As they say, it's not the journey; it's the destination.
Nearly seven hours away from Manila, my friends and I drove (they did, to be more accurate) to Baler, the surfing capital of Eastern Luzon, located in Aurora province. How we ended up there when there are numerous beaches and resorts closer to Manila was decided over a couple of beers and cocktails on the rooftop of my hotel. There you go.
While waiting to check in, some of us trekked to Ditumabo Falls in the neighbouring town of San Luis, Aurora.
The trip is a challenge both to vehicles meant for offroad driving and one's offroad driving skills. On the tricycle (below photo) on the way to the falls, we saw a couple of 4x4s struggling and crawling on the very rough and rocky terrain, while a few were in a complete halt, assessing if they should proceed. For Php 400 (roughly GBP 6 or USD 9), my friend and I half-enjoyed and half-held our breath while attempting to glue ourselves to our seats while our driver negotiated the rugged road.
Considered an iconic Philippine mode of transportation whether in the city or the provinces, I used to ride tricycles a lot growing up and living in the country. For the roughest and narrowest roads, this takes the cake over SUVs.
Coconuts at the ready for fresh buko (coconut) juice to be served to thirsty tourists. The bamboo bridge on the right was just one among the many we had to cross to reach the falls. The hike took us around 30 minutes, which was a feat under direct sunlight and temperature hovering in the 30s centigrade. Add to that the streams and massive rocks to be navigated with running water and moss making the steps slippery.
|There were a few things bothering me the past few days, and I must say the strenuous walk cleared my mind.|
I'm not sure if you've noticed by now that Filipinos love to eat and would find any reason or excuse to do so. Along the way were a few pit stops just for that.
|Cold drinks stored in a big container filled with ice. Take your pick.|
|Banana cue!! Deep fried saba bananas coated in caramelised brown sugar.|
|Are red hotdogs only available in the Philippines? I used to pay £20 for these at Filipino groceries in Earl's Court|
|You can never go wrong with corn. These babies were roasted over an open fire.|
And then, finally....
Affectionately called Mother Falls, Ditumabo is the biggest of all the falls in the area. The last time I came up close with one was in Ireland a couple of years ago, but swimming wasn't allowed. Who would dare anyway in the frozen water?
After the long walk when I've profusely sweat for half an hour my annual contribution to perspiration evaporation in the UK, the cold water was such a relief. It's that cold though that not covering yourself would be like a shock to your system. Hence, most swimmers were either wearing a shirt and shorts over their swimsuits, or a surfing gear to shield themselves from the gush of water that hits the skin with a needle-prick sensation. I covered with a pareo and stayed closer to the torrent of water from the Sierra Madre highlands and felt as if I was having a hard massage.
On the way back, our guide (who was also my assistant, toting my beach bag along) pointed at picturesque spots where we could also swim and play in the water without the throng. That called for a photo opp to which my friend indulged me.
Below are two shots I posted on Instagram which some of you may have already seen. Memories of experiences that may take ages to happen again are more fun when not captured as selfies, especially when the person behind the camera is a lovely friend that I have not seen for 12 years prior to this trip.