We caught our Zest Air flight from Manila to Puerto Princesca on the island of Palawan in the evening - I think we were all Manila'd out! As we came out of the airport it instantly felt peaceful. We all loaded onto a tricycle to the Banwa art house where we had booked a room. The air was so much more cleaner and when we arrived at Banwa they had a lovely seating area and restaurant which overlooked trees, we all had a bit of dinner and had an early night.
The next day we had planned to go further up the island to Sabang on the west coast. There were vans that went that were a bit more expensive and as Claire and Dee were on limited time we thought that would be the best option to get there but the vans were all full in the morning and the next one was due to leave at 3pm. As the journey only takes 2 hours we thought we would get one of the frequent buses in the morning and then spend the afternoon on the beach relaxing, or so we thought.............
We caught a tricycle from Banwa to the bus terminal with a cheeky driver called Ray, he was really funny and was very kind to us as he didn't leave until we had found the right place to get the bus. As we went to the bus ticket office they told us that there were no more buses to Sabang that day even though it was still morning. So then we went to the Jeepney stand and there was a Jeepney going to Sabang but it wasn't leaving until 2pm. It was a bit annoying as we had a few hours wait but we all agreed that it would be ok as we should be there by 4pm. So we hung around the jeepney and men started loading things on the roof - everything you could imagine - sacks of rice, boxes of fish, tubes of metal etc! At 1pm we thought we should get on and save ourselves a seat as lots of people were piling on. Already on the jeepney was a dutch girl called Jessica who we started chatting to. Over the next hour more and more bits were placed on top and then more and more people got on, it went past 2pm and they were still loading. When we finally chugged out of the terminal a lady with a toddler got on - we thought there was no way she could fit in as the floor was already crammed with people and bags but a man got out a plank of wood and balanced it across the back door and she sat on it with the kid on her knee! We thought we were on our way but we went to the petrol station instead. They started filling up gerry cans - we prayed that they weren't going on the roof too, luckily they didn't! Then we went and picked up even more stuff piled on the roof before going back through the terminal again. Finally about 3pm we left Puerto Princesca, we couldn't see how high the roof was piled up but we knew that there were also people up there too! We still had high hopes as we thought we could still make it by 5pm - the journey at first was OK - more people managed to squeeze onto the plank at the back somehow. We went off the main road a few times to deliver some bits from the roof and at one stop Kam decided to put the camera out the window to try and take a picture of the roof as we couldn't get off. The picture was hilarious - he'd managed to snap someone between the legs - the picture is so funny, this poor person is just looking down at the camera looking slightly worried! Throughout the journey we could smell the engine overheating and at some points steam rose up behind Kams back. One of the ladies started massaging everyones feet which was very nice to while away the time.
So time was getting on and it was taking a lot longer than we anticipated but then there was a plank of wood in the road and the jeepney drove quite fast over it - it made a loud bang and then the engine cut out and we wheeled to a halt. Everyone knew it was going to be a long wait so we all piled off and laughed at the sight of the jeepney, it looked like it had just exploded out the top - our backpacks were hanging off the side! Me and Dee needed the loo and luckily we found a one between peoples houses next to a rooster with a deformed foot. I'm not sure how long we were there for but the sun started to set, all the men were gathered around the engine and one was underneath, they all had fags in their mouths! After a few false starts we were off again but there was a lot of damage to the jeepney - we crawled up a hill and then found out that the brakes had failed so every time they needed to stop two men had to jump out and put chocks under the wheels, at one point we came the top of a hill where we stopped. The men had to jump out again but run down the hill and clear a junction at the bottom as we wouldn't be able to stop!
We arrived in Sabang at about 8pm, very relieved to get off! We were approached by a local called George who said he had really cheap rooms available. Me and Dee looked after the bags and Kam, Claire and Jessica went to have a look. They came back and said it was gross. We were all hungry so went and sat in a beachfront cafe. Me and Kam said we would go on a mission to find us all a room. We trapsed around for a while and came back triumphantly - we had got a family room for 5 of us right on the beach! The food we had ordered still hadn't arrived and they mucked up our order. We all went to bed knackered, especially Jessica who had been on a night bus the previous night so hadn't slept for hours!
We woke up to the lovely Sabang beach, it was worth the long journey. Claire went for a swim first, we all had breakfast and then we all went swimming and relaxed on the beach - on the northern part of the beach there was an armed guard by some trees, we asked him what he was guarding and he said that the area had just been bought by one of the richest men in the Philippines and he was going to build a 5 star hotel on it. He let us walk through to another stunning beach, this one had a little stream running through which we wallowed in as it was like a bath.
One of the main attractions of Sabang is an underground river which we all wanted to visit. The lonely planet guide stated we didn't need an environmental permit to visit the entrance of it on a boat so we thought it would be easy to do that. But the lonely planet was wrong and everyone needed a permit issued by the place they were staying to go. The hotels and guest houses are only have limited allocations each and our place had already sold all of theirs. The people at the permit office said that we could go to other places and see if they hadn't used all of their permits up. Kam volunteered to do this and he was gone for ages, he came back with no luck. There was no way round it - the office refused us permits for the following day. We were all a bit miffed so arranged to go to El Nido the following day, this time by van NOT a jeepney!!! We got our tickets from a really smooth looking guy with lovely teeth called Ed, he looked like an old filmstar!! We had dinner and beer in the evening and were joined by two dogs and the sweetest little boy with the best name ever - Angel James! His mum worked where we were staying and was translating for us as he was just chattering away in this gruff little voice, he talked about the moon and his face! He was 4 and had such a sweet face, when he saw our camera he wanted his picture taken, we'd seen a lot of Filipinos doing this pose for pictures which is resting your chin on your thumb with the forefinger pointing out. He did this post and then wanted to wear Claires sunglasses too - his mum thought it was funny!
We had an early start the following day to get to El Nido.......................