Whitewater Kayaking, Camiling River, Tarlac – September 16, 2012

Tarlac for me, and probably for many Manileneos has always been “that place along McArthur Highway you pass to get to Baguio.” It never occurred to me that in that big expanse of land between Pampanga and Pangasinan would be the potential for adventure spots yet undiscovered. One such adventure is Whitewater Kayaking.

I first became aware of this just a few days ago with a Facebook message from my niece suggesting we try out. She led me to this page on FB https://www.facebook.com/RAPIDSTREAM. From there I sent them e-mail and quikly got a reply. I made a booking for party of five which included my sister, my two nieces, and my grandnephew.

Here’s a quick look at the salient points in their e-mail to me:

The Rapid Stream whitewater kayaking package is PHP 1800 per person and includes equipment rental, river guide fee, snack and native organic meal.

 

Typically, groups will meet at our site (also the take out point) in San Jose, Tarlac at 9am where we then do a safety briefing. From there we take jeepneys up to the put in site in a small mountain town called Maamot (about 30 min drive). It takes us about 3 hours to kayak the 12.5 km stretch of river. Lunch is then served upon our arrival at the Rapid Stream site.

 

8 years old is our minimum age. No maximum weight. Payment can be cash on arrival.

Note: This day was just totally awesome. I took some really fantastic pictures with my waterproof camera… of which I could not share with you because the camera is somewhere at the bottom of the Camiling River. Photos here are from my iPhone. More on this later.

We booked ourselves for the 9am trip. We left Manila at around 6:30am. My sister and I were contemplating the trip as it was raining in Manila at around 5am. Using the simple logic “just because its raining here, doesn’t mean its raining there” along with “just because its raining now doesn’t mean it will be raining later” and of course a quick check of the weather on the internet. We decided to push through with it. And incidentally, the weather, though overcast, was great.

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It took us just an hour and a half to get to Tarlac City, finding Rapid Stream was a bit of a challenge. Apparently the Bing Map on their Facebook “Location” wasn’t to Rapid Stream itself, but to a meeting point where someone was supposed to wait for us guide us through. Nonetheless, we spent the next hour driving straight with the help of a phonecall and some directions.

We got to Rapid Stream just a little after 9am with the whole group already there.

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After a while we go a jeep for the 30 minute trip to our jump off point where we would get on the boats and start the adventure.

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Pictured above is me and my sister who didn’t do any paddling. She left the paddling to me and our guide.

If you are a novice, don’t fret. Each boat has its own guide, which means that you won’t be paddling by yourself.

The whole trip took around 3 hours from the time we started. The whole adventure was certainly simply awesome. While paddling we stopped at several spots where you could jump of rocks and into the river. As you paddle your way down the river one could appreciate the fantastic scenery of Tarlac… with Carabaos staring at you as you float by you.

I took several great photos along the way. But alas… I have none to show you. My waterproof Sony Cybershot was in my vest’s front pocket for convenience. Since the ride was tame enough. Then we reached a point they had named the “Washing Machine” where were given the option for the “safe route” or to go through Washing Machine itself.

All went well, but as we were traversing the “safe” route our boat hit a stalled boat and so we turned over.

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The moment I got out of the water, I happened to glance at my chest and noticed that my camera (and my water bottle) were no longer on my vest pocket.  (The photo above is that said location)

Oh well. Had I known, I would have secured the camera in my hands or in my pockets.

While we waited for the rest to come through the path and fall in in the process… I pondered over my lost camera. Not so much with the camera itself, but the photos of the day’s trip. “Sayang”

Making up for lost time… and photos, I carefully took out my iPhone from my drybag and took a few shots.

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Above are my nieces Leah and Kitkat and my grandnephew Ziggy having a blast as the guides brought them through the washing machine. My niece Kitkat was wailing like it was the end of the world… she had fun.

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That’s my sister in the distance in the middle of the pic. She had drifted a little further before being rescued by the guides after our boat turned over.

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My niece had fun as she watched us turn over in the water… hehe

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Me at “the spot”

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Despite my loss… and I really didn’t feel to bad about it… it was an awesome day! My nephew uttered the words to his manong guide “BEST SUNDAY EVER!”

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We reached the end. We landed just outside the Rapid Stream site where the cars were parked. We had a late lunch, then we headed back to Manila shortly after.

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I’ll say it again… this was an AWESOME ADVENTURE! This is certainly a “must try” for the adventure seekers out. And if you want to do this. Do it soon… while its still there.

