Getting from El Nido to Coron, we decided to go for the three day expedition instead of the direct “fast” ferry. The trip included stops along the way and overnight in tents at deserted beaches. And food. What’s not to like about that?
No one can predict the weather, but it so happened that the night before I reached the Philippine islands, a typhoon swept by. It calmed down for a while, before it was picking up again.
Some of the day tours from El Nido were cancelled, but the most popular ones, like Tour A was still running.
We started to get a bit worried, as our El Nido to Coron expedition would include open water areas that most probably would be effected. Our worries seemed to be without cause. Early morning we were picked up and taken to the harbour for the start of our adventure. Divided in two groups we were taken to the boats that would be our companion the next three days.
Getting acquainted with our fellow passengers, we enjoyed the start of the journey up on the sunny deck. Cruising in comfortable speed, we got to know the Germans from the day before, as well as a new German girl and both a Lithuanian and Dutch solo traveler.
Anchoring up at Nacpan beach it seemed like the perfect paradise, and we enjoyed the peace and quiet at the beach before swimming back to our boat for delicious lunch. The chefs had prepared several dishes with meat and vegetables for all our desires.
Moving on, the wind picked up, and while we as passengers relaxed in the sun on deck, the responsible person for the expedition paid close attention to the weather conditions. Sunny blue skies turned grey, and as without warning for the non-trimmed eye, the lovely sunny day turned pouring down. Our sun cover on the upper deck luckily also served as rain cover, and we all became a bit closer friends all of a sudden.
The captain set anchor in a bay all the way north of Palawan while waiting for the other boat. After a while in uncertainty the message came; we are staying here for the night.
The crew made all the arrangements, and our tents were set up at the beach alongside the local fishing boats. It was not the deserted beach I had fantasized about, but still an authentic experience. Curious local children first shy, then boldly walking around the campsite.
The closest house agreed to open their doors for us, and served as our bathroom. Along came also a big bonus; since the family was usually nearby to let us in to their home, we talked with them about family values and living conditions, getting to know more about the local culture.
After the buffet dinner was set up at long tables at the beach, the night slowly appeared. The tents were already up, and the tired ones could retreat, while the rest enjoyed the late evening around the warm bonfire.
A new day, new adventures
Morning came with more curious kids as well as adults. The kids were curious about us, while we, first of all were concerned about our next move. Wind had picked up more, and the chief was debating either to turn back to El Nido or to find alternative transport. All of us needed to go to Coron to continue our journeys, but safety first. The chief left us for a few hour. In the meantime, the weather on shore was not too bad, so we played with the local kids, walked along the beach, relaxed a bit in the tents, and played some more.
When he returned, we gathered for information. He had arranged a larger boat to take us all to Coron the next day, so we were staying at the spot for one more night, but he had also arranged for us to stay inside the community house.
Lunch was prepared, and when we had finished eating, new information was given; the wind had quiet down, so everything was packed on the boats and we got going. Nice and slow.
Waves were still large, so it took us more than double the time to reach the safe deserted beach for the night.
Arriving in almost sunshine and calm sea, we packed the things we needed for the night in plastic bags and left them for the crew to paddle to shore while we had a nice swim. With nobody else around it felt a bit like “Cast Away”. The tents were lined up along the beach and dinner was prepared around the bonfire.
From time to time some heavy rain showers came around, chasing us to seek shelter in an unfinished gazebo. Once it stopped, we went back to the beach. And the commuting continued, back and forth.
Along with the rain came also the wind. Stronger each time. At one point we went to check on the tents, and found that we urgently had to move them. We found a spot for ours a bit more sheltered by a tree, and decided to call it a night. The rule of no sand in the tent was broken, and I felt I woke up rolling around in a broken sand castle. The disadvantage of tenting at a deserted beach.
Bright, shiny day
Waking up to a bright sunny day was a pleasant surprise. After our pancake breakfast with eggs on the side, we packed out things together and swam back to the ship. Two ships had become one, as the smaller one had to return to El Nido. By now the group had grown quite close after spending two days together, so we had more than enough space.
Sunbathing on deck, we were enjoying the slow moving life as we continued towards Coron. Stopping along the way to cool down swimming in the coral blue ocean, we had perfect breaks from the life on the boat. I will not lie to you; as we had to do the sailing distance of two days in one, it sure was a long day. I sometimes felt being back in time to my childhood, driving long distances by car with my parents, constantly asking “are we there yet?”. Only now, I was just asking myself, not out loud.
Sunny day turned to pitch black night, and we could see the lights of Coron in the far distance. Sitting together on deck, we finished the supply of rum and coke, sharing brotherly. Even though we were all tired and wanted to get to our destination, we kept the spirit up; after all, we were all in the same boat… (sorry, just could not resist…)
Arriving Coron many hours after planned turned out to be a bit of a headache for the ones not booking the accommodation ahead. Including us. We found a tricycle to take us around looking for a place to stay. As I had a local sim-card I had done a little bit of research along the boat ride when we were lucky enough to have coverage, but the connection was quite bad so it was impossible to book anything. At least we had a backup plan, even though it was quite far from the center.
We decided to try our luck with the driver first. He was super helpful, and when we had given up, he still came up with another place to try. That was a fail as well as all places were fully booked, but our luck changed, and the place next door had an opening. The ones that had booked did not show up. Two lessons learned; book ahead in high season if you are picky with your accommodation, and absolutely notify your place to stay if you check in late….. We were lucky getting a very nice room to a decent price, and at a great location.
Going to bed more or less right away after a long journey, we were dreaming about our past adventure while considering our next; exploring the islands around Coron in the morning….