Sunday, May 24, 2015

Soar high, PADADA

With some unusual reasons, I visited the municipality of Padada, Davao del Sur last May 24 to witness its unique festival, a one-of-a-kind kite flying competition spearheaded by the Municipal officials through its local tourism office and other cause-oriented associations of the town. The invitation came just at the right time because I have been in quiet mode for the last couple of days. Thank you very much Mr. Czaldy Garrote for inviting me there. Indeed, it was a very nice experience once again.

Among all municipalities in Davao del Sur and even in region XI, Padada is the smallest. It is basically agricultural in its economy, however, it has slowly changed gear towards tourism. While local officials are in search of an identity for people to have easy recall of the town, the Tabanog Festival was for me the fittest individuality that Padada should take heed of. I remember the same festival was also facilitated a decade ago by a milk brand, but somehow it just evaporated instantly. This is perhaps the best way for Padada to be renowned all throughout the country and even in the world.

There were two categories of the competition, the flat category and the 3D category. Upon seeing the different kite masterpieces of the residents of Padada, I assumed there can be no other way for this town to go but up. When the competition proper started, the kites soared just as high, and while all the people there were looking up, I realized that sky is no longer the limit for the Padada populace, but their imagination and creativity. For as long as they can create beautiful kites, they will always have the opportunity to soar high.

The Department of Tourism XI was also there to support the event with no less than the Regional Director Roberto Alabado one of the judges.  His staff were also all out to witness the competition. For four years now, Tabanog Festival is a major activity of Padada but this year’s version is a lot more colourful and festive. My congratulations once again to the organizers of this event.

Meanwhile, after the competition I headed to another destination in Padada that has long been boasted to me by Czaldy, the famous Piapi Hill located 4.6 kilometers from the town proper. The hill measures approximately 50 meters above sea level and is the highest point of Padada. At the highest point I saw the 360-degree view of the entire Padada town that also includes the municipalities of Sulop, Malalag and Sta. Maria. For Catholic devotees, Piapil Hill serves as the route for their Lenten way of the cross as there are crosses installed along the trail.

I trekked for about 10 minutes from the point where I left my motorbike and took several pictures at the top. It can be a good camping point or a turn-around point for a trail marathon. The peak is enclosed by steel railings. According to Czaldy, it is also a good point for sunset and sunrise shoot and for sure I will be back there for the said purpose.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Indonesia Triple Crossover Climb Series 3: MT. IJEN CRATER AND THE BLUE FIRE

Mt. Ijen was the last mountain of the 3-mountain series we climbed on May 14. We had to travel some 7 hours from Mt. Bromo using the Malang highway to Banyuwangi where we stayed at a cozy Arabica homestay. We arrived in Sempol Banyuwangi early in the evening and took a good dinner in preparation for another very early Mt. Ijen assault. It took us 45 minutes van travel from Arabica homestay to the jump off point where we started trekking at 3:00 AM.

From the trail head we hiked an uphill 3-kilometer of wide trail to Mt. Ijen summit and another 15 minutes decent to the sulphur vent and the popular blue fire. The elevation of 2,799 was hardly a factor for us to survive the climb because for the second time, we did it effortlessly.

As an active volcano, Ijen features an active crater where sulphur deposits are in abundance. Porters in Ijen volcano earn a living out of sulphur mining. They usually carry their sulphur from the crater to Banyuwangi and sold it at an unreasonable price. To be honest, I pity the porters who do the mining because to me it was another form of slavery, them being allowed to carry 70-80 kilograms of solid sulphur in exchange of a little payment. The wide crater lake of Ijen volcano is considered as the most acidic crater in the world and the smoke coming from the sulphur vent is deadly.

One interesting characteristic of Ijen volcano is the presence of the so-called Blue Fire, a blue-colored flame only visible in the evening. According to our guide, this is one of a kind in the world that catches the interest of National Geographic. Since then, tourists flocked to this place to see the blue fire. Other people tend to fall in love with taking selfies near the blue fire rim and the sulphur vent without knowing that it could harm them anytime. Pare Dockie and Josephine had the same experience.

The sulphur smoke was getting wild and we could no longer bear the noxious fumes we decided to head back to the summit. We stayed for an hour in the summit and commune with some residents in Banyuwangi selling souvenir items in there. Josephine had some good buys but unfortunately the authorities of Surabaya airport never allowed us to travel with that stuff as sulphur are naturally flammable.

Nonetheless, our Ijen climb completed the Indonesia trilogy. It was very successful we had some exceptional experiences.  Thank you very much Indonesia. Thank you very much Pin and Dockie for the great outdoor memoirs. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Indonesia Triple Crossover Climb Series 2: MT. BROMO

After our successful Mt. Semeru climb, we stayed overnight for the second time in our transient house in Ranu Pane. After spending a very good evening of talking and laughing with Pin and Dockie, we called it a night at 10:00 PM. Just when we thought we could take a nap for an hour, Amit called us up for an early morning breakfast at exactly 1:00 in the morning and we headed immediately to our second mountain destination, Mt. Bromo.

Mt. Bromo is the most popular mountain in East Java as it is flocked by thousands of tourists every day. Unlike Mt. Semeru, our trekking to Mt. Bromo was effortless. Standing at an elevation of 2,329 meters above sea level, Mt. Bromo is an ecotourism destination that is hiker-friendly. It is an active volcano situated in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park.

Our tour started on May 13 with a 4-hour 4x4 jeep from Ranu Pane. We were initially dropped by the view deck of Mt. Penanjakan (2,770 masl) to watch for the gorgeous sunrise. The temperature in this area is also very cold. There were already a lot of people waiting for the sunrise even before we arrived there and I witnessed how alive ecotourism is in Penanjakan. A lot of vendors selling souvenir stuff in almost all perimeters of the park.

While on top of the Penanjakan view deck, we saw the beautiful landscape of the Bromo range, including the magnificent sea of clouds surrounding the top mountains which include Mt. Bromo itself and the dominant Mt. Semeru.

After taking several sunrise shots and selfies, we proceeded directly to the basecamp of Mt. Bromo in an hour jeep drive. Mt. Bromo is another unique mountain in Indonesia known for its amazing view for which I only saw it in movies. The rock formations are captivating. Another scene stealer is the Buddhist temple erected within the Bromo range. The hike to the crater view is only about 45 minutes or lesser although the heat of the sun is another challenge for hikers. There is a wide stairway built along the way to the crater and peak. A horse-ride can be an option on the way up the middle of the Bromo trail, but none of my companions tried the ride. They ran along the stairway instead, indeed, they were runners (hehe). Before our actual hike we took a light snacks in one of the stores within the Bromo base.

The crater of Mt. Bromo is huge. And because it is an active volcano, we saw the volcanic activity of the crater when we were in the summit. As per record, its last eruption was in 2011 and it can still erupt anytime.

Mt. Bromo gave us another great experience onward to completing the pending trilogy. The easy trekking allowed us to recharge energies for another interesting climb the following day.