According to Christian Yap, one of the owners of Rapid Stream (during a brief time he took over as our guide) the government plans to put a dam in 2013. If that happens the Barangay where Rapid Stream will find itself and many other towns underwater. The price of progress I guess.

This was certainly an eye opener to me to some of the potential lakwatsas in Tarlac. This inspires me to seek them out. Keep your eye out for this new site (still being built) called Visit Tarlac (http://visittarlac.com) for list of other things to do in Tarlac.

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For more information on Rapid Stream, look them up on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RAPIDSTREAM

Detail directions to the site are found in a map here:  http://www.visittarlac.com/?p=183

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How to get to Anawangin Cove, Zambales

I’ve been asked several times recently how to get to Anawangin Cove from Manila. I decided to put a little post together with the very simple directions of how to get to Anawangin.

I will give you two options 1) by Private Vehicle and 2) by Public Transportation

Travel Times

Along with directions, I also get the question “how long does it take to get there.” That question of course depends on the following considerations:

1) What time of the day you leave Manila. As you guess there is a big difference when you start your trip at 5am, 7am, 9am, or any time after that. As the morning/day progresses your travel time will lengthen as more vehicles (specifically tricycles) occupy the road. Another
2) How fast you drive. I need not explain.

Depending on your answers to #1 and #2 above, the answer is… “it depends.”

For me, I like leaving Manila very early. And I drive very… very fast. So I can make the trip to Anawangin leaving Manila at around 5am in around 2 and a half hours. Give or take.

The Map

Having a visual of where to pass is always handy.


View Anawangin Cove, Zambales in a larger map

 

The Directions (by private vehicle)

1) Head to NLEX. I like passing the new Mindanao Avenue route. Passing through EDSA then turning right at Balintawak is always a bottle neck because its such a narrow one lane road with all the buses.

2) Head to the end of NLEX past the Dao exit then head for the SCTEX.

3) Follow the signs to the SCTEX.

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4) Be sure to NOT to head towards Tarlac. Be sure to head towards Subic which is heading to the right.

5) Exit at Subic. Pass through Subic and head for the gate at the extreme end of Dewey Street.

6) Exit Subic. You should see the Olongapo Public Cemetery in front of you. Turn Left.

7) Stay on the road. You will be passing through a number of towns on the way including; Subic Town, Castillejos, the San Marcelino. (you might also see some signs heading towards Iba).

NOTE: Depending on the time of day, from Subic to San Antonio, Zambales would take around 45 min to an hour.

8) When you reach San Marcelino, at the public market you will see an intersection. If you head straight you will be headed towards Iba. You should turn left to San Antonio.

9) When you get to San Antonio, head straight till you see the Municipal Hall and the Church. At the end of the main road you should turn LEFT.

10) Follow the signs headed to Pundaquit. The streets are parallel and perpendicular to one another so you should find the road.

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11) When you reach Pundaquit Beach… I suggest you keep on following the road till you see parking areas to your left. Park the car then inquire about boats to Anawangin.  Parking is (well, used to be the last time I was there) around P50 for the day.

12) This is where your negotiation skills come into play. Some charge per head, some for the whole boat. Don’t ask me what the cost will be… that is up to you. If you look at the comments page of this post, there is a guy who posted the boat rates. Bahala ka na.

13) Optionally, you could hike across the mountains to Anawangin. No, I have never done this, and will never do this. So I can’t help you here.

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The Directions (by public transportation)

While asked many times about how to get here via public transportation, I really have never done it. These directions are not out of experience, but through one of my best friends who grew up in San Antonio, Zambales.

1) Take a bus to San Antonio, Zambales. The prices may have changed, but as far as we know, it is currently P250/person for Victory Liner from the Pasay City or Cubao stations.

Depending on the time of day, the trip from Manila to San Antonio should take you anywhere from 2.5 hours to 5 hours.

2) When you get to San Antonio, you can take a tricycle to Pundaquit. If you are a big group you probably might be able to negotiate for a jeep at the town center to bring you to Pundaquit.

3) Get a boat from Pundaquit as staed at #12 above.

Enjoy.

