I am riding a small size horse with a funny hair cut, trying to reach the top of Taal Volcano in Phillipines. It’s a 3.5 km way from the base to the top and Carmen, my 7 years old pony seems to know the route better than anyone.
All its life had carried hundred tourists up and down and now I feel the weak horse will collapse under my weight. I want to jump down and stop its suffering but my guide assure me that Carmen is just fine and she applies the old animal few corrections with a stick for a faster running.
My first horse ride
I am the last one from my group struggling to keep my balance and shouting to the woman next to me to take it easy. It’s my first contact with a horse and I might be one of the few people in the world scared of these gentle animals.
We reach the top after half an hour riding and instantly the poor locals are approaching us, selling different hand made souvenirs. They are trying to survive in this dry place so far away from the civilization where the tourism and fishing are the only activities which can bring them some money, so essential for living.
The sky is covered by clouds and in just few seconds, huge drops of rain start hitting the ground. We continue to take pictures with the volcanic lake, enjoying this warm shower in the middle of the summer. The atmosphere is even more mystical now when the volcano is hiding behind a veil of fog.
We see a baner which direct the tourists to the Red lava and we are following the sign, curious to discover more of the wonders of an active volcano. A filipino lady notice that we are interested ans she is aking for money: “pay, 500 pessos only, pay now”. I am impressed how these people, without a high level of education or resources, in a place forgotten by the world, are capable of learning a foreign language and communicate with tourists of different nationalities.
The amount of money together with our names are scratched in a notebook and the lady is opening a small wooden fence, inviting us in.
The beauty of an active vulcano
“Red lava” is actually an edge of volcano more “alive” than the rest, which produce high heat and a red moisture.
Even if the weather is not very friendly today, we feel like in an open air Sauna with a 360 degrees view over the mother nature and once again I am amazed of the beauty that our Earth has to offer.
The last eruption of the volcano was recorded in 1977 but seeing its high activity, we are scared that we might become a new page in a history book. Taal is the second most active and dangerous volcano of Phillipines and had registered 33 eruptions over the time, killing more than 6000 people.
Going back, I decide with my female colleagues to give a well deserve break to our horses and walk to the base of vulcano. Our male friend though , shows less compassion for the animals and ignoring our request, he choose to ride the horse on the way back.
Unfortunately our good act fails once again, the little poneis being assigned to carry the guides, probably tired and bored of tracking same route few times a day.
The weather is getting even worse, the rain drops mixed with the volcano powder are covering our bodies with a black mist and the air becomes unbreathable. As I rush back with the sand invading my eyes and mouth, I slip on the wet ground, falling, delighting the locals which are laughing and clapping.
School time, happy moments
It’s the noon time and the kids are preparing for school. Wearing clean uniforms and big back bags they are sharing cute smiles in front of the photo cameras, expecting some “tips” for their sweetnes.
The sun finally won the batle with the clouds, now when we are about to leave the volcano. The boat is waiting for us in the small bay and we are boarding it with a lack of enthusiasm.
We are going to sail this tiny and unstable device for 20min and every wave is splashing inside the boat making us wet from down to the top. This time I sit in the back where the impact feels less while my colleagues in the front are fighting with the agitated water, protecting themselves with some colored plastic covers.
We have a special guest, a local lady who is going for grocery on the main village of Luzon island. Taal’s people are taking the same route few times a week, whenever their food and water supplies are finished.
A well deserved healthy lunch
The lunch is ready and our “private” restaurant is waiting for our arrival. A small bungalow with a direct view over the lake and the volcano is our lovely dinning place.
The baked fished stuffed with fresh vegetables is already on the table while the country style chicken and the rice is brought by a filipino waiter. The food is delicious, the meat and the boiled vegetables in soya sauce taste just like the food from home.
The fishermen are bringing a new capture of colored fish which are fighting for survival in a small carton box.
One last group picture and we are ready to go back to Manila. The capital city is located only 50 km away from Taal volcano but the congested traffic of the capital city makes the trip tiring and annoying.
The Luzon island is well known for the pineapple plantations and I am dreaming to have a fresh juice once I reach the hotel. The driver hear our conversation and he makes a small surprise for us on arrival: a sweet pineapple for us to share. After more than 2 hours spent in the traffic jam, this is a refreshing way to end our journey in Phillipines.