At Anchor in Puerto Princesa

Once again we’ve found ourselves settled in the comforts of the routine life at anchor. After breakfast in the cockpit, we usually sit down to our computers and in the afternoon, when we just can’t take it any longer, or more precisely when our behinds already hurt so much that we can’t sit any longer, we go for a ride on our folding bicycles, which we keep conveniently parked in the yacht club (which also gives a chance to enjoy the abundance of space in our V-berth!) Mostly we buy some provisions on the way to stock up on some of our favorite local goodies before we leave Philippines and from time to time we stop in the club before heading back to the boat to have a chat with some of the local regulars. Most of them are from Australia, though there is Klaus and his wife from Sweden, who live on a beautiful yellow trimaran.

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I use the word regulars, because most of them have been here for quite some time. Some of them long enough to eventually get the local version of what in Taiwan is called alien resident certificate and even bought themselves a bike. In the afternoon few of them usually hang out in the yacht club to share a beer or two, simultaneously browsing on the internet using their smart phones. Quite a funny view, apparently it’s not only the teenagers! With the exception of Klaus, most of the regulars are single and as such they cruise singlehandedly the waters of South East Asia, though one of them sails with his son, who is currently in Australia earning some more money for their cruising kitty before they depart through southern Indian Ocean heading towards South Africa. Interestingly, they cross oceans on a smart racing boat and maybe it’s not entirely a coincidence that their slim vessel with quite a long mast bears the name Why Do I Do It? including the question mark at the end!

We are real comfortable here, indeed. Puerto Princesa is but a small town and thanks to our folding bicycles we can easily get wherever the whim and sometimes quite jammed roads take us. Last week we took our bikes and cycled out of town to visit the famous butterfly farm. Unfortunately it was closed (same as the museum in town) and so we pedaled some more to see the crocodiles instead. The visit in the Palawan Wildlife Rescue & Reservation Center came as quite a shock! We weren’t so much horrified because of the crocodiles, after all the fences and barriers didn’t allow us to approach the crocs close enough to get scared, what terrified us was the style of the tour and the touristy atmosphere of the whole place that first jumped out at us right in the parking lot that was surrounded by numerous stall selling souvenirs and other kitsch. For every living croc in the center there are at least five stuffed croc toys and on every corner you bump into one of those wooden boards that have infantile croc pictures painted on them and large hole to stick your head in to take some memorable pictures.

“Hello! Would you like to try the exciting experience of our zipline?” Before we even parked our bikes, we were immediately surrounded by a group of young Filipinos in green T-shirts.

“Thanks! We came just for the crocs,” replied Petr with a smile.

With certain doubts we bought our tickets and sat down in a small gazebo nearby to wait for our “intensive tour”. At least that’s what it said on our tickets. Tired and sweaty after the trip, we almost started dosing. After couple of minutes we were startled back to life by a piercing voice coming from the loudspeakers announcing that the next tour will start in five minutes. We headed towards the main building and suddenly were surrounded with flocks of other tourists. A few minutes back we were amazed that we were the only people in the gazebo, also the parking lot seemed quite deserted. Now the place was bristling with people. Obviously the tourist buses brought herds just in time for the tours.

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“Do you remember the last time we took part in something touristy like this?” asked Petr, while we nervously squirmed amongst mostly Filipino tourists.

The intensive tour was basically a two minute speech by a young female guide, during which she told us something about the center and the crocs. Unfortunately her speech was so intensive that all we remember is that one by one the old crocs die because of too much stress. After that she lead us to the hatchery where she reminded us several times to “keep our hands away”. That was the end of the intensive guided tour. Several steps took us to a platform over the concrete pens where crocs of different sizes and shapes that would no longer fit in the hatchery are kept. Most of them looked like stone fossils or they were just stiff because of all the stress…

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We quickly threaded our way through the crowds, declined another offer to take a picture with a croc, this time a real living crocodile baby, and headed towards a park where about a dozen of other animal species, most of them endemic to Palawan, were kept in cages and aviaries. The overall atmosphere was kind of dismal so we quickly passed through and went back to our bikes.

The landscape along the road to Puerto Princesa was quite spectacular though and so we tried to admire the local natural beauty, traditional architecture as well as the cows grazing on the lash green pastures while at the same time keep out of the way of trucks and tricycles that constantly dashed by.

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The next day we had the pleasure to host Dave and Jackie of Brigadoon who came to have dinner with us on Janna. Dave and Jackie are from New Zealand but lived in Hong Kong for quite a while, where Dave taught English and Jackie ran photography courses and tours. After searching for their dream boat for some time, they finally became owners of the beautiful 45′ Van der Stadt “Pimpernel” steel yawl Brigadoon, quite infamous in the local waters, we hear. Apparently, it was once owned by some mafioso, who used her to smuggle drugs. There is even a whole book written about it, that Dave proudly showed us the other day in their saloon while Jackie served us a delicious spinach chili and tortillas. They sail together with a teenager named Fergus, not their grandson, mind you, but a loyal dog companion, whom they brought to Hong Kong from New Zealand but who is not allowed to return to his homeland after staying for some time in Asia. And so they are heading home, but they take it slowly, because Fergus is still quite fit and apparently enjoys life aboard. And since they have so keenly observed how nice people we are, we can’t but repay by the same. We will miss you, guys!

Before they headed further south, we invited them to have a meal with us on Janna and shared another pleasant evening in the yacht club just before their departure. The next morning we waved our good-byes, us eyeing them rather enviously as Brigadoon slowly sailed towards the horizon.

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The truth is that although we are comfortably settled here, both of us have been fidgety these couple of days. More and more often we catch ourselves longingly staring towards the horizon. On the other side of the bay the view of the green hills beckons us, especially in the morning and late afternoon when the hills partially disappear clouded by the dense, snow-white blanket of fog. Janna also seems to be tugging at the chain more eagerly, almost as if she was trying to free herself from the shackles that bond her with the anchor and the ground below her keel. Or are we just imagining things? Most likely we’re suffering from yet another fit of travel-fever and the time is coming to heave the anchor once again and leave for another anchorage…

7 comments to At Anchor in Puerto Princesa

  • todd

    You are killing me with envy. Fair winds and following seas.

  • I’m afraid that we won’t have any following seas in the near future, since we will be going against the monsoon :) But it shouldn’t be as tough as when we sailed from Hong Kong in April! Basically, we are expecting that we will have to motor quite a bit 😀

  • Yibo

    Any map to show us the romantic and exciting trace of Janna?! Or you might be afraid we can find you and spend few days to share your hospitality…

    • It’s not like that! Actually, we welcome visitors any time! :) Truth is, the internet connection here is really poor and creating maps in Google Maps kind of sucks… BUT! We managed to create a map today, showing our track so far plus also all the anchorages we stopped at so far. Will publish it asap.

  • Yibo

    Got it, good job Jana, GREAT !!
    Sorry to make you working early morning in such a paradise but it’s good to know you are not so far from us 😉

  • Amy

    Glad you noticed the cows :) Moooooo!

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