Monday, May 10, 2010

Trip to the Taal Crater

Last April 9, 2010, hubby and I planned on going to Mt. Samat to take our brand new toy for a spin. (A DSLR we named Bella). At the last minute we decided against going since president GMA was scheduled to make an appearance there for the Araw ng Kagitingan Ceremonies. We decided to go to Taal Volcano instead.

From Tagaytay, we went down, down, down a winding road to Talisay Batangas where the Taal Lake Yacht Club is located. From the main road, we turned left to a steep sloping driveway and we were greeted by a view of the Taal Lake and various water crafts, this being a yacht club after all. Thankfully, they also had a secured parking area, visitors will be gone for a few hours while on the Crater Trek, it is comforting to know that your vehicle and belongings are safe and secure.

Once we got out of the car, we were dwarfed by the enormous trees surrounding us. There were lush shrubs and thick greeneries everywhere. Though it was hot, there was a light breeze coming from the lake’s direction. We went to the kiosk in the just beyond the scattered nipa huts; this is where we are supposed to look for Aling Sonya and register.
A package for two costs almost P3000:

Boat ride – P1800.00 (can accommodate up to 4 passengers)
Horses - P 1,000.00 (500 each and free guide, optional) **
Misc, Expenses P 120.00 (tourism fees, landing fee for the boat etc)

* the package also includes free use of the shower rooms (to wash off the volcanic dust,) and 2 hours stay in the nipa huts for rest and relaxation.

** A tourist may choose to walk their way to the crater or to ride a horse, either way you need a guide. And if you choose to walk, you’ll still have to pay for the guide.

We were led to a small but sturdy looking motorized banca. Our assigned companion Manong Resty insisted that we wear our life vests (which looked clean and new by the way, not at all icky as I expected them to be). The banca ride was relaxing with the calm water and the azure skies as backdrop.


When we got to the volcano, a helpful local greeted us with a small bench to help us alight our boat. I expected the man to ask for a tip or some sort of payment but he went on his way as soon as we had our feet on the sand.

We were led to the stables and we were welcomed by the mixed smell of sweat and horse waste. There, we were mobbed by women hawking all kinds of merchandise from bottled water to wide brimmed native hats. A woman approached us selling face masks; she warned that the trek will truly be dusty. Word from the wise, buy one, you’ll need it! For P30 each, it will be worth it especially it you opted to ride the horse, you’ll be holding on to the horse and your gear, it will surely help to have a facemask.



As we went on our way, I happily noted that there were 2 women guiding me and my horse on each side. Hubby got only one guide hehehe. This went on until we were faced with a sharp rocky climb. Then my extra guide posed the question: do I want her services? She can accompany me all the way to the crater, as another guide to ensure my safety. And all the while I thought she was a freebie! I declined her offer, especially when I found out it was another P500 to avail of her services. We trudged on without her, my horse struggled but she made it.
Our path to the crater was dry, dusty and rocky. Many times, the trek can be pretty scary especially for a scaredy cat like me. Just trust your guide, they’ve been up and down these slopes since childhood, they know what they’re doing.


Although we initially felt alone as we trudged the steep hill, we soon encountered a lot of tourists on our way up the crater, most of them Koreans I think.


Once we reached the top, we were welcomed with the stench of horse waste. Horses are allowed only up to this point and we were supposed to walk the rest of the way. Be wary of sellers peddling various drinks. Each drink costs P50 since they had to be transported from the mainland to the volcano. If you’ve developed some sort of rapport with your guide, you may buy them a cold drink, but don’t feel pressured. It’s ok to say no.

Once we reached the top, we were greeted by the majestic view of the Taal Crater Lake. Emerald green in color, probably from the high sulfuric content. The water was calm and serene. It’s very relaxing just looking at it. It even looks deceivingly inviting, in fact there have been swimmers even divers allowed to swim in the lake, but the high sulfur may cause damage to clothes and gear, not to mention the danger since you’ll be swimming on a CRATER!
The edge is lined with a mix of bamboo and metal fences, to protect overly eager tourists from going over the edge. Bamboo stilts were set up to give photo enthusiasts a good vantage point in taking breathtaking photos.

While up there, you may also buy some souvenirs and snacks. I bought buko juice right out of the buko shell. Wonderfully refreshing!

After taking what must have been hundreds of shots, hubby has had his fill and decided it was time to go down. I dreaded the trek back, knowing we’ll be welcomed once again by the dust and heat. For those who walked to the crater, they can choose to rent a horse on the way back to the boats for P300 I think.

The trek to the Taal Crater Lake is definitely a must try. I wouldn’t recommend it to kids though. It is different experience, although it might be better not to go in the midst of an El Nino phenomenon since the heat is almost too much to bear, plus everything is dry and dusty, the view of the surroundings is not that good.

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