a few of the places we had already ticked off. Patrick, bless him, wondered even let us pay for our drinks. A generosity that was very much appreciated and one we promised to repay on our next meeting hopefully in Coron.

18 February- Tour A
Like groundhog day we were back on the beach waiting for our tour. It was here we spotted the coke stealing Filipino family and Daniel from our tour yesterday. Any hopes they were not on the same tour were dashed as we headed to the same boat. We were also joined by fou r elderly people one of which wore a make badge stating "Sister Anderson". It was clear this again wasn't going to be the relaxed party boat experienced with Joey in Port Barton.

The guide on this boat was great and approached the tour in a way I imagine I would if I was tasked with such a job. He was full of information about the islands, the wildlife, dangers posed and myths explained/dispelled and the geography of the area; putting his previous role of a geography teacher to good use. He stated that it is a very similar job but the ocean is now his classroom, I like that. The only problem was that I could only here about 60% of what he said over the boats engine.

The first stop up was secret lagoon. Similar to yesterday's experience this lagoon is now in no way secret. And we had to wait around 20 minutes to even gain entry, via a squeeze through a gap in the rock, to an area very similar in looks to secret beach on tour C. Can you spot the so called resemblence to the last supper painting below.

Back on the boat it was time to head to Shimizu Island for a snorkel. As you can see these boat tours follow a very similar pattern. And although they are enjoyable on the whole, and it is interesting seeing the different sights, both Iz and I started to feel that we had our fill of such tours. I think Iz started to feel this way before this trip even ended as this coupled with stomach cramps meant she was happy to just sit on the beach while I went in search of fish.

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The last supper anyone?:
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Up next...lunch. Knowing what we were up against from yesterday's experience we tried to get in first and get a healthy, but not unfair helping. This just seemed to make our Filipino boat "friends" even more determined and she stayed perched by the table the whole time pulling a face like a slapped arse every time someone took any food like it was a personal insult. This did mean by the time our nun companions got to the front there was only scraps left.

With lunch over and her cramps subsiding it was good to see Izzy's face light up as she knew the next stop was the big lagoon. The highlight of the tour. Saddled up in the kayak and paddling down the stream into the lagoon was magical. When the sun hit the water you could really see how aqua green the place was and it was stunning. The place was big enough to enjoy the tranquility despite the people and we even managed to bag an isolated spot for some pictures. It lived up to the Instagram photos and we soaked in the view for as long as we could before being instructed to paddle back to the boat. We are consistently gobsmacked by the beauty of nature on this trip. How it can look so perfect, yet such perfection has been reached in the most unplanned of ways.

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Anchors down for another snorkel spot. Which was one of the better spots we have had with some colourful fish all riding some fairly rough waters crashing against the rocks. Iz, like most, didn't stay in the water too long and headed back to the boat. I was about to do the same but then I spotted a large concentration of fish towards the back of our boat. It quickly became apparent that some of the crew were throwing leftovers overboard and the fish were loving it. Again such behaviour really can't be helping the marine life, but it did make for some good photos and with everyone else on board it was a private viewing. Well until Iz shouted over for me to get back onboard as they were leaving. Quickly scrambling up the ladder I was back in my seat and we were off... Well until they realised they had left two other people who had been snorkeling near the rocks and had to turn back.

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The final stop was the pretty 7 Commando beach. Here we took the opportunity to try and get some traditional "obviously staged but we will pretend they are natural" beach shots. After the mini photoshoot yesterday Iz was confident... However unlike the Instagram obsessed girls we didn't quite have their grace despite a bit of persistence. You can see our efforts below, obviously Iz looks great in all of them but I do prefer the more natural ones taken before/ after said poses! You never know by the end of this trip we may have our swimwear postures nailed, but it's more likely that'll we'll just stay geeky!

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Tour A had been more enjoyable than tour C, despite both being similar. We much preferred the sites taken to and the guide was much better which adds a lot of value. If we were to make a recommendation it would probably be only do one for and pick tour A, skip the rest and maybe try a different activity nearby. Or if you really want to do two maybe mix it with tour B as I feel this would give more diversity.

Both pretty exhausted it was back to the hostel to pack up and prepare for our early ferry tomorrow. Not knowing what to eat we had liked the look of, yes you've guessed it, another burger bar with a seemingly Mexican theme. Now based on what follows this part is pretty tough to write but I will proceed. The burger look decent enough... But it tasted horrible. Yet neither of us really mentioned it as we were both enjoying the evening and nattering away. That was until all of a sudden I started feeling really dizzy and feint. We put it down to not having eaten massive amounts in the last few days and a lack of water. But once outside I started feeling really nauseous and not knowing where I was.

Iz helped me back to the hostel and got me into bed. I hoped it would just pass but the sickness feeling didn't go away until finally I did throw up. I hoped this would be it and I could get back to sleep. How wrong I was. I'll save you the gory details but let's just say I didn't get much sleep at all and probably neither did the rest of the hostel. I've not experienced anything quite like it. So intense for so long and I felt so helpless and embarrassed being in a 10 bed dorm room. Izzy was an absolute star though and was there throughout helping with whatever came up despite not feeling well herself. I literally couldn't have gotten through it without her as I could barely move. I really am indebted to her for this evening and it just cemented how much I love this girl. I'll tell you now not many girlfriends would have stuck through what Iz did and never once complained. We still do not know what it was but feel it was probably that the fruit on the boat was preserved in water as we have heard over the last few months El Nido has had a big problem with water contamination and people getting sick. It is annoying as we have been so careful.

19 February- the missed ferry!
I didn't get to sleep until about 5.30am. We were supposed to be at the dock at 7am! We both decided that the way we were feeling this just wasn't going to happen. I'm not sure we could have carried our bags that far let alone survived the 4 hour journey on the boat to Coron. We decided to cut our losses and stay in bed, missing the boat.

This was a costly decision as the boat wasn't cheap and we had also paid for a hostel we couldn't cancel. But we knew there would be times like this and some things are more important than money; health is definitely one. One issue with this was that we still needed to book a hostel here for tonight and move as our hostel was fully booked. We found a place with a private room that was a 2 minute walk away. Literally round the corner. However feeling the way we did it felt like a marathon. Iz had started feeling sick and dizzy now too. So we decided to do it in too small trips to but push it, but desperately wanting to just be in bed.

Trip 1- two little back packs. Got there ok and stocked up on water and coke. Checked in but the room wasn't ready yet. Iz also could not move and was obviously in pain. To try and pay something back for the night before I volunteered to go and get my big bag and bring it back and return to get hers. Iz pleaded with me not to knowing how I was also feeling, but she also knew we needed to fetch them and that someone needed to stay with these bags.

