Torrential rain, 4am, and a 10 hour journey from Myanmar was running our energy and patience levels to a critical low. But we were buoyed to know that Mark, having travelled even further, was waiting for us at the hostel.
As we embraced in the lobby of the rundown accommodation, I noticed that he had lined up four bottles of beer and four hands of playing cards. Now, I am no master of mathematics, but I do know this much: there were only three of us, meaning there would not only be one beer over, but also one hand of cards, suggesting a foolish error by Mark, and a reshuffle, pronto. Alas, I was completely wrong. There was a fourth person, and it was James! As he emerged, moonwalking from his hiding place, we embraced as though we were brothers.
We drank and played cards as the rain seeped into the hostel, flooding nearly every room in the building. We notified the staff that we were sinking, and on the third request, moved two of us (not Ednora and I) to a drier room. In the meantime, Ednora and I re-enacted the scene in Titanic when the ship is sinking and that old couple in 3rd class are holding hands on the bed, ready to be consumed by the ocean. The next morning, we got the hell out of Manila.
On the plane to Palawan
After a few hours, we had landed in Puerto Princesa on the island of Palawan. That evening we relaxed at a restaurant by the shore and enjoyed a huge dinner served on banana leaves – a great meal. James threw up.
The next day we moved into a nice apartment with our own kitchen and living room, and, as an added bonus, it didn’t flood. We headed for a butterfly sanctuary where we met a tribal community who showed us how to make fire from flint, and shoot darts using a blowpipe. My first attempt at shooting darts at a target (a piece of card with a poorly drawn pig) was much like my love life…limp. After holding a snake, scorpion and beastly centipede, we headed to a crocodile farm.
We were told by our guide that the biggest crocodile to reside at the farm was 17.6 feet long, and 60 years old when it died. Let’s put that into context. Imagine a meter ruler, got it? Yeah? Well now imagine almost 18 of them in a row. That’s right, now you know. All the crocodiles in the farm had been rescued, or were there because they had attacked humans, and with a reward out for their heads, the farm took them on instead to keep them away from the hunters. The biggest croc they currently had at the farm was 17 metres, and was in the farm because he had attacked a yacht.
Dinner on banana leaves and amazing beer – I think it was mango flavoured. I think.
Meeting the tribal community. They look thrilled we’re there.
The skin and skeleton of the largest crocodile they have had reside at the conservation site.
It was a 5.30am start, and when our tour guide asked to be called Manny Pacquiao and then suggested that I need Viagra, we knew it was going to be a good day. James threw up. Our destination was the Underground Cave, considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. There were thousands of bats and trickling water, raining down on us, so a mixture of river and bat shit landing on our helmets. There was a section of the cave dubbed St Paul’s Cathedral due to its giant dome structure, and in the middle of this arena, a gigantic rock shaped like a candle. We learnt that there is a mineral called rogersite found nowhere else in the world other than inside this cave. Next, we were taken to a big buffet lunch and the lads went off on the back of some motorbikes to do a zipline 800 metres long, giving you 90 seconds of airtime.
On our way to the Underground Cave
The cave’s inconspicuous entrance
That night we went out for dinner and caught some live music. The comperes were two ladyboys who apparently were meant to be funny, but we saw no Filipinos laughing, suggesting they were quite poor. We requested I Will Always Love You from the band, who nailed it, and gave a standing ovation, albeit slightly prematurely. We ended up clapping for 25 seconds as she continued to round off the song – we had to see it through. We hit a Filipino club and mingled with the locals on the D-floor, then met a Frenchman who was watching the Euro final at his bar. We worked out that the bar was pretty much full of his French mates, so glad we left before Portugal picked up the trophy.
We were hungover, but it didn’t stop us heading to the famous coastal town of El Nido. We got there in the evening and checked into another crap hostel. James threw up.
The stunning area of El Nido was all about island hopping. As we waited for our boat, we caught glimpse of a sea turtle, and ate bread without sugar added to it; an incredible start to the day. We had met a gentleman named Martin the day before who came with us on our travels. He seemed like a nice guy at first, but there was a small indication that something was awry when I helped to lather Mark’s back with sun lotion, and then Martin hopped in the middle of us and proceeded to lotion Mark and I had to lotion him. It was a strange train of men rubbing liquid into each other, and only one of us with a big smile on our faces (clue: it wasn’t a Pudney).
Our first stop was to relax on a beach on a tiny island, and played a game of volleyball with the locals, and lost. Then we swam into a small lagoon which boasted a network of narrow passages, carved out coves, and mini caves all yearning to be explored. After a sumptuous lunch on the boat, surrounded by picturesque paradise, we were off to the secret lagoon – a hidden lagoon with a small opening you had to climb through in order to explore. The best part about this island was the secluded beach a short walk away, where James needed to dispense a bit of nature himself, so to speak. Midway through his shit, a group of lads came to explore, so I had to divert them from the scene of the crime. James came from his secret spot behind the rocks, and this explorer asked me if there was anything behind the rock,
‘Of sorts,’ I replied, ‘of sorts…’ James didn’t throw up today, but still managed to leave something ghastly on a magical island. After snorkelling for starfish, we headed to the final spot, the big lagoon. A wide corridor overlooked by gigantic walls.
On our boat, we had a wonderful conversation with an eclectic group of fellow explorers, ranging from a Filipino family, to Japanese and Germans. We learnt much of their politics, particularly the Filipino president, who they all supported, and Brexit, bloody Brexit.
Bob completely ignoring Ednora in a tree
Our friend Martin (right) follows us on our island hopping adventure
Martin looking jubilant to have clutched us in his vice-like grip
Just warming up before the big volleyball match. We still lost.
Martin taking James away. We did wonder whether we’d ever see him again. And he did come back…different
Some Filipinos taking a picture of us, so I took a picture of them. Even Stevens.
Just to the right of that beach is where James sodomised its beauty
The big lagoon
The following day, we hired a tricycle and drove 45 minutes outside the town to go waterfall hunting. Martin had wanted to come with us, but having spent the last 48 hours with us (pretty much) and walking around the block of our hostel, seeing when we would leave for dinner for him to tag along (true story), we started to get a bit scared of him, and so managed to enjoy this activity without our creepy counterpart. We trekked through the jungle to find a beautiful waterfall, but this was only the warm up. A climb to the top took us to a much larger waterfall, hidden and empty, which you could stand underneath, giving you nature’s power shower. On the way back through the jungle, we got caught up in some torrential rain – just like that scene in Jurassic Park when the fat guy gets killed by the Dilophosaurus by spitting poison in his face, except that there were no dinosaurs, and no poison, but lots of rain. Our next stop was a very hot spring, too hot to swim in, and on our walk to it, Ednora lost a flip flop in the hot mud. It was lost forever, and in 3 million years will become oil…for America.
Trekking to the waterfall
The power shower waterfall
We flew over the island of Cebu, and upon arriving at the hostel, discovered it was the hostel owner’s birthday. We were invited to have dinner with them and then play some drinking games. We played flip cup and lost, which meant we had to do a forfeit. Being forced to spin around 10 times was not a problem, having to walk dizzily towards your drink was not a problem. Drinking it from the groin of a ladyboy was a problem. We decided to make a night of it and after hitting up a few clubs, were espied by two wonderful Filipino ladies. They offered to take us to “the best club in town”, and on our walk, we asked them what their jobs were.
‘No job, blowjob,’ one replied. We all laughed, she was such a card.
‘So what’s your actual job?’
‘No job,’ we stopped walking, ‘blowjob.’ We decided to go our opposite ways from the prostitutes and considered it a lucky escape.
It was time to get a trim – for 80p