|An oncoming RORO bus swirls up a cloud of dust on the unpaved section between Taytay and El Nido|
In a country beset with tourist infrastructure woes, it's good to know of some positive changes. Let's look at El Nido for instance. For a long time it's been one of those destinations that seem difficult to get to. It's either one gets on an expensive flight from Manila or, like most everyone else starting from Puerto Princesa (the capital city of the island province), take the longer route via a partially paved road on a 5-8 hour dusty, bone-jarring ordeal.
|An El Nido-bound Eulen Joy Liner takes a mega-load of cargo, including a wooden bed|
|Vans bound for different parts of Palawan|
Let's take the longer route, shall we? Up until last month, visitors had to take either the old stalwarts like (A) Sweety Transport and Eulen Joy Liner or (B) any of the shuttle vans like Fortwally and Lexus. I toyed with those options, the buses cost only PHP 350 but takes longer, between 6-8 hours with frequent stops. The airconditioned vans, meanwhile, cost PHP 700, takes only 5 hours but is awfully cramped.
|Backpackers will rejoice at the better leg room|
Enter RORO Bus in the picture. I honestly didn't know about this one until the morning I left Puerto Pension. The tricycle driver I hired for the transfer to the bus terminal in San Jose casually mentioned this new bus service. They only started operating last February 14. When I saw how big, how clean, how new Roro bus is compared to the competition, I knew right away this will be a more tolerable ride to El Nido.
|A rooster hitches a ride|
|Baby backpacker on board (from Germany)|
There are both airconditioned (PHP 485) and non-aircon (PHP 350) buses leaving at different times between 4:00 AM and 10:00 PM. As of now, these are the schedules of RORO buses originating from both Puerto Princesa and El Nido with stops in Roxas and Taytay:
6:00 AM - airconditioned
10:00 AM - airconditioned
2:00 PM - airconditioned
6:00 PM - airconditioned
10:00 PM - airconditioned
|Road improvement makes it way to northern Palawan|
|Tinola in Taytay|
I arrived at San Jose at 7AM which meant the next bus leaving was a non-aircon. I got in, found a window seat in this 2 x 3 seating arrangement. It promptly left as scheduled at 8 AM, stopping by Roxas and Taytay for food/bathroom breaks. After the last stop, the road got rough and really dusty. Pavement is currently being done so things should improve in the next several months.
|RORO bus terminal in El Nido|
|The concrete road seamlessly enters the jungle|
On the way back to Puerto Princesa, I tried the airconditioned bus service. It's worth noting that seats can actually be reserved the day before at the terminal which should be useful during peak season. Like the non-aircon buses, it picks up passengers and allow disembarkation even in the middle of nowhere (a good portion of the road is still through a jungle!). I really didn't mind as the trip still clocked at 6 hours both ways.
By the time the road finally gets paved completely, El Nido will finally be accessed more easily, more quickly. Let's just hope El Nido doesn't go the way of Boracay.