Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Batangas: Taal Volcano trek & horseback ride

I just came back from Taal Volcano. And when I say Taal Volcano, it's not just Tagaytay City but the volcano island itself. In fact there is a small island within the crater lake within the volcano island within Taal Lake which is within the caldera of an older volcano.

To get there, you have to go to the town of Talisay, Batangas via Tagaytay City. It was totally foggy when we arrived in Tagaytay. Actually, in the rotunda area, you already have people advertising boat rides to Taal. So we inquired and they were offering the boats for PHP3500 saying it was standard tourist rate the LGU allowed them to charge. Anyway, after some haggling (I appealed to pity and said there were only two of us, students at that), I was able to get the price down substantially but he requested we keep it a secret. We also booked horse rides from the shore to the crater lake for PHP500.

Before I forget, I'll be going around a lot in the next few days. Remember the China-ASEAN Youth Camp 2006 which I attended? Jiajin, our liaison officer while we were in Guandong Province, visited us here in the Philippines. And as gracious hosts, we are taking him around.

Anyway, when you close the deal, the guy would board your vehicle and accompany you to their port in Talisay. From there, it's a 20 minute pump boat ride to the island. Be ready to get wet. Once you get to the shore, you pay a PHP50 entrance fee which goes to provincial tourism (but our guide compained that they do not feel the benefits of the fee and they think it just goes to the pockets of politicians).

Since we had pre-booked the horse rides, we didn't have to haggle with the guides for prices. So we just rode on two horses and were off. It's about 20 minutes from the shore to the top of the crater lake on a horse. You can also opt to walk but it would take you about an hour. It started to drizzle in the middle of our trip up but it wasn't that bad. It was a good thing there were huts at the top.

The view of the crater lake was simply awesome! You could actually go down to the lake on foot. I did it once way back in college for a geology class and it was really exhausting. They say you also need a guide so you'll have to haggle for fees. We waited for the rain to stop before we took a hike around the crater rim which was smoking in some parts.

It's just sad that there was a lot of garbage on the slope closest to the huts, mostly mineral water bottles thrown down by tourists among others. I hope they place garbage cans in the viewing area so that all that rubbish does not find its way down. Taal Volcano is a national geological monument and is thus a protected area. Tanods should strictly implement laws, particularly when it comes to cleanliness and fine offenders on the spot.

Anyway, we then decided to rush back down to the shore while the skies were a bit clear. We were planning to visit other towns of Batangas. But after someone pointed us to the wrong road while in Laurel (we wasted so much time), we decided to just go back to Tagaytay to relax the whole afternoon and enjoy the view. Our plan was to sleep over in Tagaytay that night but hotels there are very pricey! It was cheaper to go home in fact. Oh well!

We have another trip scheduled tomorrow, this time to Laguna and Rizal.
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