We all started packing together a few hours before leaving Vienna. Although I planned and prepared the paddling in the Philippines for several months, it still turned out as always. Packing before departure. This time it was paradoxical because we had packed up more than a month before.
If you want to take kayaks and all the necessary equipment with you on the plane, you have to use excel, among other things. We were most limited by the weight of our luggage, which they allowed us to take on board the plane. Everything had to be packed so that it would not be damaged during transport to the other side of the planet. Nobody preferred to talk out loud about how we would walk with it in the heat and wetness. We have prepared it so that we will be able to move at least a few hundred meters with it. Between airport terminals, ports and the like.
In Excel, I wrote a complete list of equipment item by item. He considered everything. Sokoban plays better in a spreadsheet than it really is. I found that even though I could think of at least ten things that were missing, there is an extra 10 kg. I said goodbye to less necessary things. Over time, I added everything that was missing. I asked the others for the same exercise. Since they thought I was a fanatic who just can’t wait to be there, no one sent me anything, even though I was probably quite annoying.
We communicated exclusively online. We only met once, not all of them together. The boys came to me for a briefing and came to get kayaks and some equipment. The original plan was that I would go three weeks earlier and meet on the islands. I’ve never been prepared for any trip like this in my life. Well, as I wrote according to plan, there was absolutely nothing. It started when we had to repack everything because of the narrowed team. Things were in Brno, Bratislava and Martin. In addition, we could take 5 kg less per person than we thought. And so it was erased from Excel many more times.
As I was afraid when we met before we left, the guys had a lot more than they said before. The problem was not only weight but also volume. When we finally stopped grumbling, we started casting spells. We started with Mir. He didn’t understand this game at all. He watched sadly that we had thrown him half the stuff. We didn’t laugh long and threw everyone out, many times. I threw all the changes into Excel in real time. After incorporating the newly invented theory that they round it down at the airport and they will certainly not weigh hand luggage, she started after simple mathematics, combinatorics. Just so you can imagine, at that moment I didn’t even have sneakers anymore and I threw away most of my clothes, saying that at worst I would get something along the way.
We had to divide it exactly between us. Instead of two boat bags, we used only one. We saved 2.5 kg and 1 piece of luggage to carry. We saved another 3 kg by replacing the paddles with carbon paddles. We translated heavy things into hand luggage. Questions were asked such as: whether iron bars, pedals, a rope, etc. can go on board… Sometimes I have to pull out a first aid kit at the airport, because there are scissors in it, but I have not tried the kayak pieces yet. Thanks to Excel, it was very fast. We had nothing to do in an hour.
A friend drove us to the airport. We had so much that we wouldn’t fit in a regular car. We arrived at the airport earlier if we had problems with baggage handling. They have just started handling the first people. It was impossible to cross with the cart, so we dismantled the barriers and pushed things to the limit. He first asked if we had already paid for it. The surcharge for each extra kilogram was almost 100 Euros. I tell him it’s in the limit. The double kayak didn’t even fit in the weight and we immediately saved 6 kg. He laughed too.
After two long flights with a transfer in Doha, we arrived in Manila at night. In the country, it is not possible to pay by card outside the cities and only the local currency is accepted. We changed money right at the airport. Part by withdrawing from ATMs, part by exchanging EUR in the exchange office. At an ATM there is a better rate, but high fees and a limit of 10,000 PHP, so you need to withdraw several times. We also bought local SIM cards so we could make calls. In the Philippines, almost everyone speaks English. Many things are most easily handled over the phone. I used it mainly for planning.
For example, I have arranged a transfer from the airport to the port. You can park in the garage directly on arrivals, so we just moved a piece of the cart into the car and put it on. The journey took 2 hours. Most led along the highway. We arrived at the port after midnight. The plan was to sleep somewhere on a bench. However, this great idea turned out to be unfeasible, as the port was very similar to the airport. Checks, police, soldiers with rifles… Although our driver was not very talkative, he explained to us how it works in the port. We took advantage of this and found that the ship was leaving for Mindoro Island at night. Super save one day. We also found carriers who took everything straight from the car to the boat. In the waiting room, spots about infectious diseases and hygiene were running on the big screen. Covid-19 will definitely be added soon. There is still something here.
When they started tying all the trucks with ropes, I wondered why there was so much water on the boat. It blew properly. When we set out for the sea, the water splashed up to the deck two stories higher. I just sighed that I might see such waves for the last time. When we arrived at the port of Abra de Ilog, it was just dawn. The surf was so strong that it cut us off from where we had agreed on an overnight stay. It was only a short distance from the port, but the mountains were so inaccessible that you could only get there by water. When we finally caught up with the porters who sprinted our things out of the harbor, I noticed an outgoing bus and the word San Jose on it.
