Lost in wrecks, scuba-hiking and hot springs

IMG_0537It was diving time! First stop was Irako Wreck, like the other wrecks in Coron a relic from an american air raid on Japanese ships during the 2nd World War. As we descended the visibility got worse and worse, not to mention when we entered the wreck. I could see perhaps half a meter in front of me using the flashlight. I was thankful when the divemaster and his buddy in front turned now and then so I could see their lights and follow them.

Not wanting to swim into something and cut myself I moved forward cautiously and of course lost track of them though. Mirsada didn’t see me and swam pass me in an area where it wasn’t so cramped. Lovely. So I was more or less blind inside a wreck about 35 meters below surface, alone. I remained calmed however and looked for lights and after some time I saw Mirsada a bit in front of me. We moved along but had not much bottom time left so we skipped the last penetration and got up a little earlier. It felt kind of lame but as the other guy pointed up – with that visibility everything looks the same.

The second dive was Olympia Maru, as I got down this time I got a new torch by the divemaster and realized that the earlier had been more or less broken. The combination of better visibility, no-one flipping up all the silt in a cramped area and my working torch made me realize what wreck diving is all about. It was awesome to the see the interior of the sunken ship and a new challenge to maneuver yourself through tight passages without getting stuck or bumping into things.

After persuading a tired Mirsada to go for one more dive we geared up but this time without wetsuits. The dive spot was Barracuda lake which was supposed to be rather warm. The fact that we needed to hike (remember those razor sharp cliffs I’ve mentioned earlier?) a couple of minutes before only added to the fun. Hikers in scuba gear was surely a sight.

The dive was really fun. First we got lucky and spotted the Barracuda (supposedly there is only one in the rather small lake) but then there was a really cool thermocline as well. The freshwater had trapped the salt water and working as a magnifying glass heated it up. The difference was between 26 and 38° C and the change was so sharp that one could swim with one hand in the cold 26° and the other in the warm and cosy 38°. On top of this the bottom of the lake was incredibly soft, one could shove an arm (or head :)) some 30-40 centimeters straight in the mud without problem. Really fun to play around with!

On the way back we chatted some more with the guy who’d presented himself as Tim and back at Sea Dive we had dinner together. He gladly joined us for our planned trip to the hot springs and we had a few beers there realizing how privileged we are that can experience days like this one. When we got back to the hotel I realized that one of my shoe was missing as we got off the tricycle. Bah. And one of my cute red ankle socks had also been tucked in the missing shoe. Bah indeed.

Tim and I had some more beers and chatted, he really had some interesting stories and seemed to live a rather nice life. He’d decided that working much wasn’t his thing so he now spent one month working and the next one on vacation. It really didn’t seem that bad.

Coron Town

IMG_0527After a deep sleep with earbuds tucked in I’d managed not to notice that our room had a heavy-trafficked road as neighbor, Mirsada had and were fast as a drugged iguana lizard in the morning. After breakfast we headed off to Sea Dive to get an idea what options we had for diving. We pondered pros and cons with a wreck diver speciality course and just fun dives but in the end went with fun dives – if we enjoy it we can take on the speciality course another time.

After an early lunch at Sea Dive we decided to quickly check for alternative accommodation on the way back. Mirsada asked a local vendor and instructed a tricycle to go there. We were dropped off at the base of a huge staircase and after walking for a few minutes pondering whether there really was a hotel at the end I asked Mirsada what the name of the hotel was. Mountain View. I pointed out that perhaps the tricycle driver hadn’t understood that we were looking for a hotel but perhaps had drove us to a mountain view. We decided to turn back and got back to our hotel where we at least managed to switch room to one away from the street.

IMG_0517To our surprise we had gotten a response from a reservation in Manilla at Oasis Park Hotel (swimming pool, outside Jacuzzi and wifi) – no ambiguities either! We celebrated this rare event by finding a barber for yours truly, since my trimmer broke down in El Nido I’ve started on what well could turn out to a fully fledged homeless look. This needed to be remedied by a professional before it got out of hand. I survived the operation and for this we decided to celebrate again, this time with a proper spa. We had a nice detoxing massage at Spa Paradise center – a real massage parlor with soothing music, eucalyptus aroma and flip-flops to borrow. Not bad at all, especially not for 10€ each.

We figured that we would give the Mountain view another try now when we didn’t have to bother about a check-out time. After a nice walk we got to the cross, I was tempted to climb it but the awesome sunset got the better of my attention which perhaps was a good thing. After walking down and back to our hotel we headed back to Sea Dive to gear up for tomorrow. Well there we also enjoyed a very tasty three course dinner with steamed Lobster as main dish. Very nice for 5€ each. We postponed the planned hot springs and got back to the hotel for an early night.

The voyage to Coron

IMG_0502Since we woke up at 0530 we enjoyed electricity and wifi for half an hour and were almost done packing up before lights went out again. We headed off towards Art Café where we would have breakfast and possibly get lunch to go. We ordered two expensive (3€) Mueslis with fresh fruits which were delicious. We also asked how long time it would take them to prepare two pizzas. 20 minutes. The boat would depart in 40 so there was some room for delays.

After 35 minutes we left the place without pizzas and we hurried to the departure pier. There was little stress going on there and after fifteen minutes our pizza delivery arrived. Nice. The boat didn’t leave until 08 for no obvious reason, all passengers where there and the crew just seemed to chill for an hour. Well, we had enough food now with pizzas and cookies. The trip was estimated to take eight hours so we should have been in Coron around 15 but now it looked more like 16. Well well.

The sea was pretty rough and we made bets whether we would make it on time or not, I betted the most pessimistic time, 17. After watching the sun set around 18 I asked one of the crew politely when he thought we’d be in Coron. When he responded “four hours” I realized that this was probably the first realistic time estimate from a Filipino, I still didn’t like the estimate though. Said and done, after approximately four with the stars as only light we finally reached Coron. In the end the trip took 16 hours instead of 8, yay.

We headed towards Sea Dive which had replied that they had vacant rooms to our mail only to find out that they now were full. After grunting about their positive e-mail response the manager was very helpful and arranged another accommodation for us and a tricycle to the place. We checked in, ordered food and ate like we hadn’t seen food before, or at least not in 12 hours. The world was still moving around since the body since long had adapted to the rough sea. After ordering breakfast and having a quick shower we slumped onto our beds and quickly drifted into sleep.