Out And About – A Road With No Name – Palawan, Philippines
After two days out on the water, we decided to switch things up and explore the land part of Palawan. We rented motorbikes with our travel buddies, Abs and Talia, and hit the road with a map in hand that outlined where the beaches, waterfalls, and other areas of interest could be found. Kevin and Abs were up for the challenge of driving, but what was supposed to be an easy day out and about turned into a marathon adventure.
The charm of Palawan is that it isn’t overdeveloped; heck, it’s barely developed. Within the larger towns the roads are paved, but outside of those towns, much of the road turns into paths of rocks and dirt. If you’re here in the rainy season, like we are, it’s rocks and mud. There are long stretches of nothing but nature, with a small village here or there every few miles. The ride out of El Nido and through the countryside was a nice, scenic start to the day.
We made our first stop at Nacpan Beach, where we did some hiking up a hill that overlooks the beach. When we got to the top, we heard the dreaded thunder – a storm was rolling through, which happens daily during the rainy season. We decided that it was best to get back on the main road. The road that led to the beach was a challenge; it was muddy and full of puddles, potholes and rocks. When we returned to the main road, the storm looked like it was towards the right (back towards El Nido), so we went left. We figured we’d be able to find a place to ride it out over lunch. Not exactly.
Our detour took us on a 60 mile loop through the remote northern parts of the island, and even along the opposite coast for a bit before cutting back over to El Nido. The roads were a mix of paved and unpaved, with some stretches that were so muddy that Christine and Talia had to get off the bikes so Kevin and Abs could slowly ride through the mud. There was never a dull moment. We navigated an overpass and got some awesome views of rice paddies and beaches. We were constantly greeted by curious kids waving and yelling “hello!” from the side of the road. There were dogs, cats, water buffalo, and pigs wandering the roads. At one point we stopped to watch a mama pig with about ten piglets digging in the mud on the side of the road. We detoured into a small village to get some gas for the motorbikes (which is sold in glass soda bottles on roadside shops) and ended up being their entertainment for the day. Children and adults alike came out to watch these strange people fill up their motorbikes. There were lots of giggles, smiling and waving. And strangely, everyone spoke great English! Every once in a while we’d stop to check Google Maps to make sure we weren’t getting lost.
When we saw a sign for “Babe’s Canteen” we quickly turned in – we hadn’t seen anything resembling a restaurant for miles and we were starving. A dirt road led us down to a beachside restaurant where the only thing on the menu was whatever happened to be available that day. Which on this day was fresh lobster, steamed rice, and mangos.
After lunch, we decided it was time to get back to El Nido. The lady at the restaurant told us it would take at least two hours to get back because the roads were bad. She was right. About halfway back, one of the bikes got a flat tire while riding over a makeshift bridge. Luckily, this happened right in front of someone’s house. They were kind enough to put the motorbike on a cart attached to their motorbike and drive it to the next village to get fixed. This ended up being an hourlong affair where we made friends with some local kids who were curious about us, and played with street puppies. Finally, about ten hours after we left, we returned to El Nido.
After seeing the hectic motorbike traffic in other Asian countries, we were hesitant (well, Christine was) to rent one. It turned out to be a great decision – renting a motorbike for an entire day was under ten dollars, we got to see parts of the island that we would never have seen at our own pace, and Christine enjoyed herself! She didn’t even hold on for most of the ride. Traveling with Abs and Talia pushed us all to be a little more adventurous than we would normally be, and we’re thankful for that. It was a day full of memories, laughs, and a few stories that won’t ever be mentioned on the blog!