Trip 2- I intended to go and bring both in one trip. Although they are heavy as I said this place was only around the corner and Izzy's has a good handle. But when I got back strapped mine on and picked up Izzy's I nearly fell down the stairs. So I decided it wasn't a good idea after all and just returned with mine.

Trip 3- I really did not want to go back. It was really tough making the two trips we had already and the sun was beating down. I felt so tender and weak. I considered leaving Izzy's bag there and going back later but I knew leaving again world be almost impossible once we got on that bed in our room. Sucking it up, I headed back to complete the final trip.

With some luck after my return we only had to wait a few minutes before we could head to the room. With my last bit of strength I lugged the packs up the stairs and dumped them in our room before we both collapsed on the bed. This is where we spent the next 19 hours, sleeping basically the whole time, only leaving once to get more cash out.

Posted by Bears on Tour 21:44 Archived in Philippines Tagged kayak el_nido hidden_beach secret_beach big_lagoon tour_a tour_c helicopter_island Comments (0)

Day 73- 75: Port Barton

Yet more snorkeling, boat tours, and... a turtle!


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14 February- a quiet but beautiful Valentine's
Waking up feeling like we’d slept on a bed of rocks, rubbing shoulders and necks decided this was the worst place we’d stayed. The matteress was thinner than our duvet back home. We went on a venture around the ‘town’. Walking along the beach, which was thankfully quieter than Boracay but still busier than most places we’ve been, we considered what this town would’ve been like 5 years ago before tourists had yet to discover this place of beauty. As with every island in the Philippines it had a selection of boat tours to explore the surrounding smaller islands. We chose the selection we wanted and arranged to meet with the guide later in the evening to sort out details.

Having walked the full length of the beach, played with as many of the roaming dogs as we could, we realised this sleepy town didn’t have much else to do that boat tours and bars. I guess that left us with one choice; we decided on a bar with 70php mojitos and picked a table facing out to sea. We quickly learnt the Filipino mojito is not the same as back home. It tasted like lime juice and Sambucca, as someone who doesn’t like liquorice, this wasn’t great for me, but hey the view wasn't bad.

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This pooch looks like Sandy did when she was a puppy. And the second dog we named Heidi and she was our favourite.
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When traveling you don’t really take note of dates or days- past knowing when you need to get a flight or ferry etc. Realising 14th February meant it was Valentine’s Day, we had agreed before we started the trip we would kind of pretty much write off anniversaries, birthdays, Hallmark holidays but thought it would be nice to go out for a bit of a nicer meal and get a massage afterwards (however we decided to skip the latter and save the dollar!).

Back at the hostel we googled some options and picked a cute hut like restaurant with some tasty sounding traditional meals. After killing a few more hours, and deciding we needed an extra night in Port Barton but definitely not in this hostel, we headed out for an early dinner (bearing in mind we had to meet the tour guide at 7.30- prime dinner time). The food was incredible, Andy having something called Chicken Adobe with pineapple (something we will probably try and create back home) and I went for spicy garlic chicken. When I ordered the waitress ask how spicy, I dread to think how hot it would’ve been if all I had was ‘a little bit of spice’ ????

We met ‘Joey’ the tour guide and he explained how the following day would look and what time to meet and it was early night in preparation for a jam packed day tomorrow. Although it was a quiet Valentine's day we were treated to one of our favourite sunsets so far and we had great company!

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15 February- It's a pirate's life for me!
Up early we made our way to the meeting point, checked in and on the boat. As soon as we set sailing Joey turned on the music and got out 11 cups for the 10 or us and himself. He then proceeded to fill half of each cup with rum!... it was 8.30am! With tunes like YMCA banging we were on the way to getting drunk... Oh and our first spot. This was a place that most the other tours didn’t go to. While they were at turtle spot sharing the space with about 7 other boats we sailed past to a more secluded spot. There was one sole turtle swimming around the area with about 3 tour boat load of people ogling at it.

To start with I was mostly relieved that I could enjoy this experience, since the last turtle swim I was a little worse for wear to say the least. After a short while it dawned on us that these wasn’t a natural environment for a turtle. The water was crystal clear and although the water was deep you could see the sea bed was just sand, there was no coral to be seen. Their main food consumption being algae... which grows on coral, how was this turtle feeding? Secondly, the three tours worth of tourists were following this turtle everywhere he went and you could tell he was quite uncomfortable, constantly swimming away or getting trapped in a gaggle of snorkelers legs. Wondering why he would hang around such a spot we saw something fall from a boat and realised the turtle was getting fed to be here. By being patient we did get a couple of private moments with the turtle they called Michael Angelo and boy was he a beaut!

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Feeling uncomfortable at the situation and our contributing factor that it will continue we got back on our boat ready for the next stop... And apparently another pint of rum and coke. For the life of us we can't remember what this spot was out if the order we have written is even right. I blame the alcohol. So we will just skip this one.

Lunch stop was a bigger island with the operation to swim or just hang around the beach. We found a little cabana and sat in the shade a while talking about our trip in general and how much nicer this tour was as it was more laid back, with a better group of people and obviously rum! Then panic struck that we’d been chatting too long, we were told lunch would be at 12 and it was now 12.15 we worried that all the food would be gone! We hurried off to find the rest of our tour and thankfully lunch was delayed. While waiting for lunch we got chatting to Patrick and Lizzy, an Austrian Couple on our tour. One of the things I like about meeting other travelers is learning about the kind of trip they’re on and the things they have done in comparison to us.

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Bbq chicken and fish tucked in our bellies for lunch (even Andy had some fish!!), we headed to the next stop. This was another chilled spot (I think that’s just Joey's style), after a quick snorkel we played around on the edge of the boat for a bit, trying and failing to balance on the beams of the boat and just generally playing around. I mean there’s worse places to be on a Saturday afternoon than on a tiny island in the middle of the Philippines with the sun beating down and spending time with your best friends without a real care in the world!

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Our last stop was sand fish bar, a random area of sand that has a large collection of starfish around! Snorkel masks on it was back in the water in hunt for the little stars of the sea. This was a little calmer spot with only our boat here, until after ten minutes to ourselves another tour group joined. Four English friends jumped off their boat- no need for life jackets with the girls, all the air in the heads would keep them afloat... and if not all the silicon in their bodies should help. The two girls instantly picked up two starfish and posed with them for a photo. This both angered and upset Andy and I as these little fellas need to be left alone, everyone knows you don’t touch anything in the sea! The bacteria on humans skin can seriously harm the star fish and even put them in danger of death! We had earlier decided to pose by the star fish without the need to hold them. Patrick had also used a cool adaption on his camera to take a photo half in the water and half out.

