Tag Archives: coron

Eight Months, Seven Countries

24 Aug Giant tree roots grow down over the ancient monastery of Ta Prohm, near Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

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As Z and I enter our eighth month of continuous travel, here’s one amazing thing we’ve done in each month of the year.

January: Making the Leap!
I’d been a home owner for almost a decade when we left in January. Working constantly for longer than that. Between us, Z and I had accumulated piles upon piles of, well, crap. Sifting through it was like sifting through past lives, wondering what this next phase would bring, what would happen when we stepped off the plane with packs on our backs, an odd mixture of anticipation, excitement and, yes, I guess, grieving, too. Continue reading

Full-Contact Management

14 May

We have Doc McGhee, the rock ‘n’ roll svengali who kept Motley Crue, Jon Bon Jovi and Kiss on the road, to thank for the term full-contact management. That’s punching people…

Now, I’ve been considering training as a scuba instructor over the next year or so. It seems like a nice lifestyle, a good string to one’s bow, relatively stress-free, combines easily with other occupations, and the like.

Sure, I’m not the best diver in the world. But compared to earning the money required to spend a lot of time underwater, acquiring a profession which gives you free diving and free time in which to do other things makes a lot of sense from where I’m at now. (Z considers it a “cool job”.)

Then I met Matt… Continue reading

Full Fathom Five…

13 May

Imperial Japanese Navy ship AkutsishimaThere is a sepulchral magic to a shipwreck. Viewed from underwater, with russet filigrees of sea ferns flourishing on the fractured edges of a shell hole in the side, lettuce corals unfurling from a rusting crane, the gossamer fins of lionfish undulating like silken flags outside a propshaft, a wreck is one of the most awe-inspiring sights the planet has to offer.

The battle of Coron Bay might have faded into history. Just another skirmish in the closing throes of the Second World War in Asia, where US Helldiver pilots annihilated a Japanese supply convoy hiding in the Calamian Islands.

After the raid, in September 1944, it took weeks for some of these monsters to sink. They drifted, crippled, on the currents for many miles. Others went down almost instantly, taking many of their crew with them. Some have never been found.

Z and I visited three of the ones that have. Continue reading

Learning to Dive

9 May

View of Barracuda Lake in the Calamian Islands, Philippines

40 degrees centigrade below the surface!

We are still in Coron. That’s Coron Town, the meandering if unbeautiful little port of Busuanga Island, not Coron, the island, across the way. As is the thing to do in the Calamians, we’ve been diving.

There are many amazing things about scuba. There is the feeling of weightlessness — neutral buoyancy — whereby you move through the water in whichever direction you like, slow and lazy as an astronaut.

Then there’s the closeness to nature. You will, and do, see more of nature on a coral reef in a 30-minute dive than anywhere on land bar, say, the Serengeti or the Arctic during one of their great migration.

And, in coral, you are right among the life. Fish (and sea snakes) swim up to you, past you, around you, without the slightest fear, amid coral gardens picked out in technicolour.

It’s extraordinary. Not just coral reef. But lakes, rivers, quarries, kelp forests too. And a world that you have to experience. And I’m so, so glad that Z loves it too. We just need to get him qualified… Continue reading

Kirche Kuche Kinder

9 May

Every so often, while eavesdropping — or, perhaps, a more polite term is, err, “people-watching” — one comes across conversations that one, quite literally, couldn’t make up.

Ever since we met Klaus in Marinduque, I’ve been interested in those mutually advantageous marriages that a certain type of gentleman procures in the Philippines, and elsewhere in South-East Asia. I’d interpreted them, essentially, as an extension of sex tourism.

But the chap at the next table to us at our diving place the other night was looking for something rather different. Very much, in fact, the traditional kirche, kuche, kinder, with a little nostalgie de la boue, the desire for a primitive, Gauguinesque life among the natives. Or, as we say in English, unreconstructed sexist oaf seeks compliant light-brown slave.

I zoned into their conversation at a tricky juncture. “No, no,” the chap was saying. “You won’t like Norway. Let me tell you. All the Norwegian women will be jealous of you.”

Like any decent eavesdropper, my head turned to assess this self-described paragon of male beauty. Continue reading

Cargo Boats and Commandos

8 May

I’m a great fan of authenticity in travel. Travelling, where possible, as the locals do, which, given the wealth divide in the Philippines, means either with the driver(s) in the chauffeur’s seat(s), and the maid(s) and/or nanny(s) looking after the nippers, or (on our budget) by a spectacular range of public transportation.

Now, cargo boats are a mode of transport that are rapidly disappearing. Many of the big boats on the most popular worldwide routes now function as exclusive, floating hotels for baby boomers who still retain their 60s fantasies of tramp steamers, with a la carte dinners at the captain’s table, marble en suites, and the whole shebang.

So I was really excited to be taking a bona fide cargo boat from El Nido, Palawan, to Coron, in the Calamian Islands, which cluster a hundred miles or so north-east. So was the young master.

Well, he was until we boarded.

It would be fair to say that, for Z, there is such a thing as too much authenticity, and that that thing could be best expressed by reference to the good boat Josille. Continue reading