06.05.2011 – SABANG

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WE ARE GETTING UP BY 5:00 am.

IT IS TOO EARLY FOR TAKING PHOTOS OF A SUNRISE. WE HAVE STILL TIME FOR A WASH AND SWIM IN THE OCEAN. BEAUTIFUL SUN RISE – PHOTOS TAKEN AND WE ARE AGAIN ON OUR WAY AT ABOUT 8.00 am. OUR CREW IS BUSY FISHING FOR MACKERELS ALL THE TIME, WITH THE BEST RESULTS ACHIEVED BY THE CAPTAIN ‘S DWARF SISTER. SHE IS GREAT INDEED. BY THE TIME SHE LANDS FOUR MACKERELS, THE OTHER TWO FISHERMEN HAVE ONLY MANAGED ONE. IT IS NOW 9.00 am AND WE ARE APPROACHING ANOTHER SMALL ISLAND TO DO SOME SNORKELLING. THIS ISLE IS NOT AS COOL AS THE PREVIOUS ONE. THE CORALS ARE NOT AS INTERESTING AS BY THE PRECEDING ISLAND AND THEY ARE MUCH DEEPER, WELL OFF OUR RANGE. THE WATER IS REMARKABLY CLEAR SO WE COULD SEE A GOOD SEVERAL METERS DOWN, BUT STILL THERE WERE NOT MANY INTERESTING FISH AND AS THEY SWIM DEEPER WE WERE NOT ABLE TO FOLLOW THEIR ROUTE… TODAY’S BREAKFAST IS AS DIFFERENT FROM YESTERDAY’S MEALS THAT AS FOOD FROM THE SEA WE ARE GETTING ONLY GRILLED FISH – TWO VARIETY THIS TIME, BUT NOT MUCH VEGGIES. THE CAPTAIN TRIED TO GIVE US SOME NOT VERY CONVINCING AND OBSCURE EXPLANATIONS ABOUT PROBLEMS WITH OUR SUPPLIES …

IT WAS NEARLY 11.00 am WHEN OUR “BOAT LEADER” ANNOUNCED THAT WE WERE APPROACHING SABANG … WE WERE SURPRISED … I HAVE ASKED IF HE COULD DROP US OFF TO ANY UNINHABITED ISLAND SO WE  COULD HAVE ONE MORE CHANCE FOR A DIVE. HE TOLD US THAT THERE WAS NO SUCH ISLAND NEARBY. THE SITUATION WAS NOT PLEASANT …  WE FELT CHEATED … WE HAVE THEN REALISED WHY WE DIDN’T HAVE MUCH FOR OUR BREAKFAST … OUR “CAPTAIN” HAS PLANNED TO DO THE TOUR AS FAST AS POSSIBLE – NOT AS WE HAVE ORIGINALLY AGREED – ENDING IT IN THE EVENING. WE REACH THE SHORE … THE LADIES AND I HAVE DISEMBARKED AND WENT OFF TO SEARCH FOR SOME ACCOMMODATION. AT FIRST WE HAVE TURNED TO THE LEFT AND WALKED FOR ABOUT ONE KILOMETRE TO CHECK SOME ADDRESSES RECOMMENDED BY THE LONELY PLANET. NEITHER THE MICHI COTTAGE & RESTAURANT NOR THE TARAW LODGE AND RESTAURANT WAS SUITABLE FOR US, BOTH SITUATED ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF THE VILLAGE. ON OUR WAY BACK WE HAVE ALSO STOPPED BY AN EXTRA COOL DALUYON BEACH & MOUNTAIN RESORT AND ASKED ABOUT THEIR PRICES – THE COSTS WERE RELEVANT TO THIS PLACE (YOU HAVE TO BARTER) BUT ACCEPTABLE. NEVERTHELESS WE HAVE CONTINUED OUR SEARCH AND IN THE END HAVE FOUND A VERY GOOD PLACE CALLED GREEN VERDE.

