The other day I went out of Manila up into the Tagaytay Province to visit a pretty hot tourist spot – The Taal Volcano. It was an interesting day but not for the reasons you might think…
We called a driver we had used in the past to get around the city because we knew him, he knew his way around, and was pretty reliable. You can imagine our surprise when he shows up in his taxi as a passenger, being driven by a man we’ve never met before. When “Inigo” gets out of the taxi it becomes very obvious why he isn’t the one driving. It would seem at some point between our calling to arrange the trip and his actually getting there he had managed to break his wrist/hand pretty good. He says it was a boxing accident – no matter what it was though, it looked painful.
This meant that all of us were going to have to cram into the tiny back seat of the little cab but we made it work. So started our very long journey. Or so we thought. After just barely a half hour on the road our mystery driver stops and “Inigo” gets out of the cab and waves goodbye. Just like that we started running through possibilities. Did some gang get wind of a bunch of white Cano’s getting an off service cab? Prime kidnap material right. Ok I’ll go left, you run right, and we’ll meet at the Jollibee we just passed 10 minutes ago…
It turns out that we weren’t getting kidnapped and “Vic” was a pretty chill guy. He also drives like an F1 race car driver, so we made some pretty good time getting up there. He weaved his way through side streets and back alleyways with graceful precision and before we knew it we were standing on the shore of the crater lake.
Ok I don’t want to discourage you from going to Taal, and paying for the boat ride, and climbing to the rim. It’s a really cool adventure I’m sure. You may be wondering why I’m writing now in a tone that makes it sound as if I didn’t actually do any of this…simple answer to that question is that I didn’t.
If you’ve climbed Volcanos before, like I have climbed the erupting Mt. Batur in Bali, you have a certain expectation when it comes to something so grandly billed as an extreme adventure to an active volcano. Several things led us to opt out of this tour – I’ll fill you in.
1. Underwhelming. The Volcano wasn’t very impressive, the climb itself was very limited, the boundaries restrictive. When we climbed Batur we started before the sun even came up. We hiked up between streams of red molten lava, and throughout the night could hear the volcano erupting. When the sun finally started to come up we had prime seats to view the small eruptions taking place, hiked onto the rim of the volcano, and then watched the sun rise. All before hiking down INTO the volcano where a breakfast of soft boiled steam vent eggs and steamed bananas were served out of small shopping bags the guide had carried up with him.
2. The price was not a very good price. All the operators seemed to have a market price going no matter the resort or boat launch you went to. We were looking at a little over 4,000PP per person for the boat ride over. To give you some perspective, in the roughest of conversions, that’s about 100 USD per person just to ride a boat over to the Volcano.
We had just hired a boat in Davao for the entire day for 7,000 PP to go Island Hopping for 20 people. This was going to cost us over 12,000PP for a 60 minute transfer from one shore to the other and back again just for the 3 of us. They wouldn’t budge, they even tried to run up the price for a girl named Sumi (guessing at the name spelling since she and her group also left without going) who came over to ask us if we were getting the same treatment.
3. The tourist vibe. I know this is strange since we are tourists here, but, we don’t like to feel like tourists and a lot of what we do is really out there unique that even locals think we’re nuts. We would have had over an hour long wait for our boat, throngs of people were trying to get over there and hike the Volcano. So now we were not only paying a crazy steep price, we had to wait an hour for a six flags amusement park sized crowd adventure along a roped path to a fenced ledge on a small Volcano. It was getting easier to say no to the boat.
The real fun of course was all day long. We were all pretty happy to be there and have a day hanging out with each other. Of course doing that in a cab isn’t ideal but it worked and we all caught up, brain stormed, and chatted about family and friends. We challenged an engine that was ready to explode to climb the steepest grade road in the Province, braved LA rush-hour traffic (If it were contained to a sleepy town road) and despite our best efforts couldn’t eat any food because the resto’s were all packed.
We spent several hours together just catching up.
It was a very good day and if this is the peak (pun intended) of your extreme trip planning then by all means hop on the boat and GET OUT THERE. Well worth the look around but for use it just wasn’t enough to have us for over a couple hundred dollars for a transfer.