|To the reader: Don’t miss the fun! All of the images here are GIFs. To enjoy this travel story, let the GIFs load completely.|
My friends and I met at a bus station at Cubao, Quezon City at 7:30pm. Our ride will leave at nine. This was the first time that I’m actually going out-of-town along with my friends, my partner-in-crime, and for many years, to travel again. We had to take out our dinner from the restaurant where we met and eat inside the bus. The bus had seats called lazy boy. It was going to be an eight or more hour of sitting, so we got one with good seats, with the reclining and all. If you’re from Manila, Philippines and you want an easy ride with the thrill of not actually going there easy, take this bus from Manila to Naga and experience the 8 hour-long ride. Take a plane for a much easier ride.
During the hopefully enjoyable roadtrip, I tried to sleep, but I couldn’t. Instead I listened to music until we arrived at one of our pit stops. I think I slept for more than an hour or two after that. We experienced some heavy traffic, and we arrived at dawn to the bus terminal beside SM City Naga mall.
We were very hungry so we ate some of our snacks. One of my friends needed cash so we rode a tricycle to get to the main city plaza, saw a group of zumba dancers, went to the ATM and got back. We walked across the street just opposite the mall to get to the van for a ride to Sabang port. Depending on the traffic, it will take you from 30 mins to 2 hours of road trip to get there. After which, an inevitably two hours on a boat to Caramoan Port. I suggest not to sit at the back, you’ll get the all the bad winds. These include silent killers, smoke from cigars, and the motor’s chemical outbursts, not to mention the smell of the direct-to-the-ocean loo.
Still lacking some sleep, we arrived at Caramoan Port. If you have not made reservations, there are tricycles waiting for passengers right on the arrival. Expect an environmental fee, even if your itinerary tells you it’s included on your reservation. My friend argued with the pokerfaced city hall agent telling her that the entrance fee and all other extra fees are included in our package, but anyway, nobody can pass a woman with an emotionless face, right? Takes the joy out of every starting tours. So we paid and go on. Some reservations include a van. But I think it’s more exciting to ride on a tricycle. You’ll enjoy the forty-five minutes of good provincial scenery. But bad luck still followed us, rain poured heavily for several minutes, the plastic sheet cover didn’t serve well. I felt the water geting on my back. It looked like I peed my pants, only it goes out from the back. Yikes.
If you’re not going to be late for lunch, you’ll start the island hopping early, which is better, because then you’d have all the time you need to enjoy each island. Unlike us, the latest of the late only had a couple of minutes to prepare ourselves for the tour. We didn’t even have the time to take some nap. So we only made a little time exploring the islands for the first day. But despite the tiresome journey to the accommodation, we were welcomed with good food, and a cute dachshund named Hotdog poking at our feet begging for a bite. Right after the breakfast came the start of the tour proper. They have small boats for the island hopping. It’s like fishing, but without the hooks and worms, just not being able to stand while you’re moving, staring at the ocean and waiting for the next destination. I sat in front, the downpour practically slapped my face every second. If I rose up, my friends will panic. We were kinda nervous during the boatride, it was still raining, there were waves, small, but big for our boat. It felt like the ocean was trying to swallow us. Everytime a wave gets our boat, we go “WOO!”. Funny thing, when you come across with other boats, there’s an awkward silence with the ‘look at them looking at us‘ moment, or the ‘friendly hello there other tourists hand waves‘ when you’re far enough from them and you feel confident. We arrived at our first Island, and the rain just got heavy. One moment it was okay, we had umbrellas to shelter our things with, but the hard wind came. Quite an experience, improvising with our wet towels, our hardworking umbrellas, just to make sure our phones and cameras would not get wet. Before the rain stopped, another group of tourists were staring at us on their boat. Felt sorry for them. We were enjoying the rain, taking photos with our somehow semi-protected phones. And they were with their bikinis, covered with thick towels, and their sunglasses and hats still on. Worst scenarios, some boats didn’t have covers.
The beaches are covered with fine white sands, rock formations, and if you’re not lucky, there’s one with stuff you’d worry about behind one island. We had to go there because there is a tiny tunnel that leads to another rock formation. The photo on top was shot from there.
Atop a huge limestone is the mythical lagoon, you have to climb to see the forever alone milkfish swimming in there. They said you cannot tame or hold or disturb the fish as tragedies may come. So we just did a number of selfies up the rocky mountain. Be careful when you try to climb up there. It’s a little high and there is no support when you fall.