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I’ve been to Anawangin Twice in past few years. You can review my blog posts for reference:

http://lakwatsero.me/2010/01/10/anawangin-cove-zambales-january-9-2010/

http://lakwatsero.me/2010/06/05/capones-island-and-to-anawangin-cove-zambales-june-1-2010/

Dive and Trek, Anilao (aka Batang Yagit goes Diving) – May 12, 2012

People go on lakwatsas for various reasons. Once it a while, it isn’t about you. Sometimes its about sharing an experience with a friend. For around a week, Benj Espina and I had been chatting on Facebook bringing Winston Almendras (aka Batang Yagit) Scuba Diving. I had been hearing about this from both of them for months, I thought it would make for an awesome adventure.

So we set off from BGC at around 5:15am and headed for Anilao. We leisurely got to Anilao at around 8am and waited for the boat to take us to Dive and Trek.


View Dive and Trek in a larger map

 

The weather was a bit overcast in the morning, fortunately, the skies cleared up as the day bore on.

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Arriving at Dive and Trek we settled in, registered ourselves, and scheduled our dives for the day. We got a dive master to bring out Winston for his check-out dive with a little intro lecture before hand.

Dive and Trek

The resort, inaccessible by land, is a quaint little place, very tastefully done. The thing Benj and I observed is that we Filipinos were the minority that day. It was nice to see a number of foreigners enjoying themselves.

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Benj I start out with a short dive while Winston does some snorkeling. This is one of those rare times where I get into the water from a pier and not off a boat. So my initial entry into the water was a bit clumsy.

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The waters around area were teaming with life. Lots of fish around. But of course, that does have its down side. I have observed, that lots of fish, means lots of food in the water… that translates to less then crystal clear visibility.

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Batang Yagit goes Diving

But of course, this day was about Winston. And helping him get an awesome experience out of this. On my part, I wanted to make sure the moment was well documented in photos and videos, first moments are always memorable.

Its rare for me to use my Liquid Image mask with the built in camera. So unlike taking video with an handheld camera, this take video from my point of view. So please excuse the sudden jerks in the video as I turn my head. But at least you get a real first-person view of what is happening. And as an added bonus (or annoyance) you get to hear what I hear… and in my case is… my breathing!

After our dive, the dive master sat Winston down for a brief lecture. With Winston, was this Australian lady, also a beginner.

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So we got suited up, and we were ready!

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This submerged pier was an interesting experience.

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The excitement mounts…

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Getting strapped in

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There was a lot of time spent on getting his mask on just right.

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Tada!

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And he finally goes in…

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Video moment… (more at the bottom of the post)

Probably Wins’ greatest issue dealt with mask clearing (in fairness is a common newbie issue). Benj took him through the paces a number of times. (that’s Benj’s glove)

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and we’re off!

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Haha! Parang pro na!

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FISHES! (ok… the grammar is questionable on that one).

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He seems to be getting used to it.

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The one thing we kept on noticing with Winston was his “bicycle peddling” movement. Normally you are supposed to keep your legs straight and extend with slight knee bending. In Winston’s case he was moving his legs like crazy.

We also kept on floating upwards. There was a funny-panic moment when Benj and I looked at each other and gesturing to one another “where is he?” as we looked left and right in panic! We found him hovering over us around 2 meters above us.

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He looked like he was having fun experiencing the awesomeness of the moment.

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And around 40 minutes later! SUCCESS with Dive 1

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After lunch we went down for another dive.

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During the second dive, Benj tells Wins to stay close to us. Then… at one point during the dive… Benj vanishes for a few minutes!

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All in all it was a great leisurely day. We had a great time at the resort. The weather was great. And of course we are thankful that there were no serious incidents.

By around 3:30pm we were all packed and ready to go back. We paid what we owed to the resort and we headed back.

We ended the day with some Batangas Bulalo at Benj’s Family’s restaurant. Rose and Grace, in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.

Photo May 12, 6 41 23 PM

It’s always great to expose friends to new experiences, especially those that you yourself are passionate about.

 

More Video Moments.

All of these are the raw video from my mask-cam. With my breathing and the sound of my breathing, you get the “being there” experience.

Video 2

Video 3

Video 4

Video 5

Mapanuepe Lake, Zambales – April 5, 2012

It’s the middle of summer, and everywhere you go, you see crowds of people flocking to the usual destinations. Being one who detests crowds of tourists,  I enjoy discovering new places, yet untouched by commercialism (or in some cases, forgotten). On this day, me and my friends set forth to a destination guided only by Google Maps and an iPad.