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We didn’t let them put a dampener on our day and made our way to our new hostel, as we checked in this place seemed really cute with a row of about 5 huts either side with a deck in the middle with about 10 hammocks all hooked up. Out for dinner of pizza and chicken strips before our early rise for the bus to El Nido tomorrow!

16 February- trip to El Nido
Thankfully the bus ride to El Nido was less eventful and bumpy than the one into Port Barton. Upon arrival in El Nido, after a short panic of no signal and no idea where our hostel was or how to get there, we had a walk around. This was the most western style place we’d seen in the Philippines and definitely the most built up with real shops and not just huts. A ten minute walk definitely needed to be rewarded, so we ducked in to a Craft beer bar and cooled down the best way we now how.

Our first experience of El Nido had been good. The view of the harbour leaky made us both say wow when we saw it between two buildings. We’d been promised spectacular sunsets in the Philippines and were yet to experience such so we grabbed a table at a beach restaurant just in time... for the sun to go down behind a mountain twenty minutes before it set. Nonetheless, the sky still turned the magical red as the last of the days light dimmed.

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Posted by Bears on Tour 04:18 Archived in Philippines Comments (1)

Day 70- 72- Puerto Princesa

Underground River, Bike Touring and Bumpy Bus!


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11th February- Arrival
Off the plane it was time to be on our bike again... Well not ours a local Filipino trike of course! En route our driver had managed to convince to book the underground river tour with a company he must also have been associated with. It all seemed a little dodgy as we pulled up outside this hut and all went inside leaving our bags alone outside. If we had not already been traveling in the Philippines for so many weeks it would have been very disconcerting. But unlike the stories cited of high crime rates we haven't seen anything of the sort and although people try to get you to pick them and good a decent deal, you can generally haggle them down to a fair price pretty easily. This is what we did. Although at the time it was unbeknown to us if this deal was a good one. But it seemed fair, we wanted to do the trip and Iz trusted her instincts.

With that all booked we checked into our hostel (Keen's Place) before a wander to the bouvelard to try and catch a glimpse of the sunset! Unfortunately again it was pretty cloudy and the landscape hid the view of the sun going to bed. We haven't had too much luck with sunsets here and haven't found that perfect magical moment in many places as the guide books promised. Although hopefully like with the turtles if we persevere we will find the view we are after.

Being so far unimpressed with Puerto Princesa there was only one thing to do... Find some beer. During my research I had located the rarest of Filipino finds... A local craft brewery! It didn't promise much but it had to be better than the tasteless San Miguel that has become part of our diet. The Palaweño Brewery is a tiny micro brewery tucked away down a side street. When I say micro... Think more the scale you could produce in your shed. Yet it had an aesthetically pleasing entrance with surprisingly good advertisement for their 3 beers; you could tell this place was here purely for the tourists and I imagine it is unlikely to be owned by a local. We ordered two; a honey nut brown ale and an American amber ale. The price was around 3x more expensive than a San Miguel... We just hoped the quality matched. Neither are about to challenge for best beer I've tried, however both were a vast improvement on the only alternative here. Despite slowly enjoying both we weren't blown away enough to order another round, especially as such would pay for dinner alone, so went in hunt for food.

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We came across a very Western style burger diner which sounded ideal to go with the running theme of the evening and as we wanted some comfort food (NomNom Comfort Food). These burgers however came with a little surprise, as the chef clearly enjoyed getting creative with the menu. Again such western flair and gimmicks came at a cost but with the burgers and drinks tasting good we were happy to oblige.

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12 February- The Underground River; pride of the Philippines
It was an early start for our underground river tour. Now this attraction has really place Puerto Princesa on the map and the locals are very proud of it (as are a lot of Filipino's). Now unlike the original 7 natural wonders of the world like the Grand Canyon, I'll forgive you for not knowing this site. However it was made one of the new 7 wonders of the world via a global community vote in 2012 for being the longest navigable subterranean river (5 miles long in fact) and of huge ecological significance. I'm acting all smart here but neither of us had heard of it either until our arrival in the Philippines. It is sites like this that make us want to travel to different corners of the world so we were intrigued.

Our tour guide was very informative and her love for this site was unavoidable. She had been a tour guide for the underground river, making almost daily trips, for over 12 years. She told us how since the listing and recognition by UNESCO how tourism in the area had risen and the changes that it brought. This mainly involved of wealth to the area and increased and improved infrastructure, hostels, hotels etc. She added that when she first started doing these trips the road to the site was almost un-driveable and was horrifically bumpy so much so the locals named it "hard massage" or "abortion" road! They don't pull their punches with their names here. Thankfully with the waves of tourists flooding to the site now the road has been widened and smoothed out.

As with all such tours here it isn't as easy as hopping on a coach getting to the destination, looking around and leaving. There is always some odd little extra process or cost. This we have come to accept as we paid our environmental fee and waited like cattle to be called to jump on a boat to be taken to island where the cave is located. After a further walk through a small rainforest the other side we were at the entrance.... With about 40 other people waiting. As with everywhere in the Philippines it was beautiful and there were definitely worse places to wait for our 40 minute guided tour of a small section of the cave (around 1 mile). You used to just be able to just swim through but with it now under such international regulation measures are taken to ensure it is preserved.

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With all the build up and staring at the caves mouth for a good 30 minutes it was our turn. Headset on (again to prevent talking) we listened to the facts as our guide pointed out with his torch amazing rock formations, stalactites, stalagmites, collums and wildlife such as bats. It really was fascinating, although annoyingly difficult to take photos due to the dark and speed we were moving. I would have loved to spend longer in there to take it all in but it just wasn't possible. Some of the highlights that we managed to picture can be found below if you use your imagination a little you can make out their so called resemblence to various fruit and veg, Jesus, the Nativity scene and even Sharon Stone's arse (disclaimer: it's very difficult to see which I've included from the thumbnails so don't strain yourselves too hard!)

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The water line showing how high the river rises:
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Back on shore there was a bit of time for some monkey and Komodo dragon spotting before a tasty traditional buffet and the return trip back.

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Time for planning activities next destinations, updating blog, uploading photos and touching base back home is tough to find. Contrary to popular belief traveling is tough and time consuming. Especially as there is so much we want to see to really make the most of our time. Due to the fast pace we took a few hours out to pay attention to some of these areas before heading for dinner. We really couldn't decide what to have and ended up in a McDonald's. This is the worst McDonald's we have ever eaten and won't be making that mistake again. I'm not sure how they call those things nuggets!!