TWO SEPARATE LITTLE HOUSES ON POLES WITH A BATHROOM WERE 800 P EACH PER NIGHT (ARE YOU LOOKING FOR ACCOMMODATION IN SABANG?  – SABANG). WE HAVE RETURNED TO OUR BOAT, SAILED TOWARDS OUR NEW ACCOMMODATION AND STARTED TO TAKE OUT OUR LUGGAGE … NOW YOU HAVE TO PAY THE BILLS… AND THEN THE PROBLEM STARTED… THE CAPTAIN ASKED FOR 34000 P… WE WERE GOBSMACKED… IT WAS EVEN RUDE – IT WAS AN ATTEMPT OF ROBBERY. I TOLD HIM THAT WE POSSIBLY DO NOT UNDERSTAND HIM, BUT HE KEPT REPEATING THE SAME PRICE. HE INSISTED THAT IN THE EVENING ON THE DAY BEFORE LAST WE HAVE AGREED ON THE PRICE OF  34000 P, THAT THE FUEL COSTS A FORTUNE, THAT HE HAD TO PAY THE CREW, ETC. FORTUNATELY I STILL HAD ALL TEXTS MESSAGES ON MY PHONE TO AND FROM THE OWNER OF THE BOAT WHERE WE HAVE AGREED TO HIRE THIS BOAT AND AGREED ON THE PRICE. I HAVE SHOWN THAT TO THE “CAPTAIN CHEAT” AND PAID HIM WHAT WE OWED HIM (WITH ALL THAT DRAMA I HAVE TOTALLY FORGOTTEN THAT I HAVE ALREADY PAID FOR THE DRINKS OF WHICH MOST WERE SUPPOSED TO BE INCLUDED IN THE PRICE). WE HAVE LEFT THE CHEATER WHO WAS STILL TRYING TO ARGUE WITH US, AND TOLD HIM TO GET LOST OTHERWISE WE WOULD CALL THE COPS. HE HAS LEFT AT ONCE …

A GOOD ADVICE: TO PREVENT THIS KIND OF PROBLEMS IT IS ADVISABLE TO WRITE SOME KIND OF CONTRACT OR SIMPLY WRITE A SMS INCLUDING A PRICE AND ASK THE OWNER TO CONFIRM THE AGREEMENT IN A RETURN SMS. THIS SIMPLE ARRANGEMENT COULD SAVE YOU FROM THAT KIND OF MISFITS.

(WARNING, DO NOT GET CAUGHT!!! THIS MAN MENTIONED BEFORE  IS AN OWNER OF SEVERAL BOATS – ARMAN V IS ONE OF THEM. HIS COMPANY IS ISLAND TOUR BOAT RENTAL. HIS NAME IS MASEARDO R VILLARAZA, BANANGAY MASAGANA EL NIDO, PALAWAN)

WE LEFT LUGGAGE IN OUR “APARTMENTS” AND “HIT THE STREETS”. ACTUALLY THERE ARE TWO STREETS OR RATHER TRACKS. ONE OF THEM LEADS FROM THE WHARF TO THE RIGHT (LOOKING TOWARDS THE SEA) AND THE SECOND IS LEADING OUT OF THE VILLAGE. THE SITE BY THE WHARF IS THE HEART OF THE VILLAGE – THERE IS THE MARKET, TRANSPORTATION CENTRE AND THE MOST IMPORTANT: A STARTING POINT OF OUR TRIP TO THE UNDERGROUND RIVER – THE MAIN ATTRACTION OF THE VILLAGE. FIRST OF ALL TO GET TO THE RIVER ONE HAS TO BUY TICKETS FOR A BOAT TRIP ON “BANKA”, THEN ANOTHER TICKET FOR AN ENTRY TO THE ACTUAL BOAT IN THE CAVE. THE OTHER OPTION WAS A 5.2 KM WALK ONE WAY WHICH WOULD SAVE THE COST OF THE BANKA, HOWEVER THEN YOU WOULD  HAVE THE CHANCE OF MEETING NEW PALS – THE MONKEYS, AND GETTING TO KNOW THE FLORA AND FAUNA OF THE RAIN FOREST.

THE FIRST MOTORBOAT TOOK US FOR A ABOUT 2 km RIDE TO A SANDY BEACH AND FROM THERE WE WALKED ON A BOARD WALK THROUGH A SOME KIND OF JUNGLE. THE PATH TOOK US TOWARDS THE UNDERGROUND RIVER. AFTER ONLY A FEW MINUTES WE HAVE REACHED THE ENTRANCE TO THE CAVE. THE GUIDE HAS ARRANGED THE ORDER OF THE RIDES AND  HAS GIVEN US OTHER INSTRUCTIONS. THERE WERE A FEW MONKEYS MILLING AROUND WAITING FOR ANY MORSEL OF FOOD. (DO NOT FEED THEM AND WATCH YOUR BELONGS, THEY CAN STEAL YOUR STUFF)

THE SECOND BOAT ARRIVED. WE HAVE DONNED OUR HELMETS AND HOPPED IN THE BOAT.

WARNING: PASSENGERS IN THE FIRST ROW HAVE A JOB TO DO. THEY ARE HANDED A SPOT LIGHT CONNECTED TO A GENERATOR AND ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR LIGHTING ALL OBJECTS DESCRIBED BY THE GUIDE, WHO ALSO IS A ROWER AND STEERSMAN… ALL IN ONE. IF YOU WANT TO TAKE SHOTS, THEN THIS IS THE BEST PLACE TO SIT WITH YOUR PARTNER WHO WOULD COOPERATE WITH YOU AND HOLD THE LAMP.