When we had nothing to do after dusk, we played cards in our room. Talked about the day and browsed and laughed at our surely memorable photo moments. We were seven travelers, we occupied two rooms in a spot just beside the beach where the ocean welcomes you when you open the door. We’re like ten or fifteen feet away from the shore. The wind that night was blowing aggressively. Some of us also washed our clothes, the heavy wind helped them dry, or so we thought. It was still wet after the night.
We started our second day with a delicious breakfast. The island hopping started right after. Our guide said it was going to be a long journey to the next island. We brought snacks on the boat if ever we feel famished. It was worth the wait, we arrived at an island with a vast semi sandbar with floating huts for our lunch. We took a group photo, made videos, lie on the white sand with the sun glaring down on us. The lunch was good, too.
Around we searched for a snorkeling spot. Our bad luck started here, we had to slow our boat down because the water is getting shallow, the boat’s propeller kept on scraping the rocks below. Then we heard a wide crack. The thing bent. The boat stopped. We were stranded in a rocky shore with plenty of shells. The boatman said this happens when the tide is low. Nothing to do, we went down to the craggy shore, line up some big hard shells (some I took home), and played with our cameras. About 20 minutes or so, the boat got working again. But the boatmen had to walk barefoot on the seafloor and go with the boat to go forward because we were still on the shallow slope of the waters. A couple of minutes later I decided to help push the boat, that was the time we got a starfish. It was lying down the water when one of the boatmen accidentally stepped on it. Then he told me to go back and sit on the boat because the urchins were starting to appear. One of my friends told us about her story being stung by one, and that we will meet a lot of starfish in our Palawan trip. I think she said this many times in our tour, and more times during casual conversations. Finally we got on the deeper side and the machine can be started again.
There was this little sandbar we got down to. We swam and snorkel. Just a few crawling starfishes and translucent corals lie down the water. Another time for a photo-op and then we went on.
We got down on our last island. It wasn’t as much fun as the islands before. There were plenty of people and there’s a corner on the island where it smells like it was actually a place people take their leak. It was called palirukan(comfort room) island. I don’t know if that’s really the name or just because the people are not aware it’s in the middle of the ocean that they had to burst their bladders out there. There was a huge rock at the other side of that island, we climbed and jumped into the waters. Got back to our boat then went on to find some snorkeling spot. We stopped somewhere in the middle of the island we got from and an island a little far from it. I looked down on the water and I can see some colors, It was eight feet deep I cannot make out of the imagery, fishes, or corals, or whatnot. I was the first one to splash in the water, I wore my goggles, put my head down, and somewhat screamed with what I saw. It was my first time seeing what was below the surface. It wasn’t much, but It was alright. Colorful fishes, corals, and a huge black spiky sea urchin lying down beneath. I called my friends and they went down. We splashed around, trying not to drown each other. Then suddenly one of us shouted “May ahas!” (There’s a snake!). We panicked ridiculously. I saw this small black and white striped snake eyeing, or like, snooping one of my friends who got on the boat so quickly when I was just about to grab the bamboo wood supporting one side of the boat. It was actually hilarious. That was an unforgettable crazy moment for us. We talked about that scene up to dinner and we always laugh until today when we recall those memories. But before dinner, we had the chance to take a tour inside two caves on the main island. It was a difficult game for us. Especially for my partner, he’s so big(well, not that big, but a big kind of person) he found it very hard to sneak in to the small parts of the caves. He got a bleeding wound on his back because of the rocks. Our batteries got dry before the end of the tiresome journey, so we had a small amount of shots from there. Photos with all the perspiration and the exhaustion exposed to the shining crystallized rocks at the deepest end of the cave. If you are planning to visit these caves, I recommend you bring some mosquito repellent for your skin. Mosquitoes with a size of a coffee mug lurk in the caves. And you should also not bring anything when you go in. You’re gonna use your hands to climb and support yourself.
The last day came and we had to say goodbye to Brgy. Paniman (our place of stay). On the road we stopped to the marketplace and bought us some souvenir items. We also went to the red bricked church at that town where we also saw a parade.
Another two hours in a huge boat, an hour or two in the van and we arrived back to the city. Booked our bus, stayed until dinner at the mall. We found out that the native snacks are cheaper in the mall than from the local market in Caramoan.
The light started to go down, we rode on for another eight hours, and brought home the wonderful experience of our first travel together.