Taal Volcano Plus
Saturday in the Philippines,
Tagaytay is about a 2 hour drive if you leave Manila at 7:00 am before the
traffic starts building up. It is the site of the Taal volcano with
an island in the center of a lake inside a volcano which is an island in
a lake inside a volcano.
We bought our tickets overlooking the lake. The guide joined us and
then we drove for over half an hour down to shore along a twisting winding
road. One section had a sign "beware of collapsed road, one lane only".
And indeed it was collapsed over the cliff and barely one lane.
The boat looked like a gondola with bright colors and pontoons on either
side for stability. It was also motorized and under power we plowed through
the waves for about 20 minutes to the island shore. There to greet
us were the islanders and their horses.
My colleague Steve (having 2 expats Steve U and Steve W is amusingly confusing
to everyone) does not fancy horses (had an unsatisfactory experience one
day) so we decided to hike up. Twas a steep climb in the blistering
heat. Seems only the anglos were silly enough to hike as all the oriental
tourists passed us on horseback. I was exhausted as we neared the top
and the steepest grade, dodging the horses as we climbed. Finally climbing
past the horse unloading area I looked over the rim into the second lake
with a small island in the center. There were steam vents on the edges
and you could see steam bubbling up in parts of the lake. They say
it is highly sulferic water. A spectacular view of inner lake, crater,
outer lake, crater and horizen.
Then it was time to descend. I debated the wisdom/honor of being macho
and toughing it down or playing the survival card and hiring a horse for
the descent. In honor of Michelle I opted to ride the pony. It was a
different view from five feet higher up and most impressive. The saddles
were Filipino size but with riding experience I was able to maintain a comfortable
position and enjoyed the ride. A few times the horseman jumped on behind
me and we broke into a trot.
At the shoreline we found our boat waiting and climbed aboard for the trip
back. As we crossed waves the spray lunged across the bow and being
in the front I got the free shower with the warm and clear water. By
the time we arrived I was soaked to the skin through my shirt and jeans.
Along the way we passed many groups of nets and bouys that were local fish
After a cold drink we piled into the car for the half hour drive back up
the side of the crater and the trip back Manila. A stop at a roadside
stand produced a pineapple that had been in the ajoining fields only hours
before and a taste of what pineapple can really be like if it is fresh.
Traffic was already in gridlock on the so called expressway and we took to
the back roads. Some three hours later after traversing many small
communities and seeing the squalid huts and tiny shops of the backside of
Manila (which the average tourist will never see) we emerged below the airport
and near Manila bay.
Eventually we found our way to a market which required a guide to find a
parking place and an elaboate ritual of hand signals and maneuvers just to
We walked across the lot and into the fish market. This was the real
thing. The crabs and lobsters were crawling over each other, straining at
the rubber bands that held their claws tightly together. The prawns (shrimp)
sqwirmed, the clams spit jets of water out of the bucket and the larger fish
lay still on the ice, still alive but dormant. We chose our menu from
various vendors. Dinner was collected in plastic shopping bags that
wiggled of their own accord as we walked.
Finally being persuaded that we had more than enough food we emerged into
the parking lot where the owners of all the little "cooking shops" invited
us to join them. We chose one and and intense dialogue in tagolog began
as to how each morsel was to be prepared. The tables were plastic, the napkins
paper, the utensils simple, with a barely working TV blaring in the corner.
But "Oh the food" it doesn't get much fresher and a delightful variety of
preparations. Halfway through the meal I realized how we felt about
the food. All talk had ceased and we just ate in silence, a testimony to
I feel as though I have finally begun to experience the Philippines.
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