Journey to the Centre of the Earth…..Permit Permitting

Soaring above the Visayas I was ready for my next destination: the rural palm fringed island of Palawan. Bouncing out of the airport I’d reserved a bed at OMG House, as the name made me giggle and I thought anyone staying there must be a good laugh.

Luckily my gut didn’t let me down this time, though I wouldn’t encounter anyone for a few hours yet. In the meantime if got myself in a travel flap trying to navigate palawans barely there infrastructure. Undeveloped roads, one bus a day, sold out tours and no electricity between 6am – 6pm was going to make this an interesting journey.

In light of this I had a bit of a face on me! So when I met Janica and Gabriel I must have come across a bit of a miserable cow.

Slumber party!

Full of energy with an infectious smile, Fillipeno Janica was staying one night as part of her job as a poverty researcher. Gabriel on the other hand was at the start of his Palawan trip, with another big smile and hard to place accent (French Canadian) I warmed to him immediately. It was just the three of us in the room and we chatted like teenagers, almost all piled on to the same bed at one point, nattering very late in to the night about a whole manner of stuff, life, passions, peoples expectations of us! All that was missing was the sweets and face packs.

It was a really nice moment. One that makes you realise that no matter where you come from we’re all the same really with the same hopes and dreams.

The following morning I decided to join Gabriel and Adrian, a funny as New Yorker returning to his home land after 23 years (and author of aptly named ‘Da Prodigal Son’ check him out here) to see the underground river in Sabang. I had planned to go to Port Barton alone to chill out, but a bit of spontaneity was about to go a long way as it was to become one of the best days I’ve had on my trip.

Do we need visa for this place or what?!

First on the agenda: get a permit to see said river. I thought I’d left my days of beaurocracy behind in India but oh no, the town hall in Palawan takes the red tape crown.

We had to present ourselves very early, with our passports and be first in line as a set number of permits were issued per day. For a minute it looked like our luck may have been out, but Adrian saved the day with evidence of a flight and some smooth talking in Tagalog. Then there were stamps to be collected, fees to be paid, times lots to be allocated…. I swear I’d had less trouble getting in to the country!

But finally we got our permits and emerged triumphant from the office.

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Winding our way to Sabang it became apparent just how rural, untouched and beautiful Palawan is. Miles of jungle, green rice paddy fields and as we got closer, souring limestone cliffs made the whole place feel like Jurrasic Park. A terridactal soaring above the cliffs would not have been out of place and we sat glued to the windows going, “ah man look at that! And that! Whoooooah! WHOOAAAH!”

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At 2000 years old and 1.5km long it’s one of the longest underground rivers in the world. As we approached we were awestruck by the clear green lagoon and wide gaping entrance, a perfect compliment against prehistoric surroundings and nothing like the model we had seen at the town hall earlier that morning!

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This may need a bit more work..

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As we got going on a paddle boat I felt that I had left this world for another.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Emerging alive..

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Piling back in to our van we headed back to Puerto Princesa for celebratory beers, amazed at what we had just seen. Unfortunately Adrian wasn’t lying about the flight and we had a good few rounds to see him off. As we drank my face ached from smiling all day with such great people. But luckily the night (and Palawan) was still young for Gabriel and I, and we vowed to have a few more beers in Adrian’s honour before setting off for another early start to the seascape of El Nido….

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