sobota, 25. januar 2014

Hiking in the Philippines - Another Defeat

First, a disclaimer: all the pictures displayed in this post are not mine. I even don't know who their authors are. I just picked them with a search, just to show you the places I've visited.
The first is the Ambuklao dam, I slept somewhere at the end of the water you can see, the only difference is that this picture is obviously from the rainy season time, when I was there the water level was way lower.

Next is a view from Mt. Pulag. Again, it's not exactly the same as I saw it, but it's pretty close.

As for new stuff. My last post was from Solano and from there I cheated a bit. I was lacking pesos and in the Philippines to change money can be quite a pain - they believe only in the US dollar. They snob the Japanese yen, not to mention the Korean won. Are you people crazy? Well, they are just obsessed with the US. So I took a bus north, to Santiago, the capitol (not a typo, here they call it a capitOl) of the province Isabella, got ripped while changing some won and yen, then took a van back south to the province of Quirino, to continue my original path.
It was already evening when I reached the Aglipay caves and got ripped again. They advertise the dormitories for 100 pesos, I had to pay 300 to stay in a moldy and really ran down place. I did some laundry and in the morning I wasn't surprised at all that my stuff was still wet as the evening before, but I was a bit pissed of that all my other clothes were wet, too. Talk about the dry season... Anyway, I payed the fee to go the caves and took the guide - yes, when going to caves I do not object to guides, actually I prefer to do it with them. Especially when it's a cave system with eight connected chambers.

The problem was that the guide was even more ran down that the accommodation, but at least he knew all the caves as his palm. We both got somehow uncomfortable when he tried to explain some carsic phenomena to someone who lived near the Karst for almost all his life - and, not for bragging, but I know about it way more than he does. In one chamber I spotted some "suspicious" curtain formations and decided to knock on them. As I guessed, they are hollow. The old guide was startled by the echoing sound and he kept asking what have I done. I knocked on the curtain again and he was so delighted that he kept hitting it with his walking stick. I was almost worried that he will break it. He kept pointing mostly at penis-shaped stalagmites, I guess they are the most fun for local tourists, but I was mainly interested in different colored formations, from almost black through red to some glittering white pure limestone formations. Crawling, climbing, going in and going out, we finally reached the entrance of chamber eight. Through it we would go to number three and two and we'll be done. We went down and I had a total shock. We entered a cave at almost 30 C, way hotter than the outside since it was early morning, and so misty I couldn't see more than two or three meters ahead. A "mystery" I would like to know more about it, but the old guy was clueless about it as I was. When I asked him why this cave is so hot, he just replied "Very hot" and that was all. It was a real relief when we crouched for some 30 meters to the next chamber and I could breath normally again. When we finished the tour I asked how much do I have to pay him and he just shrugged "It's up to you". I have no clue how much is that, but i considered that we spent in the caves more than one hour. Next, I know that a worker, say construction stuff, gets 250 or 300 pesos. I gave him 100 pesos and I really didn't care if he was happy with it. I'm slowly getting tired of all the kinds here ripping me off all the time.
My stuff was already packed so I just waved goodbye to everybody and hit the road in the direction of Maddela - the Governor's Rapids and the Maddela Waterfalls. The weather didn't look very promising. At noon I was at the rapids, nothing really special, a pretty scenery, but I mostly enjoyed all the women from the nearby village doing laundry in the river.

They were shocked when I walked out of the jungle to the riverside, relaxed when I payed them no attention and just sat near the river for a smoke, cooling my feet in the water, but they quickly started to joke and have fun and finally I heard them calling if I want to take them to America... Yeah, America again. There's nothing else on this globe, the Philippines and America. Jokes apart, honestly, there were more than a few that I would like to take somewhere.. you know... ah well, let's drop it. Feet cooled, waterfalls are waiting! In the late afternoon I was in a barangay I don't even remember the name when i was, again, stopped, greeted and asked where was I going. "To the waterfalls!" was my merry reply. To my amazement the old ladies that stopped me just looked at each other in wonder and one said "We have no waterfalls here, only the river!" "Huh? What do you mean? I want to see the Maddela Waterfalls!" Badly concealed amusement. "Maddela Waterfalls is the other way, sir." "What do you mean THE OTHER WAY? A guy near the rapids told me it's THIS way!" "He must be a very bad man. No waterfalls here, this is the road to Isabella province. You have to go back 20 kilometers to Maddela. But we have a bike, we can give you a ride there, for free!" The building rage just melted when I heard her. I declined her offer politely, with a sincere smile, thanked her a few more times, turned and walked in the way I came from. "Don't think bad of the Philippino men because of one!" was the last thing the lady shouted to me. I do not. I met too many kind people in the mountains, one jerk will not ruin those precious moments. Following her instructions I reached the waterfalls the next morning, after a good sleep near the river. And again, the waterfalls themselves are not worth to be mentioned. It's the place that is special. I fell in love with it almost at first sight. The path to the waterfalls is paved in concrete, but all covered in thick green moss, surrounded by jungle scenery and gives you the feeling of "discovering" a small paradise on this planet.

