Backpacking in Puerto Galera

I thought we were done backpacking for a while. When we left South America we were both ready for a change. We loved almost every bit of our travels there and felt that backpacking was the most inexpensive and easiest way to do it. But we were done with backpacking for a while

Australia was supposed to be next and I was thoroughly excited to move on to camper-van living after our 4-month visit in the USA.

But we took a detour to the Philippines for a family reunion. As long as we were here we might as well do some exploring. So just a bit more backpacking it is.

Despite the addition of our snorkeling gear, our backpacks were lighter and still had extra space. Our winter gear from South American would not be needed here. We left it along with our camping equipment in Manila at Trin’s sister’s house.

Talipanan Beach in Puerto Galera
Talipanan Beach

Jeepneys and Tricycles on the way to Puerto Galera

Jeepneys are the iconic mass transit vehicles in the Philippines. They are colorful, ubiquitous, and decorated with a broad range of ornaments and paintings from wacky to religious. And they are loud, audibly and aesthetically.


Starting out from Liliw, Laguna, we caught a jeepney out of town. The beginning of a journey is usually an exciting moment for me. Out the door with our backpacks on, heading towards a new destination, it’s an electrifying moment. But that morning, I wasn’t feeling it. I think my mind was already halfway towards Australia.

Jeepney on a Philippine Street

The feeling of adventure returns

However, as soon as we climbed into the back of the jeepney, the old excitement came back. That giddy feeling of being off on a new adventure.

I sat there trying to catch as much a breeze as possible from the open side of the jeepney. It’s very hot and muggy here. We swerved out to pass a tricycle loaded with five people. Two were on the motorcycle and three were in the tiny sidecar beside it. I’ve seen as many as eight on these little things with an extra person on the roof of the side car.

Coming the other direction toward us was a family on a motorcycle. There was a man driving, a woman on the back and a barefoot child squeezed in between them, again a small load. Just yesterday I saw a family with all five on a lone motorcycle, no sidecar. The woman was holding an umbrella up to shield them all from the sun.

Inside a Jeepney
From inside the Jeepney, thankfully we weren’t packed in like I’ve seen some of them. I wasn’t quite able to capture the box of chickens on the floor.

Arriving at the next town we jumped off the back and threw our packs on. We began our walk dodging jeepneys and tricycles, stepping over cracks and holes in the sidewalk to a van that would take us to Batangas.

We then boarded a ferry to Puerto Galera in the island of Mindoro, took another jeepney to Sabang and then a walked to Paddy’s Bar and Backpacker Inn. That feeling of freedom crept back in. With everything we need on our backs we were headed off to new places to explore.

Puerto Galera

We are spending almost a week in Sabang, a little town in Puerto Galera on the Mindoro Island.

Sabang Bay in Puerto Galera on Mindoro in the Philippines
Puerto Galera, a snorkeling and diving haven in the Philippines

Our accommodations are basic. We have a tiny concrete room with a little space beside the bed for a shelf and a small area to change, but we have an air conditioner in our one small window.

The bathroom is shared but no one else ever seems to be in there. I don’t mind the basic accommodations because this is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasures are not in where I lay down to sleep. The blue sea beyond us is currently tranquil and calling to us.

Palm trees on the beach in Puerto Galera

Snorkeling in Sabang Bay

We spent an entire day snorkeling at the beaches near the base of the hill we are staying on. We are three coves away from Sabang proper so we snorkeled the entire way there and back.

Purple tube coral and starfish dotted the seascape. Tiny, bright blue fish schooling over coral and blue and purple starfish clinging to coral or laying in white sand. The diversity and sheer number of fish was astounding and the bight colors of the coral had us floating for hours studying their intricate details. At times I simply floated above soft coral gardens as little flowers at the end of each tentacle opened and closed all at different times living their own brand of life.

Purple Coral in the bay in Puerto Galera

We watched as clown fish dashed in and out of anemones that softly undulated back and forth. We kept our distance from the two Banded Sea Snakes (Sea Krait) slithering between the coral just beneath us. They are beautiful but have a very potent neurotoxic venom.

The beauty of life in this sea drew me in in amazement all day long. While the flavor of salt filled our mouths it is the beauty of the life with the salt water that convinced me to dive again. Somehow salt always makes us want more, but that is the purpose of salt right? Flavor that makes you want more, to learn more, to see things differently. Salt tantalizes and creates curiosity.

