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Published: October 7th 2009
(Day 546 on the road)
There are places in the world that are just perfect for people taking pictures of them. And then there are places like the Bacuit Archipelago in the Philippines where I am at the moment, that no matter how many pictures you take of them, their true beauty can never be captured in a photograph. This place here is so amazing I sometimes had to pinch myself to believe it is real.
I must say that I don't get this feeling too often these days, this feeling of being completely awestruck by a landscape or a sight, so when it happens I cherish it all the more. I think the more beautiful things I see on my travels the more difficult it becomes to excite me. Don't get me wrong, I am far from being tired of travelling. The sensation is probably best compared to endorphin, which the brain produces when you are happy. But as time goes by and you adjust to the sensation, you need a stronger and stronger stimulus to get the hormones going. I feel it is similar in a way for travels, especially when certain sights are nearly identical; temples are a
good example of this for me.
But the Bacuit Archipelago does not fall into that category at all. It is essentially a cluster of countless limestone islands and islets of all kinds of shapes and sizes that are sprinkled across the ocean in northern Palawan. The best point of access is from the pretty and laid-back beach town of El Nido
, which is geared towards tourists but has, take note, no ATM. The last ATM is located eight hours away by bus in Puerto Princesa. So bring plenty of cash, as it is likely that you will stay longer than intended. I did.
But before reaching El Nido however Evgenia and I spent two nights in Sabang, the stepping stone for the famous underground river. The river can be accessed by small rowing boats, and after a pleasant one-hour hike to the cave entrance we were soon inside taking in the great stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Back in Sabang, we were caught at the edge of the devastating typhoon Ondoy (for some reason called Ketsana in other parts of the world). Not known to us at all at the time (Sabang has no electricity so we were cut
off from the outside world), it was the worst typhoon that hit the Philippines in almost 50 years, killing over 300 and destroying the homes of more than 500.000 people. An unbelievable tragedy for this poor country.
In Sabang, the typhoon was bad but not as bad as in and around Manila. During the night the storm was pretty hard, lifting the roof off our bamboo bungalow and causing a few small stilt houses to collapse. The typhoon started with heavy, almost continuous rain and mighty winds around noon, which made for some amazing waves. We spent a long times in the water and had childish fun body-surfing the huge waves. Some of them were so powerful it literally hurt if they caught you.
Two days later we took the bus to El Nido. The seven hours bus ride on the muddy dirt road was rather uncomfortable. It was raining constantly, and we had the choice to either sweat like pigs inside the bus with the windows closed or to get wet from the rain coming in with the windows open. Not an easy decision! Our bags were on top of the bus, and pretty much everything we
had was soaked by the time we reached El Nido in the late afternoon. And with the high humidity and ongoing rain most things would remain wet for the next few days.
Once in El Nido, we were forced to sit around for another two days waiting for the storm and rain to subside. On the plus side, we had found a lovely room (thanks for the tip Karen!) and were able to pick up free wifi from the upmarket hotel across the street - how convenient. We also ate copious amounts of bananas, which cost just one pesos a piece. At the current exchange rate, you can buy 69 bananas for one euro here, unbelievable! Consider that the next time you pay a euro for maybe four or five bananas in your average European supermarket. On day three and four the weather was finally sunny and clear; most of the amazing pictures I took are from these two days.
And as mentioned earlier exploring the archipelago by boat was just unbelievable. There are so many islands with hidden bays and deserted golden beaches it would take a lifetime to explore them all. The locals offer three main
tours (A, B and C). I did all of them as I couldn't get enough of the places, but if you are pressed for time do them in the order A, C, B. Especially tour A with the Small and the Big Lagoon is breathtaking. Snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the Small Lagoon with visibility of 15 to 20 metres was without a doubt the highlight of my stay in Palawan.
After spending almost a week in El Nido, leaving the place with the prevailing weather conditions and another typhoon approaching was by no means easy. More to come on that in my next blog entry...
Next stop: Coron (Palawan, Philippines).
To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com
. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon
(and most other online book shops).
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