Thursday, April 17, 2014

Whitewater Rafting in Tubuk, Kalinga

Success! We finally rode the wild waters of the Chico river.  This much anticipated river run almost didn't happen because of yesterday's weather and events so we were all happy campers when it did.

Our host Anton was proud to show us his part of the country, and the reason for making his permanent home up here.

Just like the day before, Anton knocked on all our doors bright and early--  "Wake up everyone, it's a PERFECT day to go down the river!"  It had finally stopped raining the night before. 

After a quick breakfast, we were on our way from Tuguegarao to Tubuk, where we were going to start the run.

The ride to Tubuk was long but with countryside as beautiful as this, it was an adventure in itself.

We're now at the start of the trail and it's time to get suited up.

Gloves, to protect our hands..

Water shoes, so we can walk on the rocky-bottom of the water.

And rashguards for better SPF.

Do we look like pro-rafters? Or over-geared, eager tourists?  We used our diving/snorkeling gear.

Actually, you can wear almost anything, even Hawaiian shorts.

It's not advisable to wear your glasses though...

Life vests and helmets were provided. 

At the 15-minute briefing, we were told where and how to sit on the raft, where we needed to anchor our feet and what sort of instructions we were going to hear  from the guides. I was getting a bit nervous for the kids, but they didn't look scared or even concerned.

After all that preparation, we were finally off!

There were two guides on each raft, one of them shouting directions "left-right-left-right- right- RIGHT" over the roar of the rapids.

Anticipating the first rapids was the scariest part, but after riding through a couple of them, we knew what to expect and began to relax during less turbulent intervals between rapids.

Anton went solo in a separate raft always ahead of us so he could take pictures of us in action.

I never felt that we were in danger of flipping over but there was a real chance of falling into the water. The kids were instructed to sit on the floor of the raft if it got really rough.

After riding through the rapids, we'd "high-five" the oars. The first time I did it, my oar fell and almost hit the head of the person next to me! Good thing we had helmets on!

The whole ride down the river took about two and a half hours including a little break in between to catch our breaths and have a little snack.

Someone liked Tito Anton's tuna sandwiches!

And we're off again for the second half of the ride.


In between rapids, our guides were also on the look out for anything unusual on the rocks and by the sides of the river. The local couple who had been swept away two days ago,  hadn't been found yet and no one else would be passing through this long stretch of river except for tourists like us.

With the Chico river as his backyard,  it's no wonder Anton loves it up here.

Towards the end of our trail where the river is calm, we were allowed to get into the water and drift alongside the raft.  Adrenalin was still pumping in our veins as we peacefully floated on our backs looking up at the clear blue sky and surrounded by majestic green mountains.

We were told that the Chico river offers world-class whitewater rafting. Rapids are classified based on difficulty level: class 1-easy,  class 2- average, class 3- intermediate, class 4- difficult and class 5- extremely difficult.

What we experienced on this day was  intermediate--class 3.

The mighty Chico river is a contradiction in itself--forbidding and sinister just yesterday, accommodating and exhilarating today; life-giving and life-taking. We felt honoured to experience its strength and also its stillness.

This has been our most active "more fun in the Philippines" trip yet. With our spirits still intoxicated, we were already talking of our next Philippine destination. The kids are getting older so schedules are harder to coordinate.

Actually, it's not only the kids getting older. We often tease each other that we probably have only a few more years of adrenalin-rush type adventures before we concede to more passive, cushy, hanging-out-by-the beach type trips.

There's still so much to explore, and we hope to tick them off our list one by one.  It's really more fun in the Philippines!

-October 2012

Anton Carag 
Adventures and Expeditions Philippines Inc.
Mobile: 0917-5327480
Landline: (078) 8441298

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sierra Cave, Cagayan

With our white-water rafting trip called off, we stayed on land and explored Sierra cave--one of the many caves in this area of Cagayan.

The cave is right next to Callao cave and within the Callao Ecotourism zone. Our host Anton had planned this and we just followed whatever was on his itinerary for us. 

Only a small marker identifies the entrance of the cave, which is a steep 20-meters up the hillside.

I know, I know, maybe a dress wasn't the best outfit to use for spelunking--but the last cave we went into years ago (in Bicol) was a "walk-in" cave--meaning, no need to climb or crawl.

After a steep climb up, we had to let ourselves down feet first into the entrance of the cave. Now you can see how a dress doesn't work here. At least the guides are polite enough to look away!

The entrance is a bit chalenging, but then it opens up into big chambers and clearings.

We were told that Sierra Cave is a "living cave",  meaning rock formations are still growing inside because water from outside is able to seep in through tiny cracks. The dripping water allows the formation of stalactites on ceiling of the cave, and stalagmites on the bottom.

Aside from looking at fossil marks on the walls, and icicle-like formations, we were concerned with taking a group picture inside.

The cave is pitch black inside. It only looks this bright because all of us had flashlights, and our cameras have low-light features.

I think the men had enough of our posing.

Deep inside the cave, towards the end, is a small cavern named "Celica's Passage". The guides told us it was named after the child who discovered it.

As soon as the girls heard it was a kid who found it, they crawled through it too and disappeared from view for a while. I felt my heard pound and ordered them to come back right away!

The back end of the cave was muddy because it had been raining the past few days. This  made the whole cave floor very slippery. Everyone took turns slipping and falling on their behinds.

With all this excitement going on inside the cave, we forgot that Anton was waiting for us in the cave next door-- Callao cave. He was excited to show us the big cave chambers as well as the the flight of bats at dusk.

But getting out of  this slippery Sierra cave was a challenge.  The whole trek took more than two hours, much more than Anton originally intended for us (also maybe because we took so many pictures inside?)

We are finally, finally out of there, but it took us many more minutes to get back down to the road. This trail down  was way too slippery.

And we are finally out! Whew!

We immediately went to where he was waiting for us but unfortunately by the time we got up there, it was already dark.

Anton was disappointed he wasn't able to show us Callao cave, and so were we.

We didn't expect Sierra cave to be that extensive...and slippery..and none of us kept track of the time. I think the guides were just concerned with literally keeping us on our feet.

Here are his pictures while he was waiting for us...

Inside Callao cave... looks like a scene from Phantom of the Opera..

Too bad we didn't get to see this anymore.

The flight of bats happened while we were still playing in the mud in the other side.

Witnessing a river tragedy in the morning and spelunking through a slippery cave afternoon is plenty of activity for cityfolk. I guess we just have to make another trip to explore more of the caves. For now, we were eager to get back to the house and just shower.

October 2012

Adventures and Expeditions Philippines, Inc.
Anton Carag
(078) 8441298 / (0917) 5327480


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