Saturday, November 28, 2009

Enchanting Coron

Ever since social network sites became a popular medium for posting travel photos, I also became an instant silent fan of Coron. Many claimed that Coron is lovelier than Puerto Princesa, and since Palawan is called as "The Last Frontier", my curiosity really got piqued. I nourished this longing that, maybe someday, I can set foot in this fast-becoming favorite of nature adventurers. Remember that famous line --- "Be careful what you wish for 'cause it might come true?" It's absolutely true! Last September, my silent wish got fulfilled, with many splashes (literally and figuratively) of excitement along the way. In fact, a significant part of the trip was almost life-changing. More of those "splashes" of excitement in another entry.

I almost begged off from this trip due to a teeny-weeny "bump" ('nuff said) somewhere at the back of my left thigh, which caused me excruciating pain a few days before the trip. Thank God, constant persuasion from GG made me change my mind.

We arrived in Francisco B. Reyes Airport, which serves the islands of Busuanga and Coron, via Cebu Pacific past noon. 

Welcome to Coron!

A couple of weeks earlier, Atty. SS, the group's travel planner, already made arrangements. The whole Coron tour will cost us six grand, inclusive of room accomodation, meals, land transfer, 2-day island hopping and boat rentals. It's actually a good deal for our 4D/3N stay in Coron. A very clear caveat, though, never escaped our minds: Just don't expect a grand room accomodation. Well noted. If one wouldn't mind burning lotsa bucks, then go for a superb hotel accomodation.

While on board the van, I immediately noticed that the place is quite remote and laid-back. Testimonies of travel whores revealed that Coron is pretty much laid-back, a perfect haven for peace-and-quiet searchers. The ever reliable tricycle is the only mode of public transportation. Early sleeping time, few lamp posts along the main road, semi-finished roads, insects making sounds during the night... etc. Get the picture? For me, that's remote.

St. Louie's lodging house

We were dropped off at St. Louie's lodging house, which is a few minutes away from town proper. 

 Welcome drinks

Monkeying around

The first leg of our Coron tour is climbing Mount Tapyas. It's a 720+ steps to the peak, where a big cross can be found. Above all, one can get a panoramic view of the entire Coron bay. True enough, it was worth the climb! Of course, the predictable muscle pain was there, but the breathtaking view of Coron bay overwhelmed me so much that I didn't get to notice the pain. Alaxan will always be there. 

 We conquered Mount Tapyas! Woohoo!

It's worth the climb!

Overlooking Coron Bay

 Our next stop was Maquinit Hot Spring. It was a good idea that trekking Mount Tapyas came in first. Making the hot spring as the next stop was definitely a wise idea for our tired leg muscles. Too bad we didn't get to take pictures due to the rain. Honestly, we didn't enjoy that much since the supposedly hot waters was mixed with rain water. Maligamgam is more like it. (laugh)

As we went back to the lodge, the rains continued to pour, making the semi-paved roads more muddy. Out of the blue, the tricycle bugged down in the dark. But the happy nature of a Pinoy came into play, and that's finding something to laugh about in the midst of misfortunes. Mamang drayber had to text the lodge's owners to send us another ride. Thank God, traffic is an alien word in Coron; a pick-up vehicle immediately came into view to pick us up. Since we're already drenched from wading in the hot spring and from rain, we opted to stay at the back of the vehicle. We laughed so hard with our "basang sisiw" scenario. We were properly rewarded with a delicious dinner upon arriving at the lodge.

On our first whole day, we had a sumptuous breakfast to start the day with. It was my first time to eat lamayo, a semi-dried fish similar to Cebu's danggit. Just a mere thought of lamayo makes my taste buds water in envy right now. Imagine it served with garlicky vinegar, garlic fried rice, itlog na maalat mixed with tomatoes, and that's heaven! (laugh)

Breakfast a la St. Louie's

We then proceeded to Coron port, where Mr. Banker (the boatman, that is) and his "brave" banca are waiting. Why brave? My next entry will tell the details. There were occasional rainshowers all throughout, but we didn't let it hinder our fun!

Ready for island-hopping

Let's do the sun dance!

Love boat moment

We're all set for island hopping! Coron Island is part of the Calamian group of islands, and it's a very normal thing to see and behold picture-perfect limestone cliffs and islets.

High-five for island hopping!

Camwhores on board

Our first stop was Siete Pecados. I'm a snorkeling neophyte, so I was utterly excited for my first dip in this marine park. We were given bread to entice the fishes to come near us. Oh, so that was snorkeling --- wiggly, colorful fishes swimming closer to my body --- and, honestly, it was fun! However, I accidentally dropped my snorkel tube, and the boatman couldn't get it for me since it fell right to the sea floor. For my first attempt in snorkeling, that was quite unforgettable! (laugh)

Taking a dip in Siete Pecados, a marine sanctuary

We also went to Kayangan Lake. As part of the Tagbanua's ancestral domain, it was a pretty sight for nature lovers. Getting there would mean that you have to pass through a rocky climb, and halfway through the climb, you'll be rewarded with a postcard image of limestone cliffs surrounded by clear green waters. The descent to the lake still involves a rocky path. We were extremely careful since the steps were slippery due to the rain. We also snorkeled in the lake. 

Trekking to Kayangan Lake

Kayangan Lake

Enjoying the cool, green waters of Kayangan Lake

Gimme five!

Enchanting spot
Mini-cave (?) in the enchanted spot
World War II shipwreck site

I wanna see Nemo!

Snorkel mania...blurp, blwerp, blorp, bleep.. Yey, a school of fish!

Cousins of Nemo (,")

Hungry pangs started to creep in while we searched for a lunch spot. Since all beaches were packed with fellow tourists, we opted to settle for a secluded beach called 91 Beach.  And yes, I did wonder why it was called as such. Our lunch was rice-all-you-can with crabs, grilled fish and sauteed shrimps. Burp!

Chow time!

Notice the growth of our tummy pooches?

 Bye-bye, 91 beach!

After lunch, we went to the picturesque Twin Lagoon. Looking back to my silent fan days, I really thought that travel shutterbugs were just so truly, madly, deeply engrossed in capturing the unique beauty of a certain scenic spot. Okay, guilty of exagerrating! (smile) They'd probably get so many shots as they can, twisting their necks or shifting their body angles just to have that Kodak moment, or even resort to Adobe photoshop. But boy, I was wrong! Twin Lagoon is definitely like a picture that comes to life! 

Twin Lagoon

The last part of our island hopping was the Barracuda Lake. They said that there were sightings of battery of barracudas in the lake, hence the name. The mere mention of that fish made me shiver, literally. 

Tricky limestone path to Barracuda Lake

Fish tayo! (to the barracudas, if any)

When I got back to Manila, I immediately googled "barracuda" and, yes, my fear was somehow justified.  My initial Google research revealed these statements: "They are voracious, opportunistic predators relying on surprise and short bursts of speed to overtake their prey. xxx Like sharks, some species of barracuda are reputed to be dangerous to swimmers. Barracudas are scavengers, and may mistake snorkelers for large predators, following them in hopes of eating the remains of their prey." Whew! Good thing I didn't get to read this stuff before we went to Coron.

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