13th February- Aqua Park & Crocs- thankfully not at the same time
With our new plan in place we found somewhere to rent scooters. As has been the theme here it seemed shady and we really didn't like the fact we had to hand over a passport but also as has been our Filipino experience all was fine. With gas in the tank, (money in the bank, I got news for you baby, you're looking at the man- sorry impromptu Killers lyrics) we zoomed through the countryside to an aqua park we had found. The biggest one in Asia aparently.

Despite a little issue parking we made it in one piece (see hand below)! The scooters are really difficult to control at low speeds and over bumpy terrain. The parking area had both of these things! However as we approached the counter we were worried.... Our bike was the only one in the car park and other than the receptionist there appeared to be no one around! Our fears were eliminated when she happily took our payment and we boarded a van to the start point. Although when there it quickly became apparent we were actually the only people here that weren't employed. After a short briefing we had this huge inflatable water park to ourselves. A guide showed us around and demonstrated how each obstacle should be completed until we both tried and made a pig's ear of it!

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We laughed pretty much the whole way round. It was tough, especially when falling in, but it was so fun. Well that was until we reached the 35 ft foot side. Our guide asked if we wanted to get to the top the easy way... Or the hard way. Opting against the stairs Izzy was all up for the vertical rock wall style climb. She started with gumption but soon realised that it was a lot harder than it first appeared. Like even getting on to the thing from the water was tough enough. Plus the hand and foot holds looked a long way apart as Iz had to stretch for each with slippery hands and feet. Despite her clear terror, and my awful commentary, she obviously made it look easy... Well until the section where the wall bulbed outwards. You cannot see on the video quite how petrifying this section was. The hand holds are literally above and behind your head and you have to let go trusting your current hold and lunge towards one and get a good grip, or risk plunging 35 feet down into the water below. Iz made it though and somehow so did I although our guide, probably rather fortunately, forgot to press record! At the top both of our legs were like jelly and we needed a few minutes to recover.

The challenge didn't get any easier though as after we had our breather we still had to throw ourselves down the slide which was the whole point in the first place. This didn't particularly look like an enticing prospect either. But wanting to get back in the water we both went down, flying off the end and hitting the water with a splash. We were feeling good before we were told this was just the warm up for the big 40ft slide. But with no climbing wall involved we were more confident. Unfortunately we don't have a good video of this slide to share but you can take it from us it was fun. Even if the second time the 10 ft water entry drop left Iz with a massive bruise.

All that was left was to try the human catapult! Basically a huge bean bag where one person lies one end and like people jump on the other... Firing them through the air and crashing into the water. We had practice runs but the effects were not up to our guide's desires as the air was low. After a pump up we went again. And oh f**k did you fly! Iz went first and we joked about her doing a summersault but the momentum actually made this happen. Micheal Jordan would be jealous of the hang time she got. It looked incredible and terrifying; which Iz confirmed once she caught her breath. Next it was my go. I lay there nervously waiting before swooosh I was flying through the air and then all of a sudden I was face down and water was approaching fast! Not again I thought! It was like round two of the rope swing. Fortunately though as I was completely upside I entered without too much issue. I had felt I'd flown higher than Iz! I hadn't. I'd hate to know how hers felt. It certainly got our blood pumping.

As we had already had around 30 minutes over our alloted time and having completed the course we got out, dried off and headed to the next stop. Now this stop isn't your standard tourist spot or even one most would consider. But having read a blog about it we decided we had to go and see it for ourselves... Iwahig Prison & Penal Farm. Yes you've read that right we were heading to visit a prison. This isn't just any prison either; this penal farm allows it's inmates to wander freely around the complex with many having jobs such as tending to the garden or making crafts to sell to tourists. Now you are probably thinking as I did that ok these prisoners must be all like white collar criminals like fraudsters and security must be ridiculously high... Right. Well based on what we had read this was wrong on both counts. Although it is intended as a compound to help with rehabilitation, these individuals include murderers, rapists and all of the above. The colours they wear indicate the severity of the crime. Also we had read there are guards at the front but basically the place is run by the prisoners and they can wander freely, apparently they just don't leave as the conditions here are better than many would have on the outside. This was a scary thought that you could literally be killed and nobody would know for a while. However sense dictated that this was unlikely as it would not work in their favour, plus it appeared they heavily relied on tourists for income.

With our hearts still pounding from the water park we pulled up at the huge gates, a little intimidated. But then a guard came over and informed us that the prison was closed to tourists today. He didn't provide any further information on why. Actually really disappointed as we knew this would be one of those rare and unique travel experiences we turned away debating the reason. I imagine it is likely to have something to either do with the Corona virus or an incident has happened such as one of the inmates has died. Annoyingly a car pulled up behind us and were allowed in which made us feel it is likely to be the latter and maybe they are relatives. Without a plan b we googled nearby attractions and came across a crocodile farm and Filipino animal sanctuary- you know one prison to another (of sorts). Entrance was less than a £1 each and it actually was pretty interesting due to my new found love and appreciation for crocodiles after Sydney. We were initially taken into the breeding tent whereby there were around 100 baby to adolescent crocs kept together in containers of 8-12 (both freshwater and salties). This was a little odd and our guide didn't really explain why, but she again did highlight their importance to the ecosystem and informed us that they are separated at a certain age when they become territorial. Next we passed by a tent which contained animals recovered from airports and illegal trade. Before walking along a metal bridge over 10 huge fully grown crocs. Even though most lay creepily still it was still a little unnerving. We even saw one without any teeth, apparently at a certain age their teeth fall out but no-one is sure of the reason. Such a croc wouldn't survive in the wild. Most had been captured after getting too close to human settlements or had become hurt too old like this toothless guy.

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The rest of the park was complete with native and endemic animals. But again we were seemingly the only people there and it was a bit eery. The place looked really run down, cages hidden in the middle of a mini jungle, reached by bridges we were not certain would hold our weight. It definitely looked a place whereby people could easily disappear. We saw some interesting looking animals (the bird with the large appendage on its head being a highlight!) and it was a good way to pass the time before we needed to head back. We also spent a long time getting the little black birds to copy us and laughing at how funny we were!