View Mapanuepe Lake, Zambales in a larger map

Mapanuepe Lake is a freshwater lake located in the province of Zambales in the Philippines. The lake was created after the cataclysmic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. Lahars following the eruption blocked the drainage of Mapanuepe River, south of the volcano, flooding Mapanuepe Valley together with its settlements. – from Wikipedia

This destination was suggested to me by Eman Lacuata… who after a camping trip with his friends said that this would be a nice destination to write about. He wasn’t kidding. I

I made this trek with 3 of my Kaladkarin Friends, RD Cimafranca, Patrick Mineses, and Jonathan Guevara

Getting There

The lake is easy to spot on Google Maps (oddly does not appear on Bing Maps). Just look for Mt. Pinatubo, and below it is a huge body of water next to an area marked as “Lahar Field”. Google Maps was more reliable than my car’s GPS which cut out right after we we entered the dirt road from Castillejos.

From Subic… take the National Highway (Subic-San Marcelino Road) towards San Marcelino (this road is familiar to anyone who has gone to Pundaquit/Anawangin Cove). When at Castillejos, proceed out of the town and take the road which turns to the right (see map).

Take the first main dirt road on the left. Pretty much follow that  to the town of Aglao. Take note that as of this writing, there are NO signs which will either point you to Aglao or Mapanuepe Lake.

This dirt road stretch should take you between 40-50 minutes travelling at a comfortable 30kph for the most part. There are potholes/puddles of water you obviously will want to avoid. For most of that stretch the road looks like this (see below… notice the water puddles I mentioned):

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As I said, there no street signs. Every now and then you will encounter a small town/settlement and you will need to decide at the crossroads which path to take. The GPS on the iPad was a big help on keeping us on the right path. While the photo above shows a wide road… there are sections which are wide enough just for 1 vehicle (and no room to u-turn).

Suggestion. When you encounter a choice between the wide dirt road or a narrow lahar road (see below)… take the lahar road. It is smoother.

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Halfway there you will start climbing a mountain. Oddly enough there was a very long stretch along the zigzag road that was paved.  It’s a nice stretch and you will be the only vehicle there for kilometers. Maybe (just maybe) with the rare occurrence of a loaded jeep or motorcycles.

Past the paved roads, you will catch a glimpse of the lahar fields (Pinatubo should be out of view at this point on the extreme right). I checked into Foursquare here creating “In the middle of nowhere, Zambales”… yes oddly enough we had a decent signal from Globe way out here with 3G!

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And then… you finally reach “Barangay Aglao, San Marcelino”.

(Note: As much as we wanted to add this site to Foursquare, we had no signal)

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The town was actually a very nice an quaint little town. Very clean and an obvious effort to make it that way.

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Note:

When you get in, there is a check point. Be sure to be nice and stop and fill up a log book. Don’t be anxious when you see everyone staring at you with that “who are you and what are doing here” look on their faces. It is obvious that visitors are rare.

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If you do miss the checkpoint, you may be stopped along the main road by a barangay official who will ask you if you logged in. At first we were a tad on edge when they approached us, but remember you are a guest in their town, so be nice and courteous.  All they want is for you to write your names in their log book for records purposes. I went down and filled in our names, where we are from, and our plate number.

They didn’t ask for any fee (which honestly I think they should). The Barangay Tanod (seen above) told us that some groups come and set up camp without even asking permission at the Barangay Hall. So if you plan on visit. It would be nice to seek them out, introduce yourselves, and engage in some banter before proceeding.

The place does receive a few visitors… a lot of foreigners drop by every now and then. They have no established tourism yet, so the townsfolk won’t really know what to do with you yet (until they get wind that they could make money of this… again, I think they should).

The tanod told us where we could proceed and what to do.  And we were off.

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A little later down the road we got to the lake.

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And then… the view.

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The lake was awesome!

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That mountain behind me in the distance is Mt. Pinatubo.

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Mapanuepe Lake, Zambales

There is ample room for tents for camping if so desired.

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We spent the next hour just relaxing. The breeze was so relaxing. I just wanted to enjoy the view.

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I then remembered I forgot to bring my camping hammock which would have been perfect on the branch at a nearby tree.

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… but that didn’t stop RD from relaxing on a comfortable looking rock.

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There were boats in the area. We talked to two guys with a motorized boat (not sure if they were fishermen by occupation, but they had a boat). They weren’t sure what the protocol was but they offered to take us around the lake for P500… which was quite reasonable.

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As the day drew on… something ominous. While in the middle summer, we’ve been having some funky weather lately. So while I was walking around the rim of the lake… I heard thunder coming from Mt. Pinatubo. No, Pinatubo did not come back to life and was threatening to erupt, but it became apparent that it was raining over Pinatubo. 15 minutes later, the skys above us were starting to darken. Even the townsfolk started mobilizing and getting ready for rain.

