East Africa

East-Africa-2

It actually stretches from the northern arid deserts of Ethiopia to the tropical forests of Mozambique and Madagascar, with 19 countries in between.  While my East African adventure in 2006 only spanned 3 countries, the experience it yielded were quite diverse – from the usual Safari adventures to tracking Chimpanzees to the more extreme, whitewater rafting.  Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, territories that were formerly under British control and each hold common thread yet bear its own unique character.

Highlights:

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Catching sight of the Big Five – Lions, African Elephants, Cape Buffalos, Leopards, and Rhinoceroses.

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The Big Five aside, Zebras along with giraffes have become favorites.

Witnessing not quite the migration but the start of it.  From July to October, one could witness the great migration where wildebeest and zebra travel to and from the Serengeti National Park to the greener pastures of the Masai Mara National Reserves.

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It is perhaps the most breathtaking event in animal kingdom and the whole point of our visit to this continent.  To see them gather together, sometimes in a line is more than thrilling.

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Witnessing a gathering of Flamingos.  Absolutely a sight to behold, this sea of pink covering a large part of Lake Nakuru.  One of the Rift Valley soda lakes that attract vast quantity of flamingos that feed on the lake’s abundant algae.

Being in beautiful Ngorongoro Crater.  It is the world’s largest intact unflooded volcanic caldera and is home to over 300,000 animals including the rare Black Rhinos.

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An absolutely beautiful place to be on a safari, the crater makes for a stunning backdrop to rich grazing grounds.

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Chilling in Zanzibar.  A semi-autonomous island separated from the Tanzanian mainland.

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Although just a short distance from the Tanzanian coast, it is at the crossroad of Africa, the Middle East and Asia resulting in a culture of diverse ethnicities, more Middle Eastern in its feel than African.  Likewise with local dishes, the rich fragrance of cinnamon, ginger, cumin, pepper and cardamom is synonymous with Zanzibar, also known as the Spice Island.  The streets of Stone’s Town – the capital’s old quarter – is full of the bustle of back street markets and local flavor.

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The charm lies in its labyrinth alleyways and faded buildings redolent of the glories of the old Islāmic empire.

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Rafting the White Nile.  Stretching 31km from just below the Bujugali Falls in Jinja, experiencing the Nile at its source is by far the best heart-pounding whitewater ride of my life.

Getting lost in Uganda.  On a wrong bus, we went the other way and ended up not quite where we wanted to be.

bus-stop-scene-in-Uganda

Best known for Idi Amin or Joseph Koney, getting lost could be frightening but this mishap gave us a taste of the local flare and the kindness of its people.  We eventually found our way but not without the help of the people we didn’t know from Adam.  An impression indelibly marked in my heart.

It is by far one of the best trip I’ve had – a wonderful surprise, considering that it was not even on the priority.  I will be back Africa, sooner than you know.

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Abuan Whitewater Adventure

Credits: Papers by CC oh joy yuletide, Chrysanthemum, Crystal Wilkerson Polka dot 08, EP Life is Good;  Border by LivE WWSH Page border; Tag by Crustal Wilkerson SVC tag

We were back at Abuan River the next day and were given the option to be on a raft or a kayak.

As we navigated upstream to where lunch was waiting,

Our lunch (left) and the kitchen crew with Anton and Herbert (right)

I took note of the big rapids to assess whether to go down river alone (on a kayak) or with company (on a raft).

There were easy rapids but there were rough ones as well.  Rough enough to make us get off our banca and walk while the boatmen and guides pushed and pulled.

Few days before the run, the river was high with some strong rapids, which would make for a fun ride on a raft.  On the day of our run, the water subsided quite a bit albeit still strong enough for a fun, challenging ride on a kayak but tamer on a raft hence the choice.

In truth, I am not fond of falling into icy water on a chilly, cloudy day and falling off a kayak is a high probability especially on that one rough rapid so I opted to start the trip downriver on a raft and switched to a kayak when the rapids became tamer.

