Our first night in Caramoan was unremarkable. I slept in a cocoon of DEET and a fitted bed sheet I’d brought from Manila. The power went in and out all night, meaning little sleep and lots of sweat – and not emerging in the morning like a rejuvenated butterfly.
The hostel didn’t do breakfast, so we soft-boiled eggs and baked beans on Elliot’s brilliant portable cooker. It was a satisfying meal, despite being served beneath a scorching 8am sun. We could only hope that the broiling temperatures were roasting the remaining spiders living in our car door frame.
At 9am, beneath overcast skies, we waited for our boat to arrive to shuttle us off the grimy shores of Caramoan proper and out over those tealy-blue waters. Today’s journey was to the “close” islands – Matukad, Lajos, Bosdak, and Cagbalinad – which was good because the looming clouds threatened rain. Rose, our handy receptionist, informed us that it doesn’t actually rain in Caramoan during this time of year, though that might be debatable. Our tour cost 1500 pesos for the day, not including lunch – a sweet deal.
Our boatman arrived and we boarded the bangka, a traditional Filipino boat that reminds me of a water strider. The moment the engine grumbled to life and sped us away from the mainland, my joy returned.The salty blue of the sea is always a dose of restoration for the soul.
Our first island was a chunk of sand anchored by rock cliffs and trees. No one was there. We swam in bathtub temperature water and watched our guide pluck purple jellyfish from the sea – not poisonous, he noted, judging by the flower shape and lack of tentacles. Later, we saw some that had washed up on the sand and we threw them back. If you’ve never held a jellyfish, it’s a slimy experience.
We hit three more islands – one a spacious lagoon tarnished by the cries of unsupervised vermin children and shouting parents. When they left, we relaxed peacefully in the shade. I put on Sarah’s snorkel mask and espied bright blue, green, and striped fish darting among rocks and corals.
The last two islands were larger and just as beautiful. There were more people who asked if we were with the Survivor crew and asked to have their photos with us even when we said we weren’t.
On the penultimate island, we paid 25 pesos – close to 50 cents – for buko, or coconut, juice. In my state of illness, it was like an elixir of pure joy, hands down the best coconut juice I’d ever tasted – until the next day. Fresh, sweet, hydrating, and consumed beneath the leafy shade of a palm tree.
We made it back to the mainland by 5pm, rinsed – no shower for these gloriously gritty gals! – and decided to drive to West Peninsula, a top-rated accommodation nearby whose reviews boasted the “best food in Caramoan.” Slightly bored with the chicken/fish/veg options at our digs, we were keen to sample tastier cuisine.
We couldn’t find West Peninsula. Instead, we stumbled upon Rex Inn, a spacious and fresh little garden resort featuring a swimming pool and a videoke machine. We were welcomed by Jerome, a friendly man with long hair and a feminine disposition. Immediately, we decided to inquire about rooms. The pool and general green space alone sold me; the place had more of an ambiance than our concrete bunker. Jerome said we could have a room for the next 2 nights, which significantly added to our already-lightened moods after that island hopping.
We dined on tasty vegetarian curry, sighed with joy, and relished in the absence of mosquitos – and smoke curling into the sky from burning piles of trash.
Back at Breeze and Waves, we flicked on the light to discover a fat old cockroach chilling in the middle of the floor. Unable to catch it, we watched helplessly as it scuttled under a low bed.
“At least cockroaches don’t climb,” Sarah told me. We would later discover how wrong she was.
I wasn’t too bothered since we had big’uns in Egypt, but I wrapped my bedsheet cocoon even tighter. As I tossed and turned through the nightly power outages, I felt a little more excited about the prospect of the clean Rex Tourist Inn tomorrow night.
And really, how could I complain when my alarm was set for 8am tomorrow for another day of island hopping?