Adventures in El Nido

The van ride to El Nido was uneventful. The view was more often than not obscured by the jungle, so I set myself upon my photo albums in another desperate attempt to play catch up. The town itself is tiny, with bars and guesthouses built so far down the beach the water laps at  their foundations during high tide. Massive karst cliffs loomed behind the town, an ominous reminder I hadn’t yet climbed in the Philippines.

Our tricycle driver seemed to know everyone, but it didn’t hold any sway: all accommodations in town were spoken for, thanks to the Chinese New Year holiday, and we were driven over the hill to the other side of the cliffs, where more resorts were being built at a frantic rate. The freshly built Orange Pearl only had one unfinished room available, but we could also get a tent on the beach if that’s ok. It was fine by us; Jacob and I would split the tent, and Emily, our impromptu Friend travel companion, took the room. Her neighbors were a group of drunken sex tourists and their girlfriends for hire. What a lovely spot for a sex vacation. Well, not for us.
Except, when we got back from dinner and drinks in town with some couchsurfing friends, one of the drunken Czechs  was passed out in the tent. Jacob tried to rouse him in vain, and we had to accept our fates. He climbed into one of the hammocks and I pulled out my sleeping pad. Emily offered me the floor next to her bed, and left Jacob out in the cold. After all that time traveling together, I guess she wasn’t quite convinced that he wouldn’t rape her with me on the floor.

I awoke more grateful than ever for my sleeping pad; a cold tropical rain started to fall outside and Jacob had resorted to walking around as it was too cold to sleep. I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation, but I bit my tongue out of sympathy for my friend. Emily got an early start; just as the generators shut off for the morning she headed into El Nido to start the search for an island hopping tour to join. I ushered Jacob into the room to catch some sleep while he could, and brought out the laptop to work on photos and write all this out for posterity. The Czechs began to stir in their rooms, and their escorts emerged to swap horror stories in their native language as their gentleman callers wandered around scratching their taut, hairy, exposed bellies. This was a side of the Philippines I had no intention of seeing, but Chinese New Year had pushed us to the fringe of the city, and apparently sex tourism was the norm to which I was just willingly blind.

Sharon’s text message was like the light at the end of the tunnel. “We have a free room in town on the beach.” We packed our things and headed for the street, stopping at the kitchen area to talk to the owner. Jacob had the worst of the evening and was ready to give it to him, but the owner came up to us wringing his hands. “I heard about last night, I’m so sorry, it was a huge mistake on our part. I’ll give you this room here tonight for free.” We’d already made up our minds to move into town. “Of course, I’ll refund you for the tent,” he handed me a 500 peso note. While we were walking up the trail back to the road, Jacob was a bit flustered, his frustration was squelched by the owner’s earnest apology. “Did we even pay for the tent?” I wondered aloud. “I think we just got paid to be poorly rested.” I pressed the note into Jacob’s hand. “Here, you earned it.”

The rest of the day was spent with Sharon’s group. We were going to rent motorbikes but the crowds beat us to it, and we had to commandeer tricycles. The hot springs were a disappointment; a long bumpy road leading to a hike through the nastiest kind of mud, ending with a pool of sulfuric acid too hot to even dip your toes into. We quickly made tracks down a longer, bumpier road to a nearly deserted beach, where we spent a good deal of our afternoon body surfing, playing games in the sand and slacklining to the locals’ delight. Our final stop was the waterfall, 12-15 meters high and feeding a refreshing swimming hole. On the jungle hike back to the tricycles, I got ahead of the group and shimmied up a palm  tree and started twisting off young coconuts. The trees here are much taller than they were in Tagaytay, and I had to battle vertigo when the holds ran out 6 feet from the canopy and I realized I was 40+ feet off the ground. The coconut milk and meat were a welcome reprieve from the hunger that had accumulated throughout the day far from town and any real food.

After dinner the group went to a karaoke bar, but I was completely spent. I had intended to get a little work done before bed, but as soon as my head hit the pillow I was dead to the world.

  • jacoba

    should have set up a slack line of the hot springs

  • jacoba


  • haha oh man that would’ve been crazy. That water was just shy of a full boil