Sunday, September 1, 2013

Spelunking on Lumiang & Sumaging Caves

Tired of the trails and views on top of the mountains? Going under the ground is a good break, to literally see what is beneath us. One of the major draws of Sagada is spelunking, or exploring its 3 interconnected caves. With 6 known entrance/exit points, Sagada caves are considered as the deepest caves in the country with lowest vertical drop of 163 m.

I booked a Lumiang-Sumaging cave connection tour which costs Php 400/head, minimum of 2 persons with a guide for every 5 clients. I thought that I would do the tour alone, but I was surprised that Mr. A from our seminar decided to join me. Our guide Joey (0919-2151096) is the VP of SAGGAS, one of the two guide associations in Sagada.

From the town center, we walked for about 20 minutes to the short trail that leads to Lumiang cave. Its easy to find the way as there is a signage along the road, and the locals are helpful to give directions. But if going inside the caves, guides are mandatory to ensure the safety of tourists.

The entrance of Lumiang cave is an attraction on itself, with the wooden coffins deposited on the right side of its mouth. The coffins seem short, because the mummified remains of the Aplai Kankanaey tribe here are placed in fetal position. Its part of their belief that their dead must also be buried in the same position as they were born.

Prior to descending on the cave's depths, our guide prepares the Petromax kerosene lamp. The wooden coffins are stacked on the upper part of the photo.

Looking outside from Lumiang cave's mouth, you will see the large triangular entrance/exit of this cave.

By 4:00 pm, we started our spelunking on a series of 5-6 drops on the cave's dark interiors.

There are some parts that require rappelling. My body has to perform some "gymnastic" moves to find the stepping surfaces. My arms have to exert effort to hold or pull up my body on some portions. On such challenging situations, you would really appreciate the assistance of the guide.

Most of it was descending on dark and slippery terrain. There is one trail where we have to wade in chest-deep water, because the rope on the alternate trail is unavailable.

Unlike other caves I've been to, the Lumiang cave has few stalactites and stalagmites. But whenever we saw one, they are really gigantic, especially the mushroom and column formations. Its just hard to get a decent photo, as I'm only using a camera phone.

We took a break after about every 30 minutes. I savored the time in the most spacious part, near the boundary of Lumiang and Sumaguing caves. Its really a huge hollow part of the cave, that can easily fit 4 baseball fields or 6 cathedrals on my estimate. 

Then we descended on an open steep trail, where a natural pool of clear water is waiting after a few meters of walking on a stream. Its very cold but the water is just inviting, so I dipped for only about 5 minutes.

We were fortunate to see other life forms hundreds of meters below the ground. First is the spider on the photo below.

Then a crab on a small pond with unique rock formation.

Next photo's rock formation looks like a turtle with the head hiding inside its carapace.

A rock column which look like the sideview of a giant chocolate-mocha cake. By this time, we are already at Sumaguing cave.

The formation on our background seems beige cake icing that drips very slowly.

Going down the lowest portion of Sumaguing cave requires pushing our back and feet on the vertical space below.

There was a large group of young tourists on this last destination, so we were not able to get the exclusive photo ops that we want. Besides, my phone is running out of juice, and cannot supply a flash for the camera.

After almost 3 hours of spelunking, we climbed up the rocky and slippery trail that leads to the mouth of Sumaguing cave. Our guide Joey congratulated us for finishing the cave connection in less than 3 hours, much faster than the 4 hours average per group. He mentioned that only 20% of their clients do the Lumiang-Sumaguing cave connection. 

Will I do it again when I'm back in Sagada? Definitely. But I'm contemplating if I can do the Latipan crystal cave tour instead for at least 4 hours, which is 3 times harder than what we've gone through. Joey says the difficulty and the fee of Php 2,500/head, with 2 guides per tourist is all worth it to see the crystal cave.

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1 comment:

  1. The photos reminds me during my Sagada Adventure. Now, I really miss Sagada!