Have you ever seen a mountain? Fog? Clouds? Trees? No? Well, you’re in luck because I have, like, 80 photos of those things to show you today.
Five years ago, friends and I went to Sagada. Save for a four-hour trek to Echo Valley and the Hanging Coffins, we mostly did nothing. It was great, especially for a clueless first-timer who had done no prior research. For my second visit, I wanted to do the two things I wasn’t able to do in 2010: the Sumaguing and Lumiang Cave Connection and to see the sunrise at Kiltepan.
We left Manila around 9PM on a Friday, expecting to be in Sagada by 6AM (expectations set by Waze). Naturally, our hired driver had to take a wrong turn while everyone was asleep and we ended up stuck in mud for over two hours. Fun for me, because I am a girl; not very fun for the guys.
Not really sure where we got lost but this structure was the view from where Jaz and I sat and had our coffee. After nearly an hour of trying unsuccessfully to get the van out of the mud, we walked down the road and asked some locals for help. The place had no cell reception or wifi but they had lots of hospitality!
Finally, we were on our merry way. We stopped for some quick photos because this was the view.
We arrived at Talubin around 10AM only to find out the bridge we needed to cross to get to Sagada was closed until 5PM for construction because the recent typhoon wrecked it. We asked some drivers for options and learned we could leave our hired van behind, get a ride towards junction past the bridge and wait for a jeepney to take us to Sagada. Mafel called our inn and told them we were going to be late. After explaining what was up, he offered to have a van pick us up (PHP1500, split among 9 people).
We finally got to Sagada a little past noon.
The delay threw off the day’s itinerary, which I didn’t mind at all. With nothing but rice and adobo oil/soup in my tummy, we headed to Sumaguing Cave to begin the four-hour cave connection.
The cave connection tour requires one guide per 3 people so we had three tour guides with us. I think it’s PHP300 or PHP400 per head. Please do not attempt to go without a licensed tour guide because you might die.
I don’t have photos inside the cave because I knew we were going to get wet but the folks I was with had a waterproof camera and I LOOK HORRID IN ALL THE PHOTOS. Here’s one of me being birthed by rocks, though.
It was nearly 5PM when we finished the tour and I was amazed I got out unscathed. Some parts of it had me clutching my head in distress like Psyduck but I just kept in mind what Mafel told me mid-way through: “trust your hands and your feet.”
The cave connection was fun and actually not that hard. 10/10, would do it over and over again!
Dinner was at Sagada Brew. Not much has changed since I was last there, food still takes forever to be served. It took my pumpkin soup (PHP80, not worth it) half an hour and my vegetable-anchovy pasta (PHP150, yummy) ~45 minutes and I had to send that one back because they forgot the anchovies lol. I wanted to snap photos of our food but everyone was starving and I didn’t want to be annoying.
Cave Connection essentials:
-quick-drying, comfortable clothes. I wore a sports bra, a regular Uniqlo tee, and gym shorts but it would be better to wear yoga pants because you’ll be using your butt to descend rocks/slopes.
-trekking sandals or slippers. I wore Havaianas because those things are sturdy as hell.
-a waterproof camera.
-a waterproof bag for your valuables (I brought my phone but you need flash to take photos in the cave so I didn’t use it).
-water. Your guide can carry this for you in his backpack.
You can smoke inside the cave but make sure to bring your cigarette butts with you when you exit. You can also bring a headlamp but it’s not necessary.
We got up at 4AM the next day to head to Kiltepan and see the sunrise, which was at 543AM (thanks, Accuweather). Again, we got lost and that was fine because unlike the sunset, the sunrise takes its sweet time.
There was a crowd at Kiltepan but thakfully, it wasn’t That Thing Called Tadhana/hugot-levels because we could still get a good, unobstructed view for our Instagram photos.
Hello, it me!
There’s a cafe at Kiltepan but it was a Sunday and they were closed. We headed back to town for brunch at Lemon Pie House but they only had pies lol bummer. We crossed the street to Sagada Happy House where I had fish fillet (PHP120, so good) and native coffee (PHP25). It only took the food ~20 minutes, too! I also finally got to use my camera’s remote for a couple of selfies. Hashtag important.
After brunch, we went back to our inn and I took a nap while the rest of the group went to Echo Valley and the Hanging Coffins. That proved to be a good move because the trek to Buscalan turned out to be brutal for me (it was my first time as an adult to “climb” a mountain, okay).
-3.5 days transportation (Manila-Sagada-Kalinga-Manila private van)
-1 night stay at Kapaw-an Inn Sagada
-1 night homestay in Buscalan
-Sagada tourism and Cave Connection guide fees
-van ride from Talubin to Sagada (PHP165)
-Buscalan meals (PHP80)
-Buscalan tourism fee (PHP75)
-batok tattoo from Grace (PHP500)
-porter fee (PHP500. You actually only have to pay PHP100-150 but I gave a handsome tip because Craven was very nice and how often do these good folks make an income anyway?)
-meals in Sagada and Bontoc (four meals for PHP750, including tips)
It doesn’t have to cost that much for a 3-day trip to Sagada and Buscalan, but you can’t beat the convenience of having your own van and driver because you’re not at the mercy of scheduled trips.
Stay tuned for my Buscalan entry where I post more photos of foggy mountains!