Saturday, July 09, 2011

From The Terra Rika to The Portabaga

It wasn’t too much longer after stopping at the Nam Yang derelict ship that we make the turn off the main road to Pagudpud. When we reach the town square Don pulls over and has the girls ask for directions to the Terra Rika beach resort. Just for verification purposes (we’ve learned our lesson the hard way!), we ask the way from TWO separate people. With info in hand, we head down the road back to the east, hoping to see some signage to guide us along.

Our direction of travel takes us eastward, parallel to the sea that we know to be somewhere to our left. Quite a ways down and we come to a fairly major looking intersection, no traffic but concrete in all four directions. At that spot there is a bank of signs, all for resorts, pointing to the left.

“Look there. Doesn’t that one say Terra Rika?” I declare, pointing to one amongst several.

We are stopped almost right in the middle of the road searching through the various signs. It’s like that a lot over here. You might get just one directional sign, if any, so you have to be ready to stop and ask around, or go back and try again. We try to make it a game, to keep things light.

We angle up a hill and then down to a frontage road for all the resorts along the main beach, called the Saud Beach. There are no more obvious signs that we can see to the resort we want, The Terra Rika; so we are back to stopping and asking, continuing, stopping, asking, until finally, there it is.

I think it’s like that (few directional sign postings) because so many folks don’t actually drive themselves here. To make that point there is practically no parking at the resort at all. We end up pulling the car up the driveway and sidling it in as close to the wall as we can amongst the other half dozen SUVs, all crammed in wherever their drivers can find a space large enough.

Inside the grounds of the resort we finally find someone to tell us that the dive master is out on a dive with a client. We find a place near the bar with a view of the beach to await his return. With nine tanks to fill, I know that even if he returns forthwith that we will be there for a while—might as well order some lunch.

While we wait we take a look around. The Saud beach IS beautiful. Unlike much of the northern coast, which has a lot of dark dirty colored sand, the sand on Saud is bleached bone white.

However, a problem I have with the resorts on Saud is the priciness, especially for a place where the scuba diving and snorkeling is so limited, at least as far as being able to see any decent amounts of sealife. Don priced several of the resorts on earlier trips and each wants upwards of over a $100 a night, which doesn’t sound like so much compared to other places in the world, but it’s a bit rich for my blood.

On that note, the most I’ve ever paid at Puerto Gallera is less than $85 a night at one of the nicest places there, The Big La Laguna Resort; and that’s right on the beach with water filled with sealife. Unfortunately, like much of the northern coast, overfishing up there has thinned out the sealife to the point that there’s not much to see in the water.

Looking at the display fridge I can see they offer Coke Zero, a refreshing beverage that I had been missing from the moment we got to Claveria. Evidently, it’s nowhere to be found in that town. I drink two cans in succession and have my wife grab a few more for the road. At that, we cleaned them out of their stock.

Eating a tuna fish sandwich in the shade of the covered outdoor dining area while watching the beach goers enjoy the sun and fun is a soothing experience. In fact, I don’t mind at all waiting for the dive master to return. And then he does. We spy the dive boat way out on the horizon 10 minutes before they beach right in front of the resort with three people: the diver, the dive master and the boatman. A single paying diver—almost unheard of at the dive resorts on Sabang.

Don does most of the talking. I don’t remember the dive master’s name; it is short, like Len or something. He is a real engaging fellow, loves talking about diving. And better yet, he gives us a very reasonable deal to refill our tanks.

We ask him about what kind of diving they offer from there in Terra Rika and he is pretty honest about it. He said that the sealife is lacking, again, due to overfishing, but he says there are a few pretty interesting terrain features to see. The way he describes it though, the diving at Claveria Lagoon beats the sites around Saud Beach, hands down.

Don says the compressor there is pretty small, but the size evidently belies its effectiveness, since all 9 tanks are filled in short order. All in all, our visit to Terra Rika turns out well. We have a pleasant lunch with a gorgeous view, I get my favorite drinks and a few for the road, and best of all, we get all our tanks ready to complete the rest of our dives all the way through our last day of diving. Not bad at all.

The plan that day is for one last side trip on our way back to getting ready for an afternoon dive at the lagoon. All along, Don has been raving about the natural beauty of a waterfall park that he wants to show us. He says we’ll love it. Until just now, I thought the name of the falls we go to that day is Claveria’s Mabnang Falls, but oops, looking at the photos, the place we actually stop in at is called Portabaga Falls in the town of Sta Praxedes. I better head over to the post in which I THOUGHT I was writing about The Mabnang Falls and repair it. I HATE when I do that!

