Friday, November 2, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Motorcyling Through Northern Palawan - Duli and Maremegmeg Beaches

For my last day in Northern Palawan, I cruised the countryside on a tiny motorcycle, dodging water buffalo, dogs, big rocks and little children along the gravel roads on my way to a few secluded beaches. A friendly Australian that I had met earlier in El Nido let me borrow his rented motorcycle for a day, so I headed up the coast, eventually making a very steep, slippery descent to Duli Beach where I spent a few hours enjoying the magnificent scenery and solitude. I finished up the day just South of El Nido at Maremegmeg Beach, recommended to me by one of the locals as his favorite spot in the area.

(Duli Beach - not all that easy to find or get to, but I had the huge beach to myself for almost four hours.)

(As I sat in the sand underneath the palm trees, the waves crashed in front of me, and the clouds passed overhead. At one point, there were three other visitors on the expansive beach, but they came and went quickly, and a stray dog was my only other guest.)

(Riding a tiny motorcycle on loose sand isn't as easy as it looks.)

(After leaving the bumpy gravel and dirt road, I followed a tiny footpath down to the beach on my motorcycle, stopping at a house or two on the way to ask for directions.)

(Some of the scenery on the way back to El Nido from Duli Beach. I came very close to running over a big black snake coiled up in the middle of the gravel road, but with a nearby water buffalo, dog and large rocks that I was trying to avoid, I didn't have much time to get a good look at it.)

(Getting out of El Nido, you quickly get back into the rural parts of Palawan with tiny farmers' huts along the side of the road.)

(Maremegmeg Beach - from Corong-Corong, about 3 km South of El Nido, this beach is a 30-45 minute walk further South, but it's definitely worth it.)

(Rows and rows of palm trees at Maremegmeg make for some pretty decent pictures. I just had to wait for one oblivious French guy to move out of the shot.)

(Maremegmeg Beach looking out towards Cadlao Island.)
(Fish curry and rice.)

(A traditional Filipino soup with random vegetables, some pork and a tamarind base - sinigang. Not at all like synagogue, particularly the pork part. Sorry for the confusion.)

(Another version of halo-halo with taro flavored ice cream, random gelatin, rice krispies, ice shavings and some random pieces tucked in the bottom. This was back in Puerto Princesa on my last day before heading back to Manila.)

(I also made a quick stop by the vegetarian restaurant in Puerto Princesa, along with my obligatory visit to the bakeries and kid along the side of the road that sells something like fried plantains for 15 cents each. Mmmm.)

Bacuit Archipelago - Big Lagoon, Small Lagoon, Miniloc and Simizu - Cruising the Islands of "Tour A"

Hidden lagoons filled with coral and colorful fish highlight the Bacuit Archipelago, so I jumped on another small boat for "Tour A" - taking me around Miniloc Island (Big and Small Lagoon), Simizu Island, the Hidden Lagoon and 7 Commandos Beach. As with the previous tour, the islands dotting the bay were spectacular, though I can't say the same for all of my fellow passengers. Overall, it was still amazing.

(The Small Lagoon at Miniloc Island. This shallow cove contains a small opening to the open water, protecting a blue-green bay. We swam to the back of this cover where you pass through a narrow opening in the rock wall to find another completely hidden lagoon with similarly perfect scenery. The sun finally came out just before this picture, and it made a huge difference in revealing the colors all around us.)

(The entrance to the Big Lagoon at Miniloc Island, around the corner from the Small Lagoon. The channel is so shallow that we all had to stand on the front of the boat while the captain turned off the motor and literally waded in the water in front of us, pulling the boat along by the side of the catamaran.)

(The narrow channel leading into the Big Lagoon.)

(Clear water and limestone cliffs.)

(Leaving Miniloc Island, with the entrance to the Big Lagoon in the right center of the picture.)

(Our next stop was Simizu Island with another small beach where our guide/driver prepared another fresh lunch for us.)

(Fresh fish, mango, bananas, orange watermelon (tastes about the same as red watermelon), and some chicken. Pretty good deal considering the huge, all you can eat lunch and the full day tour with all the stops only cost about $20.)

(Lounging around Simizu. I had originally planned on having a fisherman just drop me on one of these islands and stay the night in my hammock, but bits of rain every night made me think better of that idea, so I opted for the day tours. Back in town, I stayed in the guest room of a local family.)

(The leftovers of our lunch were tossed overboard to the hungry fish waiting below. It's the circle of life. Or, as our captain put it, "Those fish are so stupid. You eating your mother!")

(This may or may not be Paglugaban Island. It's not a riddle, I just have no idea. Either way, it's another beautiful spot in the archipelago.)

(Another idyllic scene along the way.)

(Arriving at tiny beach backed by eroded limestone cliffs, we made our way through a small hold in the wall to the Secret Lagoon.)

(I had seen sharp limestone pinnacles like this in China and Madagascar, but along with the stunning beaches, it makes a pretty impressive scene.)

(I emerged unscathed from the Hidden Lagoon, enjoying some time on the beach before heading back towards the mainland.)

(I also had planned on doing a bit of sea kayaking in the area, but again the hints of rain deterred me. Also, it's not a bad life to have a motorboat and massive lunches while visiting these places.)

(7 Commandos Beach, back on the mainland a few miles South of El Nido. This was named for some American soldiers at some point, though I never got the whole story. Probably something about a beach...and maybe some commandos...)

