I thought the bus trip to El Nido was hellish. This cargo boat escapade beat it hands-down. At 800 pesos, it's a third of the price of a banca...and a lot safer. Well, as safe as a boat gets in the Philippines. There's just one weekly, leaving at midnight on a Friday.
I sat on the beach with Rik and Naomi, who'd caught me up. I only bumped into them an hour before departure; I'd been sitting in the seafood place having a beer with JB and discussing Indonesia with him and an Irishman who'd just dived in Nusa Lembong and recommended it to me. Any place with "bong" in its name sounds like a suitable destination to me. Finishing up and saying my Goodbyes, I sat on the beach with Rik's Swedish mate, who treated me to a much-needed joint before we departed; it had been a month since my last one.
At the harbour, we had to present our tickets to three separate people. High security, or just keeping people in jobs? The latter, I imagine. There's people on the islands who are responsible for collecting fees for tourists landing on their beaches. Sitting on a beach collecting money? I must inform Garfield Hodgson that there's an ideal job for him here.
As we're on Filipino Time, services leave when they're good and ready; in this case that meant after 3 hours of pissing about with cargo (it's a working boat, not a ferry). Cockerels, pigs...you name it, it was being loaded on. I was stuck in a corner of the upper deck on one of the cots which lay next to each other along the edges and centre of the deck. Every available space was utilised, and families slept almost in a pile. Before we got underway and I had the pleasure of a breeze, I was sweating like Gary Glitter in Hamley's. I was going to enjoy my shower at my next destination, and was looking forward to it already. The boat stank; a mixture of sweat, animals, engine oil, and fish. The two toilets at the back of the boat served 100-odd people. Thankfully I was in flip-flops as I exited the loo to find a small queue outside. A woman held a little girl's hand, and obviously this little mdam was in no mood for waiting; as I closed the door, she squatted down and I felt a stream of warm urine cascade over my toes. Maybe she just didn't like me?
Needless to say, sleep was possible for just about everyone on the boat bar me. So I just took advantage of nearby electrical outlets, and charged all my gadgets. Then it was almost dawn, so I went and sat on a crate, silently sharing the sunrise with a crewman. It was an amazing sight.
Coron Town came into view on the distant horizon, the passengers began to stir. I scanned the dark blue waters and wondered what adventure lay in store for me.