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With the bike returned, a disappointing lunch inside us and having been reunited with our bags we sat waiting for our transfer to Port Barton... That we were unsure would ever arrive. We were given the rather sceptical time of somewhere between 4.15 and 5pm. While sat out front we got chatting to the hostel owner an ex Cornish guy who had ventured over here with his Filipino wife 11 months ago and set up a hostel that he was currently in the process of doing up. As we grew anxious about our ride as the time grew closer to 5pm, we chatted about his life in England and how he came to make the decision to move out here; his health and the weather appearing to be the main drivers. Just as we were about to take him up on his offer to call the company, our van arrived. We assumed we must be the last and the van would be full but were wrong it was empty... Result! Or so we thought. We were soon to realise this was just the start of our rather odd trip.

After a 20 minute drive we pulled into some kind of bus terminal. And were told to get out with our bags. We thought this van took us the whole way but clearly it didn't. After telling a woman at the desk where we were going, without the need to show her any ticket or name, we waited for around 5 minutes. Before our driver then told us to get back in the van but to put our bags in the back as it was full. This seemed like such an unnecessary process and so random, especially moving our bags. But we have come not to question such things. Back in the still empty van we thought we would now be on our way. And we were... Well to a parking spot the other side of the station where our driver gets out again we assume to get food or something. However he returns and again tells us to get out, before transferring our bags to another, yep, empty van with a new driver. Just so random. The whole time nobody says anything about what is happening.

Now around 6pm we were wondering if we were ever going to be on the way. Our new driver started the engine and stopped at the exit check point whereby they check the van and tell him off for not having the right t shirt on. And we were away. Well 5 minutes in the wrong direction to get petrol first... Because you know why fill up before you get the passengers. Although the advertising for the new management of the garage did provide light relief as I considered how many English legalisation they would have breached, you can see one example below:

10 more minutes down the road we pulled over again. At this point we have no idea what is happening and whether this is ever going to get us there. Some random guy gets on. No one speaks. Does the driver know him? Is he supposed to pick this guy up? So many questions no answers. This same process happens a number of times with a number of locals getting on at various random points in the road. There are a number of signs in the van telling you to report any unscheduled stops. The problem is we have no idea if they are scheduled or not. Around 1.5 hours later everyone else had gotten back off and it's just me and Iz left. Google tells us we are headed in the right way but with our mute driver and darkness surrounding us it didn't make us massively more comfortable.

Around 40 minutes outside Port Barton and around 1 hour after our expected arrival time our driver finally speaks. We can't really hear what he says but mentions something about getting dinner as it's expensive in Port Barton. So we pull over at what appears to just be someone's house. He knocks on the fence and enters. Again we don't know if we should get out. If he is eating there or buying something to take with him. Some woman cooks up something while we wait confused and a little frustrated. He does get back in and we are off again. The final section of the journey was not expected. The road basically disappeared and we were left navigating our way over huge rocks and pot holes, with cliffs on either side in the dark. This is the kind of road that I imagine got the nickname "abortion road". Such a bumpy ride is not good for Izzy who suffers quiet badly with motion sickness and you also knew that there was no way we were getting over this road in 40 minutes. You could however tell our driver had done this trip many times, knowing where every ditch and hazard was.

Around 10.30pm we reached Port Barton bus station. Where we were told to get out. We believed our transfer was door to door. This did not seem to be the case as our stuff was loaded onto a trike, but there was no discussion of cost. Fortunately it was only a 4 minute drive again over some rough terrain and it only cost us 80p. At the hostel we checked in and got to bed quickly to recover from our eventful trip.

Posted by Bears on Tour 03:19 Archived in Philippines Comments (0)

Day 66- 70- Our Ok Stay in Boracay!

Boats,Beaches & Rain!


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7th February- Welcome to Boracay
About an hour after arriving at the ferry port, faffing with tickets, environmental tax, port tax, proof of accommodation and waiting for the correct ferry we were finally on our way to the island of Boracay. The bureaucracy in this country is crazy!

Getting off the ferry we were accosted by about 30 tuk tuk drivers, we knew our hostel was only a 9 minute walk and knew the prices they were quoting were ridiculous so started the slog with our huge bags and all our other bags up the hill, in 30 degree heat. A sweaty ten minutes later we started the climb to the second floor to our hostel reception. How we keep picking hostels with stairs I'll never know.

The hostel was great! An 8 bed dorm can be cramped but the set up meant it felt more like a 4 bed dorm. Free soap and toothbrushes made a fancy touch for a hostel. After a rest, shower and plan for what to do for our time on the island, we headed out to have a look around. Our hostel offered a free shuttle buses in to town every hour (another nice touch).

There was a tourist attraction called ‘Willys Rock’ so we thought we’d check it out, after a bit of giggling. A long walk down the white sand beach (Philippines really is just paradise) we came to a rock formation with a Virgin Mary statue with steps leading to it. We searched for some information about how it came about or what it’s meaning was, there was nothing so we had to turn to google. Google also provided... nothing! Turns out, it’s just a rock, that’s always been a rock, someone liked the rock so build a Virgin Mary on the rock, now tourists come to look at the rock. The rock has no meaning or story, just a rock. Yet it proved a popular rock with people clambering for pictures. We shot a few to make the walk justified and were on our way.

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As Boracay is the party island of the Philippines, it was so much busier. We’d become accustomed to sharing a beach with one or two other people. Here it was like Skegness on the one day of the year we’d call a heatwave. We weren’t the biggest fans. We went to wander round the many many markets in search of our Christmas decoration, but were faced with the same tacky keyrings and magnets as every other island in the Philippines. I really thought they’d have some nice handcrafted trinkets.

Having heard this beach had a great sunset we decided to sit on the beach a while and wait for it before dinner. During our early early we were confronted by a man with no teeth (Mark) trying desperately to sell us a tour for the next day. After not taking no for an answer Andy decided to humour him by proceeding to wind this guy up (like the windup merchant he is) for the next 40 minutes! Insisting we’d come back tomorrow, this poor guy was super excited but also not convinced. He was demanding we pay half now for a deposit. There was a huge language barrier as we couldn’t understand him (partly the accent, partly the lack of teeth) and he couldn’t understand us. I hoped he would just leave... he didn’t. Then afer a while and the conversation going in circles he just stayed and silently watched the sunset with us; a strange, strange experience. I say sunset, again, the actual sunset was hidden behind clouds so there wasn’t anything spectacular to see. Well I say this yet I'm aware the below pictures are probably making any of you sat at your work desk quite jealous still. We are just in search of that perfect horizon shot. While Mark was talking to someone else we saw our escape and briskly walked away. Poor Mark turning around realizing we were gone came running after us to confirm, once more, we would be there tomorrow.

