Friday, April 15, 2011

Sagada Chronicles: Day Two, Unleashing our Extreme Sides

Check out my the previous parts of my Sagada Chronicle

4 in the morning, got awakened by an alarm.

I was never a morning person. You can count the times I have been awake before sunrise. I can't even recall seeing one, I mean, watching it actually rise from the horizon. My boyfriend on the other hand, loves the morning! Sunrise is his thing. As I arranged our itinerary for this trip, I considered waking up 4 in the midnight (as I refer it) to do him a favor.

We arrived 4:30 on the tour guide's office and met our guide, kuya Sotero. We walked for one whole hour just to reach the Kiltepan peak which is the perfect spot for Sagada sunrise. By the way, we were warned the day before that day that seeing the actual sunrise is just a 70-30 chance. 70% being the probability of a cloudy morning where the sun is hidden with thick fog.
Thick Fog = No Sunrise Shot
They were right. We saw no sunrise. Did we regret that? Of course not! Not a single bit. The walk, although long, was very refreshing. The foresty-feel was so amazing, i feel like Vampire Damon will show up any moment.  The view of the terraces never fails to awe me. The rising sun may be the highlight of it all, but the journey itself is priceless.
The view was nevertheless... priceless

As we walked all the way back to our inn, we told our guide our plans. We wanted to do the cave connection afterwards. My boyfriend already did that 2 years ago. I already did Sumaging cave last February. But we wanted to do it together. Then our guide, Sotero, suggested that we might wanna try the Crystal Cave for a change. It's more extreme than the cave connection. How extreme? Here are the tell-tale signs:

Cave Connection may take 4-5 hours, Crystal Cave may take 6-7.
-It needs one guide per guest.
-It costs P1,500 per person.
-Ordinary ropes for Cave Connection are not qualified. A newer one is required.
-Leggings should always be topped by sturdy shorts. There were some unfortunate people who already tore their leggings inside.
-Large-framed people should come at their own risks.

But there was a catch. It's not that open to public. They're trying to limit its visits to preserve its precious straw-like stalactites. Hearing that, I suddenly agreed to the deal! I did not care if it means slashing off 3k from our shared wallet in an instant. We'll figure that out, I thought. After we agreed, we laughed on how easily we got sales talked. Hahah maybe it  he just said that to stir our curiosity and give in easily?

1pm was our call time. We had plenty of time to rest and prepare. He slept, I had my Cranberries concert on our balcony. Came lunch time, we got a little adventurous and decided to eat at the Pinikpikan eatery. I had that famous meal while he settled with a porkchop meal. I was not ecstatic about that Pinikpikan, but hell, it was an experience. I think they prepare the chicken by pounding its body until its blood clots and then burn its feathers with a blow torch. And then the etag is added. Etag is a preseved and smoked meat. It's a proud product of Sagada.
The Etag was tasty!

We were all set up. Ready for our secret crystal cave adventure! We met our two guides and walked our way to the jump off point. We passed along the Lumiang Cave entrance. Then we went out of the road in to the forest. Oh my! Our guide was right. Crystal cave is indeed a controlled spot. There was no pathway leading to its entrance. We had to go through the forest to find it.
Crystal Cave's Entrance
As we came inside, I already noticed the cave's unique beauty. The rocks are shimmering, literally! We also caught a little bird. Kuya Sotero identified it a sparrow while Gareth, upon seeing the photos, insists it's a shallow. Whatever. It was a cute little birdie. They say that bird produces that thing for bird's nest soup. After a short while, I was convinced that the cave was indeed controlled. It has a an iron fence on one of its opening. And it was locked. We had to work our way through it, and by that I mean forcing it to open. Anyone who happened to stumble upon this blog, hush, please don't tell their municipality about it. =)
Sparkling Stones

Entering alone was not an easy task. After that fence was a very steep descend. We started using the rope. They say in cave connection, the rope is a mere support. There were only couple of times you have to really, really depend on it. Well in crystal cave, the rope was our life. It was not a support, but it's actually necessary. Imagine going up or down on a 10-feet height. The stones were not as pretty as the Sumaging Cave, they're not even photogenic. They're slippery, muddy and dangerous. The stunts are the real highlight of the Crystal Cave. Of course, the thin stalactites are too. 
We seriously have to go down there?
How thin and sharp are the stones inside you may ask? Before we had our break, the guides were leading the way, I came in third while my boyfriend watched my back. Suddenly, we heard a loud explosion! It came from my boyfriend! Apparently, he slipped, and his thigh landed on a very sharp stone. A Fudgee bar inside his pocket exploded from impact literally saving him from a very nasty injury. Lesson learned? Always bring a Fudgee bar, it can not only satisfy your hunger but might also save your life.