As I write this I’m downloading the video I take that day of the falls and its associated park area. It really is quite gorgeous; but when we first arrive and pay the small entry fee, I cringe listening to a boom box blasting nasty hip-hop from one of the covered picnic huts from across the stream. There are about a half dozen young people responsible for the profanity laced aural garbage barraging us from across the park at full volume.

I just don’t understand how adults can allow such a thing, especially with small children present. Maybe Filipinos don’t hear the words? Honestly, I don’t know how they can possibly NOT hear the words, so obviously explicit and earsplitting they are; certainly that is true in this case.

Luckily, only a few minutes after we arrive they turn off that inappropriate rubbish, pack up and go. I doubt that I could have stayed much longer if they hadn’t. Well, I guess I could have since I had my earplugs in as soon as I found myself accosted by the profane earsplitting noise that passes for music for some.

I actually liked rap back when it still was fun and relatively tame and funky back in the 80s, but once it got “gangsterized,” in other words, foul, and they started calling it “hip-hop,” THAT is when they lost me.

If we don’t have plans to get a dive that day we probably take a dip in the collecting pool at the base of the falls. I take the camera right up close to the deafeningly falling water and begin to shoot the video that can be seen here:

Ever interested in all things nature, in this case the botanical features, I want to capture the gorgeous jungle plants on display throughout the recreational area. Someone went to great lengths planting the plethora of plant life, and my hat is off to them. For me, there is nothing more beautiful than the greenery available in a wild wet tropical setting, as showcased there at The Portabaga Falls.

I do have to make one slightly negative, slightly humorous observation though. Don and I went over to the restroom building and discovered that the plumbing has gone awry. A plastic pipe providing fresh water for flushing has broken off, allowing a spray of water to soak anyone simply trying to just get in the door.

Who knows how long it had been broken? It’s typical in these parts that no one will bother to report stuff like that. They make do, ignore, leave it alone; you name it, anything but report it or try to fix it. My own girls do it. I always have to inspect their bathroom for problems since they just do not want to let me in on it for some reason—laziness, lack of initiative, fear, I have NO idea. The same thing happens at the gym, where people will either break a piece of equipment or just not report it when they find it. It drives me nutso.

Don and I inspect the broken pipe and realize that the end piece has come loose and fallen off. We find the missing piece; someone has actually perched it right on the wall next to where it fell off. We simply reinsert it into the spewing end of pipe on the wall and have it fixed in moments. Well, not fixed, but at least now folks can enter the building without getting soaked.

“I’ll bet it’s been like that all day,” he says.

We chuckle “That’s okay, we’re here now. Everything is going to be ALL right!”

I add smugly self-satisfied, “Hey, the US Air Force has landed and the situation is WELL in hand!” (Maybe you can guess what branch of service we both retired from?)

Americans are such arrogant busy-body know-it-alls, eh? But actually, in OUR case, it could just be our military background that makes us like this. It is a culture that encourages traits like initiative, enterprise, diligence, and perseverance. When we see something wrong, we are compelled to identify it, and then repair it if we can. And if we CAN’T, it REALLY bothers us, to the point of distraction.

I think it has a lot to do with the way we nonstop point out problems and shortcomings all around us, and then attempt to make it right, IF we can. I don’t think I was always like this, but almost three decades in “our” service definitely imbued it.

Sometimes though, I consider it more a curse than a blessing, especially living here, a place where we see so many things
we want to “fix,” but are usually absolutely powerless to do anything about it. So what do we do? We used to call it “WBMC!” “Whine, bitch moan and COMPLAIN!”

(DEEP breath…. Sigh….) Of course, the natural beauty of much of this country does a lot to smooth our easily furrowed brows. For instance, I took a photo of this pastoral setting on our way back to the hotel in Claveria. Click on it to see what I mean. Beautiful....!


Anonymous said...

Good read Phil. Gorgeous scenery indeed. At least you could have showered with all that water spraying everywhere. Let's just be glad that is not coming from your daughters bathroom. You would be swimming in your own house. Take care, J.C.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Thanks. I'm sure even MY girls would let me know if their bathroom started to spray water like a fountain. I HOPE so anyway.

boracay resort said...

It must have been so fun and relaxing!:) Thinking about the fact that many people appreciate staying in the beach really makes me happy for I am a beach buddy. Thanks for sharing this Phil.