We were bound for Port Barton. Back to the mainland, after a wonderful 2-night stay on Cacnipa Island – a highly recommended jaunt considering the dusty madness of the nearest spit of mainland. We had a delicious breakfast, I settled the bill in cash, we took the 11am boat to the place of flashpacking paradise.
When we arrived I felt glad we’d stayed on an island. Port Barton, beautiful though the beach is, was crowded, full of sun-kissed Spaniards and boat tour sellers. Beyond the beach it was a dusty nightmare, construction everywhere as the locals – and tourists / investors, try to desperately to build something – a guesthouse, a restaurant – to cash in on the tourism boom.
Some, like Nellie, had been doing this for years. Nellie’s Tourist Inn, offers two rooms with a shared kitchen and bathroom, and a living room with an extra bed. It has the feel of somebody’s house because it is exactly that. Nellie has been renting rooms of her home for years. It’s 5-stars on all the websites. I suppose because it offers the backpackers the illusion of staying like a local – and because it’s particularly cheap, and the hippies on daddies gap year allowances love that. A lovely, caring, sweet old lady, Nellie has a heart of gold. We left our bags as she hadn’t cleaned the room yet, and we headed out into the dusty streets and down to the beach to a restaurant which offered wifi and charging sockets – a novelty in Port Barton. Smartphone zombies were already there as we walked into the expansive, tastefully furnished place, staring blankly at the rectangular illuminated hypnotising anti-social lures, oblivious to the paradise around them.
We ordered food, a san miguel apiece, and joined the virtual world too. One chap opposite us had a funny ipad with a foldable keyboard, and he was busy ‘working.’ The modern traveller- the flashpacker – is very evident here.
Later we headed for a walk to White Beach, taking a shortcut through mangroves and snake-infested grasslands. We headed along a stony dirt track, skirting the coastline, before arriving at the beginning of a beautiful cove, known as Palm Beach. We needed to pay 40 pesos each to a woman manning a wooden shack which also sold water, soft drinks and beer. A handful of travellers were chillaxing in the shade of swaying palms. The water was transparent, smooth, not deep. We went no further. We never made it to White Beach. And so we spent an hour or so relaxing in the water, soaking in the beautiful surrounds.
We walked back a scenic route, along the dusty road that is being widened. It’s a mess at the moment. The whole of Port Barton is a dusty mess, and quite possibly a health hazard. As we approached town I noticed hastily constructed wooden ‘villas’ and guesthouses, a tourist village of sorts being created on the outskirts to house the sudden influx of tourists caused by the current spike in popularity of Port Barton.
Nellie herself confirmed the extent of the problem. She’d had to turn people away, no rooms were available at all in the town. As if by way of example that night after we had come back from a good night out we saw a Spanish couple in the living room. “We had no place to stay. Nellie is so kind, she has let us stay here in the living room,” they beamed.
That night we had gone to a reggae bar with good live music, and an international crowd of all ages, races, and persuasions. Across from us was a huge American man sat, buttons on his shirt popped open (I doubted they could ever be fastened) to reveal an incredible huge, smooth, tanned boulder of a stomach. It was the finest beer belly I had ever seen. He looked 9 months pregnant. With him was a bored looking Filipina, around 20 years of age. True love. You see all sorts in the Philippines. At the next bar we saw an old German, cap and dark sunglasses on, with a young Latino boy, covered in tattoos. The two did not speak. They only drank Red Horse, silently. They were in exactly the same place when we returned for a nightcap 2 hours later. This is the Philippines, it is better not to think too much of such scenes.
It’s a relaxing scene, Port Barton. Nothing heavy, nothing crazy. It’s better that way.