We reached a portion of the cave where unique rock formations were found. They were like ice dripping from the ceiling. They're so white I can't stop thinking about Narnia all those time. That is the trademark of Crystal Cave. Better savour it with photos of course.
It looks like snow!

After around 1 and a half of non-stop descend, we stopped on a beautiful rock formation. It was out of the way, but they still wanted us to see it. It was like a series of bathtubs but too bad they were dry that time. Kuya Erwin, our other guide, told us that he once took the staff of Lonely Planet magazine there. He had his photo taken with the editor on that very same spot. Amazing! We had our break there. My heart melted when our guides handed us two Gatorades and a big ensaymada-looking bread! Those were from their own bag, from their own money! Come to think of it. They actually considered us. I swore I kinda hated myself at that very moment for being so selfish, what am I thinking?? I only brought one bottle of water and two fudgee bars - just for ourselves, while they slashed a portion of their earning just to provide for us. Truly heart-warming. 

Break time!
After the break, went back to our trail. The first stunt was already challenging. It was like a hill that we need to go up to. A smooth hill, that is. No edges for hand and foot grip, just the rope to pull our body weights up.
Smile like you're not freezing.

Very vulnerable straw formations
But the most challenging part was not a climb or a descend. It was when we had to go through a very small opening with our backs on the ground, head first. Imagine lying down, ground is wet with mud, pushing your self inwards, rocks on top literally touching your chest. I can't give the effort enough justice through words, but just to give you a clue, check the picture out. 

Hardest Stunt
Look how deep that mud is.
Last memorable stunt was when we were at the Crystal and Sumaging interconnection. Gareth was having a Sumaging tour at that time. They were clean looking people. We were all muddy coming from a secret hole inside a cave. As we went down to their location, they pulled out their cameras and took some picture of ours like we were some kind of cave men. 

We definitely looked like cavemen!
We dipped into Sumaging cave's pool. It was freezing but we need to take off the thick mud on our bodies, clothes and slippers. We did not explore the Sumaging cave anymore. As we asked Gareth for the time, he said it was 5:30pm. We started at 2pm. That was just 3.5 hours! Our guides commended us for a very successful and quick exploration. They say it was because of the wonderful teamwork that we had. As we headed towards the Sumaging exit, I asked Kuya Erwin to pose for a photo with me. He said he rarely poses for photos so I was flattered when he said yes. Check out our picture:

We totally cracked up upon seeing this! Headlamp lang ang litaw =) Sorry naman.

That's the Sumaging ext. Just look at my fulfilled smile!
As we walked our way home, we stopped on an internet shop for our certificates to be printed. Kuya Erwin stayed with us. We learned a lot from him. His sister had married a Kapampangan like us. We said whenever he plan to visit his sister, he should come by and meet us. It would be our turn to return the favor. 

We just couldn't get enough of their stories and just their mere company so we decided to invite them to dinner. In return, they invited us on their relative's wedding (Kuya Erwin and Sotero are cousins). It will be 2 days from that night. We said we will be heading home the next day. It was sad that we won't be able to witness a tradional mixed with Christian wedding. They gave us a background about their wedding ceremonies. They are big on weddings! In fact, some weddings requires 15 pigs to be butchered just to feed the whole barangay. No invitations required for everyone is invited. A carabao also plays a crucial part on weddings. It symbolizes prosperity. You'll notice some families even place their wedding carabao's skull outside their homes. But this carabao thing has its own ruling. If the eldest son unfortunately wasn't able to produce a carabao for his wedding, then his siblings must not have carabaos too. It would disrespect him if they tried to.
Kuya Sotero 09395062033
Kuya Erwin 09286900062
The dinner concluded our day two. And for the last time, I had my photo taken with our two new found friends. 

Most memorable line from Kuya Erwin "You are no longer a spelunker, you're now a caver!" Aylavet!!

Up next: Day Three - coming home. Or is it?

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