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Survivor
May 4, 2014
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Survivor

The following day I hopped on a flight to Coron in the Palawan islands of the Philippines. This is supposed to be one of the most beautiful places in the world for diving and snorkeling. There are over 7,100 islands in the Philippines and I had the bright idea of booking my accommodation on one of the remote tiny islands in Palawan to get a real feel for Coron. When I arrived at the airport I was picked up in a van and we drove 45 minutes through country side dirt roads, passing tiny huts, emaciated cows and lush green forests. From here I was taken through a tiny one street village with kids and dogs playing in the road and escorted to a little fisherman boat that would whisk me away to my “island paradise”……..or so I thought.

The island was 20 minutes away by boat and when they started the engine, my whole body shook with the humming of the ancient motor. It was so loud I couldn’t even hear myself think, let alone talk but that was ok because the driver didn’t speak english anyways.

Approaching the island

 

The island was completely desolate except for the 7 cottages on the resort, and I use the word resort loosely as this is far from the resorts that I’ve experienced in the past. I will say that it was very charming and well…..rustic? Within minutes of arriving I was covered in mosquito and sandfly bites, apparently New Zealand isn’t the only place that has sandflies. They showed me to my room which was simple and explained to me that the electricity wass shut off promptly at 10pm each evening and if I wanted to charge any electronics I would have to do so in the main dining area (before 10pm of course).

I looked around and said to myself, OK I can totally do this for 3 nights, no biggie! Then I went to the bathroom and realized that the toilet didn’t flush and each time I finished I had to fill up a pail in the shower and pour it down the toilet to make it automatically flush itself. Ok, strike 1 but surely that would be it.

There were 2 other guests in the dining area when I finally made my way over there and they told me that they had a visitor in their room the night before. A visitor? “Yes, we had a gecko in our a room and it freaked us out.” Now while I don’t particularly enjoy the company of geckos (in my room) I’ve tried to get used to them after spending almost a month in Indonesia. They still make me jump when I see them but I’m trying really hard to get over it. Plus they are super tiny like the size of your ring finger so I keep telling myself, there is nothing to worry about, they can’t hurt you and they keep the mosquitos away at night. But still, as I went back to my room that night, I asked one of the workers if he wouldn’t mind checking my room for geckos. I mean, I said I’m trying to get used to them but it would be nice to know before I go to bed that it was clear for the time being. Once he checked I could finally rest in peace.

Around 5:00 AM, I woke up to the sound of the infamous gecko chirp that was clearly inside my room. I don’t know how to explain this noise but once you hear it, you know it’s a gecko. It’s a high-pitched sound and it’s like they are saying “GE-CKO” in a super drawn out way. The sound was much louder than what I was used to in Indonesia and seemed close enough to make me jump out of bed and dart my eyes in all corners of my room to see where it was. All of the sudden I saw it crawling through the space at the top of my door since it didn’t shut all the way (strike 2), and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IT WAS THE BIGGEST THING I”VE EVER SEEN! I started clapping my hands and making wooshing motions to make it go out but it scurried away to another wall in my room. I stood there, panting and thinking ok what can I do? This was definitely not the baby geckos that I was used to, this was the equivalent to a lizard about 3 inches wide and the size of my forearm. The last time I’d seen one this big was at the Toledo Zoo behind a glass cage for gosh sakes! I opened my doors and windows and prayed for it to go out as I got in the shower with all my doors and shower curtain open (I wanted to know if it came in there)! When I got out of the shower, I saw it crawling on the floor and up the leg frame under my bed. I hurriedly zipped up all my bags and went down for breakfast, I just couldn’t be there. As I got down to the dining area all the employees commented that I was up very early. I told them that there was a lizzard in my room and that I couldn’t be in there. They just smiled and said, yes that is natural. Not funny, I thought to myself. I left my doors open for the rest of the day and hoped that it would eventually crawl out from underneath my bed.

That morning I had a snorkeling trip planned. We took the boat out about 15 minutes away to an area that was supposed to have some really great corals. The driver pulled up to shore and said to be careful when I got off the boat because jelly fish were usually near the sand because it was warm there. I was a tad nervous when he said this and I said “are you serious, how likely is it that I will get stung?”. Not likely he said but I just like to tell people. I got off and started to do my snorkeling a little ways out and even got to see a Japanese ship wreck that was sunk during WWII. After some time I decided to get back on the boat and have a break while the others were still swimming. I walked up to the boat and all of the sudden I felt this excruciating pain all over the fronts and backs of my legs. I buckled over and barely made it to shore without falling. I didn’t want to be a baby and waited a minute or 2 to see if it would go away even though it was taking my all to hold it together and was exponentially getting worse by the second. All of the sudden my guide looked over and said, “Amanda are you ok?” I started to speak, “I think I was st…….. and I couldn’t get another word out, I was sobbing like a baby. The pain was excruciating, it felt like someone had taken a blowtorch to my legs. The only (sanitary) thing that helps with a jellyfish sting is vinegar and they didn’t bring it on the boat with them. Who forgets vinegar in jellyfish infested waters? Strike 3!!!

