Easing into El Nido

Saturday, November 22, 2014

We said our goodbyes to the Aurora 2 at the El Nido pier and turned our attention to finding our hotel and getting a real shower for the first time in 5 days. A quick tricycle ride later and we made it to Zaniya's Pension, which was centrally located in El Nido town. The room was small and tidy, and we had a nice view from our second floor balcony.

View from 2nd floor of Zaniya's Pension
The Tao group had planned to meet at 8pm for one last group dinner, and we had nearly all the passengers there plus a few of the crew. About half of the people continued on to our next stop, a karaoke bar, where they had what I considered to be a fair method - each table in the place could submit three songs, and the microphone was passed around from table to table, so that each table takes a turn. Unfortunately it took a long time for the mic to get passed to us, but when we did we made the most of it, then moved on to a beachfront bar, where our group had shrunken down to about 10. We had a good time drinking on the beach, generally dancing like idiots, and sprinting into the bar when a giant rainstorm spontaneously began.

Beachfront bar chilling in El Nido...watch for rouge shorebreak!

Juli takes a turn dancing with Chef

Aforementioned dancing like idiots

Thinking we wanted to stay on land for a day, we hoped to do a combination hiking & biking tour, but at both places that advertised such a tour, the bikes were being repaired in advance of the high season. We decided to do our own tour by renting a scooter - there was a place that rented Vespas, and fortunately we got the last one.
Got room for one more if you still want to go to Aspen!
I was declared to be the driver so first I tried to take it up and back down the street on my own…of course 20 feet into the ride I nearly crashed it into a ditch on the side of the road when I accidentally gunned the throttle while attempting to brake! Juli nervously hopped on and we hit the road, heading north to try to find a waterfall and/or beach. The drive was quite nice - road in good shape and very green landscape all around us. We drove about 40 minutes until seeing signs for Nagkalit-kalit waterfall.

Colorful landscape along the road north of El Nido
The locals on both sides of the road were doing their best to convince us we needed to hire a guide to reach the waterfall, and we were doing our best to convince them otherwise, that we would not get lost, we just wanted to wander on our own. We eventually won out, but immediately got confused about where to go, since the trail essentially started in somebody's side yard and there were several worn paths all around…with a little free guidance from the locals we took the path that went right into a stream crossing, and from there it was much easier to follow the most well-worn path across 8 more stream crossings which led to the falls. The hike was about 45 minutes and when we got to the falls we were the only ones there. We jumped in the pools for a little while, waited out a small rain shower, and then headed back along the path to the road.

Nagkalit-kalit waterfall - decent enough for a dip!
We had planned to visit a small beach that was a 45 minute walk from the road through the jungle, but given the state of our foot blisters, we decided instead to drive back south of El Nido and see if we could find a beach closer to the road. We stopped in Corong Corong Beach, just outside of El Nido, for snacks and while sitting by the water heard a bunch of screaming and yelling. We decided to walk around the see what the commotion was all about. As we got closer we started hearing a lot of screeching and cock-a-doodle-doing, then seeing several caged birds, then seeing the packed grandstand that was cheering on two roosters engaged in a cockfight. We stopped for a little while to watch from the outside, through people's legs - it was quite a lively scene with lots of back and forth between the two fighting birds, other gashed birds being taken away, and bettors cheering on their favorites. As Juli noted, at least in the Philippines when the fighting is done, somebody makes use of the meat for a meal rather than just throwing it away.