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We’d picked we’re we’d go for dinner and headed in the direction, at night this town was even more the party town with colorful bars and restaurants along the beach front and down the ‘strip’ as it would be called in Magaluf. Sitting down at the burger joint we both struggled deciding what to have as there were so many good options! We decided to share (jerk chicken with rice and a pulled pork bbq burger), this way we got to try two different things. Both were tasty and we chatted the evening away reminiscing about some classic indie tunes.

After the bill came and we’d both regained consciousness from the shock of the cost, we paid and grumbled the whole way home. For some reason the prices weren’t inclusive of VAT, we haven’t experienced that anywhere else in the Philippines. Dinner is usually about £4/£5 for the both of us a night, I worked out this dinner was £13 for both of us... which we both thought was outrageously expensive.. but in reality, it’s still nothing for two main meals ????.

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8th February- Island Hopping Boat Tour
Unfortunately for Mark we’d found a cheaper tour so it was an early start the next day to the beach. Trying to avoid Mark from spotting us we followed the guide to our boat. Everyone on the boat, except from us, was Korean or Filipino. The guide, Justine, was incredibly enthusiastic, and self promoted herself to personal photography on the first beach; telling us how to pose and what to do. Some people would love this, Andy and I just found it a little awkward as you may need able to tell below!

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Second spot we hoped would be snorkeling at crocodile island (as the tour description stated) as apparently the reef around it is colorful with a lot of vibrant fish. Instead we got taken to a random spot in the ocean where the reef was pretty much dead (assumingely from all these tours stopping here) with only a few fish around. Next was another e headed snorkel spot which was almost the same as the previous other than the fact their was a cluster of fish gathering near the boats only because the guides fed them. A vicious circle of tourists wanting to see fish so tours feeding them to make sure they are in the right spot for the tours but then the fish become dependent on this food rather than sourcing their own so keep returning for the tourists to see. Although again maybe we have just been spoilt as looking back on the photos and videos it does look pretty cool.

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Lunch consisted of some amazing bbq pork kebabs, shrimps, chicken curry and noodles. The pork was so good I had 8 kebabs!! (Disclaimer: they were only small, not like kebabs we make back home). Heading back, deflated that we hadn’t gone to Crystal Cove, Magic Island or Crocodile Island as the description had stated. We were further frustrated about the fact it is called island hopping yet we only visited one island that wasn't Boracay, so during the journey back we were compiling a mental complaint.

As most nights we’d (Andy had) researched a good spot for dinner and we made our way there chatting about anything and everything- it’s strange that we’ve been traveling for three months now, spending every minute of every day together and (other than a little bicker here and there) we haven’t fallen out, had an argument or run out of things to talk about! The little cafe we were heading to was closed so we had to make alternative arrangements and stumbled upon a pizza place. We’d forgotten to get more cash out of our secret hiding places so had to scour the menu for something we could actually afford ????

9th February- It even rains in paradise
For our final full day on the island we’d decided to try and find a pool we could laze beside and actually start reading a book. I'd planned on this trip I’d be able to read so much but having been so busy (or catching up with blog in our spare time) I hadn’t even had chance to download a book to our kindles!. Being turned away at a few hotels or being offered ridiculous prices to use the pool we decided we’d just head to the beach for free (albeit sandier).

20 minutes after arriving we were playing in the sea as the clouds swooped over sky and the heavens opened. Conflicted as what to do (would it pass in a few minutes like a tropical storm or would it keep pouring all afternoon?) we found cover under a palm tree. Before long the rain had trickled through the leaves and our cover was no longer a dry haven. We made a short jump to the cover or a shop and stood there amongst locals considering our options. 15 minutes later we decided we had to bite the bullet and make a run for it, getting to a 7/11 being only a little soggy we scavenged for whatever we could find for lunch (a packet of crisps to share and a chocolate muffin each) and sat on the patio (undercover) and caught up on blog for a few hours, not quite the day we’d had planned.

On our way back to the hostel we’d found a really nice Jeepney souvenir (the only one in the whole country apparently). The rain has subsided so we made our way to a Moroccan restaurant which had beautiful decor, prompting the ever exciting conversation of ‘where will we travel to next?’ And continually reeling pretty much every country in the world- we need to win the lottery! A stroll back down the beach we reflected on Boracay. It had been highly recommended to us, even being many of the locals from other islands dream holiday destination, yet we both felt it was too touristy for us, we’d much preferred the quieter island where you get to experience the local way of life.

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10th February- Moving on to Kalibo
In the morning we made a quick sprint to town to acquire another souvenir we’d seen after our pizza (but had no money left), because one is never enough! Spending the majority of the day making our way to Kalibo for our flight the next day. The hotel was one of the nicest we had had in a while and we had a private room and double bed! Always a luxury.

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Andy’s daily dinner research had given us direction to pork belly. I’m always weary of pork belly being too chewy. Arriving at the restaurant we were told they only had the pork belly and pork chops to take away, no rice, no sides, nowhere to sit. After receiving a super heavy huge box we sat on the side of the road and dug in, dipping the first crispy slice in the apple sauce, within seconds I knew this was the best pork belly we would ever had, it was incredible! Just looking at the picture is making me salivate (although I appreciate it probably doesn't look as good when you don't know how it tasted!). It was literally heaven in your mouth. The crackling crispy but not overdone. The pork tender and delicious! We had read that there is good pork belly in the Philippines (lechon) but we never expected this! If you are ever in Kalibo make your pilgrimage to Ramboys you won't regret it (well as long as you get the restaurant!)

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After a couple of minutes the owner of the restaurant came out Invited us in, even though they were closed. Gave us water, extra apple sauce, forks and plates, we were a little confused as to the change of mind. He had placed us on a table near the back so we couldn’t be seen from the counter and we realised we had been invited in purely because we were white. It’s strange to us here how we get treated better here just because we are white! The entire walk back we just went on and on about what a great dinner it was.

Just a random guy walking his cow, as you do:

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11 February- flight to Puerto Princesa
Our flight the next day had already been rearranged twice so we were a little annoyed when we delayed another hour once at the airport. After a few hours and a stop over in Manila (taking advantage of another Cinnabon) we finally landed in Puerto Princesa.

Posted by Bears on Tour 23:44 Archived in Philippines Tagged rain boracay kalibo pukka_beach crocodile_island lechon pork_belly ramboys Comments (0)

Day 63- 65 Simply Stunning Siquijor!

Our favourite Island in the Philippines!


View Bears on Tour on Bears on Tour's travel map.

Before I start this entry I need to apologise for the delay in our blog updates. The cause for this has been twofold; lack of any WiFi and sickness. I appreciate all your well wishes and I can confirm both of us are feeling better! We are back with a belter though... Siquijor was our favourite Island by far!