I haven’t slept in so long that I didn’t even know what day it was, but I ask the guys if we’re continuing this marathon, that we’ll sleep on the bus. Sure, we were already so tired that it’s even better than looking for a hotel. We nodded to the bus. The bus stopper and returned to the bus stop. We loaded things. During this time, he blew his horn about 10 times. The journey to San Jose Harbor took 6 hours. We saw almost the entire inhabited part of the western side of the island. The island consists of two parts separated by high impassable mountains. On the one hand, we looked at the high green mountains, on the other, the poor settlements and the lower hills, where the forest had already fallen victim to pastures and agriculture. Several footpaths lead through the mountains. You can go to the other side in 4 days. I’d like to try that sometime. The highest peak of Mount Halcon is up to 2586 meters high.
To the east is only this one long asphalt road, and apart from a few indigenous tribes, people live along this road. There was garbage everywhere. Poverty and the absence of waste management have taught people to sort waste on their own. Combustible and into the sea. People also have rubbish at home or in the garden. It was as if the sight of the rubbish dumps didn’t bother them in any way. On the other hand, you will not find any tourists here. There are places for diving like nowhere else in the world such as. Apo reef, or still preserved forest in the mountains. Rice and corn were grown in the valleys. They grazed cows and water buffaloes. They have dogs everywhere. Lots of dogs. There are several at each shack. We saw hundreds of them along the way. Some in poor condition. Malnourished or dusty.
We arrived in San Jose shortly after lunch. What we could not get into a car, we loaded on a tricycle without any problems and in a full field we were looking for a place to sit for two nights. The ship goes to Coron only 3 times a week. We met at the hotel right on the beach. I also had a shower in the room, so I finally put down the stinky, sweaty things a few times and made myself human. I washed and went for a swim. In the evening we managed to get a gas stove. You don’t even know what the problem was. Although almost everyone uses a gas stove for cooking here, absolutely no one understood what a smaller stove we imagine is not smaller. Even the one we got wasn’t exactly compact, but we didn’t get anything better.
At night I went with Mir to look for some animals. But apart from cockroaches and ubiquitous geckos, we found almost nothing. It was not possible to walk along the coast, because at night the dogs were aggressive and did not want to let us pass. So we went for a walk in the slum. The side streets were occupied by snarling dogs, so we were unlucky again. Our little trip ended when we were stopped in the alley by a group of drunken natives. They didn’t want to let us go. When I told them why we were there, they laughed and brought us chairs so we could stay with them. They didn’t do well in English. One of them, who spoke English, claimed to be working for the Philippine FBI. He was very uncomfortable and said that if we wanted to be there, we had to speak their language – Tagalog. They kept telling me not to speak English and taught me Tagalong. They were abnormally afraid that I couldn’t repeat it even ten times. They had quite harsh teaching methods. They held my hand and repeated around say it, say it.
I told them about our plan. They still wanted to take us to Coron on their ship, which isn’t really theirs. After half an hour, I found out that none of them knew what a kayak was. Mainly that everyone nodded. So I explained it to them and only then did they understand. In the meantime, the son of our host came home. Finally someone who spoke English. I explained to them what we wanted to do and recommended that they agree with the Coast Guard to advise us. I was mainly interested in camping and the possibility of replenishing supplies. However, we were afraid to use this opportunity, because if they did not let us go, we would not get rid of them. Every time we stood up to go, they stopped us so we couldn’t leave. When it was no longer funny, we just went. They stood in our way, saying that it was dangerous that they would take us away. We were about 500 meters from the hotel. In the end, they went with us on foot, that they were afraid for us. Along the way, they told us that if we had any problem with the police, we should call them, that they had a lot of friends or prostitutes. Not over good friends. After returning from them, the hotel no longer looked so awful. And even the army of cockroaches running around my room didn’t stop me from falling asleep immediately.
After breakfast, a guy was waiting for us, with whom we agreed to take us to a nearby island, because the city was a terrible hole. One day was not enough for hiking. We would have to return to Sablayan by bus, which takes 3 hours. Plus, I only had sandals. Due to the waves, however, he took us only to a small bare sandy island, where at first glance there was nothing. He didn’t want to go any further for anything that we would roll over. Martin told him it was stupid that he had to do it. It did not help. So we spent a few hours snorkeling around a nice coral reef. Everyone here received a gift from jellyfish. The first ones were like a mess and when I got scared I swam on. The last one, with several meters of transparent shoulders as thin as hair, wrapped itself around my abdomen around my hands. The pain was very unpleasant. I immediately started swimming to the shore. I didn’t know how long I could swim. Fortunately, it just hurt. I mentioned that the poison can be neutralized with wine vinegar, or worse, human urine. I took this opportunity. The blisters began to disappear after a few hours, leaving only scars. The natives advised the use of urine also on the broken spines of sea urchins.
The next morning we loaded everything on a tricycle again and moved to a small port. The cop was bothered by what we had in those bags. And he kept scaring us that the Coast Guard would come check it out. They had a scanner, but it was very small for our kayaks. A long voyage to the port of Coron awaits us. There are no descents on the ship. Everybody has a bed. It blows pleasantly. It is getting closer.