Saturday, March 12, 2011

[PEÑABLANCA] When They Said “Full” It Wasn’t a Joke

It was still early and I was still full of Chowking, but it was time to cross out an activity from my list and I decided that activity to be Callao Cave. The driver already stationed and waiting for passengers in front of the cathedral was old and only spoke Ilokano. Fearing we might end up in Baguio, I excused myself and looked for another Quadsi. I found one, who I think overcharged me by asking for 20 pesos when the distance covered was not that long. He took me to a parking lot teeming with jeep and more Quadsi. The jeeps were all full. By full I mean as in up to the roof. They take the term overloading to a whole new level here. I am adventurous but I don't welcome the idea of being asked to ride on the wheels.

The Quadsi said 35 pesos per passenger but we had to wait for seven people. Three people can fit inside with one getting an instant scoliosis. Two people can sit behind the driver. Where do the other two actually position themselves? Roof again? Wow, enigma of the day! Unfortunately, I was not able to find out because I decided to listen to the jeering of another driver asking me to pay for seven people so we could leave at once. The prospect of more tourists going to the caves via Quadsi seemed dim at that time. Fine, I would shoulder the cost! 245 pesos and that was not round trip, by the way. The joy of traveling alone!

The whole trip to the cave, which includes crossing the Pinacanauan River and a 148-step hike, takes around an hour. Common sense would tell you that it would be dark inside the cave but the awesome part is that this particular cave welcomes a lot of sunlight in seven chambers, which means you might not need a flashlight if you visit while the sun is still up. However, there is a circadian migration of bats every sundown, which is always a sight to behold as told by locals. I did not get to experience this (watching the event, not flying with the bats). My suggestion is to plan your itinerary accordingly if you want to witness it.

A kid suddenly boarded the boat and started talking about random trivia of the province and the cave in particular. I do not remember asking for a guide, although having one is not that bad either. The kid’s name is Andoy and he told me that they are trained by the local government as tourist guides. He actually came in handy since I just lazed around when I was supposed to be doing research of the place. The kid sufficed as a good substitute for Google.

The boat ride won't take 15 minutes. On the other side, you trek a flight of steps leading to the registration area where you pay a 20-peso fee for the cave entrance and write your name on their log book. No, this is not for stalking purposes. I understand that in this era of quick information it is a bit difficult to trust people but that log book is for your own safety. Just in case a cave troll decides to eat you, at least your relatives would know where to look for your bones.

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