Cold caves & Birthday days...

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December 4th 2009
Published: December 20th 2009
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We got to Sagada on an hour long jeepney trip from Bontoc which snaked up and up into the mountains and cloud with it growing ever colder as we went. The last time we'd really needed our fleeces & hats was at Mt Bromo a few months ago back and could easily count on one hand the number of times we'd needed them in our year in Asia. This time we were very glad we'd kept hold of them as they were very needed up here after getting a little too used to the Asian climate!

People rave about Sagada and some travellers stay for weeks and weeks but when we arrived we really couldn't see what all the fuss was about. It was really low cloud so we couldn't really see much past the small centre which resembles a building site with what we think will be a new hotel being constructed. We booked into a guesthouse just off the plaza and decided to go and check out the again much raved about food scene here.... now this really is something to write home about!

After a week or so of the usual rice/vegetable/random meat dish our mouths started watering when we read the likes of pasta and curries on the menu in the Yoghurt House, one of Sagada's most popular restaurants. We didn't get our hopes up too much though as things like this often don't translate so well when cooked by Asian chefs (no offence intended but they tend to cook Asian food best), but when our dishes arrived they looked and tasted exactly like they would if we'd cooked them at home.. fantastic! We'd been joined for dinner by a lovely Calafornian couple, Jesse & Jessica so spent our first evening with them swapping travelling tales and getting tips from them on the best thing to do in the area.. apparently the cave connection.

After dinner we took the short walk back to our room in near freezing temperatures.. ok so it really wasn't freezing but it felt like it! Back in the room we decided we'd both squeeze into one of the tiny single beds to use all 4 of the blankets and 2 sheets as well as keeping each other warm though the evening. This really brought back memories for us of our first night in Cuzco when we got a tiny room with 2 single beds, huge gaps in the door and it really was freezing that time!

The following day was Sophie's big day so after opening her lovely cards we went for a gorgeous breakfast of eggs, fresh bread and fresh brewed coffee enjoyed over the morning papers. We'd decided to take Jesse & Jessica's advice and went to the tourist office to book us a guide for the cave connection trip. Getting a guide at the right price here is really easy as prices are posted everywhere so there's no chance to get ripped off and the 4 hour trip cost a mere 450PHP each. We'd been warned that it would be wet & cold so went back to our room to choose the best outfits for the job out of our miniscule wardrobes.

Our guide for the trip was Chris, a local with a great personality and we knew we'd be in for a good day. The cave connection trip does exactly what it says on the tin.. connects 2 caves together but we weren't entirely sure what this would entail.. maybe a little walk between the two? Err.. no not quite!

On the way to the Sumaging Cave we passed various hanging coffins in the cliffside, similar to those we'd seen in Sulawesi following anamist beliefs. Chris collected his hugely important kerosene lamp too and after about 30 minutes walking we got to the cave entrance which is a sight in itself as it's also stacked with 100's of coffins.

When Chris started telling us what to expect we got a bit of a shock because this is not just a walk though the caves.. it's proper caving! We both got a bit excited as we'd not done this before but also a little nervous as you read so many horror stories about when things go wrong and we obviously didn't have hard hats to protect us from falling rocks.. we even had flip flops on knowing we'd be going though water (advice if you ever do this trip is to not wear flip flops as they are a nightmare to keep on).

So we started out easy enough until we got to the first difficult point where it's a 5m drop down a tiny hole with the aid of a rope. Dale had his doubts on whether Sophie would be
Sophie going though the waterSophie going though the waterSophie going though the water

this was ice cold and it didn't help that Chris had told us there were eels in there! This photo was taken BEFORE Sophie fell in!
able to do this but when faced with going back (even harder) or carrying on she was determined that she would and with the aid of Chris, who was a fantastic guide, she managed it with ease and made Dale feel quite proud.

On and on we went though the cave going through tiny and even tinier holes which made us twist and turn our bodies in all kinds of positions we wouldn't have thought possible at 31 years of age! We went though streams, under waterfalls, up, over and under rocks, along ledges with high drops to the side and all manner of other rock based activities and had the time of our lives. Chris really was a star throughout, even managing to play us a soundtrack on his mobile for most of it and all whilst letting us step on him, having to carry a bag and the heavy lamp and take photos at the same time!

At one point he played a trick on us by making us go though a huge lake while he ran off (with the lamp) and took the easy route. This was the only time Sophie got scared as it left us in the pitch black and gave us a good idea of what it would be like if the lamp broke.. scary!

At the end of the tour he took us into a spectacular area with formations we'd not ever seen before and are not likely to see again either! The water going though the caves had left mineral deposits in amazing shapes, most of which had been named with anatomy parts like the princess, the prince and the king.. which Dale liked to compare himself to!

The whole trip really was great, we hadn't expected too much from it but enjoyed every moment and it really made Sophie's birthday quite special. We ended the connection in Lumiang Cave 3 hours later and having travelled about 2km. Out in the open again we had a short walk back to town, both freezing and soaking wet and stayed for a long long time under the hot shower to warm up again before hitting the town for a few beers with Jesse, Jessica, Chris & friends before the 9pm curfew!

We had planned to stay a few more days in Sagada to enjoy some of the trekking routes round there but when enjoying another huge breakfast the following day we decided to head to Baguio that day in order to extend our visas before the weekend. The trip to Baguio was another scenic one, this time taking in terraces which didn't house rice, but vegetables! The terraces go on and on down the mountain sides, some were near vertical and we had to marvel at the people who work on these plots each and every day as it must be relentless tiring work.

Baguio is the main city in this part of Luzon and is home to a huge student population. We'd only come here as a stop gap but spent a day taking in the city. The centre is quite compact, dominated by a SM Shopping Mall and the main high street kind of reminded us of home a bit, especially at this time of year when it's decorated by the christmas lights and people are a bit wrapped up in the cold. We also found a treat of a restaurant here, set up by a famous Filipino artist the Oh My Gulay! restaurant is awesome! Inside is like a magical wonderland of sculptures, treehouses and a boat. If you come to Baguio you really can't miss this as it's such a great place just to have a look at set high up in the roof of a 6 floor building, the food is lovely but for the price the portions could have been a little more generous... guess you are paying for the setting!

After a day in Baguio we headed out again to our next stop where we had trekking planned to visit some ancient mummies..

Additional photos below
Photos: 53, Displayed: 27


Our new friends in SagadaOur new friends in Sagada
Our new friends in Sagada

Enjoying a beer or 2 for Sophie's birthday.. from L-R Philip, Charles (our guide), Us, Jessica & Jesse. The photos are of the land before this bar was built..
The turtle head formationThe turtle head formation
The turtle head formation

you had to look quite closely to get some of these!
Us about to go 5m downUs about to go 5m down
Us about to go 5m down

sophie was quite scared!

20th December 2009

Late Happy Birthday Sophie!Glad to hear(once again) that you had a great time in Sagada. Hope you'll have more fun in your next destination!
21st December 2009

What's next?
Boracay, Bohol, Banaue, Sagada...what's next? I hope Palawan is on the list. Great pictures, btw.
21st December 2009

I always like your blogs guys. You seemed to always have a lot of fun no matter where you go or what the situation is. Plus you guys are really giving a lot of good press to my country's tourism. Are you guys thinking of spending the holidays in the Philippines? Enjoy!!!

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