Mapanuepe Lake, Zambales

That sad, I am borrowing a few photos from Eman Lacuata’s awesome trip a few weeks earlier with his group.

They were able to borrow some row boats at no charge to go around the lake.

Photo by Elmer R. Pedrezuela courtesy of Eman Lacuata

They were able to swim in the lake

Photo courtesy of Eman Lacuata

… and when nightfall came… camp on the grounds.

Photo by Elmer R. Pedrezuela courtesy of Eman Lacuata

Due to the weather during our trip, we were not as fortunate. Perhaps on another trip.

On the way back, we took an alternate route over a lahar dike

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… to appreciate the lahar fields.

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The trip back to Castillejos was quicker at just around 40 minitues from Brgy. Aglao.

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It was definitely an awesome destination. Too bad the weather got in the way. Incidentally, it was good we left when we did. After arriving at Castillejos en route to Subic, it started to rain.

Laiya, Batangas – April 28, 2012

I have heard of Laiya, Batangas for years, but more so in the past 2 years, from friends. So last Saturday, I ventured forth on one of my no-plans road trips with the specific objective except to go south of Manila. The specific destination of Laiya cropped up as the trip progressed.

When you say “beach” as a destination in the Philippines, one usually conjures up images of a Boracay-like beach where you can waddle through misc. resorts and shops along a strip of sand. And while that concept is becoming more popular (like in Alona Beach in Bohol), many of the more traditional beaches in the Philippines are simply a resort… and a stretch of beach… simply put… where the commercialization ends at the resort itself.


View Laiya, San Juan, Batangas in a larger map

 

Laiya is around 99 Kilometers from Manila (according to my car’s trip meter and the GPS).

 

Getting There

The Drive from Manila to Laiya took us just 2.5 hours. And it was quite a convenient drive as now SLEX connects directly with the Star Toll way which could bring you directly to Batangas City if you wanted to without having to exit at Calamba anymore.

Once you pass the Calamba Toll Booths – which was traditionally the end of the road for SLEX (South Luzon Expressway) – you will find yourself unto an extension which eventually connects to the Star (Southern Tagalog Aerial Road) Tollway. This short stretch will cost you another P25 in toll.

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Then you will reach a 3rd set of toll booths connects you to STAR. You will notice the difference because STAR is not paved as nicely as SLEX… it’s a little uneven and you will feel it.

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As you exit at Lipa, you will go through several towns along the way amidst the two lane road and several tricycles.

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Finding a place to stay

We got to Laiya, Batangas and the first order of business was to find suitable lodging.

Bear in mind, that it is now the middle of summer. So as you can expect, barely everyplace was fully booked.

So much for hoping on wall-ins. Naturally I tried to book a room a few days prior. But of course, again, this being summer… every place with a website was fully booked.

We ended up in this little place called Casa Dolores. Not at all fancy… but then again, when it comes to lodging… I am not picky as well… I only have one requirement… strong water flow in the shower.

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They had free wifi… but it was limited to this lobby. I hardly reached our room which was just 4 doors away.

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We took a stoll along the beach.

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The water was definitely very clear.  I hardly saw any plastic bags in the water.

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In general, I would say that Laiya Beach is a great place if your objective is a nice sandy beach and swimming in clean clear water.  A nice place to bring the kids to enjoy the water.

However, there is no “night life” like there is in Boracay. So don’t expect any resort-hoping scenarios. The night life was simply kanya-kanyang-gimmik where you make do with your own group. That isn’t a bad thing… just setting expectations.

That said… Laiya is a great beach. And add to that the fact that it is a convenient short drive from the Manila. It is very convenient. I wonder now why I never went here before.

This is definitely some place I would go back again in the future. And I will definitely… make reservations before hand.

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Easter Island – April 1-4, 2012

One of the “must-see” items on my bucket list has been to see Easter Island located 2,180 miles (3,510 kilometers) west of the coast of Chile in South America and is the south easternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle.  Ever since I was a child, I was always fascinated by pictures of the “big heads” and the theories over who built them and why (of course, these included the “they were built by aliens” theory).

When I was telling some friends of my planned trip to Easter Island, I was met with mixed reactions. Those that knew of the island’s mystic past commented “wows,” while those who had no inclining of what the island was about greeted me with “what’s there?” A majority of folks gave me the live “what’s there to do there.” Many of those who knew about the island assumed it would just be a a day trip because they assumed that there were no hotels on the island and that staying a day was sufficient. Be that as it may, I got strange responses to my plan from friends. For me, just being on Easter Island was sufficient reason for the adventure.

