Day 5 – Taal Volcano

Tagaytay, Philippines

After catching up on my sleep last night, I checked out of the hotel just before noon.  As I was storing my bag for the day at the front desk, I met a couple from Quebec who had done the Taal volcano trip yesterday.

They said they had booked an “all-in” package with a trike driver.  Apparently this is available from all trike drivers which would explain why every time I entered a trike yesterday the driver would ask if I was going to see the volcano at some point.

For 1900 pesos ($45) they drive you down to Talisay (about 30 minutes away) to where the banca (catamaran type boats) launch from.  Of course they all have “friends” who have a boat who I’m sure give them some sort of commission.

It actually doesn’t matter whose boat you take because they all charge 1500 pesos for them (included in the “all-in” price).

Then, while you cross the lake to Taal and then do the trek up to the volcano, they just wait for you to come back and then drive you back to your hotel.

So basically for 400 pesos (1900-1500) you hire a trike driver for a few hours.

I was tempted to do it this way because, let’s face it, it’s a really easy way to go about things.  It’s all packaged up in a nice little bow.

However I wanted to experience this tour my way which meant taking a jeepney, another jeepney and then finding a boat of my own.

Doing it this way is about 300 pesos ($7) cheaper and more of an adventure.  I didn’t really care about the $7, I just wanted the adventure of finally riding a jeepney!

Before all that though I took a trike to the main square again to grab some breakfast at – where else – Jollibees.  Corned beef with rice, egg, peach cobbler and a drink for 99 pesos ($2.50).  Yummy!

After asking a couple of people, I finally found the starting point of the first jeepney I had to take from Oliveira square to People’s Park.

Of course I missed my stop and had to take another jeepney back but I made it to Ligaya drive where a second jeepney leaves from to go to Talisay where all the boats are.

I hopped in the jeepney and I was the only one there.  After five minutes, I was still the only one there.  The thing about jeepneys is they won’t leave without at least 4 people in them.  Hmmm, this could take awhile…

I actually decided to just hop out and paid a trike (180 pesos instead of 50 pesos for the jeepney) to take me the rest of the way instead.

Twenty minutes later I arrived at his “friend’s” boat launching pad where I paid my 1500 pesos and was ushered onto his boat.

Going over to the island takes about a half hour as the waves are really choppy and the boat travels (kind of) slow.  Not slow enough to keep you from getting soaked though so if you’re doing this trip, I have one piece of advice:

Buy the rain poncho they offer you when you pay for the boat!

I didn’t have one and I got soaked.  Thankfully the driver gave me a piece of plastic to wrap around my backpack so at least that didn’t get entirely wet.

I didn’t really care too much.  It was nice to feel the splash of water on this hot, sunny day and I figured I would dry up pretty quick walking up the volcano.

When we landed on the beach at Taal I was met with dozens of guides and their horses asking if I wanted to go with them.  For 300-600 pesos (this is negotiable) you can hire them and they will walk their horse with you on it up and back down the 40 minutes path up to the volcano crater.

I opted to do the hike on my own instead as I wanted to have the opportunity to stop and take pictures along the way.  Plus I felt bad for the horses.  They are all small and scrawny.  In fact, I’ve noticed the same with the cats and dogs I’ve seen along the way – they are scrawny too.  Lack of food for everybody it would seem.

I paid my 50 pesos at the tourist information office for their environmental fee (basically it’s their entrance fee) and headed up the path.

The first part of the walk was very steep and as I saw horse after horse coming down the mountain I was starting to question my choice to walk.  It seemed like I was the only one and that hill was steep!  By the middle though it’s not as steep and I stopped a few times to take some nice photos.

As each guide passed me on the way down they would say “hello sir!”.  By the end of the trek as I was taking a break drinking my water they would ask if I was okay.  Once again, such polite people!

After 40 minutes I reached the top where there are a handful of little shacks offering up their wares to all us tourists.  There’s tshirts, beers, snacks and jewelry.  I actually bought a cool little bracelet for 50 pesos ($1.25) but I’m guessing it probably won’t last the trip as it’s made on flimsy stretchable string and I’ve already caught it on my bag a couple of times.

But still, pretty cool souvenir.

After hanging out on the top of the volcano for awhile and taking the obligatory photos I was heading back down about 20 minutes later.

On the path down I met Leslie.  I had noticed he had a prosthetic leg and I commented how awesome it was that he chose to hike up instead of taking the horse.  I found out he’s from Belgium and actually lost the leg in the Yugoslavian war 13 years earlier when he was there as a peacekeeper.

The Belgium government now pays him disability every 3 months and he travels the world.  Makes you think – would you give up one of your legs if it meant you could give up working and travel for the rest of your life?  I’m thinking I would!

Anyway, the walk was alot easier coming down because obviously it was downhill but also because of the conversation to pass the time.

On the boat ride back I was smarter and took off my shoes and socks and wrapped them up with my bag.  Of course the rest of me got soaked again but at least I wouldn’t have wet shoes the rest of the day.

I took a jeepney back to the hotel, picked up my bag and quickly changed into some fresh clothes.  I was still dirty from the dusty trail and sea water but I had already checked out and had nowhere to freshen up.

It was 3:30pm when I left the hotel to go to the main square.  I stopped by Chow King (another Filipino chain restaurant) where I had a combination of dimsum, chow mein, rice, chicken and a sesame ball (129 peso).

At 4:00 I walked over to where the buses leave from (there’s no terminal, they just load on the side of the road).  I walked right on the bus and we took off almost right away.  Nice timing!

I was pretty sure the bus ride out to Tagaytay took 3 hours so I was quite surprised to see the Coastal Mall bus stop fast approaching after only 2 hours.

I took a taxi from there to the hostel I had booked for the night here in Manila.  My navigation tool on my phone said it was 19 minutes away.

Of course with the ridiculous traffic here in Manila, it took an hour.  Thankfully the cab rides are pretty cheap here and it only cost me 190 pesos (about $5).

Considering an hour cab ride back home would probably cost closer to $50 I couldn’t really complain about the situation.

At the hostel I met Simon from Sweden who had just arrived to the Philippines that afternoon.  We chatted about our trips and I introduced him to Jollibees as we headed out around 9pm.

A fried chicken/spaghetti combo later and I returned to the hostel while he went out for a beer.

I hung out in the common room for a couple hours listening to travel tales from some of the other travelers and by 1am I was in bed.

It was a long day.  If you weren’t keeping track – the transport today was:  trike, jeepney, jeepney, trike, boat, jeepney, trike, bus, taxi.  Yeah, it was a long day but I ain’t complaining…

Asia Trip 2014, Trip Journal

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