Our final week spent in Puerto Galera
12.06.2013 - 20.06.2013 34 °C
We made the crossing from Luzon to Mindoro in a boat with bamboo wings, praying for a smooth crossing (it's typically these boats that sink in stormy weather, killing lots of people). An hour later, and after a very peaceful crossing, we arrived in the small town of Sabang. The place was a kind of Filipino Blackpool with sleazy bars and a pier which housed some waltzers, a merry-go-round and various ways of gambling away your pesos. Sabang was a big hit with Korean and Chinese tourists and even boasts an extremely incongruous medieval castle styled hotel.
Despite the fun we had losing money on various games and giving money to kids to gamble with (ethically dodgy ground) we thought we'd move 300m down the coast on the following day to the more peaceful and cleaner Big La Laguna. We stayed here for the best part of a week, scuba diving on the many top class dive sites that are just off the coast and generally relaxing as we tried to suppress the sinking realisation of our impending return to England. The extent of the coral and fish life was genuinely impressive - I'd been slightly worried that the diving here wouldn't come close to that in Borneo - and we saw turtles, shoals of bat fish and the truly bizarre frogfish. On a night dive we also saw the creepy snake eel, with it's head stuck out of the sand, and the amusing box crab.
On Sunday the hotel where we were staying hosted a golf competition where ageing western expats from miles around gathered to hit golf balls off the roof into the sea while aiming at a rubber hoop that was manned tirelessly by a Filipino boy in a kayak. He was given a motorbike helmet as means of protection. Naturally this was quite amusing, however the skill level was pretty low and I'm not sure if a single ball landed in the hoop all day.
The following day saw me and Helen rent a moped and head off into the island. After a fair old drive and many a hopeful question asked to local pedestrians we arrived at Tukaran falls (a.k.a. Hidden Paradise). However before getting to the falls we had to park the 'ped and pay about £8 for the pleasure of the most uncomfortable journey of my life. The track to the falls crossed a river several times, meaning we wouldn't be able to get there with a bike. Instead, the options consisted of walking or getting a water buffalo to pull you in a wooden cart. Keen to add another to our growing list of "modes of transportation used in Asia", we went with the latter option. This was a definite error as the buffalo had no desire to avoid the big stones along the track, and the sack on which we sat provided little protection to my bony arse. The falls, however, were beautiful and we swam for a couple of hours in the pools and rapids between them before the buffalo returned us to our considerably more suspensioned moped.
Back on the road again we made it up to the alternative beach town in Puerto Galera, White Beach. We had considered staying here instead of Big La Laguna initially and after seeing the place rather resembling a ghost town, we were glad of making the decision we had. We spent our final night eating Chateaubriand at one of the two exceptional steakhouses that somehow had found themselves in this enclave of the Philippines. This luxury was needed as the following day we would set off from the island at 5:45am on a journey home that would take me 45 hours, fitting in a sleep in Kuala Lumpur airport.
In the past 5 weeks we've seen and done about as much as I'd previously fit into two-month-long jaunts and the people in Malaysia and the Philippines were some of the friendliest I've ever encountered. And now back to the PhD...