Late, late upload. Still playing catch up.
May 2016: You know how excited you get the first time you’re going someplace new? The anticipation, the exploration, the novelty of it all? Sometimes when you return to the same place at a later date, it doesn’t live up to your expectations or the pictures in your mind.
Unless, that is, you see it through someone else’s eyes. Case in point. We’ve been to Coron town and Culion before. Coron several times, Culion once.
Culion is a small, sleepy town which boasts the remnants of an old Spanish fort and a museum dedicated to its past as a leprosy colony. Coron, on the other hand, is mainly a launching point for wreck diving and island hopping tours, with plenty of restaurants and shops and tourists. (There are also hot springs, although personally, I’m not a fan of soaking in hot water during hot weather.)
This time around, we went adventuring back to Coron and Culion with our new Aussie friends Craig and Velda. They gave us a fresh new perspective on these two places, with plenty of laughs along the way.
First up, Coron. Try folding seven people into a trike for a 72 kilometre round trip from Busuanga Bay to Coron. That’s the four of us, our trike driver and his two young sons. The ride was more than half the adventure in itself. We dodged potholes, chickens, dogs and children, tackled detours, and bumped over construction zones. Once in town, we hit the ATM, lunched like kings on all sorts of fresh seafood, bought tacky t-shirts and stocked up at the market before getting up the nerve to pile back in the trike for the long, dusty ride home.
The highlight? Definitely the trike ride. It could barely get up the big hills with all of us on board. And we got a flat on a long stretch of empty road on our return. Luckily, we managed to flag down a passing motorbike and picked up a new inner tube at a home-based tire repair shop just a few clicks back. Soon our driver had us back on the road again.
On another non-diving day, the four of us opted to go along with some of the staff from D’Divers on a boat trip to Culion town. The dive shop was going to get their oxygen tanks filled for Nitrox divers. We wanted to tag along to get our DAN emergency oxygen tanks filled. We’ve had them for nearly four years but this would be the first fill. Time to remedy that. They could come in handy in an emergency far from medical treatment.
The banca made the crossing between islands in a lot less time than it would have taken us on MOKEN. We wove through the complicated pearl farms following a route that even had the boatmen scratching their heads and guessing. Eventually we made it through and arrived at Culion’s jetty.
While the crew unloaded the large oxygen tanks and took them by trike up to the hospital to get them filled, we strolled through town, with stops at the Catholic church and the fort, before heading to the hospital and the leprosy museum. Afterwards, Chris took a turn at picking green mangos high overhead using a long bamboo pole with a notch at the end. It’s not as easy as it looks.
The highlight? After lunch, and finding ourselves with a bit of time to kill, we decided to do as the locals do, and went swimming with a group of teens along the waterfront. Everybody fully clothed, of course. It was a refreshing break on a hot sunny afternoon. If only that wee fishy hadn’t chased me out of the water. The little blighter kept nipping my toes.
Dripping with sea water, we watched as the crew loaded the full tanks back onto the banca with great difficulty. Soon we were off, leaving Culion behind us once again. Sadly our DAN oxygen tanks were just as empty on the return trip as at the start. The hospital fittings didn’t fit our valves. (Note to self: get an adapter on our summer trip to Canada.)
Two more memorable days, made extra special because we laughed so much with Pirate Velda and Pirate Craig.
With additional photos by Pirate Velda.