It was great that my bus driver picked me up at my guest house right on time at 5:30. Things went downhill from there. First he circled the block for no apparent reason. Then, instead of hitting a main road, he made several turns without ever stopping to pick up other passengers. Once he stopped at a restaurant, where I assumed we were meeting someone. I could see through the window that he just sat at a table for about 5 minutes, never talked to anybody, then got back on the bus. Finally we entered a bus terminal, where he drove straight through, said something to a guard on the way out and off we went. We returned to the restaurant where he sat for a while, and then continued back into the heavy traffic. Of course, he was texting while driving. We got to a second terminal about an hour later. Here the driver said something about more passengers, then vanished. A young guy who introduced himself as Pabs, a dispatcher, jumped on and chatted with me for a minute. He said we needed to 15 or 20 minutes for other passengers, and I could walk around. More than an hour passed– no drive, no Pabs, no other passengers. Someone was meeting me in El Nido and at this point there was no way to be on time or to notify them. Finally Pabs came back and told me my driver was having trouble with his blood pressure and went home, but they had a spot for me on another bus. I was thrilled to see Selena and Abel, the Spanish couple from our trip to the underground river.
So, finally, off we go, cramped but reasonably comfortable. Then we got to the bridge. Or should I say, not bridge. The bridge on the main road had apparently been damaged somehow, we took a road where the bridge was currently under construction. All they had were a series or support beams, and a makeshift wooden walkway going across. All the traffic coming from both directions had to stop, walk across, and change busses on the other side. This took forever. I’m not sure how they arranged who got on which bus, but I was happy to get on a much roomier, more comfortable bus. By now it’s 10:30. We finally got on the road and traveled exactly 18 minutes and stopped for dinner.
The driver said not to worry, that he would take everyone to their hotels. I didn’t know anything about mine. I already knew I couldn’t make the last shuttle to Tapik Beach, so the girl at the desk recommended a place that later turned out to belong to a relative. The first red flag was when the driver, nor anybody on the bus had heard of Abus Travel Lodge. El Nido has a lot of lodging but it’s not that big. He took me to the bus stop, and the poor guy that was supposed to pick me up actually waited 2 hours. Well, you know how they say to be careful what you wish for? I really wanted to see the inside of homes that are constructed of bamboo, corrugated metal, and maybe some concrete. When we stopped in such a neighborhood at 2:00 a.m., all my middle class bias kicked in and my spirit of adventure vanished. The room itself turned out to at least have concrete walls and its own bathroom/shower. But I slept with my hoodie on because I was afraid to put my head on the pillow. So much for being worldly and open minded.