|Early morning on the beach.|
Friday morning marked our last few hours in El Nido.
I woke up in the utter darkness of a room without a window and fumbled around for my things so I could take a quick, cold shower – basically, in the dark. I scrambled into the shower – there were only fifteen minutes left before the power went out completely in El Nido – and scrubbed up quickly via the light from the hallway outside that poured in through the small window above the shower.
The only unlucky soul who went into the shower after I came out of the bathroom missed the electricity memo; he had to shower in complete darkness.
|This little light of mine…|
But, when we were all awake, we had to get dressed and packed up in utter darkness. There were a lot of mutterings and curses as we banged toes on things and trampled on people accidentally. Then, we dug out our flashlights – once we could locate them in our piles of stuff! – and one of the girls at the front desk brought in a singular candle. Can’t say I’ve used candlelight an awful lot before!
We did finally got all of our things together, and it was time to ship out. We tossed all of luggage into two tricycles and rode out to the El Nido bus stop. When we arrived, we waited in a long queue of other tourists who were waiting for their van to show up. As group after group got into a van, it became rather worrisome – which van would we take? We did have a ticket, didn’t we? Clearly, there wasn’t any particular rhyme or reason. Just – hop on.
Finally, our van was pointed out to us, and we piled in – with every bit of luggage we owned. On the way to El Nido, the van had had a luggage rack on the top; this van had none such rack, and we were therefore packed in like sardines in a tin can with our bags. Ugh. Five hours of this – fun.
Fortunately, I had taken my requisite two dramamine, which meant that I slowly … drifted … off … to … sleep …
My head crashed against the window like a rubber ball, though I was pretty sure I would have a bruise on my temple from it. The driver cornered the road just a little too quickly, and since I was dead out to the world, I had no reaction time. That hurt so dang bad!
|Small roadside cafe|
When we stopped for lunch this time, it was at a roadside, mom-and-pop diner sort of stand with cold dishes, snacks, and drinks. I was not particularly hungry – Sarah had been thoughtful enough to grab a round loaf of bread and a banana for each of us for breakfast – so I stuck to some kind of sweet potato rolls, water, and fizzy lime juice for a meal. Since it was our last bathroom stop for God knows how long, I took the opportunity to seek out the facilities.
The woman who went in before me was clearly a Westerner very accustomed to Western toilets. The fact that it had no lid, no flushing mechanism, and no TP threw her for a big loop. She came stomping out of there saying, “This is uncivilized!” I asked her if she’d been in the Philippines – or Asia, for that matter – for very long, and she said, “My husband made me come here. No.” Ouch. Yeah, that would be a surprise! Especially when you had to run water in the bucket and then scoop it into the toilet to flush. Even though I’ve only been in Asia since August, the sensible thing was to always have Kleenex or a handy little roll of TP and hand sanitizer no matter where you were.
I have grown accustomed to these things in such a weird way. Bathrooms really don’t faze me any longer. If it’s a toilet, it’s a toilet. You deal. I’ve just had to get used to that. And bring in loads of the mini Bath & Body Works hand sanitizers! I still remember the first time I saw a “squatty potty” when we were on our Beijing class trip back in September. I walked in and asked my students, “What is that?!” Because they’d been abroad for years, it didn’t bother them, and they thought I was hilarious when I asked them the general procedure for using it. The thing was – I wasn’t joking! There had to be some brilliant skill to this! Practice, I suppose?
And so, I wasn’t worried by anything I encountered on this trip. Whatever. But I felt for the woman – that had to be a huge shock!
Once we were back in the van – and changed out some people for others at the stop – I fell asleep again until we had one hour left in our journey. Fortunately, our van driver was quite nice, and he offered to drop us off right at our hotels for an extra 100 pesos instead of at the bus station. When we were back in Puerto Princesa at Banwa again, I tossed my luggage into the room and stretched out on the bed. Within minutes, I was asleep.
For another two hours. That dramamine was really working overtime!
When I wrestled my eyes open – with much effort, anyway – I hopped in the cold shower, woke up more, and went out to the terrace. Our other two travelers had arrived for some pre-dinner UNO games and much-needed coffee. The coffee was amazing after a long journey from El Nido and a very tiresome afternoon.
We had our big group dinner out at Kalui, a Balinese restaurant close to the airport. It was beautifully decorated with all sorts of tropical accents to the point that it could have just been plunked from the middle of the jungle. I shared the big family supper – fish, veggies, fruit shakes, prawns, and squid – with another of our party.
It was my first taste of seaweed, and I have to say, it was really disgusting. Rather like popping salty, green globs of goo on your tongue. Just not appetizing. At least the grilled fish and fresh prawns made up for that!
After supper, we had to find me an ATM since I was nearly out of cash, so that way, I felt a little bit better about traveling into Manila on my own the next day. We separated to our own hostels and decided on an early night – after all, everyone else’s flight was very early the next morning. My general plan, since I was the only one left in Puerto Princesa the next day, was to try to get on a stand-by seat so I was at least in Manila earlier.
Friday certainly was the most tiring day of them all. After a few days on boats, swimming, snorkeling, and walking, I was ready for rest. Real, genuine rest.
|Yes, we were!|
It was the end of the most amazing week on Palawan.
But, perhaps, the most stressing part of the trip for me was yet to come.