Coron, Darryl

Lars Alfredson
Fri 22 Jan 2016 23:57

The crossing from Boracay to Coron was more straightforward then your regular Philippine sail thanks to the seemingly lower population density. Occasionally a glow on the horizon would mark the location of a swarm of fishing boats and their lights but we had nothing like the chaos sailing near Luzon and in the Visayas. The passage was timed well and we came into the island at around ten in the morning, rewarded with a panorama of small steep islands set against the spectacularly mountainous backdrop of Coron Island (which confusingly is near to, but not the location of, Coron Town).

The approach to the town itself was rather more complicated than the passage as our charts gave us only a general idea of where the deep water was, faced with the choice of sticking close to the shore or a sailing wide arc around a reef that was marked we chose the shore. This quickly proved to be a mistake when our keel hit a reef and we came to a complete stop. Naturally this would occur as a local boat was motoring right next to us. While we were lodged on the reef he helpfully yelled across thay the water was quite shallow here and we would be better off going around. Thanks. Luckily it was a light hit and we got off no problem backing around and continuing on our way.

Coron itself is a small energetic town with less outright charm than Romblon but more interesting surroundings. My plan was to rent a motorcycle for a day and ride a circuit of the island and the next morning I woke early and set out to do just that. It had been quite a while since I last rode a bike so my start was a bit shakey but before too long I worked up the courage to take it up to sixty but a worrying vibration soon had me back at fifty. Each corner I took went a bit smoother and I was pleased to note that I had a quarter tank of gas on the meter which can take you pretty far on a little bike like that. Pleased, that is, until the engine sputtered and died 20km out anyways when I realized that the gas meter was broken and I would forever have a quarter of a tank.

I had stalled by a large gate which had about ten kittens playing in front of it, figuring that anyone with that many kittens cannot be too bad I called over the gate to ask for help. Before I quite knew what was happening I was sitting in a garden full of cats and kittens with a drink in my hand and someone had been sent out to buy me some gas. Turns out the owner of the house is a sailor herself with a 10m catamaran and we chatted about sailing while I waited. Besides sailing she also has a fondness for animals, there were too many cats to count at least four dogs several large moniter lizards and I was told there was a collection of snakes as well though I never saw any. We passed the time by feeding the cats which was a chaotic experience as a horde descended on the bowl of rice as soon as it was set out. When I was fueled up I went on my way somewhat bewildered but considering myself quite lucky.

All I had for navigation was a hand drawn sketch map but as the island only has four roads and I wanted to drive all around it I figured I couldn't really get lost. I don't know why I would think that as I have a cartoonishly bad sense of direction and have gotten lost on a peninsula with only one road; once I was even caught trying to navigate through town holding a map upside down. So naturally I was soon completely turned around, I had somehow driven into the interior of the island and the reasonably paved road soon became nothing more than a dirt track. I climbed sharp inclines and inched my way down steep hills and occasionally passed bemused locals who must have wondered what I was doing out in the sticks. The landscape was nice though with dense banana plantations woven through with river channels and arid hills that descend into iridescent green rice paddies cradeled in the vally bottoms.

I got lost a few more times once I ended up at the back entrance to the bizarre safari zoo housed on the north west tip of the island. Another time I came to the end of a road in a graveyard and once the road I was riding turned sharply and simply dipped into the sea, presumably some kind of boat launch. I did eventually make it back, sun burnt, dusty and tired but overall pleased with the day. Looking at the map it appears I rode only the western half of the island though naturally, I am not entirely sure.

Back in town we had been spending a reasonable amount of time in the SeaDive bar, during our first visit they ran out of San Miguel Pilsen, by our second visit they had run out of San Miguel Light, and on our third morning we were told by a fellow sailor that there was no beer to be bought in town (which I think was something of an exagerration). Naturally this marked the end of our visit to Coron. So we picked up our new crew member, Janine, raised anchor and headed out.

P.S. By Lars: From our anchoridge I spotted a sizeable hill with a large cross on the top. At closer inspection I could make out stairs going to the top. I can never resist a challenge of a nice mountain to climb! So while Darryl took to the road I took to the stairs. 723 sweaty steps later I was rewarded with a nice view of the town and the surrounding islands.