In between rapids, the water is as gentle and calming as a river can be.  Quite a scenic river, it was easy to appreciate the beauty and serenity of the river and its surroundings.

Many of the locals enjoy the river as much too.

Though it couldn’t conceal the remnants of a recent major typhoon, a result of the abuse done to its forest.

Definitely a great introduction to whitewater rafting and likewise a fun challenge for kayakers with some experience.

Useful Info:

Adventures and Expeditions Philippines, Inc. (AEPI)
Contact Person:  Anton Carag Jr.
Email: anton@whitewater.ph
Mobile: (63)917-5327480

Five Reasons Why…

You should try Whitewater Rafting at least once in your life.

Credits:  Bannerwoman Designs Worn, Folded Edges, Judy Meibusch Doodle Dot elements, LivEdesigns SSunFun Alpha

Ever since my first rafting experience in 1999, I was hooked (see here, here and here).  I can’t count the number of times I’ve rafted the Chico, after all as they say, you never run the same river twice.  And I felt it time to share this exhilarating experience with my team.

So for 3 days in January, we found ourselves in Tuguegarao slaving away, devising strategies for the year

with a little bit of team building on the side.

Then on day 3, we spent an adrenalin-filled day at the Chico River in Kalinga.  Here are insights gathered from this experience.

It’s Liberating

When was the last time you’ve tried something at least once in your life?  I am one to try almost anything (I say almost because I have yet to convince myself about bungee jumping) at least once.  Whitewater rafting may not be for everyone but you’ll never know unless you’ve tried it.

I’ve rafted with many first timers with sedentary lifestyles through the years and as often as not, they at the very least, had a blast and in numerous occasions, a wild side they never knew they had is kindled.

Anton Carag, charismatic mover and shaker of whitewater rafting since 1998 at the Chico

Many among my team were apprehensive before the run and listened intently to Anton Carag lecturing on proper paddling techniques, what to do when one falls off and how to get back on the raft.

Doing a Hi-Five for a job well done

I saw how their fears transformed to confidence after the first few rapids.  They started to have fun.

Some even enjoyed the falls, bringing home stories of how they survived it etc.  It also helps to know that two internationally recognized wilderness specialists trained Anton and his team of guides some 10 years ago.

It Fosters Team Spirit

Rafting only works if everyone works as a team.  Listen to your leader and follow exactly the commands.  If the team fails to act as one, the raft may capsize.  If you’re not prepared to drink gallons of water, you probably don’t want this.   It’s also a hassle getting back on the raft and if the water’s low, you will most likely be going home with bumps and bruises as a remembrance from the river.  But hey, isn’t that proof of that adventurous spirit you thought you never had?  So listen to your guide and be in sync with your teammates.

It’s Actually Safe

First of all, the guides (mostly natives of Kalinga) know the river like the back of their hands.  And to reiterate, top-notched, seasoned river guides with international experience trained most of them.  But in case you didn’t follow instructions or to put it nicely — misunderstood the guide’s instructions and you fall off or worse, the whole raft flips, not to worry because the equipments, most especially the vest you are wearing (I can only speak of AEPI’s as I am not familiar with the other outfitters) is US-certified safe.  This means that when you’re under, the vest is buoyant enough to carry you out.  Sometimes with a little help from you, but hey again, sometimes you need to work a little harder eh?

It promotes Eco-tourism

And provides jobs.  Whitewater rafting is part of the new adventure and eco-tourism that the Philippines have to offer.  Most of the guides used are from neighboring communities and the more tourists, more jobs and other business opportunities are not far behind.  It also teaches us to respect and appreciate Mother Nature.

It’s Gorgeous Out There

Spectacular views of the Cordillera Mountains coupled with beautiful riverbanks and clear waters (not always the case though) surrounds the whole stretch of the run.  Unspoiled.  Pristine.

Except for raging rapids that never fails to stir up your adrenalin, the only other sounds you hear are chirpings of birds and the flow of the river.  Serenity in a most natural setting.

Excellent Food at Casa Carag

The 6th reason why you should try whitewater rafting with AEPI.  The food is just extraordinary.

