I’ve seen the Philippines from the air, on foot, on a bike, underwater but never from a catamaran. The next 9 days were going to include a lot of things that I’d never done. I’ve never slept in a boat, I’ve never sailed longer than a day, and certainly never thought about sailing through the middle of a country which is comprised of 7000+ islands.
THE VOPO EARTH VOYAGE: PHILIPPINES EDITION 2019
The crew assembled into the van and promptly left the manic streets of Manila. Four-hours of driving, with a necessary peanut butter pit stop, landed us in a coastal town called Laiya. Considering we were still very close to Manila, this beach was awesome. The water was clean with great visibility, with lots of local running around the beach. Jet skiers and kayakers paraded the water as we boarded onto the catamaran. A few dingy rides and everyone was ready to set sail.
Accustoming ourselves with the boat, Jackson and I had our own 2x2m quadrant up the front of the catamaran. It was tight living quarters, but I didn’t plan to do anything more than sleeping down there. They always say it’s better to be up on the deck, and this was no exception. Fresh air, comfy beanbags, and sunset views – up top was the place to be. Once the sunset had passed, and we’d smashed our first dinner it was time for the first sleep onboard the cat.
SLEEPING ON A CATAMARAN
It’s interesting sleeping inside the hull of a catamaran. Noises come from everywhere. Waves would bounce back and forth off the outside of the catamaran’s hull, at first, this was relaxing. Overnight, our captain made the call to set sail at 1 am. With the wind in the sails also came bigger waves. The masked creaked, doors slammed, and the banging of the waves echoed throughout our rooms underneath the deck. All this was paired with the continually changing axis on which my body rested. Some times I felt like I was laying on a flat plain, other times I thought I was going to roll out the cabin window. Over the 7 days, I became a lot more comfortable sleeping onboard the catamaran.
OUR NEW HOME
Our catamaran named Naya was our new home for the next week. I had a small routine develop as the days and nights passed. Each morning, without fail, we’d get up for sunrise. Being able to see sunrise and sunset from the catamaran I think was one of my favourite parts of the week. It is truly special being able to see a full 360degree view of the sunrise from the ocean. Sometimes it felt like I could watch four different sunrises at once. Every direction had its own unique cloud formation above the horizon and they interpreted the morning light in different ways. From here, I’d try and get a few notes and thoughts in my journal before breakfast.
Once breakfast was devoured (the chefs put on a magnificent spread for us each day), I’d read in the sun for 3 hours and relax around different parts of the deck.
Sailing forced me to slow down. I never want to be living life in a way where I am ‘forced’ to do something, but I think sailing forces positive actions. I was forced to slow down, to rest, to think, to journal and to read. Obviously, I didn’t have to read or write, but with an abundance of hours to utilise with no distractions from the internet, it was wonderfully productive. We were so in touch with the ocean, feeling every ripple and oscillation of the waves beneath us. I’m sure any creative would agree, that there is an endless well of inspiration that can be pulled from beautiful and vast environments. When we weren’t in the middle of the big blue abyss, there would often be islands on the horizon parallel to the catamaran. Staring at the outlines of the islands for hours upon hours was a slow way to observe and learn about the new places we were sailing to and past.
RUNNING WHILST SAILING
It has to be close to impossible right? That’s what the crowds will try to tell you anyway. Any usual traveller would typically resign to the fact that exercise will need to be put on the back burner whilst on a sailing trip. Jackson and I aren’t your typical backpacking travelers. With four pairs of runners in my luggage this year, I wasn’t going allow these to sit and gather salt. Finding places to run proved to be challenging but also doubled as highlights from the week.
The runs included:
– 11km around Cresta de Gallo. A sandbar in the middle of the ocean.
– A 10km return dingy ride in choppy waters, with a 10km run in the middle.
– 12km up back 170m of pebbley beach in pitch black under a blanket of stars. We also ventured in a forest where a huge python resided. I’m glad we didn’t come across that in the darkness.
Here’s a ‘vlog; from one of our runs. The more we run and travel, the more interesting the challenging weeks seem to get.
Once arriving at Danjugan island, the team was taken to Bulata for a town clean up organised by SWEEEP. It was a super enjoyable cleanup for many reasons. The cleanup was very structured and also involved all the school children from the village. They were given small white-boards to record and categorise every piece of trash collected. It was no surprise that plastic wrappers and bottles made up the majority of the trash we found. This is the main focus of the village, to reduce plastic use. Whilst we were there, they opened their first ‘no waste sari sari store’. Sari-Sari stores are essentially local town convenience stores which stock things like coffee, sweets, shampoo, and snacks. It’s these products that end up covering the beaches once they have been used. Seeing the first store was very inspiring for us and emotional for the new owner. It was a pleasure to be a part of.
Across the week, there were many other things we did. I think the pictures across the article and to come will tell the rest of the story well.
My first sailing experience was very enjoyable; a time to reflect, to think, to learn, to read, to sunbake and to run in random places.
Here are some very vague notes from the phone of where we sailed through.
Laiya > Bantincillo Island
Bantoncillo Island (Gakot Island)
1. Hidden beach
2. Gakot White Beach
3. East Beach
4. Gakot Rock
Bantoncillo > Tablas Island
Tablas > Romblon Island
Visited Bon Bon Beach.
Romblon Island > Sibuyan Island
Sibuyan Island > Cresta de Gallo
Visit and run at Cresta de Gallo Sandbar.
Cresta de Gallo > Gigantes