Up a River
Trip Start Apr 01, 2012
8Trip End Apr 24, 2012
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Caladagan Island, Palawan
From Cuyo it was time for some quick island hopping on the way to Palawan. First stop Caladagan Island. Sorry - don't remember much about Caladagan.
THURSDAY, APRIL 12
Maraguit Island, Palawan
Maraguit Island was next up. The island centered around one tiny fishing village on the flat patch of land between two small peaks. There were also a some huts to the side of town - including this one set by itself. And in the small bay there were about ten fishing boats anchored and preparing to pull out for a night of fishing when we arrived.
One of the boats on our daily radio schedule had reported seeing some turtles when they were here so as soon as the anchor hit the sand we threw on the mask and fins and had a look. It took a while but Amanda spotted one. We followed it for a few seconds before it took off pretty deep. The reef here, like everywhere we have been so far is pretty decimated. Between bleaching and cyanide and bomb fishing there was very little live coral left. There were a couple of little spots where it was just starting to make a comeback so hopefully recovery is in the future.
FRIDAY, APRIL 13
Maraguit Island, Palawan to Green Island, Palawan
A morning snorkel at Maraguit landed us a great meal. Before getting in the water we spotted a fisherman walking onto the beach holding three octopi. When the man said he was bringing them to the market to sell, Simon offered to buy them. We finished our snorkel and went home with that night's dinner in a bucket. Hey, I never said we actually caught the meal.
After lunch we made the short trip to Green Island. In a slight change to our usual "anchor beer" routine we nixed the beer on deck and decided to enjoy our San Miguels in the water. This is a bit harder than it might seem. Wearing flippers was determined to be cheating so they were out. That of course made staying in place in the current more difficult - especially when one hand was dedicated to holding your beer out of the water. As you might expect though, we found a way to get it done. Unfortunately we also found out why that one case of San Miguel was still for sale... two out of the three beers were totally flat.
SATURDAY, APRIL 14
Sand Cay and Reinard Island
Today's short hop to Reinard Island was broken up by a stop at a little patch of sand in the sea. And to best capture it, Simon climbed the mast for some awesome shots. No one was there when we arrived but the one structure on the island, a simple shed, appeared to have been recently occupied - best guess by someone watching the nearby fish traps.
After a quick look around the tiny island - and with Simon as our "dinghy support" - Amanda and I swam back to the boat.
Approaching Reinard Island we spotted a structure built over the water not far offshore. We couldn't tell what it was even after we had anchored and Simon pulled out the binoculars. We did however spot some coconut trees on the small island - and they were calling our names. Well, more accurately the rum that goes with the coconuts was calling - especially since we had flat beer to deal with. We stopped at the over-water structure first. There were a handful of guys on there and they invited us up. Turns out it was a fish farm raising fish to be live-shipped to Taiwan. We made plans to come back in the morning to see the feeding.
As we were getting back in the dinghy the on-site boss said there was no problem with us going over to the island to grab a few coconuts but we should beware of the sandflies and mosquitoes. We stopped back at the boat to grab a machete (no, not to fight off the bugs... to chop down the coconuts) and I threw on the mosquito gear: long pants, long sleeves and bug spray pretty much anywhere that was left uncovered. It may sound ridiculous but in the end it was worth it. Simon got destroyed. Bites everywhere.
In addition to the bugs there was also a slight dog problem, namely three hungry barking dogs following our every move. When Simon split one of the coconuts in half and left it on the ground things escalated to full mad dog status. They were growling with teeth bared and jumping at each other. Not the best feeling when you've got an arm full of coconuts. To distract the dogs - especially the obvious top dog - Simon split another and threw it in the opposite direction of the beach leaving us a clear path out. Well, except for the sandflies.
SUNDAY, APRIL 15
We made it to the fish farm in time for the morning feeding which was more for our benefit than an actual feeding. Turns out the trike with the food broke down on the way to meet up with the bangka. So instead the fish farm guys cut up some fish they had on hand (removing the good ones to save for the workers' lunch) and threw the pieces into the pen leaving dozens of fish fighting for the small amount of food.
Feeding over we piled back in the dinghy and headed to the mouth of a river on mainland Palawan in search of some fresh water, waterfalls and a small town called Caramay. Spanning the river, just inside the mouth, we passed under a less than stable looking bridge on the way to plenty of beautiful scenery and endemic birds.
We were winding down the river when we came to a bit of a shallow patch so we got out and pulled the dinghy through until the water got a little deeper and we could use the motor again. We were able to start it back up right by a steel bridge with traffic from the main road. The dinghy portion of the trip finally ended when we reached some rapids and much shallower water.
Pulling the dinghy up onto some rocks we continued on foot - trudging through the river and along the banks. Then we reached the mud. Fully understanding my lack of river hiking knowledge I happily fell to last in the line. I also nearly fell in the mud. There was a narrow ridge in the water and as long as you stayed on the ridge the mud would only be about ankle deep but move just off the ridge and it's more like mid-calf deep. Sadly I hadn't been alerted to this fact until I was sinking in. I'm happy to report that I managed to keep my balance and get my foot out of the mud. Although Amanda was standing by with the camera just in case.
The trek continued until we reached an impassable section of the river. We turned back and nearing the dinghy had a refreshing freshwater float down stream.
In a not-so-inspired bit of engine maintenance Simon decided up a remote river would be a good time to take the outboard apart to take a look at the carburetor which had been a little spotty. Well, when he was done and put it back together it was no longer spotty, it was completely blocked - not allowing any fuel to pass through. No fuel = no motor. Time to pull out the oars. As Simon tried to blow the blockage out, Amanda and I guided the dinghy down river with the oars. Luckily we were going with the flow so it wasn't exactly a tough row. But unless we wanted to row us all the way out of the river and somehow back to the boat we'd need to get the blockage cleared. Our best (only?) shot was to find a vulcanizer who would have the high pressure air hose to blow it out.
And as for that waterfall we were in search of? Seems it was a two hour DRIVE away.