We pushed on south and stopped at a seemingly popular place, alternatively known as both Maremegmeg Beach and Las Cabanas - at the end of a narrow path was a really nice beach with a bar, and beautiful views of the Bacuit Bay cliffs. Also enjoying the beach were a few people from our Tao cruise. We had a fruity drink or two, did some reading, and then headed back north to return the scooters. Along the way we stopped to take in a viewpoint and the setting sun. We were happy to have survived a day on land and Todd's scooter driving.
Taking a scooter break at Maremegmeg / Las Cabanas

Sunset over Bacuit Bay
That evening we met up with Paul and Anne for dinner, but kept it an early night since we were scheduled for a 5:45am wakeup call the next day. We had arranged a tour to climb the big cliff behind El Nido town before we got back on the water for an island-hopping tour. Unfortunately in the morning it was sprinkling a little bit, and our guide Nico said it probably would not be safe, so we'd have to try it again the next day. We headed back to the hotel and got a little more sleep in before our island-hopping tour would begin.

Waiting for the island hopping tour to leave on the beach at El Nido
In El Nido there are 4 pre-set island-hopping tours available: A, B, C, and D; all about the same cost of 1,200 pesos ($25 USD). On each of the tours, you join a boat of up to about 15 other people to visit sights of Bacuit Bay, including stops for snorkeling and beach time. Having just come from the Tao cruise where we did that for several days, we were pretty used to that drill, but it was still a nice day out on the water with some good snorkeling at our lunch stop, and some funny fish that nipped at us as we swam at another stop (Small Lagoon).
Big Lagoon SELFIE!
The last stop was "Seven Commando" beach, where we came upon a volleyball game between a bunch of tall Euro-dudes and some local Filipinos - although the Euros were much taller, it was clear to us that the Filipinos actually knew how to play. We joined the game playing on the Filipino side and had a lot of fun spiking on the increasingly frustrated Euros. We had one last El Nido dinner with Paul and Anne and went home early to pack our bags and get some sleep, with the cliff climbing and departure from El Nido planned for the next day.
One last El Nido dinner with Paul and Anne
Our second early morning was rewarded with a clear sky, so we were ready to attempt the climb. The climb was pretty intense even at 6am in the morning, not so much a hike as a free climb/scramble requiring us to pull ourselves up over the rocks - which were fairly sharp and narrow (gloves would have been nice). On our way up we passed a group of macaque monkeys, which Niko said was pretty rare. It took us about an hour+ of climbing to make it to the summit…at which point we were completely soaked in sweat, while Niko hadn't sweat a drop. The view at the top was quite incredible, if we were not flying out that day it would have been nice to hang up there for a little bit longer, see more of the sunlight as it rose over the town.

Sweet, sweaty accomplishment!
The difficult climb down the cliff
While the way up the cliff was a challenge, the way down was even more so. Along with the typical knee stress when going downhill, we had fatigue to deal with and a couple times there were some slips that resulted in feet falling into crevasses of rock, and some bad bruises on legs and backs. Fortunately that was all, it could have been a lot worse. Slowly we made our way down and after about an hour we felt the relief of flat ground under our feet.

We hurried back to the hotel to change our clothes, eat breakfast, and get a ride to the airport for our flight to Manila. The clothes we wore on the climb were so wet I was able to wring liquid sweat out of them! We threw them in our travel laundry bag and then into the secondary compartment in Juli's backpack. Our departure was delayed 75 minutes - fortunately ITI airlines was super helpful in getting us and our bags off the plane and into a van to hustle to the domestic terminal in Manile. The attention they gave was so personal, it was strange - certainly an advantage of an airline with just one route 3x per day, their hospitality went above and beyond what we expected...and the views were pretty amazing too (sit on the left side of the plane if you can)!
Aerial view of "Smile Island" on departure from El Nido
What we didn't expect after checking into our flight in Manila was to be called back to the counter and asked to explain Juli's leaking backpack! We tried to explain it was just sweaty clothes but they said they could not take a leaking bag, so we had to throw the sweaty laundry bag into the main compartment of Juli's pack, with all of her normal clothes, and hope there wasn't much drainage en route.

1 comments:

grace c tullis said...

Just now reading your second half of the blog, and enjoying every detail and photo! You have a talent for describing your journey with much anticipation on my part as I read along!! Looks like so much fun, except for the decline on the jagged rocks....ouch! Gorgeous scenery captured by your good eyes!!