Posts Tagged With: diving

What if money didn’t matter?

The most dangerous risk of all – The risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.

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Diving Coron Shipwrecks 19/11/11

 

Signing one’s life away, first thing in the morning is a little strange. Logan and I are very excited though to go diving and see the shipwrecks today, for Logan it will be his first dive. Our dive instructor is Gerd, he is German and an absolutely dedicated diver and treasure hunter. He came to Busuanga 11 years ago because of the 20 shipwrecks and good diving. There are also two Brits, Peter and Jack, and Gerd’s wife and three kids on board.

We got about half an hour until our dive and Gerd asks us, whether we would like to know a bit more about our equipment and diving. We are all keen on learning, so he explains the diving regulator, weights, buoyancy control, the pressure gauge and much more. We are then allowed to attach the vest to the oxygen tank, open the valve and fit ourselves. It’s really not that hard but I cannot say that about keeping balance on the boat once I got about 10 kilos of equipment on me. I feel like an overweight whale on dry land! In the water it’s a lot easier to move around. Since Logan and Jack have never been diving before, we are doing the required exercises in shallow water of how to control buoyancy, take out the breathing apparatus and put it back in, share the emergency breathing apparatus with a buddy and clear out the mask in case water runs in. It also puts me at ease to repeat these exercises that I have last done 3 years ago.

Out of the dark blue appears the silhouette of a big sunken Japanese warship. It’s Tangat. We swim over and around it, there is lots of coral attached to the wreck and fish are going on with their everyday life. While they seem to fight over their territory, I’m fighting with my buoyancy level as I seem to keep floating upwards. I released all of the air in my vest and Logan has to help me stay down the bottom and drags me along with him. It annoys me a bit, I never had problems with that but maybe 4 kilo weights weren’t quite enough. For Logan the experience of diving is overwhelming. I watch him swim like a fish in its element, I knew he would love it and I think now he’s hooked.

After the dive, we enjoy the water for a little longer and then head off to Luzon, another shipwreck. I attach another kilo onto my belt and stumble towards the edge of the banka. It’s a deep water entry this time. I jump in and love the feeling of weightlessness! Logan, Gerd and I slowly release the air of our vests and it looks like I can enjoy my dive this time! I sink! Woohoo! The visibility around the wreck is a lot better, there is a lot more coral and so many more fish around! We love it! A big cuttlefish, that Logan and I mistook for an octopus at first, is trying to escape from us and nervously changes its colour. We swim through the shipwreck, it’s quite tight to fit through with the oxygen tank on the back but I try to stay calm and swim through very slowly and carefully. My emergency breathing apparatus is getting caught up at the wreck, lucky I’m so slow, avoiding any damage. At one point there is this huge 1 meter plus parrotfish overtaking us like we are on a highway. I can see Gerd’s excitement under water. Later he tells us, he’s never seen a parrot fish of this size before. 40 minutes pass like 10 minutes and at the bottom of the wreck Gerd discovers a crocodile fish and signals me to come closer to have a look. Oh oh! I see myself getting further away. Further and further and… splash, my head pops up at the surface. I just rose over 10 meters to the surface, totally out of my control. I have no idea how on earth this happened so suddenly after 40 minutes. I’m a little angry and decide I had enough. Logan and Gerd follow me 10 minutes later and we talk about the great experience. Gerd is absolutely amazed about how well we both dive but especially about Logan as it’s his first dive. He says, he has never seen anything like it in his career. “Logan swims like a fish! Better than many experienced divers.”

We get handed a beer and make our way back to Coron port. It’s about an hour journey and we enjoy the setting sun, beautiful island vistas and warm wind blowing around us. Back at the port, we catch a tricycle to Rocksteady Dive Centre to receive our dive certificate and say goodbye to everyone. Now we are looking forward to a good German meal at Kokosnuss Resort. Tomorrow we are off to El Nido…

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Island Hopping Coron 18/11/11

4:30am: 136 Roosters (or about that) call out of the top of their lungs to let the world know that the sun should be up in an hour or so. I hear no break in between their calls. It reminds me of Tonga, but a lot worse.

 

We are getting a ride downtown to have breakfast. The bread at the bakery looks different; it tastes very sweet, almost like cake.
At 7:30 we are meeting our guide Romeo, a nice 19-year-old Philippino bloke. He takes us to the markets, so we can choose our own lunch: Parrot fish, rice and beans.

 

This is the first time I’m jumping onto a banka, a Philippino wooden boat with outriggers on each side. A warm breeze is blowing around us and in the background we can see majestic Coron island. Romeo and the other guy on board take us to a snorkelling spot first. The water has exactly air temperature; you feel no difference of being in, or out of the water. Fish is all around us and they try and eat my bracelet, which is made out of shells. The coral is plenty and colourful, we feel like a fish ourselves.
We are going through a beautiful blue and turquoise lagoon and anchor the boat at the end of it. After paying an entrance fee, Romeo takes us up over a cliff and back down on the other side; the beauty is taking my breath away.

Kayangan Lake sits on top of Coron Island, there actually are seven freshwater lakes and Kayangan is only a small one of them. The others are impossible to get to and can only be seen from the air.

Logan and I are in the water very quickly. There are cliffs all around the lake and with my snorkel and goggles on, I can follow them deep down the lake. It looks magic, like an underwater cathedral.

Logan is swimming all the way across the lake. I’m watching him from the distance climbing up cliffs. Back out of the water, he is bleeding on his foot and back, typical! I don’t even acknowledge these little cuts anymore; the guide is almost freaking out and pulls out the first aid kit. We start laughing.

On our way back we stop at the top of the cliff and enjoy the lookout over the lagoon.

