Thursday, December 1, 2011

Trek to Taal Volcano in Batangas

Last Sunday, I took my family for a day trek of Taal volcano. This was triggered by the wish of my two sons to climb up to the summit of a volcano, after they have seen Mt. Mayon a few months ago. It also served as a preparation climb for them, since they are planning to climb Mt. Manalmon with me the following month.

We left early from Binan, Laguna, arriving in Tagaytay at around 7:00 am. In search of restaurant with the view of Taal lake, we ended up in Kaye Ryan Grill. We tried their breakfast set menus priced at Php 165 each. 

Service is good enough, though there are few lapses like my egg was wrongly prepared, and a fruit dish was not served. Portion size is small, the beef tapa lacks flavor, yet the brewed barako coffee and fresh mango juices are good.

While waiting for our breakfast, it was the only time that I called Sonia of Taal Lake Yacht Club (TLYC), to reserve a boat for our Taal volcano trek that morning. She immediately confirmed that she can accommodate us despite the last minute arrangement. I decided to avail of TLYC's services due to good feedbacks, transparent pricing on their website, and to avoid being ripped off by other boat agents offering their services along the road from Tagaytay.

We descended the steep and zigzag Ligaya road from Tagaytay to Talisay, putting the vehicle in second gear most of the time. This challenging route reminds me of the roads to Canyon Cove and Thunderbird Resort, and its not for the newbie or faint-hearted drivers! We stopped at the entrance of a subdivision (Laeuna Taal) to admire a closer and nice view of Taal lake.

At the end of Ligaya road, we turned right and in less than a kilometer, we saw the signage of TLYC on the left side. A short downward road leads to TLYC area with plenty of parking space shaded by the trees. Then a staff led me to their registration area where Sonia asked me to sign a waiver form, before I paid Php 2,450 for 5 persons to the Taal trek tour using the old trail. 

After preparing our gears, we boarded the boat that will take us to Taal island. Life vests were provided for their guests in the 15-minute boat ride. Some TLYC members and guests can be seen enjoying their small sailboats.

My first choice was to use the tree-shaded Ambassador Kenney trail, but our guide Elmer encouraged me to use the old trail for better views. It was also cloudy that day, so the sun should not be not much of a problem. 

Since this is a practice climb for my companions, we did not rented a horse, saving around Php 500 for each horse as well. Elmer warned us not to take any offer of the vendors (face masks, hats, etc.) to avoid being forced to buy something at overpriced rates.

Upon arriving at the Taal island beach area, Elmer took charge of the registrations and paid the fees, which are included on our payment to TLYC. A group of four horsepeople followed us, unsuccessful in tempting us to rent a horse, then went back to the beach to try their luck with other tourists. Luckily, the trail is not muddy nor dusty that day. Below are some of the scenes and views along the trail.

Visitors will see a lot of the dormant volcano below, which is usually mistaken by most people as the Taal volcano. We can't really blame them as its the most photographed part of the lake due to its almost conical shape, and its closer proximity from Tagaytay ridge.

This part is after 30 minutes on the trail. Guides are not necessary. Just follow the people and horses along the trail, while avoiding the horse dungs. The "assault" part is prior to reaching the summit, on the last 10 minutes walk, some in quite narrow trail.

There are 2 rocky parts along the trail where smoke comes out from the rock, also called as fumaroles, serving as vents of the volcano. A sample touch of the rocky surface proved that they are really hot.

We finally reached the summit, and rewarded with the green color of the crater lake below. There are some white-colored parts of the lake along the edges, where the water boils to form as steam.

There are vendors in the area selling drinks, boiled egg, snack items, souvenir shirts, etc. Its a refreshing almost-360 degree view of the island and the lake, as well as the Tagaytay ridge and the dormant volcano.

Mt. Maculot can be seen on the left side from the summit on that clear day.

On the farther right side of the summit, people can completely see that part of the lake near Tagaytay and Laurel towns. Those people are shown by the arrow on the photo below.

On our way down near the rocky smoke vents, I saw this one of the volcano monitoring stations of PHILVOLCS. 

Then we're back to TLYC to freshen up. The facilities look old but they are clean. I saw this interesting reminder on one of the cubicles.

Taal trek is one good outdoor experience for bonding and to educate the kids. A welcome respite from usual visit to the malls. :)

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