Puerto Galera Part 2 – above water

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After four days of scuba diving in Puerto Galera, I went down with an ear infection. I looked at returning home early, but discovered there were plenty of other alternative activities to enjoy. Plus, ever the eternal optimist, I was hoping my ear infection might even heal quickly.

Across the inner bay from Badladz was Puerto Galera Yacht Club. I had been there a couple of days earlier to sample their highly acclaimed baby back ribs, and in between delicious mouthfuls,  The Commodore addressed a packed clubhouse as a three day regatta was about to start. I remembered he mentioned that any visitors wanting to sail simply needed to turn up at 9am every morning and a place on a yacht would be found. So off I hopped to the yacht club – with my water logged ear and painkillers  Here is the clubhouse – I was  waiting for the skippers brief and was early of course…

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Although it had been 10 years since I had sailed, and even longer since I raced, I love sailing – a love that developed over several teenage family holidays on my late fathers boat. I was immediately offered a place on a Jeanneau 47 called Dany II, owned and skippered by John, a charming British Canadian retired mining executive who has lived and worked in the Philippines for a number of years. We chatted for an hour or so, then we were off.

Once onboard, we were joined by a crowd of people, both crew and other passengers, including John’s girlfriend and first mate/navigator Gemma. After a pursuit start (handicap applied at start of race), our course was out of Puerto Galera, turning North to Chicken Feather Island.  This  initially was a very nice run. To you land lubbers – that’s when the wind is following you. We initially had the sails goose, or gull winged – as below – although later we put up the spinnaker – the large balloon type sail.

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The course then developed to a bit of a beam reach – that is wind is at right angles to the direction you are going. We then turned for the brief passage across to Bonito island, then turning South West to Talipanan point, off Puerto Galera. This was a nice long close reach – when the wind direction is closer to the bow – that’s the pointy front end! For most of this leg, we had our legs over the side. This obviously helped in some way, as we overhauled one of the other racing yachts. Always a nice feeling when you go past a competitor!

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Just as we approached Talipanan Point, a small pod of dolphins joined us for a few minutes. Jack, one of the crew for the day, identified them as spinner dolphins – and they obliged, treating us to a couple of ariel acrobatics. This absolutely delighted a couple of the other passengers who had never seen dolphins before. We then turned back towards Puerto Galera, passing two more boats and White Beach – with all the parasenders/parasailors and bananas boats. We were fourth over the line and it was a very pleasant sail of just under four hours.

The next day, we were reduced in numbers, but had the racing brains from Bill, the club race committee chairman (who was simply crew) and Clint Eastwood look-alike David, who owns “X”, one of the faster boats based in Puerto Galera. He had hydraulic issues so wasn’t racing. Chatting with him, I learned that his boat is a Californian made Santa Cruz 50 and something of a rare classic in American yacht racing circles. Only 27 remain and he lives on his – truly living the dream.

After crossing the start line inside Puerto Galera Bay, we headed North Eastwards towards Escarceo point. There was a bit more wind, and we were beating into it somewhat. Again, legs over the side. As we approached the point itself, we tacked close enough to be right over The Canyons, one of my dive sites – both John and Bill were divers and knew! Plus a small dive boat of hardy divers were bobbing about looking at us before doing their back roll into the deep!

Soon we were at the finish line, a smaller point closer inshore within Escarceo Bay – again, close to a couple of other dive sites I had in my log book. We were third over the line and had a few beers as we waited for the club tender to take us ashore for the prize giving. Enough time for a team picture…

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A BYO picnic and BBQ accompanied the prize giving at a members private residence. it was a very nice and relaxing end to a regatta. Here is John at the prize giving …

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Sailing back afterwards was lovely. Not only was the wind comfortably behind us, but I got a chance to helm and we all chatted about sailing. Amazingly, most of us learnt to sail from our fathers, with one late adopter who learned from paddle boarding in Hawaii. All too soon the sun began to get low, just as we approached  Puerto Galera.

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I had two lovely days on the water, shook off my rusty sailing shackels and was spun back to my teenage and Naval sailing days. Thank you very much John, and to the club for making me feel so welcome.

The next day, my ear felt better, but it still wasn’t right so decided no more diving. It was my last day too, so I decided to visit one of the local beauty spots – Tamaraw Falls, about 30 minutes from Puerto Galera. I took a jeepney – the Philippino public transport system which is basically a very utilitarian stretch jeep that can accommodate around 20 adults. Of course, as it was New Years Eve, inside my jeepney were 23 adults and 8 children plus luggage. I couldn’t see who or what was on the roof, but managed this quick photo as it pulled away from Tamaraw Falls….

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The falls were beautiful and after taking pictures, the main thing to do was to swim in the pools below the falls…

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Whilst I was admiring the views, I bumped into Kathy, one of my American diving friends. She, her son Bentley and Alex, another from their party, were also taking time out from diving to explore the countryside.  Kathy immediately asked if I wanted to join them, as they were going on to explore the more peaceful and remote Tukuran Falls. So I graciously accepted.

The journey to both Tamaraw and Tukuran falls followed a very scenic road that hugged the Mindoro coast, providing fantastic views of hidden bays and beaches.  To get to the Tukuran falls, we turned off the main road towards more the mountains, passing remote villages, beautiful views and paddy fields …

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Soon the jeepney could go no further. As we came out of the jeepney, vendors immediately surrounded us.  It was either a gentle 1 hour hike to the falls or you could take a water buffalo cart. It was a glorious day, so Colorado mountain girl Kathy and the rest of us opted to hike.  It was a good decision as we saw so much more of the beautiful countryside and the people that live in and around it. The world also seemed to go at a bygone pace.  Here is a water buffalo taking a young boy for a walk…

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Throughout our gentle hike, we were accompanied by two vendors, who had stalls at the falls.  They picked wild goodies for us to taste, such as coffee beans and cacao fruit.  I had never tasted fresh raw “chocolate” beans – amazingly,  they really do taste of chocolate – unlike the coffee beans, which were bitter!  Here is Alex with the cacao beans we tasted…

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Soon we were at the falls, which were more like big steps.  The translation of Tukuran is “Hidden Paradise” – the falls are well named.  It was a very tranquil and stunning spot…

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We stayed there for an hour or so – I didn’t take a dip as I wanted to keep my ear dry, but it was fun watching the others swim, jump and generally enjoy the peaceful and refreshing waters.  We also bought a few souvenirs – which you do feel obliged to buy.  I didn’t have a problem with this though. The locals have a subsistence existence and this is a main earner for them. Returning to the  jeepney, we passed though a village and more charming glimpses of the simple and happy life the locals live, despite not having mod cons such as Internet …

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Soon the day was over and we were heading back to Puerto Galera, the end of the year and packing! Thank you Kathy for the invitation to join you – it was a lovely day.

Despite my dive holiday ending up only “half” a dive holiday, I really enjoyed the alternative activities.  I can highly recommend sailing or exploring inland- the falls were especially good to see, particularly Tukuran Falls.  Puerto Galera really does has a lot to offer beyond the usual beaches, bars and dive scene and is truly a beautiful and relaxing  place.  It was a good decision to see the year out here and the final sunset of 2013 …

Sunset

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