Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The land of LOST

I have been on a mission lately. If you have been reading this blog, I have mentioned earlier about having a BUCKET LIST. Maybe since I was turning a year older this month, (and that # is quite big.... a turning point in one's life..) that I have resolved to make most of my time... yehah! no more dilly dallying.

Learn. Explore. Live.

One of the things we have eyeing to do is the MANDY NAVASARO PHOTO SAFARI in Batanes Island. It teaches photography while letting you explore the unexplored part of the Philippines.

Batanes is the northern most part of the country. Its farthest island is Itbayat, which is actually nearer to Taiwan than the Philippines (190 kms to Taiwan, while it's 290km to the nearest Luzon island).. they can actually see the lights and cars of Taiwan.


We were scheduled to fly at 6am using a small (32 seater, propeller) airplane. Honestly, I haven't tried flying on a small plane for... 25 years??? and haven't been to the domestic airport since,..... I can't remember. So, I was very nervous at the state of our domestic flight

Guess what. The domestic airport was better than expected. It was refurbished and spiffed up quite well. It even had a french style coffee corner ...(fresh espresso and cappuccino at 5am!!!)

starting sunrise over the clouds
I had a nice seat at the back near the propellers and even got a chance to take some sunrise pics... (didn't get any sleep.. too excited to see the islands).

the view was amazing.

I was thinking it was  a preview of what we had in store for us in the 4 day trip...

actually had a sense of how amazing God's creation was. It is rare that we see this view in the city. (well, maybe in postcards)...LOL

finally, after an hour or so... we were greeted with  something out of Fantasy Island....

can i say??? WATTA VIEW!!!

I was imagining Tatoo ( the sidekick in Fantasy Island) shouting below... "zeee plane. zee plane!!!".. which was plausible since there was only ONE flight coming in everyday to the island ( with only 32 passengers max). There were no clusters of house, nor sighting of tall buildings... only green everywhere with spattering of small houses and boats. Coming in, you might catch a glimpse of cows grazing on some of the hills or some huge wave crashing into a cliff.....

Mandy, our host, was a mature woman who had been (once in her life) -- a stewardess, a PR exec, and banking executive. She has since graduated to teaching photography, PR work and writing for a local newspaper. One of her quotable quotes are:

"Photography has no retirement...that's why I am still around".... which is quite true when you see her. She is like a quirky aunt you have and just happen to visit one weekend. Never a dull moment.

She even had to try to make a pass at one of the doctors we had in the group ( a young, slim and cute one). In explaining the course during breakfast, she indicated that we had to pose as "models" for our photography lessons. Turning to the doctor, she said nonchantly... "Doc, you have to pose with your shirt off..." THAT just made me chuckle.

Arriving at my usual wake up hour of 7:30am, we proceeded to the hotel to freshen up and get some breakfast. (consisting of native flying fish, tomato salsa, rice and egg.. yumm).

We had the briefing and then proceeded to our stop at the japanese tunnel. On the way, we had a photo shoot at one bent of the road, teaching us angles

We then were led to the entrance of an old japanese tunnel. where we traversed darkness (If they told me, I could have brought a flashlight).. the walls were damp and it was hard going in the dark especailly when we reached a 90 degree drop.

and eventually exited through a clearing.

the exit of the japanese tunnel
One thing about Batanes is, there a lots of cows and carabaos (water buffalo) and as expected, you get your hefty share of humongous POOP.

We hiked up a hill to reach the top to get our lesson in posing and I think, how to position your subject, which in this case is, most of the participants in the photo safari.

posing. posing. shoot.

This was our first taste of the views ( which in the next few days will get better and better)

the view from the hill....

the walk to the top of the hill

cows gone to pasture
The few days we were there, it was balmy, drizzling and cold. I could have wished we had better weather. It kind of reminded me of London, or the rolling hills of Scotland. At least I got some nice shots (however overcast it was)

coconut, sweet potato, tomatoes, fried fish
It was already noon and we were just getting started. After posing and taking pictures of the surrounding landscape, we proceeded to boulder beach where we would get our snack (fish, sweet potato and coconut) One of the things you realize, taking picture is time consuming and you wont eat on time... most of the time! The sweet potato WILL tide you over.

 I loved boulder beach. And when you see the picture, you'll understand why its called boulder beach.....

saw this guy gathering something.. maybe shells?

It was amazing to see all these huge boulders. The native IVATANS (those living in Batanes) use them to build their houses. These are necessary because of all the typhoons that come our way every year and they usually enter the Philippines  through Batanes.

I think I'll reserve the second half of the post for the next time... If you want more information on Batanes, one of our group (Ferdie Bondoy) is a regular blogger. He wrote a post too.. see HERE. I think he has better work ethic than me because he regularly blogs (everyday and sometimes 2 posts a day) WOW. check out his site.

