Philippines – An Englishman, Canadian and an American all walk up a volcano…


Elizabeth and Ashley on the boat to the volcano

One of the highlights of travelling to different countries is that not only do you meet fantastic locals but you also meet warm and kind people such as Elizabeth and Ashley.  Both teachers in Japan and from America and Canada respectively they decided to head out to the Philippines for vacation and I was lucky to have spent a week and a half with them.

These were the two people that persuaded me to go to the island of Boracay instead of Cebu and I couldn’t thank them enough!  But more on that in a later post.

Our most memorable and exciting adventure our trio embarked on was to hike up a dormant volcano called Taal in the northern province of Batangas.  Our trip started at 10am leaving Manila bus station heading for two hours to a place called Tagaytay; from there we’d swap bus for trike which would take us down to Taal Lake.  We would have to bargain for a boat to take us across the lake to the volcano.

So let’s talk about the bus trip.  We caught a normal public bus which filled up pretty quickly.  The bus itself was showing 300 on the screens and wasn’t necessarily modern, but reminds me of the buses that you used to take on school trips.

Some of the food that was on offer

A view of the bus with 300 on the screen

Because of the heat all the windows had curtains or at least a tint covering, with some busses having windows that can be fully opened (like the old intercity trains).

At every stop along the way someone would come on board serving local food at cut price – imagine like a chaotic trolley cart on the train, with the guy or girl screaming to everyone if they want some banana or nuts at a good price.  We did try a few of the foods on offer – some were far more appetizing than others (my advice is to stay away from the coconut cake, or at least I think it was coconut).

When we arrived at our stop (that the driver and passengers kindly pointed out to us), we then had to (as we originally thought) get a jeepney.  Jeepneys are everywhere in the Philippines and are the most commonly used forms of transport.  They were old military vehicles that the US left behind after the Second World War, and what makes the vehicles remarkable is the ‘pimp my ride’ decorative styling on each one.

A Jeepney

Each vehicle is unique in its decoration

Some are smaller than others

You can find a jeepney around every corner

So as we headed to the jeepneys it turned out that actually you can’t go to the lake in one of them; it had to be a trike.  The Philippine trike is basically a motorcycle with a sidecar that could fit two to five passengers (sometimes a lot more if you chose to stand and ride on the side, which I did on many drunken occasions in Boracay).

The trike

Me and Ashley in the side car

Elizabeth sat on the back of the bike

Our driver

Me on the back of the trike

Ashley was at first apprehensive but through there be no other way getting down there she dived in and off we went chugging along for thirty minutes down some hills to the lake.

Arriving at the lake we were taken to a boat that was offering a slightly higher price than we were told, but in the end we just wanted to get there and paid up and off we went on what we thought was a nice quite ride.

Our luxury liner awaits

Getting on and off the boat was a bit tricky

Our captain

Ashley and I sat next to each other with Elizabeth sat confidently across from us.  Leaving the jetty it started off okay and then all of the sudden it got really choppy (I had no idea lakes could get choppy) and in an instant Elizabeth was soaked.  Leaping onto Ashley we found some plastic sheeting and hid under there for the 20-30 minute sail across the high seas.


When we arrived at the volcano and paid our entrance fee we headed up the track to the summit, passing a load of people who chose not to walk the route but to take a lift on the back of a horse.

horses for hire

Grabbing some lunch before heading up the volcano

Rice with lots of flies was the main dish (was quite good)

Ashley and Elizabeth admiring the view half way up

Random hiking shot

And another random shot

At the top the view of the volcano was stunning.  Basically it’s a lake that appears to be boiling from all the sulphur that is emanating from beneath it.  We took a load of snaps and then headed back for another wet boat ride.
The amazing view from the top

Three of us with the volcano lake behind

Me with customary beer in hand

Steam vents up from the ground

Sulphur deposits

Ashley looking on

Second arty shot

Ashley's attempt at taking a photograph of me 

A few weeks later the news reported that there was a lot of seismic activity around the volcano and they had to evacuate the locals from the area as a precautionary measure (Link to the news story).  Thankfully everything is back to normal.

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