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Erlittop Garden, Sibaltan, El Nido
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Our next stop on the island of Palawan called for us to head north to the town of El Nido. We booked a small B&B nestled on the northeastern coast of the island called Erlittop Garden. The most recommended way to get to El Nido from Puerto Princesa was a van transfer (pretty harmless, right?). A 15 passegner van picked us up mid day in Puerto Princesa - we were the first ones to be picked up for the journey. The van didn’t take long to suddenly feel cramped and claustrophobic. We went from stop to stop and slowly the 15 passenger van began to fill up with other tourists, locals, and what looked like deliveries that needed to head north as well. With the van now full, we were ready for our six hour trek up north. Those next six hours were probably the most frightening six hours I’ve ever experienced. We were on a single lane highway with no speed limits and a driver who drove like he was in a Nascar race, except this race included dodging stray dogs, weaving around jeepneys, motorbikes, and at times gaping holes in the middle of the road. With each turn and each hill we went over, my grip on the handle and seat tightened more and more. It also didn’t help that the proximity of the road to the mountainside cliffs that led into the ocean was practically nonexistent. To make matters even more nerve racking, we drove through a tropical rainstorm as the entire island was feeling effects of Typhoon Basyang that was currently over the southeastern part of the Philippines at the time. It was absolutely terrifying but at the same time exhilarating. I don’t know how the driver could see in the downpour but he was just trekking along. I just had to close my eyes and pray. We had a few stops on the way to break up the anxiety of the trip, but by that time the ride was just more fun to see if we were actually going to make it to El Nido. Thankfully we did.

We dropped off passengers in the main tourist area of El Nido, which was on the western coast. We, on the other hand, had another hour east to travel to our accommodations at Erlittop Garden. It was a long treacherous trip but we finally arrived. It was pitch black dark when we arrived, and we had no idea where we were but we were just glad to be alive and out of that van. We followed a dimly lit, steep stair path that led us to their welcome/dining area, and we were quickly greeted with warm hospitality from all of the staff. They arranged welcome drinks and a delicious dinner as we waited for our room to be prepared. A calamansi shake and a Red Horse paired well with a fresh vegetable salad and a pork sisig. After dinner and some general information, they led us to our room down a path of perfectly arranged stepping stones. We gazed at the tall trees that lined the path, while walking by various tents and open air huts. We could barely see with the sparse lighting and our phone flashlights. We got to our room and it hit us - we were on the side of a mountain, in the middle of the jungle, sleeping in a mosquito net, next to a gigantic lizard who so thoughtfully greeted us. It all started to sink in as we stood in our room, enjoying the last bit of light as the electricity allotment for the B&B was coming to an end for the day. We were definitely out of our comfort zone.

Welp, as you probably could have guessed, no, that was not the best night of sleep I have ever gotten. We were hot. We were sweaty. There was zero breeze. And of course, there was our large reptile friend watching over us all night. It was definitely one of the longer nights I’ve experienced. We did finally catch a break in the wee hours of the morning when the storm from earlier came back around. The winds and rain picked up, giving us a bit of relief from the heat. All different types of sounds were coming through the bamboo windows and the mosquito net was the only thing keeping us safe. What. A. Night. What a day!

Morning came. We survived. Everything was calm and everything was beautiful. Suddenly everything was at peace. Erlittop was our beautiful home for the next two days. The grounds were gorgeous. The different huts were spread across the mountainside and surrounded by abundant greenery. There were hammocks and gazebos placed throughout. Stray dogs and chickens roamed around the property while travelers from all over the world did the same. The staff was welcoming and friendly as our favorites, Albert and Kasey, always made sure we were taken care of throughout our stay. The food was great and we were extremely thankful for the strong Wifi at the welcome center, as we planned our next activities for the coming days. The views were simply amazing overlooking the Sibaltan Bay. We were in a different world. I will have to admit, we were quite a bit unprepared for this rustic experience and yet, it was everything we were hoping it would be. Some of our best stories came from our time at Erlittop, and at the end of the day, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.