El Nido

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January 9th 2017
Published: January 14th 2017
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When we arrived
We arrived in El Nido after a slightly bizarre minibus journey that took about 5 hours and involved an hour of waiting and driving in circles round Puerto Princessa picking up people, then a mini revolt when the driver wanted to cram an extra 3 lads with big cases and rucksacks into an already packed van. People power won and another bus was thankfully summoned. On our bus were 4 Israelis one of whom played football for Tel Aviv and they were all super friendly, the driver drove fast and managed to make up for the lost hour at the start.

The countryside was beautiful, all lush green jungle, heavily forested hills, rice fields, small thatched villages, stunning glimpses of coastlines, people working with and riding buffaloes and then as we approached El Nido it started raining. And it just kept on. This was not the best of introductions to the place, the towering cliffs surrounding the town were covered in cloud and all you were aware of was the chaos of tricycles, motorbikes, building work, pools of water and noise.

Our accommodation was a basic room at the Tarao Travelodge and it lived up to it's name, a group of small thatched huts with tin roofs, everything damp, slightly smelly, gloomy and cramped but on the plus side the a/c worked! The wifi did not and led Howard into withdrawal!! accommodation can be ridiculously expensive here and we were lucky Howard had per booked at a special rate of £27 a night instead of the normal £50 ish, the hotels were all charging in 3 figures per night, so I just had to deal with it!

Walking around in the rain didn't do much to improve things and we were constantly dodging traffic, saw loads of young flashpackers and posters for a full moon party on Thursday but following Suzanne and David's advice we walked to the very end of the beach where there were a couple of nice little bars both doing happy hours and beer for 40 pesos, about 75 pence a bottle, so we just sat there and downed a fair few watching the lightning out to sea, surrounded by dogs who just came and sat under the tables. We could just to say make out the shapes of other islands in the distance so the potential was there but just not yet.
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The town

Turned out there had been a typhoon and the coast guard had cancelled all trips and it was doubtful they would run again the next day. This was a real shame as we had hoped to do 2 while we were there but we went back to our hut with fingers crossed. That night was not fun, the noise of the traffic and the sound of the rain on the roof was so loud it took hours to get to sleep.

We woke to the sound of the rain, all trips cancelled and the prospect of a day in the wet with not a lot to do. 😞

However the rain wasn't constant, so we had a walk around the town, which was nothing special but judging by all the building work will be huge eventually and no doubt packed to the rafters with tourists as more people discover the Philippines. We took a tricycle over to Coron Coron beach,where yet more hotels were being built, but for now we had the beach virtually to ourselves apart from a few dogs. as the weather cleared you could see the impressive coastline, the mountainous Islands out to sea and
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The boat trip
the long stretch of white sand littered. With coral and shells.

So with another walk along the PP beach stopping off at various bars and waiting but not being served and so moving on again we once more ended up at the far end of the beach. This time we actually saw a bit of a pink sunset in the distance and felt slightly more hopeful about the next day.

Once more very little sleep, it was damp, noisy, smelly and the TV in the hut next door was on loud all bloody night. I must have got to sleep in the end as I woke up to sunshine hooray! Howard dashed over to the hotel to see if the trips were running but we didn't find out until 8.30 am that the coastguard had sad yes. as it was all so last minute we just booked with the hotel, the trip we wanted wasn't running but the most popular one Tour A was so we got on that.

Luckily there were only 16 of us on the boat and apart from a couple of Americans everyone else was Filipino tourists. We had to wade out to the boat and the sea came up to my chest, it was lovely and warm but getting on was not easy!

This tour was supposed to have about 5 stops, it didn't. The first beach was lovely and we had a quick swim, the second stop for the secret lagoon thing our boat stopped a real long way from the shore, the sea was really rough and you had to wear shoes as the rocks were sharp, well we got in the sea ok but quickly realised it was just too rough and too far for either of us to make it, we weren't happy but snorkelled around the boat instead an I saw the most enormous bright blue starfish which was pretty amazing..

Us and the others who didn't go just hung around for an hour, when the rest returned, several being towed back by the boat people, a few had gashes on their feet and legs and all said it wasn't really worth it. Some of them looked exhausted by the swim. Why we weren't taken closer in I just don't know.

We sailed past some fantastic islands, it looked just like The Lost World, see the photos, just incredible. We anchored near a beach but instead of going ashore just ate on the boat and had a snorkel/swim about. The lunch was great, rice, fish, pork, chicken and fruit, unfortunately I was sitting next to this bloke who managed to drop his whole plateful of food over my foot and by my feet. He did apologise but then just got a new plateful of food and just left the rest on the deck, I couldn't believe it, I kept expecting him to try and pick it up but no, I picked some up and still he didn't bother. Us and the American couple were gob smacked and I ended up having to wear my sandals rather than paddle about in it, I wasn't happy.

On to the small lagoon and the chance to kayak into it, the Filipinos didn't want to do it and just wanted to go to a beach but we stood our ground and insisted. Getting into the kayak wasn't too bad and although it killed my back I really enjoyed paddling it and the entrance way into the lagoon was through a small gap in the rocks and inside it was gorgeous, full of kayaks, but soaring high cliffs and walls covered in vegetation lovely. We saw the American couple and one of the boat men with two of the kids on the trip but the rest just stayed on the boat.

I had already decided I wasn't going to try and get out of the kayak and then balance across it to the ships ladder to get back on board, getting into the sea first seemed the better option. I went first and as I looked back to see if Howard was ok the whole kayak went up on a knife edge with him clinging to the side and I went straight under, hat, glasses and all. Graceful has never been a term applied to me. I dragged myself up the ladder and wrung myself out!

We should have gone to the Big lagoon next but due to the others whining about beaches and despite Howard's strong objection this was missed out and we went to Ipil beach instead. It was a beautiful beach but it we had paid to see all the stops, Howard was pissed off. Once more getting off the boat wasn't easy, although the boat went onto the sand the ladder was in the sea and the beach dropped away right by it. Howard tried to warn me but I stepped off the bottom of the ladder, thinking the seabed was there and it wasn't, one almighty splash, once more total submersion, hat, glasses and sarong this time and a lot of coughing and spluttering and trying not to look embarrassed! We spent about 40 minutes here, most of which was looking in amazement as Food man and his woman and another couple took hundreds of what can only be described as porn shots both in and out of the water!!!

As we approached El Nido again I have to say it looked gorgeous, strung out along the bay, enclosed by towering cliffs and with the sun shining, which always makes everything seem better.

We walked along the beach and decided to book a bus back for the next morning. The trip was good, but having to miss a stop as we were too far out, having to fight to do the kayak stop and having one stop totally missed out really took the edge off it and we were not prepared to spend more money on another one and then have to catch a late bus back to PP. On the way back to the hut Howard finally got his hair cut.

Despite the smelly, damp, noisy room we slept like logs that night 😊

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