day 294 | october 23, 2009 | Coron, Paradise on Earth

Le paradis de la terre: An edible day

A few days before I graduated from university, I blogged about a recurring fantasy: "On an isolated shimmering beach, sun on my skin, lounging with the soft sand in between my toes, rumcoke by my hips, a leftist book held up for reading, and an extensive library of my favorite reads piled thoughtlessly in a hut nearby (...and my money earning money)."

Several years after, flying over coron and excitedly peeking down at the glass bottom waters, I cannot help but think back on that hedonistic dream. In this island, life is simple, and by golly, it's damn good.

We flew in during the off-peak season, so I was expecting mildly schizophrenic weather. True enough, after we landed, the sky started to darken, and it was alternating sunny and drizzling as our hired van drove us from the airport to the town center. A word of caution to city dwellers: this is not a city, it is a town -- smaller population, no buildings taller than three storeys, and friendlier (smilier) people. There are no cabs, but visitors can hire a private van, motorbike, or a tricycle. Better yet, rent a motorbike and hit the dirt roads.

There are a number of backpacker inns, lodges and small hotels littered in the town center, and lots of them promising wifi connectivity. We signed with Darayonan Lodge for their 3D/2N package, which included airport transfers, meals, and tours. Set-up like a home (albeit with lots of extended family), the staff were nice and friendly, and the rooms were clean. It's a budget traveler's choice, so the rooms are fairly basic. For a resort experience, we probably would have signed up with Club Paradise Resort. With spartan expectations, lady N and i agreed that we were in paradise for some "get down and dirty" adventure.
After a quick lunch at the lodge (there's wifi!), we immediately requested for the island tours to begin. The wind was whispering threats of oncoming rain, but we didn't want to wait any longer. We were ready for our adventure. So off we went, hopping into a docked boat that was being thrown around by the waves, a light drizzle teasing our skin, and lots of moody clouds looming over us.
Our first destination was Kayangan lake, a freshwater lagoon bounded by limestone cliffs. There's a mildly challenging climb before you get to the lagoon. In the summer, the water is unbelievably clear. in the monsoon months though, there are plenty of leaves on the water, fallen from the trees framing the lagoon. It was still hauntingly beautiful, and alive with fishes that were made friendly by the tourism industry. Swimming leisurely and contemplating our lives under the gentle drizzle, I loved the isolation. 

Once in a while, a group would come and go. For the most part, it was just me and lady N (plus our tour guide and boat man) in that huge lagoon, and it made the experience all that more breathtaking for me. All of nature's beauty, exclusively for our eyes, at that given moment in time. After feeding the fishes for a while, we decided to head off. the rain was steadily increasing in force, but we didn't mind. The pinpricks of raindrops felt like a gentle massage on our cheeks.

From kayangan lake which was a fresh water lagoon, we then moved on to Twin Lagoon, which is a salt-water lagoon. The water was cooler at about 20 degrees celsius, and we had to swim through a fairly small opening on the side of a mountain to get through. Due to weather conditions and the time of day, it was high tide. That said, the opening was just enough to keep our heads slightly above the water without knocking our heads against the rocks overhead. 

As soon as we entered, if we were not sufficiently impressed by the vista in front of us, swimming around the blue lagoon, we quickly noticed the thermocline. The top layer of the water was cold, so swimming was a challenge, but if you treaded the water, you could feel the warmer water about a meter below the surface. It was amazing. Part of me felt like a fillet of fish being carefully prepared for cooking, rinsed first with fresh water, then softened and flavored in hot and cold saltwater.

When our legs could not kick anymore, we swam back through the opening and hopped onto our awaiting boat. The skies had turned black at that point, and the wind and waves were throwing our boat about in a bouncing jig to our next destination.
Belatedly, I realized we were being chased by a dark grey storm cloud. 

We watched the boat in front of us tip side to side, the deep blues of the raging sea made dangerously beautiful by grey highlights. My fingers were itching to pull out my camera and capture the dramatic scene before us, but my equipment was not waterproof. Looking behind us, we could see the line where the heavy rain started, and the gap was narrowing with every passing second. We were holding onto our seats for dear life. If you know how Filipino boats look like, you will know that there was very little cover to protect us from the rain. Finally, we felt the first pelt of water on our backs and shoulders. I never thought rain could hurt like pebbles, but yes, it did. All we could do was hold on tight, tolerate the painful raindrops, grit our teeth against chattering, and keep the boat moving forward. 

Our boatman was carefully steering us towards Kayangan Cove for shelter. As soon as we were inside the cove, the difference was startling. We could still see the other boat struggling against the whiplash of wind and sea, but inside, the water was calm, and the rain was nothing more than a drizzle. And it's awe-inspiring. This was nature: raw power, safe harbour, absolute beauty.
After the storm softened, we decided to explore the other sites the next day instead. We were bone tired from fighting off the cold and swimming throughout the better part of the day. We returned to port, and took a bumpy tricycle ride to Maquinit Hot Springs to wrap up our day. After shivering for most of our 45 minute boat ride from Kayangan cove, the 38-40 degrees celsius of volcanically heated water was a welcome relief. Under a slight rain, it felt like hotpot heaven. This was it. I knew someone with giant chopsticks was gonna pick us up daintily from the warm pool of salt water and gobble down our edible goodness like precious ramen bits.

What a way to go...


Mike Yip said...

great shots

Nicholas Leong said...

What a beautiful lagoon! :) I want to go there too.

I just returned from Cebu and I had the most awesome weather haha

libpuritan said...

thanks mike! =)

nick, cebu. sigh. oohlala. =)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...