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This is meant to be a roadtrip.. All we're doing is driving!

Part One

sunny 34 °C

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Party of Six: Matt, Gregg, Karen, Tanya, Me and Ryan

Well we fell at the first hurdle of our road trip, surviving the epic 6 hour bus drive over potholes, invisible speed humps and dodging the occasional road chicken, we emerged in Baler about 2 inches shorter, and decided we weren't going any further. Totally worth it! We'd arrived in paradise and it was freakin' beautiful. large_IMG_0632.jpglarge_185.jpg

Baler, Aurora; our base for the week was also the location for parts of the film Apocalypse Now (it makes Vietnam look good).100_2296.jpg100_2298.jpg100_2297.jpg103.jpg

Remember that Charlie don't surf? Well, apparently now he does.
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Ryan's Birthday!
The beach out the front of our beautiful hotel was like glass; perfect for swimming, tanning, long romantics walks and whatever else you put in your online dating profile... but not so great for surfing. So we ventured half an hour down the road and dragged out the mals, which are kind of like paddling a boat. It was Matt, Tanya and Ryan's first time learning to surf and they smashed it!
Here he is in fine form, catching his first wave ever... 309.jpg
and here he is in even finer form... 100_2303.jpg
I mean, you're on holidays, so why not celebrate turning 29 by getting naked and chasing Matt down the hallway?
Happy birthday Ryan :)
The next day, a few Coronas convinced him he was able to defy the laws of physics and this beer bottle remained in the corner of our balcony for the entire week.

This particular day, we conveniently forgot to apply sunscreen before heading into the water. Big mistake! We were all feeling slightly crispy and medium to well-done and so recovered with the biggest, fattest lunch in a little road side restaurant featuring some mystery ingredients we would prefer never to disclose. remarkably_sunburnt.jpg
I have to admit if I had started this whole Asian Invasion being picky and sifting through my meals, I would have starved. Always better to the just close your eyes and enjoy.

Here is just a sample of how well we ate on the beach in Baler. 100_2363.jpg
100_2369.jpg Here is me enjoying a Rocky Road Frost; like drinking easter eggs. Something that good shouldn't be legal! We even ate chocolate fondue. 099.jpg Rosa cooked me breakfast in bed every morning; Filipino Beef Tapa + columbian coffee = spoiled rotten!!

Bahia de Baler:
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The 'unique' restaurant beach shack with the live band, surrounded by hundreds of coconut palms but runs out of coconut shakes, and plays highly questionable music throughout dinner...
Weird Al Yankovic: You Don't Love Me Anymore

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We only wanted to enjoy a beer and a cocktail on the balcony until Mr 'Unleash the Animal' decided to pick a fight with the poor waiter on his break. We didn't manage to translate much but I think his actions speak louder than words....

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Like a bunch of 5-year olds we required plenty of time out for naps to prevent tantrums.
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Baler Beach:
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And I'm ready to go swimming!

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Gregg having a rinse off after a heavy surf session
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This is Chris; a mate of Karen's AND a pro surfer, who, when he wasn't playing tour guide or surfing instructor for Charlie Does, had but one intention; to make the rest of us look bad. It only became a problem on the last day when Gregg tried to upstage him, stacked and heard an almighty CRACK! coming from his foot. 100_2432.jpg This was the end of Gregg's surfing holiday.

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Local fishing village in the center of town

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This is actually NOT the scariest toilet I've seen in Asia...

Driving Around Aurora:
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The view from atop a weather station; the million dollar view which nearly cost us our sanity trying to get up the ridiculously steep one-way road.
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Quality main roads around Baler.

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We love Baler locals.... 100_2314.jpg...Yes we do!!!

Drifting away into a paradise sunset.
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This says "Having fun... thrilled you're not here."

Check out tomorrow's blog for our trip to a waterfall and the conclusion to our Baler road trip!

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Posted by VascoDiveMaster 20:10 Archived in Philippines Tagged waterfalls sunsets_and_sunrises beaches people parties trees rainforest beer sunset restaurant beach surf jungle breakfast pink philippines summer sun surfing cuisine sunglasses paradise national bay tropical tour scuba underwater real coconut photography scuba_diving turtle treasure subic sunburn apocalypse now swell surfboard sunbathe theme_park baler Comments (1)

Cheese Burger in Paradise

sunny 32 °C

I like seeing people working hard... Mark and Jayson got stuck sorting a least half a container load of masks, snorkels and fins, some of which Gregg is donating to deserving kids, the others will now be included in any discover scuba and open water divers courses!100_2266.jpg
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This box, like three others is filled entirely with snorkels. Slight overkill.
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Here is the boss, supervising operations...

Plenty of construction and interior decoration taking place at Vascos recently. Lolo is slaving over the timber varnish for Brian's latest venture; The Treasure Trove. 100_2270.jpg100_2269.jpg
Soon to be a very unique gift shop next to the restaurant where Brian's going to start selling a couple of his particularly special blue-glazed chinese antiques.
I like seeing people working hard.

Felt a bit down today actually. I can compare my life almost singularly to one Simple Plan song. Tragic.