See the Wikipedia entry for Easter Island.

Easter Island is claimed to be the most remote inhabited island in the world.


View Easter Island (Rapa Nui) in a larger map

 

The island is known by three names “Easter Island” in English, “Isla de Pascua” in Spanish, and in the ancient Polynesian dialect… “Rapa Nui”. One phrase used to describe the island due to its distance from the nearest land mass was “land’s end”. Despite its name, the island has nothing to do with the Christian season of Easter or the death of Jesus Christ. It was simply named by the Dutch explorer Jacom Roggenveen who landed on the island on Easter Sunday in 1722.

I felt that it would be quaint to visit the island during Easter week. Just makes it more a little special I thought.

Before I even dreamed of going to Easter Island, a high school classmate of mine and fellow adventurer Gabby Malvar (one only other person I personally knew who visited the island), once told me that was difficult and complicated to get to the island, thus I blocked visiting the island from my list in the near future.  After visiting Machu Picchu last year, I decided that I needed a challenge to top the ancient Peruvian city in the sky. While poking around on the internet, I chanced upon the name of the airport on the island and its airport code which was IPC. I plugged into Expedia and checked out flights. That is when I realized that a trip to Easter Island was not as complicated as a I thought (Read my post on “Getting to Easter Island” for further details).

I really enjoyed myself on Easter Island. In the 4 days I was on the island, I pretty much covered the whole of the island (that which was accessible by land) which included a horseback ride to the highest point of the island, and scuba diving to several meters below sea level.

Instead of writing long posts on what I saw (as I did elsewhere on this blog), I decided to split up the destinations into individual blog posts. This particular posting would serve as my “Table of Contents” to each of these posts on my awesome adventure to Easter Island… enjoy!

 

Getting to Easter Island

http://lakwatsero.me/2012/04/19/getting-to-easter-island-march-31-april-5-2012/

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Hanga Roa

http://lakwatsero.me/2012/04/19/easter-island-day-1-april-1-2012/

LakwatsaEasterIsland

 

Ahu Vinapu, Rano Kau, and Orongo

http://lakwatsero.me/2012/04/19/ahu-vinapu-rano-kau-and-orongo-easter-island-april-1-2012/

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Akahanga

http://lakwatsero.me/2012/04/19/akahanga/

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Rano Raraku

http://lakwatsero.me/2012/04/19/ranoraraku/

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Ahu Tongariki

http://lakwatsero.me/2012/04/19/ahu-tongariki/

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Ahu Te Pito Kura

http://lakwatsero.me/2012/04/19/ahu-te-pito-kura/

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Anakena Beach

http://lakwatsero.me/2012/04/19/anakena-beach/

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Puna Pao

http://lakwatsero.me/2012/04/19/puna-pao/

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Ahu Akivi

http://lakwatsero.me/2012/04/19/ahu-akivi/

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Ana Te Pahu and Ana Te Pora

http://lakwatsero.me/2012/04/19/ana-te-pahu/

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The Highs and Lows of Easter Island

http://lakwatsero.me/2012/04/19/highs-lows-easter-island/

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And there you have it. Four awesome days on one of the most fascinating places on earth. Despite the 12 posts listed above. I have hundreds more photos and dozens more stories to tell about Easter Island. I guess that will have to wait for a later time. The food I have eaten, the people I have met, the things I have seen… I think even sunsets needs its own post. But for now, this will have to do.

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My visit on Easter Island finally puts a tick box against that one point on my bucket list. Not sure what follows next after Machu Picchu and Easter Island. Oh well…

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…what remains is the big problem. Where do I go next year?

Anakena Beach, Easter Island – April 2, 2012

From Ahu Te Pito Kura, we make our way to the final destination for my second day on the spectacularly awesome Easter Island. A beach called Anakena.

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Anakena is a white coral sand beach within Rapa Nui National Park.  There are two Ahus on Anakena. One with six moai… another with one.

According to island oral traditions, Anakena was the landing place of Hotu Matu’a, a Polynesian chief who led a two canoe settlement party here and founded the first settlement on Rapa Nui.

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What makes Anakena unique is that it is one of two sandy beaches on Easter Island. If you noticed from all of my other pictures thus far showing the ocean, the coastline is rocky.