So, I still have more stories to share.. just bear with me. I still have a day job you know....


Friday, March 2, 2012

Pinatubo 2012

climb everyyyyy mountaiiinnnnnnn....... (oh, sorry for singing.... hahahaha)

Having climbed Mt pinatubo 2 years ago, it was interesting to see what has changed this time around. We decided o bring along some friends and some of our kids. (youngest is 8 yrs old)

I had called the 4x4 association who handles the bookings in Capas, tarlac and asked him regarding the itenerary. One thing he told me was that the trek would be about 2.5 hours.


We (me and my husband) had a pretty long discussion on whether to go with the kids or not. First of all, the first time we went, It was easier since there was a "shortcut" that that leads the jeeps up the mountian to the mouth of the entrance to the pathway to the crater.

After much discussion, we finally agreed on going. Pinatubo trekking is something you need to experience even once in a lifetime.

A few days before the trek, the skies were not cooperating. It was raining cats and dogs.

I was worried.

It was one thing to trek. It was another to trek in the rain WITH kids AND the thought of (possible) landslides or worse flash floods. (eeek)... I was so concerned, I was calling my husband at work to ask if we should go through with it or not.

I finally convinced myself (after checking weather forecasts, calling the 4x4 people) that the weather would clear up.

So early saturday morning, we woke up 3am for our 4am departure. YEP. you heard it. 4AM folks.
The drive to tarlac was about 2 hours from Manila and we needed to depart base camp by 7am (their cutoff time)

We had a Mcdonalds breakfast break when we nearly reached Capas and it afforded all a nice rest and maybe a bathroom/coffee break too.

So finally, 6:30 am- we are at Capas, tarlac. We arranged for two 4x4 jeeps. (we were with another family friend)

The road was still barren and bumpy.  the one thing about Pinatubo is that the scenery changes every year because of the rain. When the monsoon season arrives and it rains for about 3 months, torrents of water cascade down the mountain and changes the landscape. (FYI, they don't allow trekkers during rainy season-- too dangerous)

So, bumpity bump we went. I was trying my hardest to take a few nice picture while we were travering the lahar filled 20 km ride. Half afraid I might drop the camera out the window... hahaha

As you can see, we were crossing sand dunes, small and sometimes,  deeper rivers...

We finally reached the starting point of our 9km (one way..so 18km both ways...) trek and started walking with the other groups of people already there. The first time I was here, I didn't go by this route and so, I was unfamiliar with the landscape. In hindsight, looking at pictures, it looks like we were doing an EXODUS.. (like Moses)

Can you see the people walking near the edge of the hill?-- they look like ants.

My daughter actually was leading the pack and was quite irritated at US (old people) who were very slow in walking. She huffed her way to the front and I had to scramble to catch up...

puff puff.. 7 years olds have boundless energy!!!

after about 1.5 hours, we reached the opening of the trail leading to the crater. From here, it took us about 30 minutes more of hiking.

The trail went from barren to jungle country.
The kids had a lot of fun looking at streams and collecting tadpoles. (they were so urbanized that tadpole hunting is such a treat. LOL)

The trek was taking so long, a lot of the travellers were actually asking...


I had to chuckle. You can finally see end of the trail when you see very long steps going up.

upon reaching the crater, you'll get rewarded with a view. --- Although at the time we were there, the skies were a bit overcast.

We climbed down the step to reach the base of the crater... stopping to take some pictures of course..

Then we get to see the cyan colored crater lake... with some edges colored yellow from the sulphur.

There were a lot of tourists there too.. so much so that we didn't get the chance to hire the boat to cross to the other side like the last time. (we had some eggs with us too.. ready to boil in one of the pits we saw before where the water was bubbling.. see my earlier trip HERE).. there were only 3 boats... (advise: you better bet a "boat tag" before you leave capas.. they give priority to you if you have one... and it's a loooong ways back if you don't have one)

After the kids has a brief swim and we ate our packed lunch, we decided to head back. (it was another 2 hour hike after all)

On the way, we saw some AETA children. One of the kids was not in the mood to get his picture taken.

Did I tell you that another one of my sunglasses got massacred this trip? YEP. another one bites the dust. The last time, my raybans dived into a river. This time, I SAT on it. --- while I was busy trying to take pictures, I moved to another position. As I sat down again, I felt a CRUUNCH... I looked down and there were my Raybans.. all twisted.  (oh well.....)

Everyone had a nice time though. I even saw some unique looking stone. LOVE is everywhere. !!

Nice weekend everyone! Pinatubo 4x4 assn - cel # 09196084313 (for inquiries regarding this).. we went by ourselves but there are other tour operators who do a Pinatubo day tour. They provide complete services like transfers from Manila. (we drove ourselves this time) I tried PINATUBO TREKKING the first time we went and they are very good.. . Contact them HERE.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...