CAVING EXTRAORDINNAIRE AT SAGADA


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January 2nd 2010
Published: January 21st 2010
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The drive to Sagada involves going through beautiful mountain sceneries, a few rice terraces can be seen from a distance but the road is rough, they are building the road in most parts and requires a lot of patience, we got lost and went on the road to Bontoc so we have to backtrack, we found the road and it goes up the mountains to Sagada, a refreshing feel, cool air, pine trees everywhere, its a small town and most of the outskirt of town hangs precariously into the cliffs, a landslide could be devastating here. We tried to get a room at St. Joseph's Resthouse but it was full but Sofie and Tim had booked it earlier, me and Connor walked around and found Sagada Homestay, the owner Karen is very nice and they have room for us, 2 big beds for 500 pesos each so we took it, and there is wifi too. After we settle in we walked to the Tourist Info office in town to sort out Connor's predicament, since it will be holidays there won't be any bus or jeep running on New Year's day when he needs to scoot out of town and back to Manila to catch his flight. We got some bus company number to contact and inquire but we need a phone, no public phone to call from we headed to Yoghurt house for lunch and to wait Sofie and Tim. We had good lunch, good view out and chilled for a bit.

Back in the homestay Connor busied himself calling Cebu Pacific to sort out his flights and I watched television in the living room. There is a couple of Korean families staying here as well and the kids are quite noisy I have to shush them a few times so Connor can do his thing on skype. Finally he ended up changing his flight schedule, all sorted we went out to find dinner and get drunk. Persimmoon bar i think is the name of the place, a small bar but good vibe, Tim and I had dinner and we had a few beers here, Red Horse to start the night, 7.5% alcohol! really strong kick. From there we went back to St. Joseph's resthouse where they have bonfire, and mingled with local tourists who were mostly stoned, some were already passed out and those still up and about are in lalaland can't even make sense of anything that comes out from their mouths, at least they are happy. We looked for more beers and the bar is shut apparently though there are people inside, so we ended up in someone's house through back alleys and we bought our red horse beers! A few more nonsense conversations with the locals then off to bed. Connor and I took some water from the kitchen of our homestay from the water cooler even if we are not supposed to, but everyone is asleep anyway.

Next morning we got up, Connor is feeling shit and so after getting ready to get out and do some trek we went straight to find a pharmacy, we found it in the hospital, then back to the tourist info office to get a guide, breakfast at some restaurant, longanisa of course then we did our hike to the waterfalls.

Bomod-ok Fallas is gorgeous, the water is freezing cold though and took me awhile to build up the courage to swim in it. We met a nice dude from Manila here named Jonas, who works for a congresswoman, here on a short vacation. He told us
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poor giant pig, New Year's eve dinner???
his guide is taking him to the Echo Valley to see some hanging coffins, so Connor and I deliberated whether we should do the same or not, Connor is a bit sick and so all depends on how he feels, he agreed to it and our guide told us he takes us there for free, no extra charge. Ok then off we go, back to where we came down from, the scenery is pretty, traversing rice terraces, most are barren but they have texture and character even so, some have some colorful weed/moss looking plants other fields have newly growing rice seedlings, a bit of green here and there makes it for a nice contrast with brown and other hues. The trek back up almost killed Connor, I thought, coughing violently at times, but such a trooper he was, made it in one piece atop the valleys but we took the jeepney back to town to make it easier for us, we rode at the top dodging tree branches and powerlines along the way.

From the town we walked towards the direction of an Episcopal church across from the plaza with a basketball court, we followed a path that lead to a cemetery where they have remnants of bonfires that they traditionally do here during All Soul's Day, moving on through pine tree laden paths going down towards the limestone karst formations where the coffins are hanging. Amazing site, we met up with Jonas here again he says we can't get closer to the coffins, they do it only during All Soul's Day according to his guide, I mentioned it to our guide, he balked and said hell no, yeah you can get down there if you like, so we followed him, he claimed some guides make up stories so they don't have to go down the limestone cliffs cause they don't feel like it!lazy buggers! Jonas came with us as his guide sheepishly hang around to wait for our comeback.

Frank our guide is suffocating me with his cigarette, chain smoking his way through the treks in his flipflops, I was behind him so I get the 2nd hand smoke. At the foot of the limestone cliff he pointed the latest coffin put there, 2009! very recent, he claimed anyone can be buried here if you have the money. I don't think so but we didn't say
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some church
anything. He says in the summer some coffins smell badly, they dont embalm the dead I think. We walked back to our homestay after paying our guide 500 pesos total for the both of us. He promised he will guide us tomorrow if we want to do the caves. Chilled at the homestay, we both took naps, exhausted. Then we got ready around 730pm to meet up with Tim and Sofie.