....On second thoughts, Jimmy Buffet's 'Cheesburger in Paradise' might also do it.
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[Heading out today on our epic surfing road trip. So excited! Details when I return in 7-10 days :)]

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 23:19 Archived in Philippines Tagged boats surf market shopping storm philippines summer sun surfing paradise resort scuba marine manila underwater scuba_diving souvenirs luzon south_east_asia swell subic_dive_centre uss_new_york surfboard wreck_diving baler Comments (0)

To Much Excitement

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We have a positive outcome from meetings between all the local dive shops and SBMA, thats Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. Following some tragic recent events on the USS New York, SBMA banned diving on any and all wrecks in the bay for a week while they deliberated changes to diving permits etc. So we have been left a little stir crazy and I had begun to form a salty crust around the edges. But finally!!! We have received the good news that not only will they reinstate diving permits for our favourite wreck diving sites, they will FINALLY allow diving on the Japanese WW2 ships; Oryuko Maru and Sein Maru! This would be the only two wreck dives in the whole of Subic Bay, situated at recreational depth that I havn't dived yet! It's about time they stepped up and realised to significance of the diving here in Subic. Thanks to the USS New York, Subic Bay is still the only place in the world where you can dive a World War I battle ship. Here here!

On a more exciting note, yesterday I had a delightful girls day with Yellow and Kiyo at 'The Ritz' spa in town. We had swedish massages and lunch. Pure relaxation and gossip ;-) 100_2240.jpg Closely followed by a big barbecue dinner on Gregg's balcony with the whole family and many friends and beers. What more can you ask for?

On an even MORE exciting note, Ryan finally arrived yesterday. Very considerately flying into Manila at 6am so I had to get up at 3.30 but I forgive him because of the present he bought me.... a brand new PINK dive computer!!!!
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Here's me; the spoiled brat haha

On an even MORE exciting note, Gregg, his sister Tanya, Aussie mate Matt, lady-friend Karen, me and Ryan are embarking on a week to 10 day long road trip tomorrow, ending up in the northern most point of Luzon province in search of some awesome surf breaks! I can't wait to get some photos up, after googling some of our destinations, I am just that little bit too excited to sleep. But for now, I am off to take my pretty pink computer, and my special man out for their maiden dive adventure.... Woo hoo!!!!

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 12:50 Archived in Philippines Tagged beer diving beach pink philippines surfing america road scuba trip dive computer free roadtrip bbc clams vascos barretto Comments (2)

Creatures from the Twilight Zone

Just a photographic blog... They speak for themselves :)

sunny 34 °C

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Cerianthus filiformis or 'Tube Anemone'

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Nudibranch; or more correctly, Phyllidia ocellata

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Squid. Supersized!

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Phyllidia varicosa

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Chromodoris willani

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I'm pretty certain they based a Star Wars character on this octopus.

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Phyllidiopsis pipeki

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Phyllidiopsis pipeki... yes I'm a nerd. So what!?

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A crazy new species of nudibranch that not even Jayson has ever seen in the bay before, nor does it appear exactly in my Nudibranch Behaviour book (my brother is saying NERD!). The best I can assume is that he is an Aegires serenae; a Western pacific dorid nudibranch. Interestingly we are on the wrong side of the Philippines to be in the Western pacific....

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Yes, I know you've already seen him, but he definitely fits with the theme!

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 18:35 Archived in Philippines Tagged padi museum philippines paradise national scuba sharks wreck mystery dynasty pottery species discovery octopus zambales ceramics anemone ming scientific nudibranch salvage deputy wreck_diving flatworm Comments (0)

Treasure Hunting!!!

The irony of writing a blog strictly about diving: The blog which has so far received the most hits is my Disneyland special...

sunny 35 °C

Today I found out the hard way that you must be on your best behaviour when applying for a visa extension.

I got in some serious trouble when I allegedly tried to question the integrity of the immigration officer, when all I really wanted was an explanation of some mysterious additional charges and he threatened to cancel my visa... oops.
Fortunately I have not yet been blacklisted by Philippines Bureau of Immigration and I am permitted to stay for at least another 38 days. Phew!

On a more exciting note, yesterday was spent in negotiations with some local fisherman regarding the possibility of salvaging a new wreck! So far we know on;y a few details of it's location just north, off an island of Zambales and suspect it to be a Spanish or Dutch ship of about 1608. Upon presentation of a piece of green-glazed Chinese pottery (below), Brian was ready to wet himself with the excitement of this opportunity. 100_2235.jpg100_2230.jpg

To be honest, it sucks to be in the underdog's position in the negotiations and we had to do everything we could to encourage the founders to salavage this wreck as a partner with Brian, and with the knowledge and permission of the National Museum of whom Brian is a deputy. The biggest problem in the Philippines is that wrecks are discovered more often than not by local fisherman, who see nothing in the discovery but dollar signs and so rape and pillage wrecks for all their treasure and sell it to dishonest antique stores, junk shops and overseas buyers before the authorities ever hear of the discovery. Not only does the value of the antiques salvaged depreciate significantly without the certification of the museum, but there is a considerable historic loss to this country which they don't even begin to grasp. So we feel it is important to make them acknowledge their actions in light of the cultural, historical and financial significance of their finds before destroying a piece of Philippine history for a quick buck.

Enough preaching, a new wreck to salvage would be a huge feather in all our caps and we should know the outcome by the end of the week!

Posted by VascoDiveMaster 18:26 Archived in Philippines Tagged padi museum philippines paradise national scuba sharks wreck mystery dynasty pottery discovery zambales ceramics ming salvage deputy wreck_diving Comments (1)

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