Rum and... Rum
Trip Start Apr 01, 2012
8Trip End Apr 24, 2012
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Puerto Princesa, Palawan
What seemed like a good idea on Wednesday proved to be less than that on Thursday but after a (very) slow start to the morning Amanda, Ginny and I headed into town.
First things first, I had to get some laundry done. My previous attempt at washing clothes (hand washing in the boat's sink) was an epic fail with things ending up dirtier than they had been at the start. So our first stop was the wash & fold. Next up, changing some Aussie dollars to pesos for Ginny. This proved a bigger challenge than expected. None of the banks in town would do it. It was however good to know that firearms must be checked at the door before entering.
In fact each bank also had an armed security guard standing outside to watch the door. After striking out at six or seven banks it was only natural that the Palawan Pawn Shop would be able to do the exchange. And with that we were off to the mall. And guess what? Linsanity is alive and well in Puerto Princesa. Then again, since they were karaokeing over NBA highlights from the '80's back in Cartegena, maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised.
Later, back at Abanico we wasted no time turning down Trevor's, "How about a few beers?" and instead retreated to the boat for a quiet and early night.
We dug around for something to do on Saturday and eventually settled on a trip to a waterfall. Since motorbikes had been removed from the equation - after all why tempt fate after escaping from a ditch with nothing more than a bruise? (Which by the way has nicely faded from dark purple and black to a light shade of green.) No motorbikes meant we were looking at two hours in a jeepney or bus.
FRIDAY, APRIL 20
Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Rum misadventures squarely behind us, we gave town another shot on Friday. My stellar knotting performance on Wednesday night earned me the opportunity to tie up the dinghy at the pier - but only after a warning that all of my knot-tying accomplishments would be quickly forgotten if the dinghy was gone when we got back.
The main goal today: build up Amanda's rum stores. Our quiet night at home on Thursday also included some advanced math and problem solving: how many bottles of rum should Amanda buy to keep her stocked until Time's return to the Philippines around November? The target number was determined to be 26. 26! The initial purchase of six bottles had been made during our Wednesday excursion into town. The remaining 20 would come over the next few days. We also had to trade in our crate of empty San Miguels for a new (and hopefully less flat) one.
But before we stocked up on the important stuff we hit the central market, grabbed lunch at a delicious Cuyo-style stall and cooled down with the help of some giant blocks of ice in the street. We did however pass up on visiting the Drugman Drug House.
The one thing we struck out on... a DVD of Bridesmaids for movie night on the boat. It would appear the Filipinos really like their action movies but not so much on the comedies. We hit up double digit DVD stalls and were met mostly with disapproving looks. In fact one woman was saying "No" before Amanda even finished the question. Which led to the follow-up, "What about Alien 3?" and another "No." Curious considering there were multiple copies stapled to to the wall. In the end, we passed on Alien 3 and despite Tim Riggins on the cover, John Carter as well.
If you're keeping track, that's Boone's and John Carter. It's a wonder the Philippines still considers the United States an ally.
Unfortunately my laundry wouldn't be ready until Saturday. Why is this of any interest at all? Simply for this: since we were heading to the waterfall in the morning I wasn't sure we'd be back before the place closed so I checked to see how late they were open. What I found was Suds n' Duds Philippines style:
Me: How late are you open tomorrow?
Them: You have laundry?
Me: Yes. How late can I pick it up tomorrow?
Them: We videoke bar at night. Open late. You can do songs.
Sounds about right.
But enough with all that, it was time to get the rum. And beer. And rum. And oh yeah, enough food and supplies to restock the boat for the trip to Borneo. And rum. It would be an understatement to say we got some strange looks at the checkout counter.
Then came the tricky part... getting everything and everyone into a tricycle. Note my foot rest. Ah, San Miguel.
SATURDAY, APRIL 21
The buses to Narra leave from San Jose Terminal which was the sight of one of the bombings. Of course, there had been no mention of the bombings since our arrival in Puerto so we went with the no news is good news theory. Then again, there were still military flyovers...
Before we had a foot out of the tricycle we were approached by a handful of men calling out locations to see where we wanted to go: "El Nido!?!" "Underground River!?!" "Sabang Beach!?!" They seemed slightly perplexed when we threw out Estrella Falls but seconds later they were all trying to get us to choose their private shuttle van. But what fun would that be? We wanted the bus. And we wanted to ride on the roof.
We got one of the two. Bus... yes. Roof... no. Seems it was a little on the dangerous side for such a lengthy trip and the bus driver appeared to have some concerns about potentially killing a tourist. So locals only up top. That meant inside for us - and there's no doubt in my mind inside the bus was actually less comfortable than the roof. I was half on/half off the bench at the end of one row. The same for Ginny right behind me and Simon a couple of rows in front. There was no legroom to speak of. I was the shortest of our group by a good four inches and my knees were right up against the back of the seat in front of me. Meanwhile Amanda was sitting on someone's bag on the floor. And just when you thought they couldn't possibly let more people on, they did. It didn't matter that the aisles were totally jammed with people, bags and boxes, if you could get a foot (not two, one would be fine) in the door, you were good to go. It would have been uncomfortable under any conditions but much of this ride was on rocky, dusty, unpaved roads. And those roads had various construction detours onto even worse terrain. Within about 30 minutes my feet were asleep. 15 minutes later my butt followed. Maybe another near-death motorbike experience wouldn't have been so bad.
We covered the 90 or so kilometers in about a little less than two hours but when we got off the bus in Narra we still had a little way to go. So it was into another trike and onto even dustier, bumpier, rockier roads.
Since it had been so difficult to find information on the falls we expected a nice little secluded spot to relax for a few hours before braving the bus back to Puerto. What we got was a Filipino day-tripper haven complete with kiddie pool, picnic area and monkey feeding area. Yup. Monkey feeding area. We quickly weaved through the family and monkey areas and reached the main falls. Certainly smaller than expected but the cool clear water was just what the doctor ordered after the bus/trike combo.
Simon caused a bit of a stir by swimming into the "OFF LIMIT" section and rather than a relaxing soak in the crisp fresh water I ended up in a bit of a mini waterfall myself.
The bus ride back was somehow bumpier than the way to Narra. We wondered why one of the women was sitting on pillows when we boarded. We quickly found out.
As luck would have it, the band from Wednesday would be back at the bar tonight so despite likely suffering multiple minor concussions from the bumpy rides we regrouped, had some dinner and hopped a tricycle back into town for one last hurrah in Puerto. But since I was leaving and Time & the 'Fly were also departing PP on Monday we went in with a plan: No. Rum. Guess how that one worked out?
On the bright side... Tim stayed away from the bongos. On the not so bright side... Let's just say there's a good chance I'll end up on a Filipino YouTube channel and leave it at that. That said, the band was just as good as we thought we remembered and the intermission guy was back. Only this time he dropped much of the Eagles stuff for some Police and even R.E.M. but much to our relief, "Talking 'bout a Revolution" still made the cut.
Five hours and two bottles of rum later (sound familiar?) we recreated our ride to Narra by piling five of us in one tricycle. Being the shortest, I got the back of the actual motorcycle. Amanda & Ginny were in the forward facing seat. Simon was on the backwards ledge. Trevor was lying on the luggage rack out back.
Learing from the last rum outing, tonight's nightcap consisted of a bottle of water and some preemptive Advil.
SUNDAY, APRIL 22
Puerto Princesa, Palawan
We awoke to find Tim's dinghy in a bit of a precarious position but otherwise everyone was in much better shape than might have been expected. And that's a good thing since there was packing (for me) and last-minute preparation to be done (completing Amanda's rum requirements) for Time's trip south.