Sunday, April 19, 2009

Caramoan: Backpacker's Adventure Part-3

I have discovered the untouched beauty of Caramoan during my second day of stay. Complete with my backpack and other arsenals, I roam around and explore its wonders. Truly, it has something to be proud of. It's about time to tell the whole world that Caramoan Peninsula has an extra ordinary group of islands that can be compared to Phi Phi Island of Thailand and Coron of Palawan.

Caption: View of the Peninsula at the top of Our Lady of Peace Grotto

I have seen the entire islands of Caramoan Bay from atop. At 700 feet above sea level Mt. Caglago's famous Marian image welcome's everyone with a stretch arms. My legs tremble as I trek the 530-steps Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Grotto (see my article here). It's a 90 degrees ascension with 4 landings in between. Tired and thirsty you may become but its a relaxing experience after you reach the peak. You will be treated with 180 degrees of view of the islands plus the cold air that refreshes you.

This becomes a pilgrimage site of Bicol and a must see place in Caramoan. You can reach Mt. Caglago by boat or by land. Kuya Inggoy, my guide brought me here with his Larga (motorbike). It took us 45 minutes to reach the place. We passed by several barrios, several wooden bridges and irrigation site. You can feel the simplicity of life in the barrios and houses are rarely seen in the highway...they are literally separated kilometers apart. Roads are rough and sticky when wet, so if you are planning to visit the place make sure, its summer.

Before lunch, we decided to step down the grotto and plan to visit Kulapnit cave. We walked at the middle of the fields to locate the house of the caretaker but unfortunately, kerosene lamp was out of gas. The Kulapnit cave is known to the locals because it has hundreds of bats hovering the place. The rock formation is unique and one should be ready to get wet. While inside the cave, you have to pass through a running water to reach some exciting part of the cave. The sun is so intense and it made me so thirsty. We saw a family passing by and they have walked kilometers away to bring their fresh harvest to the market. I thank Manang Asing, she manage to gave me a fresh buko as refreshment. People like them despite their simple and difficult life are kind and very hospitable to any tourist who visited their place.

After a while, we decided to have our island hopping. Kuya Inggoy brought me to Bikal port and got a small bangka (motorized boat). Since it's lunch time, we took time to take a rest in a small carenderia while enjoying our kinilaw na bangus for lunch. At 2 pm we started to move going to the island. I rented it for P1,000 and its just the three of us. The sky seems to cry that afternoon but still we go. I just secure my camera and covered it with plastic. After 30 minutes we reach Gota beach and its neighboring islands. We are greeted by the Explorer's rock which beauty is a large chunk of the allure. The islands of Caramoan, when approached by boat it rise from the sea like a fortress. Sheer cliffs tower overhead, then give way to beach-fronted jungle. Truy, It's a love at first sight.

Caption: Explorer's Rock along Gota Beach

Caption: Hunungan Beach

Gota is closed as of this writing and it is being used by Survivor Israel. But still, we manage to pass by for me to have my paparazzi's shots hehe. I even wanted to come ashore but some crews from afar signaled us saying "No". The place is a private resort and being managed by the Camarines Sur provincial government. It is so far the most developed island next to Hunongan beach. Major development will still push through but the sad part according to Kuya Inggoy, more people with ancestral domain will be displaced.

I content myself in a small Minalahus island facing Hunungan. The water is clear and sands are at par with that of Boracay. At the middle of the 50 meters shoreline is a rock formation that is perfectly sculptured by its water in many years. Just be careful if you plan to hop in, the rock has sharp edges in both corners.

We also sneak at the forbidden grounds of the location shoot of Survivor and manage to took some images. Its good that I have my 200mm lens that it can zoom up to the level that I desired. Service speed boats are seen from all directions and patrolling the area. From time to time there's a helicopter roaming the island presumed to be their way for an aerial shots. Gota is truly has breathtaking backdrop of green lush of forest and gorgeous mountain cove. As seen in my Google imagery, the location is just superb.

After a while, we proceeded to another island where the public can set foot. I've seen many tourist on the beach with their snorkeling gears. Matukad island is white long beach with a span of approximately 200 meters. A must visit and for campers and a perfect location for a wide view of the Caramoan group of islands.

Our next stop is the Lahus island. White sand resides in between the twin hilly rock formation. It has also a mini-cave if you want to go for an overnight stay. A good view of the surrounding islands and perfect to capture the sunrise and sunset. Catanduanes island is very visible from afar and I think you can reach it in a 5-hour boat ride. Jay Ruiz, an ABS-CBN reporter was also there and we shared our own views about Caramoan. He is also on a vacation and just like me, looking for a new place to discover.

Rain suddenly pour and we were stranded for a while. I have decided to take a dip in the warm water of Lahus. Sands are refined and I played along with school of fishes that can be easily seen from the crystal clear water. Unfortunately, I don't have my goggles with me and I can't took advantage of the unique coral reef formation is some part of the island.

Aside from this island, you can also visit neighboring islands like Lahuy, Pitogo, Sabitang Laya, Cotivas and Tinago. The waves are strong and we can't manage to visit the other islands. Beside's, my boat is too small that it can easily be rampage by the unruly waves. Tsk, tsk, It's an erratic summer but its part of the adventure :) We decided to go back and contend myself with sight seeing.

Overall, its been a wonderful experience going to Caramoan. Anyone can be closed to nature as possible with its pristine beaches, majestic caves and diverse marine wildlife. I have not completed the entire islands but hopefully I can go back to Manila with stories that can make others explore its wonders. President GMA during her visit and inauguration of the electricity project on the island was convinced that Caramoan would be the next destination for both local and foreign tourist. 

With this development, The Caramoan Islands is embodied in Republic Act 9445 declaring the islands of Lahuy, Covitas, Guinahuan, Luksuhin, Malibon and Masay located in the northern coast of the Caramoan town as national tourism zones.

Special thanks to Kuya Inggoy Clores, (0910-546-1219) my ever trusted tour guide cum driver who's service is beyond compare. Very kind and down to earth. Live a simple life and wants every tourist feel at home. He guided me in every details on my visit to Caramoan and give me pointers on some of the best places in Caramoan.

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