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4th February- Snorkeling & Screaming

With a decent night sleep behind us it was begrudgingly time to check out this hostel and head up to the North of the island to our guest lodge (la villa Alta) where we would spend our remaining nights here. Helpfully the hostel called a local trike driver to transport us and our stuff. On the way we struck a deal with him to rent his bike in exchange for a decent daily rate and a return trip to the ferry at the end.

While we waited for his return and for our room to be cleaned we checked out the complex and got chatting to a Canadian couple currently teaching in China. It is odd how many we have met doing this. They gave us a few recommendations for the island before obviously talk of the virus came up and our disappointment at having to miss it. After checking out the room (which was basic but did the job) and sorting out the finer details with the bike guy it was time to explore.

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Having mapped out a few key activities to add to the hit list it was time for the first; Snorkeling at the Tulapos marinade on the right hand side of the island. The island is basically a big circle with one road that we found out takes only around 1.5 hours to drive the whole way around. We have done a lot of snorkeling on this trip but we want to make the most of it before we head in land. After our Bohol and Cairns experience we were now pro moped riders and were there with snorkels in hand, following our guide to the water in no time.The tide was rough and it made swimming a real challenge. But we persevered and were rewarded by seeing a lot of marine life with the highlights being a massive school of hundreds of barricuda sand giant clams.

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Exhausted and hungry from our exertion we went in hunt of lunch. This is where we stumbled across a little restaurant owned by an American guy in a Hawaiian shirt. He was extremely friendly and got chatting to us about the island, his phillipinian wife and his varied life; he had run various companies from a t shirt company to a designing a board game to now owning pigs and a restaurant in the Philippines. The food and conversation was good. Iz tried another Filipino classic called Sisig which was one of the better dishes we have had. On the whole the food here is pretty bland and nothing that exciting. We even showed them how to play cards against humanity to help him get a game going with customers later on!

With full bellies it was back to the bike to head to Saladong beach famous for its cliff jumping spots. Upon arrival they didn't look that high yet Iz was still a little apprehensive. But when you climbed up there it definitely felt a hell of a lot higher. There were two heights; one at 20 ft (6 metres) and 35 ft (10.6 metres). After a little coaching, persuading and pressurising Iz ran up and jumped off the 6 metre one; screaming the whole 2 seconds down until she hit the water (as you can see and hear below). She really didn't want to do it but she also not one to back away from a challenge and promised she would do it once. Next it was my go. Until this point I had felt quite calm but as I stepped onto the platform the realisation of how high you were, how far the water was away and not knowing how deep it was suddenly hit me like a wall. But now that Iz had done it there was no turning back and I just jumped off into the unknown. I'll tell you now those 2 seconds felt a heck of a lot longer. Plus as I was not concentrating on my entry and holding the GoPro the water hit my arms pretty hard.

It was exhilarating as it was scary and although the thought of doing it again filled me with dread, I couldn't get the thought out of my head. So I went again. Iz true to her word decided against this and opted to be cameraman instead. Stuck behind a little kid taking ages to jump I started questioning my decision but I could see Iz below encouraging me to do it. Second time was actually a little worse as I know knew what to expectb and once on the end it was tough to force yourself off. I did this as quickly as possible to prevent the doubtful voices in my head getting to loud! This time the water slapped my arse and it hurt. But again the adrenaline was great; free falling feeling like it is the end to be greeted by the comfort of the water as you head back to the surface. Iz convinced me that she hadn't got a good video of it and that I should go again. Feeling more confident now I climbed up for my third and final jump. I considered raising the bar to the higher one but decided to stick to what I knew not wanting any injury.

Iz had a mysterious cut on her foot, probably from her elaborate run up. But you never know. I had read a blog which mentioned that many people had complained of getting small cuts from this jump, despite there being nothing obvious to justify such injuries. Siquijor is infamous for its mystery and black magic, so much so that many avoid this beautiful island because of it. According to people living around Siquijor, two kinds of witches exist in the province. These are the shamans and the sorcerers. These two groups usually fight against each other. The sorcerers seek to destroy or inflict harm while the shamans are there to heal and to save lives. I had relayed the tales of the island to Iz but she wasn't convinced about the magic... After her cut and the pain suffered in the days following she now isn't so sure. Afterwards we had a more relaxing swim in the water and enjoyed the late afternoon sun.

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Back at the hostel we checked out the private section of the beach and watched the sun set as we lay in a hammock, although we were on the wrong side of the island for the best views. Having had enough thrills today and knowing the track up to our hostel was pretty sketchy in the daylight let alone at night we wandered to find a nearby restaurant for lunch. Drawn in by fairy lights we ate at a local restaurant. The fact it was filled with a number of tourists made us feel that there probably wasn't too much more around. Despite the pretty setting the food was fairly average but it did the job.

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5th February- lack of rain means dry waterfalls

We were up and out by 8.15am on our bikes to the Lugasom falls. We hoped the early start would mean it wouldn't be rammed full of tourists, although so far on this island we hadn't seen many other than in the restaurant. However when we arrived at the carpark one guy said he didn't think it was worth our time as the waterfall was dry and there was just a lake at the bottom. Knowing there was an entry fee, albeit a small one, and we had the Instagram famous falls tomorrow we chose to give this a miss. Instead we spent the entry fee on breakfast. We had heard rumours a place nearby did a great breakfast. They were not lying but it was a shame that most of their famous fruit bowls were not available and we had to go for backup options.

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Next it was time for... Yes you've guessed it... More snorkeling! This had been a place I was excited about; Tupod sanctuary. The snorkeling lived up to this expectation! There were so many fish, snakes and other marine life around. Plus the best bit was here you could do it at your own pace, not needing a guide. This meant we got to spend time looking at the things that interested us, which looking at the pictures largely seems to have been clownfish! But can you blame us they are so cute, curious and tiny... I imagine our love for finding Nemo also has some bearing on this.

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With a pretty standard lunch inside us we spent the rest of the afternoon on Paliton beach; playing in the sea and waiting to watch the sunset. Although cloudier than we would have liked it was still impressive seeing the whole sky transform until it turned a light red just before disappearing over the horizon. It was magical and made us realise how lucky we are to be sitting on a beach next to each other marveling at this.