WE HAVE ENTERED A CAVE WITH ONE OF THE LONGEST KNOWN UNDERGROUND RIVER IN THE WORLD (8,2 km). THIS IS A UNESCO HERITAGE SITE.

WE HAVE SAILED ABOUT 2 km ON THE RIVER ADMIRING BATS, WHICH DID NOT LOOK LIKE BATS, SLEEPING AMONG SOME VERY COLOURFUL STALAGMITES AND STALACTITES. THE TRIP TOOK ABOUT 30 MINUTES. IT WAS ALL RIGHT FOR ME, BUT NOTHING GROUND BREAKING – I HAVE SEEN FEW CAVES IN MY LIFE. HOWEVER IT WAS THE FIRST TIME I WAS IN A BOAT ON A UNDERGROUND RIVER.

THE FIRST THING TO DO AFTER OUR RETURN TO SABANG WAS TO FIND OUT HOW TO GET TO AIRPORT IN PUERTO PRINCESA TOMORROW AND THEN TO FIND A PLACE TO HAVE OUR EVENING MEAL. WE HAVE ASKED A FEW DRIVERS STANDING NEAR THE WHARF, BUT WE WERE NOT INTERESTED IN GOING IN A JEEPNEY PREFERRED TO TAKE A PRIVATE MINIBUS. THERE WERE A FEW OF THEM, SO I STARTED NEGOTIATE THE PRICE. I COULDN’T GET ANYTHING BELOW 3000 P, WHICH SEEMED EXPENSIVE. IN THE END WE HAVE AGREED TO HIRE THE MINIBUS FOR THE 3000 P, BUT WE TOLD THE DRIVER THAT WE WOULD LET HIM KNOW FOR SURE LATER ON TONIGHT. THE LONELY PLANET GUIDE STATED THAT THERE WAS NO RESTAURANTS WORTH RECOMMENDATIONS IN SABANG, SO WE HAVE DECIDED TO GO TO OUR “RESORT” EATERY – GREEN VERDE

THE WHOLE RESORT CONSISTED OF FOUR LITTLE HOUSES FOR TOURISTS AND A RESTAURANT SEPARATED FROM SEASIDE BY A TWO METER WIDE SANDY PATH. THE COMPLEX IS MANAGED BY ONE, FAIRLY LARGE FAMILY.

WE WERE SERVED A FEW INTERESTING LOCAL DISHES, NICE AND TASTY, NOT OUTSTANDING THOUGH… I HAVE ASKED JUST IN CASE IF THEY WOULD TAKE US TO THE AIRPORT FOR 2500 P (INCLUDING FUEL OF COURSE) AND THEY’VE AGREED…

WE CAN WHOLEHEARTEDLY RECOMMEND THIS PLACE – IT WAS CLEAN, TIDY, REASONABLY PRICED AND RUN BY POLITE, RELIGIOUS PEOPLE OF SOME UNKNOWN TO ME BELIEFS.

LATER WE WENT FOR A SHORT EVENING WALK ALONG THE MAIN STREET IN THE VILLAGE BECAUSE WE WANTED TO BUY SOME CHILLED COLA. ON THE WAY BACK WE HAVE POPPED IN A LOCAL BISTRO*; BAR*; RESTAURANT* (* – CHOOSE THE THE APPROPRIATE OPTION), TO TRY SOME PRAWNS. THE PLACE WAS LOCATED STRATEGICALLY BY THE INTERSECTION OF THE MAIN ROAD AND THE SANDY “PROMENADE”. WE WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THIS PLACE. AFTER SOME RUM & COLA AND SOME CHATTING, WE HAVE RETIRED TO OUR HUTS. THE BED IS COMFORTABLE.

IMPORTANT: ELECTRICITY IN SABANG IS LIMITED EVEN MORE THAN IN EL NIDO – THE POWER IS ON ONLY BETWEEN 6 pm AND 10.30 pm; SOMETIMES TILL 11.00 pm. REMEMBER TO HAVE A GOOD SUPPLY OF BATTERIES!!!

EXACTLY AS IN EL NIDO, THERE IS NO HOT RUNNING WATER IN THE BATHROOM. BATHROOM CONSISTED OF A BASIN, TOILET PAN AND A SHOWER, IT IS NOT A FLASH TOILET, ONE HAS TO FLASH IT WITH A BUCKET FILLED WITH WATER FROM THE SHOWER.

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