PHL | A different caving experience

(Another retro post from my travel back home to the Philippines in April 2009)

For my next out of town destination while in the Philippines I went to Sagada.. A mountain province known for its amazing caves and beautiful rice terraces.

I’ve actually never heard of this place before until my friend mentioned it and told us about her trip here.. And although her stories of the difficult, slippery hikes scared me, I wanted to do something challenging and different for a change.. And not the typical beach location that we often go to.. And I’m glad I did =D

The Philippines has a lot to offer travellers.. Expenses are cheap and activities and sights are varied by locations.. The problem is it’s hard for foreigners to find information because of the lack of promotion and exposure in the internet.   But if you’re interested in joining tour groups for working adults that offer cheap packages (as long as you’re willing to rough it).. then try the one I joined here which is Travel Factor.. This tour group has gained popularity over the years, and is a fun way to meet people and experience travel the Pinoy way.

group pic with the fellow Travel factor travellers

First challenge of the trip was sleeping through the bus ride… Sitting in the bus going through the bumpy, winding roads from Manila to Sagada for 12+ hours straight would have been boring if not for the company I was with, the food, and my own skill in sleeping no matter how uncomfortable the position..

We had a stopover to see the Banaue Rice Terraces.. really amazing sight

One sore butt and aching legs later, we arrived at the town proper where we freshened up and got ready for the next challenge of the trip…

the Mountain province

A 2 hour trek through the Banga-an Rice terraces to reach the Bomod-ok Falls.

The pathway through the terraces was slippery, there are no hand rails for you to hold on to, and the pathway was narrow and required concentration to keep your balance.. That didn’t stop us though from taking some pictures throughout the trek..

It was raining and cold, but still our little group trudged on through the terraces until we reached the falls..

I actually found the view on the way to the falls better than the destination.. After a quick rest, we headed back to the inn and arrived in time for dinner, ending our first tiring day in Sagada =)

Day 2 of Sagada, we woke up early to see the sunrise in Kiltepan, I was actually thinking of not going out of laziness.. I absolutely hate waking up early..and we had to wake up at 5 am!! Thankfully my friend was very stubborn, and forced me to go eventhough I kept whining like a little kid for them to leave me behind.. Lots of people taking pics, so I didn’t really get a good shot.. But enjoyed the cam whoring moments we had while waiting for everyone to get ready to leave…

Then came the most challenging, scary, torturous experience of this whole trip.. the Cave Connection Adventure.. There were 2 routes to choose from, one was the normal one which is around 3+ hours, and the more difficult one takes at least 5 hours (depending on the speed of the group)..

The experience was really something I won’t forget.. The smelly bat poo lingering in the cave.. Crawling on all fours like a monkey as I try to maintain my balance.. The times I slipped on my butt because of the slippery rocks.. Actually touching the bat poo stuck to the rocks, but not caring out of fear of falling.. The freezing water we waded through.. Hanging on to ropes for dear life as we went across, up, and down different parts of the cave.. At times we had to step on manong’s (our guide) sholders or knees to be able to get to the hard to reach parts of the cave (Poor manong, after I stepped on his shoulders in order to get down, he had to rest for awhile because of my weight)..

It’s very different from cave exploring in that there’s no gear whatsoever involved.  We were just wearing normal clothes, and some were in slippers while others were walking barefoot.  To climb over rocks or reach certain spots, we had to rely on our guides to push us up or support us going down. So Western travellers.. be ready for a totally different cave trekking experience..

And of course, since its the Philippines, the exaggeratingly long queues of people we had to wait for before getting to our turn..

What was supposed to take around 5 hours took us at least 8 hours to finish because of the long lines of other tourists who went in the cave..  When I saw the exit, it was a HALLELUJAH!! moment.. I couldn’t wait to go back and take a shower and eat and just not walk anymore..

Then there was a bonding/drinking session in our last night there.. We got to talk to other people in the group and just plain have fun and get drunk..

Final day of the trip, no real agenda.. It was just walking around to explore the town..

Overall I was glad to have done this (even if its not obvious from my numerous complaints above).. I got to see a different side of the Philippines asides from the usual beaches, do the cave trekking at least once in my life… (I’m never going to do that again though, once is enough).. And of course, spend some time w/ my friends =D

Thanks guys for hanging out w/ me on my vacation.. Till my next visit =D

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