The palm trees around Anakena were transplanted fairly recently from Tahiti.

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The six moai… four with their pukao while one kinda lost its head.

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The interesting thing about these guys is that, these are among the most preserved (or less eroded) of the moai on the island. Because of their location, when they were toppled, they fell into the soft sand… and the sand covered them up. They were so preserved that this location was where they found remnants of the white coral used as eyes on the moai.

The moai on Anakena were the first ones to be restored in 1955.

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A fallen moai nearby. Looks intact. I wonder why this was not restored as well.

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On a nearby hill… a lone moai looks on.

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The beach is quite nice. The on looking moai add a mystic touch.

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A view of the six moai from the back. You can see another example of the Machu Pichu-like stone masonry.EasterIsland20120401 647b

So you might be wondering if I spent some time here and swam. While I did bring my board shorts and a towel. I wasn’t quite in the mood.

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But of course, I did spend the time admiring the beauty of the area. It was definitely a nice way to end my second day tours.

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Meanwhile… here is another of the local dogs coming up to say “hi.” I love these dogs.

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Back to the hotel. More tomorrow.

Ahu Tongariki, Easter Island – April 2, 2012

From the Moai quarry on Rano Raraku, we went down the mountain 1km away to the awesome Ahu Tongariki, the site of the spectacular 15-moai which was recently restored in the 1990s.

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Ahu Tongariki was the main centre and capital of the Hotu Iti, the eastern confederation of the Rapanui.

Ahu Tongariki was substantially restored in the 1990s by a multidisciplinary team headed by archaeologists, in a five year project carried out under an official agreement of the Chilean Government, the University of Chile, and a group of Japanese.

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When we got to Tongariki, there were already quite a number of visitors, but they were on their way out.

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By the entrance of Tangariki from the parking lot there is this one small moai which is called “The Ambassador” as this guy was able to make it to Japan for an exhibit after Tongariki’s resortation. It was returned soon after and placed on this spot to greet visitors.

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This ahu, due to the 15 enormous moai is simply spectacular! (I seem to be using the word awesome too much lately)

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When I posted the photos on Facebook, many people asked about the second from the leftmost moai with funky hat. Sometimes reffered to as “red hats”, that is actually called a “Pukao” as a representation of a topknot. These pukao were made from material from yet another location on the island (more on this in a later post).

The pukao are actually just placed on top of the moai heads and made to balance there. At first I thought there was a hole on which the top of the head would fit. apparently not.

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In front of the group of moai, a number of the pukao were displayed. They were either damaged, or the top of the moai were damaged or eroded so they could be made to balance on top of the heads anymore. Though it does look funny that of the 15 moai, only one has a pukao.

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The 15 sentinels. Impressive.

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To give it some scale so show how enormous they are.

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Standing in front of these giants, it was sure hard to get everyone in the frame… even with a wide angle lens.

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So… I moved back…. way back.

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One of the moai with a broken neck with Rano Raraku in the background. Poor guy.

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And of course… as with each ahu on the island. Reminders not to climb on the moai.

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I tried some planking next to the broken moai to show some scale. Though this moai is not as massive as the guys in the background. You can see some people in the background between the 10th and 11th moai to give it some scale.

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During the final photo ops, Matti thought it would be cool for me to stand next to the moai.

The picture makes it seem that the statues are “people height.”

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A view from behind the ahu.

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And at the back… more “parts” of older moai recycled for the ahu.

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As we left Ahu Tongkari on the other side… a fe last shots from a distance.

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Next stop. Ahu Te Pito Kura… the locaton of the largest moai to be transported from Rano Raraku to an ahu.

Akahanga, Easter Island – April 2, 2012

My tour on Day 2 begins at 9:00 am. My tour guide, Matti picks me up from the hotel bright and early and we are off on my second day on awesome Easter Island.

Of the things I loved about this entire trip isn’t just the sightseeing… but the Cultural Adventure of learning about the history of the island and understanding the true story behind the awesome but mysterious Moai that blanket the Rapa Nui.

From Hanga Roa, we once again take the roads on the southern-west of the island heading in a north east direction up the coast. En route, we pass a number of Ahus.

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Heading up the coast, I was was worried that it would rain that day. The nature of the island was that it could rain at some point in time regardless of the time of year. Thankfully, the weather for the whole day would be simply awesome. The morning clouds would dissipate later in the day.

Below we see the sun peering through.

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We eventually reach Akahanga.

