Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Monday we decided to do the touristy thing and visit one of the world's largest underground navigable rivers here in Palawan.  It goes back at least 8 km, but the tour is only 1.5 km.  We organized our tour through the yacht club here and it all seemed very easy... if you bring a lot of patience, that is.

I wrote a long play by play because at the time, every moment seemed funny, stupid, or at the very least memorable.  But after reading over it, I realized I would lose most people after the first paragraph.

So I'm going summarize the day like this.... We had a nine hour day.  It included 4 hours of heart stopping travel in an air conditioned van of which we felt none, 2 hours of waiting/lunch and 45 minutes of touring and 2 hours wasted somewhere.  Was it worth it?  We think so.  We're glad we went.  The cave was like none of us had ever seen before and the scenery was beautiful.  Would we do it again.  No.  Not without a morning shot and a flask of rum to get that patience going.

I wonder what that life jacket is going to do for Jake?

Bad Monkeys

Like our helmets?  I think I sported it the best :)

Andy thinks we look like roadside workers.
Andy's flash wasn't cooperating so these pictures aren't
NatGeo...but you get the idea.

I had to ask Andy what this's a bat.  The cave had several
different species of bats as well as swiftlets.

This is not us, but imagine us in the back there by the guide.

Kind of like the parking lot at Disney World...Filipino Style.

Today we did our grocery run.  Malaysia has a huge Muslim population and we hear the the pork and booze is hard to come in true Savannah style, we stocked up.  We've got a few things to do tomorrow and then Friday we're heading to our first stop about 30 miles down the coast.  We'll continue to day hop as the reefs get thicker and the fishing boats keep coming.

In the meantime, enjoy the pics!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Last stop in the Philippines

Jake is becoming quite the photog :)

I know it’s been a while since we posted anything substantial for the family, but quite honestly, it’s been kind of boring on Savannah.  We’ve been moving around a bit and have not had good internet either.

We spent a few days in Coron Town.  Not sure what to say about Coron.  It was a quaint little town, but not much to look at.  Andy was able to go diving one day and thought that was pretty good.  Other than that, we spent our time stocking up for our next leg down to Puerto Princessa.

If cross contamination is an issue, the local market may not be your
cup of tea ;).

Tableside cooking of our very first ox tongue...very swanky restaurant.

The Philippines is feeling more and more like Mexico to us.  The people are similar, the language is similar, and now that we’re in the drier islands, the topography is similar.  Sadly, my attitude is similar, too.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved Mexico, but when it was time to go, it was time to go.  So that’s kind of where we are with the Philippines. 

I’m not sure if it’s the Philippines that’s putting me in my funky mood, or if it’s just my desire to keep moving.  We sat in Pohnpei for a long time.  We sat in Yap for a while.  We sat in Palau for a really long time.  If you’re going to stay somewhere for that long, those are some good places to do it, but I have to say, I’m ready to keep moving…get back in the cruising mode…not the sitting around mode.   The Philippines have been wonderful, the people friendly, and very beautiful.  (Jake has been a little frustrated at how populated everything is…no deserted beaches…poor kid, huh?  Can you say ‘spoiled?’) But it’s time to move on.

So we’re here at our last stop in Puerto Princessa on the island of Palawan.  We’re pleasantly surprised with the area, despite the view on the way in.  It’s a fairly large city complete with a mall. As a matter of fact, we’ve spent the last few days enjoying the air conditioning, a western size/style grocery store and a movie complete with popcorn and a soda.  Tomorrow we’re taking a tour of one of the largest underground navigable rivers in the world….very cool.  Finally, we’ll stock up and head out….next sop, Borneo!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My two cents...

Well, I wasn’t going to weigh in on this as I think it’s been done enough, but in support of my friend Charlotte and her family, I feel like I need to say something.  By now, most of you guys have probably heard about the rescue of the sailing vessel Rebel Heart off the coast of Mexico.  On board were Eric, Charlotte, and their two little girls.  The youngest, Lyra, was ill and the family decided to call for help.  The US Military came to the rescue.

I think my fellow cruisers and the boating community have done an outstanding job of supporting Charlotte and her family, while attempting to educate those who are well…uneducated in the sailing world.  Anything I would write would probably just detract from the eloquent words of others.

With that said, we heard the news of the rescue only 2 weeks after having another good friend here in the Philippines lose her boat on a reef that was way off the mark and subsequently have it stripped clean by pirates that heard her distress call….they even took her cushions from what we heard.  We read and heard unkind comments about that situation as well.  Mostly from armchair sailors or people that have never been on the water to start with…another group of uneducated folks.

I guess I’m shocked (though I don’t know why) at the arrogance of others to comment on things they know absolutely nothing about.   Andy and I feel close to both of these tragedies as we feel there are a lot of parallels to our life and I hate to think how it would feel to suddenly have an entire country weighing in their various opinions on how you chose to live your life and raise your kids.  With Charlotte and Eric, well, we’re about the same age, Eric was in the Navy like Andy, we were both in the financial industry, Savannah and Rebel Heart both left from San Diego and they were following a very similar path to us, just a few years later.  It could have been us (and still could). 

