"White Water Tripping" Tuguegarao City Travelogue by ionaks
Tuguegarao City Travel Guide: 40 reviews and 121 photos
It was one of those times when getting away was simply a must. After two months as a law school freshman, I was ready to forego another weekend of hitting the books for a long road trip, good company, and two days of white water fun and adventure!
It was a 10- to 12- hour bus ride to Tuguegarao City. (Spending the night on the bus wasn’t too bad; we slept through most of it anyway). We arrived a little after dawn and were whisked away to lovely Casa Carag, which served as home for the next two days. The house is actually the ancestral home of Anton Carag, co-owner of Adventures and Expeditions Philippines, Inc (AEPI) and our gracious host and mentor for the trip.
After a hurried but sumptuous breakfast, we were finally off to the first item on the agenda. We headed southwest for two hours towards Barangay Dumyangan in Tabuk, Kalinga. It is here that the Pasil River empties into the Chico River and the fun begins.
After a concise briefing on rafting and river safety, we donned our life vests and helmets, grabbed a paddle each, and loaded the inflatable rafts in groups of four and five. This leg would take us on a 19-kilometer stretch of the lower Chico through rapids ranging from Class 1 to 3+. Hearts a-pounding, we set off.
It was exhilarating! It’s difficult to describe the rush I felt as we encountered each rapid, struggled to maneuver the raft, and tried not to fall overboard. The noise of the churning waters, the barked commands of the guides, and the occasional scream from a paddling buddy lent more excitement to the entire experience. At the same time, the relaxed drifting in between rapids offered enough opportunities to contemplate the tranquility and sheer beauty of the Cordilleras.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), nobody fell into the water that day (not even in the area which the guides have playfully christened “The Piggy Bank” as this is where they usually, so to speak, deposit their guests.) This is not to suggest that the rapids were not strong enough. In fact, according to Anton, a recent typhoon changed the river such that the swells became bigger and the current faster in many places.
On our way home that afternoon, we took a quick detour and headed to Peñablanca, a historic municipality 30 minutes east of Tuguegarao City. A 10-minute motorized boat ride upstream along the Pinacanauan River allowed us to witness quite a nature show. From a cave high up the cliff wall facing the river, hundreds of thousands of bats streamed out into the surrounding forest. There were so many bats that it created the illusion of synchronized ribbons fluttering against the darkening sky. It was an eerily beautiful and fitting way to end our first day in Cagayan.
Back at Casa Carag, we were in for a very pleasant surprise. We emerged from our showers to see the dinner table laden with gourmet cheeses, crostini, salami, and red wine. And those were just the appetizers! After a day of enjoyable mayhem on the river, such a civilized and delicious treat was just heavenly…
The smell of freshly-brewed coffee, hot chocolate, and another delicious breakfast greeted us when we awoke at 6 am the next day. We had a full itinerary ahead of us, so there was no time to waste! Soon enough, we were on the road again, heading back to Peñablanca where a day of caving and kayaking beckoned.
The Peñablanca Protected Landscape, the corridor to the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, is home to more than 300 caves. While 108 of these caves have been identified by the Nationa Museum to have archeological significance, only 75 have thus far been mapped.
We visited two of these caves. First was Callao cave, which was a relatively easy 30-minute trek from the registration area. The cave boasts several huge chambers with natural and dramatic skylights. There is even a chapel in one of the larger caverns where Mass is celebrated twice a year. Our guide, Argel, pointed out some technical characteristics of the caverns and lamented how the caves have been spoiled by vandalism.
The second cave, Roc cave, was a little harder to explore. In contrast to Callao, Roc is a “living” cave, which means that stalactites and stalagmites are still being actively formed by the action of water in the cave system. There were no huge open caverns at Roc; instead, we literally had to squeeze through narrow passageways and crawl on our bellies beneath low-hanging formations. Taken together, the two caves provided not only a good caving experience, but also excellent settings for lectures on geology and cave conservation.
Out of the darkness and into the light, we walked back to the registration area where we boarded motorized bancas and headed upriver on the Pinacanauan. Minutes later, we were seated comfortably under a large tent set on the riverbank. A feast of grilled pork, chicken, and fish, a delicious local vegetable dish, ripe bananas, and ice-cold sodas lay before us.
After lunch and a short lesson on kayaking, we again headed upriver on the bancas. We went as far as we could given the time constraints – the further we went the more of the river we could traverse on kayak. Two and a half hours later, Anton decided that the spot would be perfect for our next wild ride.
There was something daunting about the concept of being in individual boats, paddling on our own. The kayaks were much lower in the water than the rafts, and gave a different feel of the water. The rapids at Pinacanauan, though actually milder than those at the Chico, seemed much faster and scarier. The rocks seemed bigger and more treacherous. But of course, all that just made the experience more thrilling.
This time, most of the group had a taste of falling into the water and getting swept away by the current. No worries though as there were more than enough guides on hand to make sure no major accidents occurred. Actually, falling in was really part of the fun, bruised egos notwithstanding.
About two hours later, the adventure regrettably came to an end. We parked our kayaks, and relinquished our paddles, helmets and vests for the last time. The sun was just about to set, and the short boat ride back to the docking area gave us one last chance to look around and take in the magnificence of our surroundings. Out there where the Pinacanauan winds along the foothills of the Sierra Madre, the scene was more strikingly beautiful than I had anticipated. It was truly overwhelming.
We boarded the bus at 7:45 that same evening. Tucked in my mental photo album (and in the digital memory of my companions’ cameras) were images that would not soon be forgotten: friends struggling to paddle only to gamely fall into white churning waters; tables filled with gastronomic delights; our host Anton patiently sharing stories of his beloved Cagayan. But my favorite image of all was one where small, colorful boats were flowing with, and not against, the rhythm of a mighty river, against a backdrop of formidable rock and infinite sky.
What was the only drawback to the entire experience? That it came to an end, that’s what.
For information and bookings, contact Adventures & Expeditions Philippines Inc. thru Anton Carag 0917-5327480; (078)8441298 (Tuguegarao) ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; or Didi Camara 0917-7630634; (02)8725478 (Manila); firstname.lastname@example.org ; or check out www.whitewater.ph
We took the trip August 2004 and this was published in the November 2004 issue of Citiguide magazine. Photo credits go to my happy paddling buddies.
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