Volcano Climbing at Mount Taal
Taal volcano is a very touristy area. It is one of Tagaytay’s main attractions, and lately it has become popular for volcano climbing.
Volcano climbing is a rising sport tourism activity around the world. Many adventure travelers are drawn to climb a live volcano for the thrill and experience it brings. The Smithsonian Institute notes that the Philippines has 50 volcanoes. It classifies Taal as a caldera, which means cauldron-like.
Photo by Mayumi
Our team decided to scale the heights of Taal Volcano as part of our planning session in Batangas. We would like to check its tourist appeal and we were fortunate to find many. Taking a 30-minute boat ride from Balete, Batangas, we reached the shoreline of the volcano where a lot of horsemen welcomed us. The trek path was filled with thorny bushes since this part of the volcano was “untouristy”. Most go through the Tagaytay side, which was the opposite of where we landed.
Photo by Mayumi
Our guide took us trough a steady path. On our way up, we spotted several vegetation areas farmed by the locals – they grew kamoteng kahoy and fruit trees such as mangoes and bananas. Quite noticeable are the plants our guide called aroma, which have real big thorns and leaves like that of tamarind. The bigger version of this, they called espana. There are also mistletoe leaves – I don’t know what they are called, as well as isis or pakiling leaves. These leaves, when dried have the texture of sandpaper and I remember our teacher in primary class requiring us to bring these to clean and smoothen the surfaces of our wooden desks. There were egrets or herons flying above, and there were also unique sounding birds which I do not know. I’m sure many new species of flora and fauna could be discovered in this volcanic community, just like the smallest butterflies our team saw at the middle of the crater. They have silvery wings and are the size of an inch in wingspan.
The view atop Taal Volcano was a sight to behold. Wherever you face, you’d see wonderful scenery – the surrounding lake where we came from, and the enticing lake at the middle of the volcano. Going down to the crater lake was another 30 minutes trek so we rested a bit and had some fresh, cold coconuts. They are sold at P50 a piece. Soft drinks and mineral water are also available. We were joined by other foreign travelers who were on their way back from the crater.
Photo by Mayumi
The trek downwards was more difficult. I slipped once and fell on my butt. Other of our team members were less fortunate – sliding down two or three times. Our guide said recent strong typhoon Ondoy / Ketsana destroyed the hiking trail and worse, left the path spikier. Even horses had a hard time going down.
At the bottom of the crater, we were all ready to take a dip at the lake. The trek path was so dusty, we all wanted to wash off. The ground at the lake was so hot, it was difficult to walk without slippers or shoes. Once at the lake, I noticed the water to be hot, then as I go forward, it becomes half cold and half warm. The lake floor was icky smooth. Further exploration revealed fine black sand, very sulfuric in smell. We all tried applying some on our arms, believing it has wonderful dermatological effects.
Photo by Mayumi
A part of the lake leading to the crater has a spot bubbling and smoking. The sound coming out of it is similar to exhaust rooms, and the steam was very warm. It has this weird, ugly smell. Then we checked the crater which was a big hole of bubbling gray mud. This part has the most smoke, and it seems easy to approach but once I got near, it took the best of me. I got to realize that it is a crater after all and the grounds I am standing on is live volcano. One wrong step and I could fall right into the mouth of the volcano! Maybe we all felt the same, because at this point we decided to go back via horses. Our legs were so tired and we were famished.
Horse back riding was fun, or donkey back riding I should say. We paid P400 for the horses, P200 if we rode from the crater, but the lives of the people at the foot of the mountain is unbelievable I felt confined to give more. At this time of Internet and great computers, their source of electricity is a generator. They don’t have a high school and most only finish primary school. For this, our team would surely visit again. Either for adventure tour or for community outreach.
Guest Writer: Mayumi is a part of Cultureight Travel and they offer eco-friendly small group walks and adventures in the Philippines.
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