By this time, I couldn’t catch my breath because I was crying so bad so the guide had the boat driver take me back to the resort which was 15 minutes away. It was the longest 15 minutes of my life and I was moaning and weeping in pain. I have a pretty high pain tolerance but this took the cake. As we drove the slash marks of the tentacles that had splashed against my legs were becoming apparent and my skin was raised and puckering. All these things were racing through my head, I”m in the Philippines, I”m going to die from a jellyfish sting and no one will ever know what happened to me. Someone told me that when you are in pain, your emotional level goes “hay-wire” and your logical level is at the ultimate low. Check!! This was definitely happening. We got back to shore and they called for some of the resort workers to get vinegar ASAP. I hobbled back to the dining area, tears still streaming down my face and a really nice worker told me to put my legs on his lap and he just started pouring vinegar all over my legs and rubbing it in. I was only in my bathing suit, soppen wet and still hysterically crying. It was probably a sight to see and I’m thankful for that worker because by the time he was done his shorts were completely soaked in vinegar. It took an hour for the stinging to subside after the vinegar was applied and it’s been 3 days and I still have the slash marks all over my toes, ankles, calves and fronts of my legs. I think since it took so long before it was treated, the marks will last a while. Crossing my fingers that I don’t have scars!

Later that day 2 more people arrived around my age named Marc and Jen and I was glad to make some new friends. They were both nurses and they had a look at my warrior wounds and infected bug bites that I’ve acquired the past few weeks and said that I should be fine.

We went out for more snorkeling that afternoon and I told them to be careful for the jellyfish. As we were getting off the boat, Marc got stung!!! They are really bad here. For the rest of the day, whenever we got on the boat we were tip-toeing, scurrying and skipping through the waters like little kids scared for our lives. Marc is one of the funniest guys I ever met and he said, gosh when I came to Coron today I updated my facebook status to “touched down to paradise” but I think I may have to change it to “touched down into the Hunger Games” since we are hopping, skipping and jumping for our lives.

The whole day I had this feeling of dread when I thought of going back to my room that evening in fear that the giant lizzard would still be there. It had been a good 12 hours and I had hoped that it left but I just had a feeling………….

That evening, I asked one of the workers to come to my room and check it before I went to bed and Marc and Jen came with me for emotional support. The worker checked the room and said, “see there is nothing”. I told him that he needed to actually lift up the beds because thats where I saw it crawl this morning. So he lifted up the first bed on 2 legs and checked and saw nothing. Then he lifted the second bed and said, “all clear”! As he was resting it back down on all fours I saw a little claw pop out from behind the back bed post. “THERE, THERE, THERE I screamed!! It’s on the back leg of the bed post! I knew it was still in there!

He called another co-worker from the hotel to help him trap it as Marc, Jen and I waited patiently at the door peeping in like 5 year olds. The second worker took a towel to swat it away from behind the bed post and it started scurrying. Both of the worker jumped and gasped! See, I wasn’t being a baby, even they thought it was huge. In the meantime, Marc, Jen and I were squealing like pigs at the door. They finally trapped the giant lizard and the guy picked it up with his bare hands and hauled it away. I had them do one final check in the room, including my bathroom and then, since my door didn’t completely shut, I had them butt the bench on my padio up to my door to force it shut. Nothing was getting in or out that evening……including me!

This is a map of the Philippines in orange, I was in the Palawan islands (on the left). You can see a small island that is circled called Busuanga, if you follow the arrow to the right you will see that my island, named Apu was off of Busuanga. I’m sure where I was staying is not on a world map of any sort!

Feeling better post-jellyfish sting and back on the water!

Another visitor in my room, a giant beetle! I put my shoe next to it so you could see how big it was.

Marc, Jen and I walked up the hill behind the resort, it was a steep climb but the views were worth it!

 

played games together.

This is Eliza, her mom cleans the cottage rooms. She was painfully shy and for 2 days I tried to talk to her but she wouldn’t say a word. One day I went up to her and rubbed her shoulder and she immediately became my best friend and we

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