The one thing with Matti. As one of the many tour guides on the island, he is familiar with the schedules of the different tour groups and their timings. He made sure that we got to each destination early and usually ahead of the others. Like with Akahanga… we were the first ones here. I would thus get to enjoy taking pictures without any other people in them.

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Akahanga is a site of a huge village. Here I learned more of the ancient living habits of the Rapa Nui people.

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Here is the site of what used to be a house… of sorts. I learned that the ancient people built these structures not to live in per se, but rather as shelter against the wind and rain… thus it was quite small. The people were outside most of the time and do not treat these as dwellings the way we do today. Everything they did was outside. These shelters were also meant for the more prominent people of the village… such as the kings, priests, or royal family.

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The Moai on Ahu Akahanga, such as with the rest of the island were toppled down during the civil unrest.

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In front of the ahu are remnants of smaller earlier Moai.

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Meanwhile, I got to appreciate the stunning sea views around the village.

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If you will note from the above map of the island, most villages were at the coastline with Moais on the Ahus facing inland or away from the sea.

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A little ways off is a smaller ahu with a toppled Moai.

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Matti then took me to one of the nearby caves. The caves served as sheltered for the non-Royals who had their private dwellings.

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There wasn’t a lot of room inside the cave. But again, the cave wasn’t meant as a dwelling, but just a shelter from wind and rain.

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One of the fascinating things on the island were the placement on these rocks used for cooking. Matii pointed out to me that there are always 5 rocks in this formation. They don’t have to be of equal size… in this case of the rocks was much smaller, but they had to be in 5. They aren’t sure what the reason was… but obviously the was a superstitious reason for this. I saw many of these around the island.

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The other tour groups started arriving… it was now time to leave Akahanga and move on to our next destination… the Moai quarry at Rano Raraku.

Ahu Vinapu, Rano Kau, and Orongo, Easter Island – April 1, 2012

After trekking around on a self-guided walking tour of Hanga Roa during my first few hours on Easter Island, it was time for my first official tour of the island.

My first tour takes me to the South West area of the island (the lower left section of the map below)

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My first destination is Ahu Vinapu. And my first orientation on Rapa Nui (Easter Island), the Ahus and the Moai.

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An AHU is the stone platform on which the Moais are placed upon. They are actually sacred ceremonial platforms which, among other things, became burial locations as well… as ashes of ancestors would be scattered across the ahu and bones would be inserted.

Vinapu is an example of many of the 313 Ahu on the island. During a period of civil war, all the Moai on Ahus were toppled. (The ones you see standing are due to restorations in recent history). There are around seven moai at Vinapu. Because no Moai are standing… Vinapu isn’t as spectacular as other locations around the island.

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But what makes Ahu Vinapu unique is that it exhibits stonemasonry similar to that of Machu Picchu in Peru at the back of the Ahu.

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The blocks are carefully fitted slabs of basalt put together with no form of mortar.

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Also behind the Ahu you will see remnants of older Moai. During the stages of an Ahu, the Moai are sometimes placed with bigger ones over time. Older ones are sometimes recycled and reused for other parts of the Ahu.

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This is my first close-up encounter with a pukao. Also referred to as “Red Hats” or “Topknots”.  These are the ones placed the top of some of the Moai. An explanation of this in another post. (Wikipedia reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pukao)

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It was quite breezy here. Strong cold winds from the coast.

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Our next destination was the Orongo on Rano Kau.

We make our way up Rano Kau to this nice Visitor Center

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The main thing at the visitor center is to buy a ticket to the Rapai Nui National Park which allows you into Rano Kau and Rano Raraku. The ticket cost is USD $60.

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After a short trek…

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You get to the awesome rim of Rano Kau. A far different view from our own Pinatubo and Taal Volcanoes. While there is water inside its crater lake… its like a swamp inside.

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It was so windy up there… look at my jacket!

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At the top of Rano Kau, facing the coast is Orongo.

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What makes Orongo interesting is that it is a stone village with a ceremonial purpose. This was the location for the “birdman” games. It was a form of Olympic games during a time when the various villages were battling each other due to scarce resources.

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These stone houses were shelter for the participants of the games. This only served as shelter from the strong winds… and this they were stone. They entered through those small openings.

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The objective in the games was to race to Moto Nui (that island in the background) and bring back a Sooty Tern egg.

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That was the end of my tour for Day 1 on Easter Island… I would have a series of awesome tours for the next two days which begins with a trip to Ahu Akahanga and a visit to the Moai quarry at Rano Ranku.