 

Lunchtime! We are about to stop at a beach for lunch. There are two monkeys tied up to the tree, poor things! Romeo brings over our fish with rice and beans. The fish is literally black and he tells us, we need to peel the skin off. Underneath I find bones and the guts –Fish cooked Philippino way! It’s quite good actually and Logan makes the fish talk to me by opening and closing its mouth.

While the other tourists have lunch on the beach, we make our way to a snorkelling spot with a sunken Japanese warship. A little bit of snorkelling here but since it lies on an angle, only one end is visible.
Romeo tells us our next stop is Barracuda Lake. He points down into the water and we see it’s clear and all of a sudden it is becoming all blurry. How…?
Logan and I jump in the water and then I feel it! It’s thermal!! Hot water mixed in with warm water. I find it amazing to be able to see the hot water and keep looking at the changing clarity of water with my goggles. There is fish everywhere; the water is cobalt blue and the sand very white. Logan and I keep diving down to reach even warmer temperatures. Later I read, at the bottom of the lake temperatures reach about 38 degrees.

 

Litter everywhere! “CYC Beach”, does that stand for recycle here? Our last stop could have been a lot nicer, if it was a clean beach. There are also three residents on the island: two starving cats and a very lonely monkey. Some ignorant locals are hanging out in the filth while adding to it.

 

After our island hopping tour, Logan and I are waving down a tricycle to head to the Rocksteady Dive Centre where we book our discover scuba dive for tomorrow. We are excited!
Back at Kokosnuss, we are having dinner and are being served by one of those “lady boys”. They are boys or men dressed like girls, behaving like girls and talking like girls. Sometimes you can hardly tell their gender. Lady boys are accepted as every other Philippino person, more than we are with our semi-brown skin, blond or brown hair and dreadlocks!

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Coron, Busuanga Island 17/11/11

 

5:15am: Beep Beep! Beep Beep! Logan’s alarm goes off 45min before we actually have to get up, as always! We are getting ready, back into transit mode, walk out the guesthouse, jump into a taxi and… end up at the wrong terminal. This time it’s not the taxi driver’s fault: our flight was moved.

In the streets we go past tourists who are still sitting outside drinking, prostitutes waiting for their next customer and poor women with babies, asking for money at traffic lights. While stuck in the very chaotic traffic jam, men sell bananas and newspapers in the middle of the highway. The air is full of smog and everyone is beeping their horns.
The flight is short, so is the landing strip!!! I have to support myself by holding onto the front seat and the plane sounds like it would fall apart. Logan is smiling.

We jump into a small van to get dropped off at Kokosnuss guesthouse. The way to our room is through a pretty garden with fountains and hammocks, only about 14AUD for the room.
A few minutes later I find myself in a tricycle. It’s a shabby motorbike with a shabby housing around it, so that between two to six adults can fit in. What an experience, I quite like these things, at least for shorter trips.

Logan and I decide we need to organise our banka (boat) to El Nido for Sunday and also to have a look at island hopping and diving.

Coron town is, umm, different! It’s a little chaotic with all the tricycles, dirty and not very welcoming. The residents stare at us, especially Logan’s hair. Some are very friendly, most are unfriendly or weird, but all want our money!

We are getting ripped off every time. It’s a poor place and when you have a glimpse in people’s backyards, all you see is mud, rubbish, dirt and faeces. The smell reflects that.
Behind all that you see people carrying on with their everyday life: kids are riding the tricycle with us on their way to school, the market is full of life, well, and dead pig heads, and in the background there it is: Paradise. Coron Island.

Transit mode is over. We are holidaying!

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On the way to Manila 16/11/11

7.25pm: We just departed Darwin Airport. The sky is blood red and there is some foggy smoky substance coming out of the vents. I trust it is only air.
The flight is nothing out of the ordinary: I’m falling asleep while Logan is struggling with his legs jammed in-between the front seat and the one he is sitting on. Quality we paid for.
The first question I’m asked at Manila airport is: “Are you husband and wife?” I figure it may just be easier to reply with a “yes”.
We are trying to make our way out of the airport to Friendly’s Guesthouse, which I chose because they offer luggage storage in a secure room. On their webpage is a description of how to get there and that the cost of a taxi would be between 100-120 Pesos. The first offer we receive is 700 Pesos. I laugh and politely say “No, thank you.” The next offer is 850 and then 900. Finally we find the metered taxis and end up paying 300.

Traffic in Manila is horrifying! There seem to be no road rules. Logan and I give each other looks, sharing thoughts of how chaotic everyone is driving. First in, first wins and we are missing other cars and tricycles just by centimetres. Our taxi driver has the radio volume up high, listening to a preacher speaking a mix of Tagalog and English. I’m close to praying as well. I like the jeepneys, they are old-fashioned jeeps without windows in all sorts of colours.
Jeepney in Manila

Before arriving at Friendly’s we are circling the block a few times, as our driver doesn’t seem to know where our Guesthouse is. We are walking past a sleeping guard and upstairs where we find a young girl behind the shabby reception desk. She is asking for our names but can’t find them in the messy pencil-written book in front of her. Behind her I read the sign: “No sex tourism here”.
She gives us the keys and we quickly try and re-pack our bags so we can store them away in the secure room. “Luggage storage is full Sir.” We are ensured that it would be safe to leave our luggage in the hallway near reception. Logan is having a look at the luggage room himself and we decide to just re-arrange it and put our bags in there. Hopefully they will still be in there when we return from Palawan!

It is about midnight and we just try and organise something to eat from a Seven Eleven shop near Friendly’s and wherever we are, people are staring at us. I can even feel it.

The power points in the room have a sign above them: “Please don’t use. May cause fire.” My phone is charging now though. At least there is free Wi-Fi here.

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