There are always primitive reasons that make us who we are and explain why we do the things we do. In my case, the main reason why I am the adventurer I am is my parents, both of them natural born adventurers, who have taken me to every possible adventure since the time I was born and they raised me not to fear anything, or better said, they taught me how to not experience fear as paralyzing terror but rather live with it moving along all the unknown territories that I might come across in life without being paralyzed by fear. They have fostered in me a thirst for learning and discovery that can never be satiated. Thanks to them I have been able to dream and later realize all the things that I have dreamed and being able to live the life I've been living until today.
The absurd ironies of life, the treacherous games that destiny plays on us and who knows how many more endless explanations, have made that they were not together today. As a result, as our first guest in our long cycling trip around the world, we received my father, the best father among all fathers (excuse my arrogance but when it comes to this I lose all possible humbleness :)) with whom it's a real pleasure to travel, since with him there's also pretty much no limitations.
Julia and I left our bikes in Manila, at the house of our “godfather” Allen, and the three of us set off to travel to the remote island of Palawan for two weeks. Until no more than 3 to 4 years ago, Palawan was one of those idyllic paradises, isolated from everything and with pretty much no tourism at all. Lots of parts of the island still preserve these idyllic characteristics but unfortunately it has already been “discovered” by the unforgiving fangs of mass tourism and many parts of it are suffering a painfully negative transformation.
Even though Palawan still has endless stretches of virgin beaches of white sand and turquoise waters and lots of sleepy fishing villages where time doesn't seem to pass, the famous places of the island are changing radically. El Nido (Spanish for The Nest) is one of them. Located at the northernmost point of the island, right in the fabulous Bacuit archipelago, El Nido used to be a village of ten huts surrounded by an impenetrable forest of coconut trees no more than 5 years ago. Today, it grew into a small village that still has a very limited infrastructure and isn't enough to serve for all the people that are already visiting the place. Every year grows more and more popular while infrastructure development isn't as fast to be able to catch up with the popularity. As a visitor, you suffer all the traditional miseries of touristy places, inflated prices for everything, being constantly ripped off by local people whose mindset has already been corrupted by the dollars that come with the ever growing tourism, and on the other hand you have all the irresponsible tourists that come here for a couple of weeks and don't care about complying with this abuse and making it even worse!
Aside from this, which is a problem that has already made most of Thailand and many other “paradises” in South East Asia turn into disgusting places, El Nido still remains, for now, a truly breathtaking place, the islands of the archipelago with their vertical cliffs of jagged stones and vegetation come out of the ocean dramatically as if they were huge turtles invading the earth. In here, we have been overwhelmed by the surreal beauty of the sunsets and been blessed by the refreshing breezes that come at dusk.
Every day was like a different painting in the sky and the colors and patterns were so amazing that they would even make the best impressionist painter feel completely useless. There were no limits for so much visual beauty. During day, the bangkas seem to float in the air, because the water is so transparent that it dissolves the visual boundaries between what's full and what's empty. Moving from place to place in Palawan is slow and troublesome. Most of the roads are still unpaved and the interior of the island is thick mountainous forest. It takes several hours riding in uncomfortable jeepneys at boiling hot temperatures to get from one place to another. Port Barton is a slow-paced sleepy fishing village. It lies at an idyllic bay, where the thick forest you have to go through to get there, seems to finally find its place to breath. One 300-meters-long dirt road, a few houses, few people and eternally peacefully, life here happens in slow motion. When the night comes in, it all stands still as if paused by a remote control
I really wish there was a way to preserve these small bits of paradise on earth from the careless hands of mass tourism and leave them as they are forever. I myself would even refrain from going to leave them as they are and not to have any impact on them and their local people.
We traveled like three musketeers, riding along uncomfortable roads and being dazzled by the beauty that the world has to offer us. And for me, there is nothing more special than traveling around the world with my dad, something that I enjoy as much as when I was a little kid sitting in the backseat of the car, right behind him, seeing outside the window the world that he taught me how to travel and admire with devotion.