As for our other friend, we’re here in the Philippines and get to see first hand how off the various charts are in these waters.  One of our navigational programs actually says “Inaccurately surveyed area”  and other smart things like “Breakers reported, unsurveyed.”  Hell, the US Navy ran aground on a reef here that was 7 MILES off on the chart.  One guy actually said to us (I’m not sure if he was talking about the Navy or our friend at this point) “You’re not supposed to get within 100 miles of Tubataha Reef.”   Well, Mr. Non-sailing, Dingleberry, that means every single boat that sails down the east coast of Palawan is breaking the law.  The only way you could conceivably follow that rule (if it even exists) is to sail through the pirate waters south of Mindanao….uh, no thanks.  

All of this publicity has done some good on Savannah.  We’ve always prided ourselves on being as prepared as possible, but it’s easy to become complacent about things the longer you’re out here.  We’re now even more cautious as we make our plans to continue through S.E. Asia and eventually home, to the United States.  We only sail in the day time here in the Philippines so as to gain as many visuals on those nasty reefs and limit our surprises as much as possible (Not to mention the thousands of fish traps, fisherman, pearl farms and seaweed farms to be avoided).  We’re stocking up more than usual (I honestly didn’t think that was possible), so that we’re not dependent on pulling in somewhere for food, gas or diesel.  We’re keeping in touch with friends and other cruisers around the area so we can try to have the most up to date information as possible on the various areas we’re traveling.  And it may sound dramatic, but I’m keeping an eye on my kid more than usual as well, I hear the pale ones go for a fair price.

We are so blessed to have supporting families and friends and not to have to worry about constantly defending ourselves and our way of life.  We’re also blessed to not have had any tragic experiences this far (knocking on wood here in the cabin) keeping us from having to defend ourselves publically. For those not so lucky, we wanted to at least speak out a bit and join the hundreds if not thousands of other folks on your side…  I would hate to think that we had dreams and were so scared of failure that we never tried.  And for all of those out there that think we’re crazy and irresponsible for doing this at all, much less with a kid….think twice about how and when you express your opinions (Remember that whole do unto others thing?).  We’re just ordinary people doing something different.  We get that you don’t understand it.  We honestly don’t understand you either.  That’s why life is so cool….if we were all the same, what would we have to talk about on Facebook?

Friday, March 28, 2014

Calauit Game Reserve and Wildlife National Park

We anchored in a beautiful little spot right in front of the Calauit Wildlife Reserve.  This has been on our radar for quite some time.  Jake loves all things Safari and when we heard there was a safari park with African animals in it, we had to go.  So after sailing for 3 days from Puerto Galera, we finally made it.

It was so cool!  It's not a very big place when you think "Safari," but it was plenty big for this easily entertained family.  The park was an effort started by Ferdinand Marcos back in 1976 to supposedly help save African wildlife (although some stories say it was more to entertain his son's hunting habit??).  Animals from Africa were shipped here and put on this reserve to live alongside many species endemic to Palawan as well.

Calauit Deer
We opted for the guided jeep tour and were pleasantly surprised with how knowledgeable our guide was.  Roland (or Robin?  Andy and I disagree on the name), was our guide and he started working at the park in 1977...if it happened, he knew about it.  We were able to not only see the giraffes roaming around, but feed them and pet them as well.  There were 40 head of zebras - different herds all over the park.  ...Over 800 head of Calauit deer - tiny little deer found only in Palawan.  We saw many other things...antelope, wild boar, porcupines, monkeys, pythons, crocodiles, turtles...not all roaming wild (thank goodness), but all healthy and looking relatively happy.  We learned a lot in the few hours we were there.  There's a lot of arguing going on about who owns this land and what it should be used for.  There are some indigenous folks who believe it's theirs to do what they please (like hunting) and then there are the people who run the reserve who believe in conservation and protecting the animals.  Who knows the right thing to do...It's never black and white when it comes to these kinds of things.  I'm just glad we got to experience it while we were here.

I won't go on and on....I'll just get to the pictures...

We spent A LOT of time with the giraffes...

Those things are strong!  He kept surprising me!

He dressed for the occasion..."safari hat...check!",
"water bag....check!", "flipflops...check!"

We noticed that everything is smaller here in the Philippines....
even the porcupines.

Have you ever read about (or tasted) that coffee that comes
from an animal that eats the beans, then poops them out
(and those beans are collected for the coffee)?  This is that animal.

He's holding a turtle and inspecting the shell
to determine if it's male or of the things
he learned on this little field trip.

Baby fresh water crocodiles

Baby Crocodile hissing at his handler.

Just an inch taller....

Now we're anchored in a gorgeous cove about 20 miles south of the reserve...beautiful hotels, sunsets, protected moorings...absolutely gorgeous.

One view from the restaurant at the hotel that owns the mooring we're
on (and where we'll be enjoying our afternoon today).

Another view...

My view... :)

And finally, a few random pics we've taken in the last few days....

We barely touched anything in our freezer after
this catch!

A very large pod of dolphins we saw while underway.  We
saw a leatherback turtle too! unfortunately we were so
excited we didn't get a picture of it.