There is a dinner thing that the British couple signed us all up in, A French restaurant near our homestay, the power got cut so quite dark in town, we were assigned tables outside, Jonas met up with us, Connor, Sofie and I smoked our 5 pesos each hand rolled tobacco from Vigan, not bad, smells like mud but the taste is mild. Lots of foreigners, we have starters but you need to queue up then main course, to tell you honestly, did not like the most of the food served, but New Year's eve dinner with friends, priceless, washing it off with San Miguel Pilsen, awesome. We had coffee and tea then left and looked for some lively thing to do, by now fireworks are cracking every where, kids and adults alike throwing fireworks on the street we have to cover our ears and get out of the way.

Persimoon bar, our fave local hangout here is where we had a few drinks played some silly drinking games with a matchbox, with a coin anything to kill time and entertain ourselves, several drunk locals joined us in our merriment, one dude called Jimmy, front teeth missing, high as a kite joined us in our game, like a child he cracks up on any thing, severely doped up I thought. A few more people joined in then we moved outside as the place is shutting down, we bought more Red Horse to drink outside,locals inviting us to parties and other sorties but we ended up back at the place we had the French dinner and gongs were playing, people dancing aside from the loud firecrackers exploding. Big crowd, bunch of Koreans, Europeans and locals. We bought our own booze, Tanduay rhum, and some other hard drinks and worm gummies!

It got livelier to a point we were made to play the gongs while going around the bonfire. Then they handed some hotdogs to roast, excellent. I am a bit drunk by now and just hanging on when more booze came and New year came, the fireworks were not as exciting but good company. We kept on of course drinking our booze till 3amish, most of the revellers mostly locals were sleeping in benches already, Connor made some tea which helped me to sober up then a local dude has a huge bottle of Fundador which got passed around I almost puke on my first sip. The night ended eventually, Connor and i stumbled back to our homestay, doors were locked but before we forced our way in, the lady of the house opened the door for us, unlike Sofie and Tim who gets locked out in their hotel all the time. Connor and I tiptoed to the kitchen and took some water from the cooler, big sign says we're not allowed to but we figured everyone is sleeping no one can hear us if we steal some water, we struggled to be quiet, each time a big blob of air from the cooler makes a noise we chuckle.

Both of us passed out, waking up both severely dehydrated, Connor is getting worse, we still decided to do the Sumaging and Lumiang cave excursion called the cave connection, Sofie and Tim had done it and raved about it so rather than nursing our hangovers away in bed we decided to be active, both still smelling of booze we head to the tourist office to find our guide Frank, the office is shut and no one is there. But when we walked out one of the staff saw us and i begged him to look for a guide for us, he told us have lunch nd come back and he will do his best, everyone is partying today or in a picnic in some lake, so guides are hard to come by.

We went to persimoon, it is shut but Kimchi restaurant is open so we headed there, met Jonas who is not at his best as well, he decided not to come to our cave thing, our guide came and he said 2 other people will come with us and there will be 2 guides, sweet! After a good lunch we started our trek to the caves along the way we passed the Yoghurt house, Sofie and tim were in the balcony having lunch, waved at them and off we went. A Pinoy and a Korean dude joined us, our guide changed from proper shoes to flipflops, hmm and we were both wearing shoes, maybe we need flipflops as well, LP says do not emulate them as they are used to the terrain, shoes is better. Pleasant walk to the village, very quiet today, we ended up in a path that goes down to the cave Sumaging. We saw coffins here apparently very old some at 500 years old! they are quite small, they are buried in the fetal position we were told. This is in the mouth of the cave, we took fotos while the guides prepare the gas torch. Then we started our adventures, Not 10 minutes in the trail we got to this narrow squeeze of a hole and thus the starts of our rapelling, I was a bit worried, the holes were narrow but somehow we fit, I hurt myself on the rope thing, my hand got caught in one of the knots, but it wasn't major so we continued. Cave is dark, some bats at the ceiling in some areas, from hesitation to total fun we trully enjoyed it,and the temperature is just right not humid at all inside, we arrived at the junction we climbed up on a rope to Lumiang caves, we have to take off our shoes here as it is very slippery then we walked barefoot for 10 minutes maybe , crossing some underground lake, freezing cold water, stalactites and stalagmites abound. Some have weird formations.

The total caving trip took maybe 4 hours, one of the best I have done! We were all knackered but we still walked back to town while the other dudes hitched a ride. In town we stopped at the hospital pharmacy so Connor can dose up again on drugs to kill his cough. Then as usual chilled in our room, we both didn't feel like going out but as this is our last night with our friends we forced ourselves to take a shower and get ready. We met the Brits walking down towards Persimoon, we saw Jonas there having a beer but we all decided to head to Yoghurt house, we had good dinner there but they shut around 10pm and kicked us out politely. Bade goodbye to Tim and Sofie they leave tomorrow for Manila with Connor, I move on to Banaue with Jonas. I have to set an alarm for 5am the bus leaves at 6am, Connor can't find his cellphone/alarm clock so I just hoped for the best. We turned in to bed but we chatted for about an hour or so more until we both get tired and passed out.

5:30am I bolted out of bed and got ready quickly I woke my buddy Connor for a final goodbye and hope to see him somewhere in the world in the future. Met Jonas at the fruit stand where all the buses and jeeps leave from. The jeep did not leave for Bontoc till 6:30am.


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