Our first boat across to a tropical island wasn’t exactly the boat we’d expected. Instead of a sizeable ferry it was a brightly painted Bangka, basically a large wooden boat with bamboo stabilisers on each side tied together with fishing line. We were heading across to Puerto Galera on Mindoro Island and were so excited to swim in the sea for the first time in a over a year!
Getting on the boat was an interesting process. It was literally pass the person. One worker would grab my arm and help me forward down the gangplank while another grabbed my other arm. A couple locals got straight into life jackets and judging by how busy the boat was and how often Filipino boats sink I grabbed one for Craig and I and just sat on them so they were nearby. Kids ran along the bamboo edges of the boat and would poke their heads through the sides asking for money. They were all extremely dark skinned but with white crystals of dried salt on their skin.
We’d booked our first Airbnb accommodation and decided to stay at White Beach which didn’t sound like our cup of tea judging by lonely planets description that a lot of locals flock here from Manila. Our hosts were a sweet young French and Filipino couple and our room was basic but clean. The toilet wasn’t much bigger than a potty and lacked a flush but it was fine.
We were pleasantly surprised when we walked just 100m to the beach; It was gorgeous. A huge expanse of white sand, clear blue sea and it wasn’t busy at all. In fact there weren’t even any deck chairs on the beach. Along the back of the beach though were lots of restaurants, bars, hotels and souvenir shops.
Amazingly we found a cheap spot along the beach with the same food and drink prices as your average Filipino town so we pretty much lived there. Locals sold Balut along the beach which is a duck embryo, a delicacy in the Philippines. Craig said he wanted to try it but changed his mind when he saw a local lady cracking one open and sipping the soup from the top. She was practically gagging after every slurp! We could see the duck foetus inside the shell and it looked very developed and it’s not uncommon for them to have feathers or a beak!
Most of our time was spent playing in the sea and eating sweet mangoes. The only downfall to the beach was the annoying touts offering massages or selling fake pearl necklaces. We did end up getting a very nice massage on the beach which was extremely relaxing until a gust of wind came along and covered our oily bodies in sand.
We treated ourselves to a parasail which we had done once before in India and it was quite the adrenaline rush. Here it wasn’t so scary, maybe because we’d done it before or maybe we just felt safer with a Filipino company. We were put onto a boat and strapped into a nappy-like harness. When we were way out in the deep blue ocean we were sat down on the back of the boat and strapped onto the parasail. It was all rather frantic and we were quickly swept away off the back of the boat and flew up into the air. As we got higher we were jolted and I panicked but Craig said they were just letting the rope out so up we went even higher than before. I don’t know how high we were but I didn’t think we’d survive a fall. It was great fun though and pretty exciting when the wind gusts swayed us from side to side. It lasted over 20 minutes and was so uncomfortable. Craigs manly-hood was being compressed by the nappy strap which he’d totally fallen through, whereas my harness was caught on my bum cheeks and kept pulling my skin. I was too scared to relax and fall totally into the harness incase it failed me so I just let it tug uncomfortably.
As the two workers began to pull us back onto the boat they seemed to be telling us to put our legs straight out for the landing. This was totally impossible for Craig who was beginning to lose circulation in his legs. We landed fine though and I was quickly unstrapped and ready to move away but Craigs rookie worker only undid one of his straps and my guy said ‘wait your still alive!!’ and the parasail was desperately trying to toss Craig overboard. It was a bit scary at the time but we laughed about the unprofessionalism afterwards.