On my last weekend in the Philippines, my colleague and I decided to break free from Manila and experience a small adventure a bit south of the city. I asked the google, and the internet suggested we hike Taal Volcano.
Our driver picked us up bright and early and we braved two hours of Filipino traffic to arrive at Taal Lake, a freshwater lake formed in the crater of a long dormant volcano. In the middle of the lake is Taal Volcano, a very active volcano that rose from the old dormant one.
Our ride dropped us at a small beach and yacht club (keep in mind, this is the Phillippines…it’s all relative). We were introduced to our guide and boarded a small boat and rode about 30 minutes out to the volcano island. This is where it got confusing because all the sudden we had additional guides. There ended up being about three or four guides in our group. All to lead two of us up the volcano. Jennifer suspects it’s a form of local mafia extortion where everyone wants a piece of the pie.
We started the hike with a walk through the small collection of homes that constitutes the island’s village. Everyone was nice and smiling and it was an interesting glimpse into a very rural lifestyle. Well, as rural as it can get when everyone seems glued to their cellphones. It seems that’s one aspect of modern life we’ll never find a place to escape.
The climb to the top of the volcano is moderately steep, but well worn from hikers and horses. We paid extra to take the shaded route, which wasn’t much of an issue since it was really overcast (thus the washed out photos). The trail is about 2 miles total, so it’s not a super strenuous hike, although by the end we were soaking from all the humidity.
The view from the top of the volcano is beautiful and includes a wide vista of the surrounding fresh water lake. It also allows you to really see the ridge of the crater completely surrounding the lake. The original volcano must have been HUGE.
The Taal Caldera is filled with water, and because the volcano is very active some areas of the small lake inside it are boiling. Our guide explained some residents descend into the crater to soak in the more tolerable pools of hot water. Technically, it is illegal to settle the island, but the fertile soil from all the volcanic ash is too tempting for some, and the village is proof that in the Philippines, “illegal” is merely a suggestion. Like lanes. And STOP signs.
We headed back down the trail, through the village and back onto our boat. The entire hike took about 2 hours, including some time at the time to admire the views. Back at the yacht club, we enjoyed a picnic lunch before heading back to the hustle and bustle of Manila.
This was actually my favorite part of my time in the Philippines. Manila just didn’t seem interesting to me, and this adventure allowed me to see a more rural aspect of the island and make a more local connection. The people we met were friendly, and one lady was so proud to show me her garden. To me, that’s more what travel is about.
Here is the photoset for this trip: Mt. Taal Hike – September 2011
Planning this Trip
*The original name of this post was “my name ain’t joe and she ain’t no virigin,” but I figured Jennifer might take offense and make me do all my PMT entries myself.