We landed in Manila, Philippines in the evening and arrived at the hostel to find something very familiar waiting for us.
YAYYY MARK IS HERE! Reunited at last. We were all pretty tired from our travels so we hit the hay early, after a celebratory beer of course.
Day 103- After a much needed sleep we took the day to plan the next two weeks with Mark and did some much needed catching up, all while touring the SM mall of Asia. This also included a routine visit to the cinema to watch Crimson Peak, super scary. It may have been more enjoyable had the other people watching not needed to nerviously talk at full volume during the scary scenes!
We booked our flights out of Manila to Puerto Princessa for the next day.
Day 104- We literally left Manila hours before a typhoon landed. We were happy to arrive safely in Puerto Princessa and, after taking a few wrong turns, we walked to our hostel. We had only one real goal in our new city. We wanted to visit one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, known as the Underground River. We booked the tour for the following day, ate some delicious Vietnamese food, enjoyed a beer on the beach and watched a movie in our room before going to sleep.
Day 105- We had a 2 1/2 hour drive before arriving in Sabang. Had we known the Underground River was so far away from Puerto Princessa, we would have stayed in Sabang instead and saved ourselves the drive. Once we got there we had to wait for our number in a queue, which took another 2 hours. It was unfortunate we weren't more prepared because it was a lot of wasted time before we even got on the boat to see the Underground River.
Not the end of the world though.
Then our number was finally called. Sabang was dealing with some bad weather from the typhoon, which was making the boat rides to the starting beach pretty intense. The waves were huge but luckily we had a very skilled driver. Another boat wasn't so lucky. If you look below, in the distance you can see that it sunk. No one was hurt.
Our parents will hate that we said this but we all agreed that the crazy weather made the wait all the more worth it. Nothing like a little risk to make our experience that much more exciting.
Once we arrived at the starting beach we walked inland in the rain to find the river. We hopped in a different boat and headed into the dark cave. Mike sat up front so he got to control the spot light.
Birds and bats flew throughout the cave as we paddled our way in.
The photo below shows how dark it was inside the cave with only the spotlight of another boat in the distance.
There were many stones in the cave that the Philippinos believe to be figures and forms of people or objects. The one below is believed to be the figure of a woman. I would agree.
We made the difficult journey back to the main beach in Sabang before catching our 2 1/2 hour car ride back to Puerto Princessa. We booked our ride to El Nido for the next day. It would take us 6 hours to get to there.
Day 106- We were picked up early for our bus ride to El Nido. This day also happened to be mine and Mikes 2nd wedding anniversary. We knew we wouldn't be able to do much due to our long travel day but I guess a 1 year adventure would suffice. I guess.
When we finally arrived, after we checked into our shared room, Mike and I went off on our own to grab some dinner, just the two of us. After dinner we met up with Mark to enjoy a drink and cheers to our next adventure. We also made sure to book ourselves in for one of the many island hopping boat trips that are a staple of the El Nido travel scene. As it turned out El Nido was also dealing with some bad typhoon weather so the chance of our tour being cancelled was high.
Day 107- We woke up in the morning to find out that our trip was indeed cancelled. We took the day to relax, eat good food and use the wifi. We also took an afternoon ride to the Las Cabanas beach to dip our toes in the ocean and watch the sunset.
Above is the three of us in a trike. It is always exciting to see what each country has invented as their version of transportation. These trikes are everywhere in the Philippines.
People could zipline from one side of the beach to a nearby island, although, they would get stuck half way and the zipline operators would have to go up and fetch them as they dangled there, helpless. Maybe not as extreme as advertised. haha
I have been exposed to a lot of Mark over the years. He was Mike's roommate for two years and our travel companion on many adventures. However, in all of those years I had not experianced a certain habbit of Mark's to this degree. A habbit that quickly rubbed off on Mike. You would not think a girl with two travel companions would spend so much time talking to her self buuuut...
There we were, on the beach, before a beautiful sunset was about to occur and it happened. NAP ATTACK!
From this angle it kind of looks like Mike is holding the camera but trust me, he was legally dead to the world.
We stayed until the sun went down, then we went home for a movie night in our room.
Day 107- We woke up hopeful that our tour would be good to go but unfortunately the sea was still angry and we would remain grounded for the day. We spent the day doing the same thing as the day before, capping it off with another great sunset... until Mike got hungry. Then he ate the sun. Sorry humanity.
Day 108- The weather had finally cleared up enough to get out to sea but only for one of the trips being offered through Art Cafe. We were originally booked for Trip C but since it would mean crossing more ocean we were quickly transferred to Trip A. Trip A cost us $42 CAD each.
The initial ride over to the first island was rocky and the waves were wild. We didn't pack properly so our valuables, such as my camera, were at risk of getting wet. We just so happened to be sitting in the splash zone.
Our first stop at The Small Lagoon offered some great snorkelling as well as a little cave to swim through. On the other side of the cave we found a beautiful lagoon.
We had 40 minutes to explore at this stop but Mike and I got a little carried away with the underwater sights and surfaced to our names being called out. Mark yelled at us from the boat that they were ready to leave and in my attempt to rush back I ran into some coral.
Our next stop was The Big Lagoon, which was blessed with some more beautiful coral and fantastic snorkelling. The camera can never quite capture how beautiful the blue coral is under the water.
Next we went to Shimizu Island for more snorkelling but more importantly we stopped for lunch. We saw some little Nemos before lunch was served. No, we didn't eat them.
Grilled fresh fish, salad, rice and beef kabobs were just what we needed to refuel. But first.... NAP ATTACKKKK.
While we were eating, a little lizard decided to investigate... maybe not so little. The Monitor Lizard, is a close relative to the Komodo Dragon.
After lunch we hopped over to The Secret Lagoon where we explored the underwater world one more time. There were many interesting creatures waiting to be discovered, including this large octopus trying to hide under a rock.
I love this next photo of Mike. He looks serious but how can you take anyone seriously with a snorkle mask on.
Our last stop was Seven Commandos Beach where we got to chill out and enjoy the beautiful white sand. Mike and I got busy building a sand castle, while rehydrating with natures best, the coconut. Drink it, Eat it, Wear it.
This was always something I wanted to try with one of my girlfriends....but who needs a girlfriend when you have a man friend with hair like Marks!!! Yea we did! Mike took the photo a little early but you get the point.
After a long day in the sun it was time to head back to El Nido but not before a quick... NAP ATTACK!
The trip was fun and we all enjoyed finally getting active in the Philippines but we also agreed that we were "over" the busy touristy acitvities. It isn't quite as memorable when you're sharing it with hundreds of people and we felt like cattle being herded from spot to spot on the standardized citywide "Tours". We realized that perhaps all of these years of travelling had tainted how we feel about "tourist activities", we wanted more. It was time to find what we were searching for from the Philippines.
Day 109- We felt stuck in El Nido and we weren't getting what we wanted out of our adventure. Mike, Mark and I have a great track record together and have made so many great memories in Brazil, Thailand and Laos.... but Philippines wasn't paying off, as much as we'd hoped. We went for lunch and reminisced about our favorite past trips... ya know.. trying to dial in on what was missing. One memory in particular kept coming up. The glorious seven days we spent traversing the dangerous and mysterious Amazon river, in Brazil. That was it! I knew what we needed so I got on the internet and started researching...and I found it.. at least I hoped I had found it. We wouldn't know for sure until we got ourselves to Coron. Now all we needed to do was book a boat over to the island of Coron, where our adventure would surely take a turn for the better, nay, BEST.