(As the sun fell low in the sky, we spent our last few minutes relaxing in this paradise before heading back to El Nido.)

(A view of Ipil Beach, wedged between the forest and cliffs on the South side of the peninsula where El Nido sits. They used to offer mountain climbing/hiking tours from El Nido to some of these beaches, but a few accidents helped them realize that it can be pretty dangerous.)

(The small town of El Nido - basically one main street along the waterfront and three or four streets deep with some hotels, restaurants and simple houses.)

(I arrived around 11 pm one dark and rainy night after another breakdown on our bus, so most hotels were full. I helped a friendly but worried Korean couple find a room first, and then I ended up staying with a family in their extra bedroom for five days. Basically just a bed, mosquito net and fan (with electricity from late in the afternoon until 6 am). The shower was simply a bucket and a ladle, but that was good enough. Walking down the muddy alley, my house is the one on the right.)

Bacuit Archipelago - The Idyllic Islands of "Tour B"

Sitting at the base of huge limestone cliffs and a small beach, the quiet town of El Nido is the gateway to the Bacuit Archipelago - a group of about 45 islands covered in palm trees, massive limestone cliffs, hidden caves and fabulous beaches.

(One of the main roads of El Nido ends as it hits the beach and incredible bay full of beautiful islands. The convenience store on the right side has good tortilla chips, in case you were wondering.)

(Just before the sun sets behind the huge limestone cliffs, a few street vendors come out to sell various meat on a stick. Pork, chicken gizzard, pork.)

(Amazing spicy chickpea curry with water spinach at Blue Azul. I found this wonderful restaurant two streets back from the beach, so I returned almost every night during my time in El Nido.)

(Mango smoothie - my daily dessert...and sometimes breakfast...and possibly a snack. So good...and cheap.)

(The beachfront at El Nido, backed by beautiful cliffs. While this beach is ok, it's a little crowded and not all that amazing comparatively, but it's the islands offshore that make this area so alluring.)

(Looking out into the bay outside of El Nido. Cadlao Island and its rocky peak reaching over 600 meters/2,000 feet above the water below.)

(I joined up with two Filipinos on a small boat for "Tour B." There are 3-4 fairly standard tours circling around different islands in the large bay, grouping up with a few random tourists here and there. This is one of the first islands off the coast, known as Helicopter Island.)

(Our first stop took us to a tiny hidden beach amongst a few tall palm trees and hundred foot cliffs. The beautiful islands dotting the bay are said to be similar to some of those in Thailand and Halong Bay in Vietnam, though with far, far less tourists. We had this beach to ourselves.)

(Ben and Heather, two super friendly Filipinos in my group, explore the beach while I waded out in the water. Asking about their impeccable American accents, I found out that they are actually customer service supervisors for two American telecom companies.)

(Our hidden beach as we sailed on to our next stop. This was possibly on the edge of Pangalusian Island, though with so many islands in the bay, it's hard to tell.)

(A fleeting view of a private resort on what might be Pangalusian Island - this private piece is a refuge for those staying on the exclusive and expensive Lagen Island Resort. So apparently even the upper class want to get away from each other.)

(Standing atop Snake Island during a very brief rain. You can see the long sandbar in the background behind my head that stretches from the island to the mainland. Walking barefoot up to this point was a little painful.)

(Our lunch at Snake Island. Fresh fish (amazingly from the ocean surrounding us), soy/garlic sauce with diced onions, vegetable salad with vinegar, rice, infinite bananas and some of the juiciest mangoes I've ever had. Our group was originally going to be 5 or 8 people before dropping down to just 3 of us, so there was plenty of food to go around.)

(The sandbar stretching from the mainland to Snake Island.)

(Looking back across the bay from Cudugnon Cave where we made a brief stop to explore a hidden cave in the limestone walls.)

(On the edge of another island containing Cathedral Cave, not to be confused with my beloved Cathedral Cove in New Zealand. Yes, it's mine. I took a picture there.)

(Here's the actual cave at Cathedral Cave - 50 or 60 feet high, though too narrow to enter with a boat. Apparently someone thought it looked like a were they wrong. Looks more like a cave to me.)

(Amazing Pinabuyatan Island. A small circular island with huge limestone cliffs all around and one tiny beach and some palm trees around the front. If I had to create an island for myself, it might look pretty similar to this, along with a taco bar, of course.)

(Two or three other small boats joined us on the island.)

(Our guide/boat driver climbed one of the palm trees to cut down a few fresh coconuts at our last stop. Fresh coconut juice and perfect views over the doesn't get much better than that.)

(The small grove of palm trees on Pinbuyatan Island. The spelling of the island's name varies a lot depending on where you see it written, but once you find a place like this, you really don't care.)

(Along the backside of Pinbuyatan is one tiny hut among the massive hundred foot cliffs of limestone and a few lonely palm trees.)

(Quiet beaches dot the coast of the mainland heading back towards El Nido.)

(The view of El Nido, heading back from the incredible day touring just a few of the islands of the Bacuit Archipelago. )

(Falafel burger with hummus at Blue Azul restaurant again. Yes, it's not all that Filipino, but I couldn't resist. And no, I'm not sure about the name which just translates to Blue Blue. I also saw a hotel in Sabang named Green Verde.)

Copyright © Derek's Travels | Published By Blogger Templates20

Design by Anders Noren | Theme by