Lacy: Our road trip through Palawan island continued to be a great one as we traveled north from Guru Beach to Port Barton. Riding past rice fields, water buffalo cooling off in ponds and sunlit shoreline made for a quick trip to the tiny port town. There isn’t much to do in Part Barton except sunbathe on the white sand beach, book an island hopping tour and watch a magnificent sunset. Check, check and check. Arriving to town at noon we parked by the bike and strolled down the beach to find accommodation.
The water here is crystal clear and very inviting. It wasn’t long before we found a small bamboo hut behind a beachfront massage stand that would be our home for the next two nights. Kicking off our shoes for the next two days we began to explore the shoreline a bit further. The water here is the perfect temperature to spend all day in. After a couple of massages we watched an unbelievable sunset at Happy Bar. Happy we were so with huge smiles plastered on our faces.
The following morning we ate an early breakfast on the beach and couldn’t wait to start our all day island hopping tour. Six stops and 7 hours with a bbq on the beach halfway through made for an absolutely perfect day. Starfish, swimming with turtles, great snorkeling, swimming in turquoise water, enjoying the view of the surrounding islands from the boat and soaking in the Phillipino sun in a recipe for happiness. There were three other couples on the boat with us who all seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as we were. This was $24 each well spent, indeed.
With plans for the sail in place we knew we needed to get to El Nido rather quickly for an orientation at 6p on Thursday night before leaving port Friday morning. We were only two and half hours away, but decided to only cover half that ground the first day and stay in Taytay Wednesday night. Turned out to be a very good idea because the ride was really hot and by the time we arrived I was borderline overheating, but perked up when I realized that our accommodation for the evening had a real mattress!!! What?! For six weeks we have been sleeping on the very thin Asian mattresses that require you to turn throughout the night like a rotisserie chicken as your hips and and shoulders begin to ache. But tonight we had a proper soft thick mattress. Don’t have to tell you this was the best night sleep we had in a while. Hallelujah! Add in a great view from our patio of a Spanish fort on the edge of the sea, cheap local food and strong WiFi to catch up on life before disconnected for nearly a week and we considered this stop a major score. It was our most expensive night yet at $30 and well worth it.
While eating the largest pizza I have ever laid eyes for dinner we opted to take a five day sailing tour from El Nido (another town and hour north) north to Coron (another island in the Palawan province). Rob has been dropping hints about this sailing company ever since Cambodia, but since we rarely plan anything too far in advance I wasn’t ready to commit to anything. Sailing between El Nido and Coron is pretty popular here and there are many options by ferry, private tour or even flights. TAO company has an unbelievable reputation of being a top notch 3 or 5 day sail. While they do have other boats we were only interested in their handmade wooden sailboat option. Since they had a tour leaving in two days Rob initially emailed to see about joining and heard back that they were full. I suggested we add our names to the wait list which requires that you write a bit about yourself for an application. Within an hour we received a note and an invoice to join the sail!! We were numbers 23 and 24 of the guest allotment and snuck in. We took a guess that there was a coronavirus cancellation because we later learned from our fellow shipmates and crew that last minute bookings are nearly unheard of. Most people booked months to a year in advance. When it’s meant to be, it will happen either way.
The following day was a “town day.” Whether we are long distance hiking, spending a few months working in remote mountain towns or backpacking through SE Asia these days creep up as we find ourselves needing to take care of a small list of items. It only took an hour to ride into El Nido and settle into our hotel on the beach.
I was instantly surprised at how much the landscape changed on this part of the island. The surrounding islands instantly took on a much more mountainous aesthetic, begin far less flat than southern Palawan. Spending the previous twelve days motorbiking up the island gave us a really good appreciation of how varied the beaches and topography are from tip to tip. On the list for the day we’re checking into the TAO office, buying rash guards, sunscreen, aloe cream, another sarong and changing money. All done with just enough time to enjoy a happy hour cocktail before orientation. Successful town day!