Friday, September 3, 2010

The Philippines: Day 2

Our second day in the Philippines we decided to head out of the city and see some of the countryside. We booked a tour with avanchor tours to go to Taal Volcano, in the province of Batangas, near the town of Tagaytay.
Taal Volcano is actually the smallest volcano in the world, and is located inside a much larger and older volcano. Inside Taal Volcano is a lake, with an island in the middle. Taal Volcano is actually also an island on a lake. So, we went to an island on a lake, on an island on a lake, on an island in the ocean. Confused? So were we. These maps will help clarify. The map above shows southeast Asia on the left, and the Philippine Islands on the right.

This map (above) shows the Northern part of the Philippines (Luzon Island). You can see a large lake towards the middle of the map. That is Taal Lake.

This map (above) shows Taal Lake, with an island (Taal Volcano). The large lake is actually in the caldera of a much older and larger volcano. The island in the middle is Taal Volcano, which is the smallest volcano in the world, and one of the Philippines most active volcanoes. You can see a small lake in the center of the island, that is at the top of Taal Volcano. There is a tiny island in this lake. And there you have the island on the lake, on the island on the lake, on the island in the ocean. Crazy.
Our tour took us out of the densely populated city of Manila, into the province of Batangas. We took a scenic drive through hills, mountains, forests and grasslands, with slopes ranging from 10-20% gradient (steep). We went through Tagaytay city which was very pretty. In the province we saw many vendors on the side of the street, but we went through one area that had dozens of furniture shops on the side of the road. I really wanted to stop but I was too chicken to ask the driver. They make furniture from Acacia, Narra (a local variety of mahogany) and ebony.
These people were just making all kinds of furniture outside on the side of the road. It was cool. I really wish I had asked to stop.We also saw a lot of pineapple farms.
I had never seen a pineapple grow before...its kind of weird.This is overlooking Taal Lake (the large lake in the old caldera of the inactive old volcano). Its huge. They have a lot of Tilapia farms in this lake.See all the fish farms in the water?

This is the boat we took across Taal Lake to Taal Volcano.

This is a village at the bottom of Taal Volcano (one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines). Their main source of income comes from tourists visiting the volcano. They charge a fee to hike the trail, and they offer horse rides at the bottom.
We read that the hike was only about 1 mile, so we decided not to get the horses and just do the hike ourselves. Well, our guide walked about a million miles an hour. The horse owners also decided to follow us on the trail. Every few feet they would say, "Want to ride the horse? Only 500 pesos (about $10) up and back). It was annoying. I felt like they were taunting us. Not only were we walking about twice my normal speed, we were walking up a very steep incline (the side of a VOLCANO), which was really really HOT. There was smoke coming out of crevices in the rock in some places. My willpower didn't hold out for very long. Between the heat, the crazy fast pace, and the taunting from behind, I gave into the horse ride pretty quickly. And after seeing how steep it was at the top, I'm glad I did.

The villagers other source of income is that they produce charcoal and sell it in the town. We passed many horses carrying charcoal down the side of the volcano.

This is at the top looking down.

This is looking into the sulfurous lake at the top of the volcano. You could see smoke, steam, and bubbles coming up in the water. It smelled bad and was really really hot. They said the water is too hot to touch in most places.
This is Scott taking a rest at the top with our guide, Ed.

See the little tiny island in the lake?

Looking back down the trail.

This is back at the bottom. Look how tired my poor horse looked. Ive never seen a horse stick its tongue out like that. I felt like such a fat spoiled American after riding these horses. It was sad.

Crossing the lake to go back.Back on the other side of the lake they served us fresh tilapia from the lake with rice and mango juice to drink. It was delicious.Our second day in the Philippines was AWESOME!!!