While trying to recover money overspent in NZ and Aus we have tried to avoid hitting bars but today was an exception and we headed to the popular Baha bar for cocktails and a beer that wasn't a San Miguel! In the Philippines it appears San Miguel have a monopoly. It is impossible to find any other beer! Yet here they served a craft beer ????! While it wasn't anything compered to the beers tried in our previous destinations it was better than the light rather tasteless pilsner although still watery. Having read that the hotel we planned to see fireflies at was unpredictable we decided to just go for dinner instead. Today seemed to be a day plans didn't follow our intention. Usually I struggle with this but we have to accept there will be days like this and we just went with the flow. The pizza we chose was delicious and we were stuffed.

With the sun down and a little lethargic we drove back. It was tough going in the dark as although there is only one road there are just hazards and dangers we just aren't used to back home, namely; random street dogs running out or just sleeping on the road, people walking out or along the road, lack of street lights or other bikes whizzing past at any point. When this was coupled with the rain as it decided to pelt it down it made for a really tricky drive back. We must have looked a little crazy Iz in her bikini, me shirtless driving through the rain trying to avoid killing any animals.

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6th Feb- Downpour makes for great waterfalls and soggy bears!

We awoke early with the same plan as yesterday to reach the waterfalls before everyone else. The waterfalls today were the Instagramers favourite spot of Cambugahay Falls. These are the picture perfect set of 3 aqua blue small waterfalls. The plan was good, however we hadn't worked a massive downpour into the itinerary! It was pelting it down! However not easily discouraged we saddled up on the bike, tenuously made our way up the uneven path and slowly embarked on the stated 45 minute drive to the falls.

This sounds easier than it was. The rain was unrelenting and just seemed to be getting heavier. So much so we both had warnings on our phones about flooding! It also stung like a hundreds of mini needles being fired at you as we traveled at the slow speed of around 40kph barely able to see 5ft in front of us! We pulled over at a little shack and were faced with the a massive dilemma; either push on for the stated 30 minutes, but knowing it would be more like an hour, in these conditions and risk not being able to get to the falls and may struggle getting back or cut our losses and turn around now. We debated this with each other and in our own heads before deciding to try a little further and make a decision at that point desperately not wanting to miss another waterfall and a big highlight of Siquijor.

Fortunately the rain appeared to ease up as we neared our destination, but there still was no knowing how long it would hold off. But we had made it... Somehow. We paid our obligatutory entry fee and descended down the steps to the falls. We were rewarded for our efforts with this remarkable sight completely to ourselves (well other than a few locals selling food etc). They were stunning and lived up to the beauty seen in the pictures (as you can see for yourselves below). Although the rain had put off a lot of people we weren't alone for long, yet it was still much quieter than I imagine it would have been on a normal day. After snapping a few photos and hiding in the little cave behind the waterfall for a while we decided to give the rope swings over the falls.

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Iz was a little apprehensive again, not really being a fan of heights. But she is keen not to have any regrets and having overcome her slight fear of heights with the cliff jumping was ready for the challenge again. After paying our 90p fee for the privilege, Iz was ready with hands on the bar, facing the pool and waterfall before her. On the count of three, Iz was released from the platform over the pool. Contrary to her screams she released and entered the water with surprising grace! I promptly followed suit and we both completed 3 more jumps each... You know to get our money's worth and because it was so fun! Feeling brave I opted for the higher podium. Knowing I was being filmed I tried to turn to face the camera... This was a huge mistake as it meant when I let go I had somehow twisted my body and was heading towards the water face down! I'm sure you could have heard the slap of the water against my belly echo around the place. I can also tell you now that it was as painful as it looks in the below video! I hit the water and all the air left my body. I felt broken and unable to move, slowly drifting towards a rock to regain my bearings! Although as with riding a horse, I tried not to let this phase me and got straight back up for one more jump.

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Despite this little pain we loved every moment of it and the rain had so far failed to make a return. After a pit stop at a very local market, whereby we seemed to be the main attraction, and some lunch we were back on the bikes to head to the century old balete tree. This tree is considered the biggest and oldest on the island and therefore a focus of some magical rituals. What makes it really mystical is that a natural spring flows right underneath the tree with nobody knowing where it flows or why. Now a man made pool has been built and fish placed there to get tourists to pay for a fish spa. The tree sounds much better than it is. It's right on the side of the road filled with tourists getting the dead skin eaten off their feet. We were very impressed and decided not to pay the needles entry fee and took a picture from the road.

It was here though where we had our first real experience of haggling. Izzy wanted a top with a quoted fixed price of 350 pesos. Although she did manage to get it for 300 pesos (£4.50) we still knew we had come off worse in the exchange and vowed to do better next time.

Not wanting to push things too far with the weather we rode back to the hostel. Again this appeared to be the right call as the rain started again as we were around 5 minutes away. With around 4 hours to kill before we had to head to the boat, taking us back to Cebu before our onwards flight to Boracay, we tried to catch up on blog.

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Well that was until through a conversation with the receptionist of our guesthouse we realised that we had somehow got the departure time wrong. Instead of the thought 8.45pm it was leaving at 7pm! Queue panic!! We had arranged for the bike guy to pick us up at 6pm so we could allow for him to be a little late (as is common here) and for dinner but we now had to be there at the port at 6.30pm with a 20minute drive ahead! The time was now 5.50pm! Izzy had explained our situation to the receptionist and not wanting to risk any delays opted to take her up on her kind offer of a lift with her husband. With hearts pounding and feeling guilty about the guy coming for the bike who would now have a wasted journey we were on the way. We made the port in time and fortunately only had to pay an additional £3 for our error and emergency transport. I messaged the bike guy to apologise and asking him to cut up my national insurance card I had used for deposit when all of a sudden he showed up and gave me back the card! Apparently he had arrived on time and passed us on the road. But instead of being angry he drove to the port to return my card. This really sums up what majority of the people we have met here are like. We apologised profusely and thanked him before heading into the port.

Annoyingly the boat was around 90minutes delayed. So all that rushing, anxiety and panic was for nothing in the end. But we weren't too know this and were thankful we were there on time as if we missed this boat would have also missed our flight! Once finally on the boat we settled into our bed. Thankful that we had a bed this time for our overnight journey and not the bench we had previously! After some snacks from the canteen for dinner and finishing off our latest Netflix series we got comfy for our voyage.

Only in the Philippines would you need this sign on the ship:

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We docked around 5am and got a taxi to the airport, via one of only 4 HSBC ATMs that don't charge for cash withdrawals in this country. Killing the remaining time looking around gift shops before our uneventful flight to a small airport a ferry ride away from Boracay.

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Posted by Bears on Tour 20:03 Archived in Philippines Tagged waterfalls siquijor cliff_diving salagdoong cambugahay_falls tubod_marine_sanctuary paliton_beach la_villa_alta Comments (0)

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