Palawan Bike Trip 012
Monday March 24 – El Nido
The day passed wonderfully in Taytay. I simply couldn’t get enough of the views from the Casa Rosa and of just walking around taking pictures. The weather couldn’t have been nicer as well – just the right mix of sun and cloud.
I ran into Ed at one point and we met up later in the day at Casa Rosa for a good long chat. I learned that he has also had a tricycle built in Puerto. The idea is that it costs about 100,000 pesos to build one and get the license. Then you rent it out to people. They lease it from you for 100 pesos per 12-hour period, and they run it as a taxi. Ed and I talked for quite a while, though I don’t remember much of what we talked about other than that.
I had all of my meals at Casa Rosa and in the end with all the drinks I had, I racked up a bill of 4,735 pesos for three days and three nights. It was a bit more than I expected, but it made sense when I looked at the bill. I’d been ordering drinks and meals left right and center and it starts to add up. The cottage was 900 pesos a night, so that’s 2,700 pesos right there.
I had another chat with the cook and got more of her “hard life” story. I’m putting that in quotation marks now because I heard her giving the same story beat for beat to a foreign couple that had arrived. I really started to wonder if she told this same story in the same way over and over again and made a nice living on the side with donations from foreigners.
I went to bed quite early after cleaning and tuning up the bike and packing. I slept wonderfully and was wide awake before my alarm went off at 5:00 a.m. I was up and showered and ready to go in a very short time. I was cycling out of town by 5:45 and wondering what the day would bring.
I was in a strange mood as I left and that mood has stuck with me all day. I just haven’t been my normal “oh wow, I’m so excited to be here” self. I just wasn’t that interested in the people around me saying “Hey, Joe!” and other things. I wasn’t interested in the carabao in the fields. I just rode along and thought my thoughts. For quite some time, the road was fairly good. It was unpaved all the way to El Nido except for one hilly section, but it was much flatter and more cared for than other roads I’d been on. The markers told me that it was exactly 60 kilometers to El Nido. For perhaps 40 kilometers, the road presented no particular problems. It wasn’t easy cycling, but it wasn’t that tough either. After the 40-km mark, things did get a big harder. The road got steeper and went through some mountains. Plus, the rock got looser and it was harder to cycle. This was also when the sun was well and truly hot, and I found it fairly hard going. Just as on my Roxas to Taytay trip, I found myself counting every last kilometer. Every kilometer was an achievement to be noted.
I arrived in El Nido at noon, just over six hours from when I left Taytay. My first impressions of El Nido have all been negative, especially when contrasted with any of the other towns I’ve been to. In all the other towns, I felt like I could just be me. I was just Doug hanging out in a town in the Philippines. Here, there is so much tourism that I feel like a commodity. On top of that, El Nido is very small and very crowded. The small beach has been almost completely covered in buildings and getting around, one feels like a rat in a maze. Nor have the cottages impressed me. I went first to the place that the German boys were going to go to. I didn’t like it at all. Then I started checking out other places along the beach. I ended up staying in a nothing sort of place largely because I didn’t see anything else that was better. I’m sort of on the water and I can hear the waves on the shore, but that is about all that I can say for it. On top of that, it is fairly expensive. Everyone is asking 1,000 pesos for their cottages and rooms, no matter how dingy, and then they all say that I can only have it for two or three days as it is reserved after that. This annoys me. It’s like going to a business of some kind in person. Yet, when the phone rings, the person serving you answers the phone and deals with them first. You’d think the person who’d made the effort to come in personally would get better treatment, but in fact the person who stayed home and telephoned actually gets treated better. In this case, I am here in person, but I get kicked out of a cottage because someone else has made a phone call and reserved it for later. I guess it has to be that way, but it still bugs me. It must be my overall negative attitude coming through. I spoke briefly with some French guy sitting on his balcony, and he was raving about how great El Nido was. I looked around, and I couldn’t agree with him. These impressions of El Nido have made me very glad that I spent those extra days in Sabang, Port Barton, Roxas, and Taytay. That was time well-spent. All of those places strike me right now as nicer by far than El Nido. However, the point to El Nido is “island hopping” not El Nido itself. We shall see how that goes.