The manager of the resort was sorry to inform me that it's closed for reconstruction (the resort, not the manager) and invited me to be a guest in his home. Talk about "bad men"... I really liked the place, wanted to stay there, but no, thanks, no. What a mistake! Let's go the way to Nagtipunan and in a few days I can reach the east coast! Yeah, in my dreams. About nightmares... In the late afternoon I spotted a river coming from the mountains and decided to find a place for the night there. After an hour I found a great place, had a bath in the river, cooked some food and, since I had a fire, went to sleep way after twilight - which was usually around 6PM. I felt happy as always when I'm not freezing in my sleeping bag and was delighted with swarms of fireflies over the water. The bitterness of  the anime Grave of the Fireflies (and some incoming tears) was pulled back when I remembered a horseback riding in a spring night years ago and I fell asleep with a smile. Just to be awakened minutes later by the rain. Crap. Pitch dark, no stars, no moon, it's cloudy. Only fireflies. Grab all my stuff, by memory and by touch. A pair of pants must still be hanging from a branch there. I passed an abandoned hut on my way, it's the nearest shelter! You may guess it or not, but I didn't carry any flashlight with me. I proceeded slowly, first through a corn field and didn't notice when it ended. I just stepped and fell on a field one meter lower. Honestly, I was so worried about the damage I did to the crops that I didn't hear the ripping sound from my backpack. My memory led me well, but the hut was way from abandoned, it had a huge lock on the door and no windows (no Linux, also). I would lie if I tell that I didn't try to break in. I did try, but to no use. But I saw another one, on the other side of the river! It took me some twenty minutes to climb down the river bank and cross it. I didn't care much, I was already wet and dirty, I just kept my backpack high because of the laptop, wrapped in various plastic bags. And the water wasn't too cold, no shock when it reached my balls. Of course I got dirty again when I climbed the opposite bank, but it didn't matter to me since I could see a darker shade not far away. That's it! Again I did a touch research of the walls, found the door and YES! no locks, I opened the door and YES! there was someone inside who started shouting and YES! he scared me more than he was. I blabbered some apologies in English, to no use, I retreated and then he found his flashlight so I could clerly see that in his other hand he had a machete. Communication failed I just turned and ran in the black night. Maybe this is how some wars start. I'm sure that if I had knocked politely on the door I would have received shelter. But I just charged in, like I owned the place and the guy was really pissed off. We couldn't communicate but I realized my wrong and fled. So a war was avoided. But in the dark I couldn't avoid a rice pad and fell into it. Not to full of water, but enough of slimy mud. At this point I really didn't care about the crops anymore. I was knee deep in the mud, face too, one of the backpack's straps finally gave up and I just cursed myself for not accepting the invitation of the resort's manager. To put it simply, I was done. My right shoe remained in the rice pad mud, so I got rid of the other also. Blind luck (as i wrote it was pitch dark) led me to a really abandoned shack, with half of the roof missing and inside being half flooded. Eventually I got a dry sleep, but I woke up with a sore throat and a slight fever. The rain was over. With a rope and a piece of wire i found there I fixed the strap of the backpack and, in a bad mood, went on. Following the road on my map, after eight hours, I ended on dirt road, leading to the bank of a large river. No bridge, only a few houses on the other side. A few boatmen on this side, looking at me. "Where you go, sir?" "Nagtipunan." "Oh, Nagtipunan back there you come, here nothing." So I reached the end of the world, huh?

I gave up. I went "back there you come", a tiny village I barely noticed, got drunk with some local "bad elements" and hopped on a jeepney to Maddela. Without hiking, only modern time transportation, I ended in Angeles City. Lucky me. On the web I searched for the cheapest place to stay, it was the Angeles Budget Hotel. Lucky me. Situated in the middle of Korea town. True, to find it I had to walk all along the 21st street - the red light district - and it was a very unpleasant sight. I've never seen so many fat old westerners like here. Disgusting. But at least the Korea town is peaceful. They have their own police force, fire brigade and so on. It's organized well above the Philippino standards. I don't mind go to buy beers at midnight through some dark streets. I only don't like the stickers on the walls saying "Go home Koreans!" It reminds me of Korea, where they say "Go home Philippinos!"

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