Taking a Dive

The following day we did a shallow 35-foot dive. We were under for 57 minutes. For the first time I finally got the hang of buoyancy and was able to float completely still at our safety stop before emerging from the water. It was a calm dive and a great step in lessening my diving anxiety that I’ve had since my respirator failure 90 feet under water in Coiba.

Sea Turtle with cleaner fish
Sea Turtle with cleaner fish. Lorenzo our dive master and I are behind the turtle.

The Roach and the Rat

The following day we reserved for walking the town and the entire beach line. We started at Sabang beach and walked to Small Lalaguna and Big Lalaguna, two laid back beaches. Back in Sabang it began to pour and we ducked down an alley. It was perfect timing as we also wanted to grab lunch.

We ordered burgers from a local stand and sat on a bench along the side of the alley to get out of the water that was now running down the center.

“Look at that roach swim,” Trin said as it sped down the center of the walkway. Then it paused and began to swim towards my feet. It ran under me and I jumped up as it ran up the bench I was just sitting on.

I decided to stand a while. The water brings out all the creatures. As I thought this I saw something move beside me. A huge rat scurried away and up onto the crates in an open doorway.

Next I sat on a bench at the bar next door. By then our burgers were ready. The owner of the bar invited us to go ahead and sit and eat at her bar. The burgers were great. We ordered a couple of San Miguels, the local beer. By the time we finished them the downpour had ceased and we made our way home.

Riding Around Puerto Galera

The last time we rented a scooter we wrecked it in Ometepe, Nicaraga and then got threatened by a bunch of goons. Despite that experience we decided to rent one here to tour the island a bit. It seems that the best rentals come from Paddy’s Bar and Backpackers Hostel. Both Paddy and his son Spud are from Australia and both of them are mechanics. They also care about their customers and make sure that when you get on a bike it’s not going to break down or get you in trouble somewhere on the island. The prices were the lowest in the area.

Secluded beach at the end of Puerto Galera

You can also stay at Paddy’s Backpackers Hostel by reserving a room through Booking.com (click this link for $20 off your first reservation anywhere with Booking). Paddy’s also has the best price on the island for rooms. Our room was quiet and despite there being a bar upstairs we didn’t hear any of the noise in our room.

Ponderosa Golf Course

The bike allowed us to climb up to Ponderosa golf course. It is not only a golf course but also offers zip-lining and a canopy walk. We just had a couple of beers and enjoyed the beautiful views and the cool breeze.

The scooter also made it easy to drive up to White beach where we enjoyed a dip and a nice relaxing sit in the shade under coconut trees.

Two beers on a ledge overlooking the bay of Puerto Galera
View from the Ponderosa Golf Course

White Beach & Talipanan Beach

White beach has all the tourist amenities, but we enjoyed Talipanan beach much better. It is lined with bangkas (pump boats) and only a few tourists from the Infinity Resort at the end of the beach. The rest of it is deserted and has a beautiful jungle backdrop with steep mountains jutting up just across the road. Here we parked the bike under the shade of a dry-docked boat.

Trin sitting on White Beach in Puerto Galera
White Beach in Puerto Galera

Tamaraw Falls

We drove up to Tamaraw falls. It is probably spectacular during or soon after the rainy season. However we are just near the end of the dry season and while beautiful there was not a lot of water cascading down. There’s a paid area with swimming pools and a restaurant which we skipped. The waterfalls are clearly seen from the road anyway.

Tamaraw Falls in Puerto Galera
Tamaraw Falls

Constant Changes

So much has changed for me since we retired three years ago. With so many fewer distractions, I’m enjoying a simple life and my purpose is even more clear.

Maybe your treasures are somewhere beyond the blue door. Are you ready for your next adventure?

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7 thoughts on “Backpacking in Puerto Galera”

  1. I don’t think that I could ever do snorkeling. However, I so love looking at pictures of the corals and reefs. They look absolutely gorgeous and so peaceful. Glad that you are able to enjoy it first hand.

    Reply
    • It is really hot here, hotter than Tyrona and Cartagena. For us getting in the ocean or escaping in the mountains is necessary. More to come about the mountains. 🙂

      Reply

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