Nothing is ordinary, from the longganisa, Salinas and hot native chocolate for breakfast, to the local Ibanag dishes such as their pinakbet and inabraw.  It’s all good!

So, at the first chance of rain (which is sadly a long way off), book a package with AEPI and experience the ultimate adventure of your life.  Season starts in August and ends in February.

*  All photos at the river courtesy of AEPI.

Contact Details:
Anton Carag, Jr.
Mobile:  (63)917-532-7480
Landline: (6378)844-1298
Email:  aepi@whitewater.ph; anton@whitewater.ph; whitewater1ph@yahoo.com

River White

white-nile

Credits:  Papers:  KPertiet Fairy Dreamer, JSprague Red Solid Paper, KPertiet Botanist no. 7-2; Elements:  Jack n Me Alpha blank, KPertiet Brown Stitching, KPertiet Quotes;  Brushes:  DD MWise A La Mode, KPertiet On the Edge Flourishes 2-1G;  Frames:  KPertiet On the Edge Flourishes 3-6G, KPertiet Snap Frame

Navigating the White Nile or the source of the Nile, in Uganda, is a once in a lifetime experience.  The Ugandan government has every intention of constructing a hydroelectric dam at the Bujugali Falls to provide power to the country, as their frequent power interruptions can last a whole day.  In a few years the exciting rapids will just be a memory.

We would raft rapids labeled as “the bad place”, “overtime” and more.   The day trip is a 30 km stretch of world-class white water rapids, mostly grades 4 & 5.  I was in for a turbulent ride!  But hey!  How often do you get to raft the longest river on earth?  The White Nile is a beautiful stretch of river with abundant bird life and rich, green-forested banks.  While the whole experience gives you an adrenalin rush, strangely, a calm assurance sort of settles in because well, wasn’t I rafting with some of the best river guides in the world?

Useful Info:

The Outfit: ADRIFT Adventure Co.

Plot 14, York Terrace,
Kololo (near Kololo airstrip & MTN Nyonyi Gardens)
Kampala, Uganda
E-mail:     raft@adrift.ug
Telephone:   +256-(0) 312 237 438
Mobile:   +256 (0) 772 237 438

 

Ibulao Ibulao

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my-fix

 

This was taken in Ibulao River, Kiangan.  Not many have rafted or even know of this river (I think) and as the photos on the slideshow below exhibits, it is a fantastic 3 hours of rafting experience with a view so impressive.  An interesting place rich in history, Kiangan is believed to be the first human settlement in Ifugao.  This is also where Ifugao and American troops helped force General Yamashita to make his informal surrender in World War II.

We stayed in a charming hostel owned by the Kalugdans, I remember the food to be superb.  This was a special trip organized by Adventures and Expedition Philippines Inc. (AEPI) to explore the river.  They have since run several trips running the upper portion of the river.  Definitely worth a try.

This has been my entry to That’s My World.  Go visit and  find other worlds here.

Getting There:

Take either Autobus or Florida Bus Line to Banaue, get off at Kiangan.

 

Contact Details:

Auto Bus
Espana cornor Catalina,
Sampaloc, Manila
Phone:  735-8096

Bus fare:       P 460

Florida Bus Line
Sampaloc, Manila
Phones:  743-3809 / 731-5358 / 493-3667

Bus fare: P 450

Sleeping Arrangements:

Kalugdan Hostel, Kiangan
Ibulao Ibulao
Dra. Tess Kalugdan
0919-694-5964
totokalugdan@yahoo.com
 
Adventures & Expeditions Philippines Inc. (AEPI)
Anton Carag
0917-532-7480
whitewater1ph@yahoo.com

Kayak the Rapids, Anyone?

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That’s right!  In up north Peñablanca in Cagayan Province, you can kayak downstream in its Pinacanuan River. Depending on the time of year, the rapids provide an adrenalin rush interspersed with calmer water where one can enjoy the beautiful landscape, scenery and occasionally spot kingfishers or herons along the way.

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On a hot day, the clear, blue water invites a dip to cool while picnicking by the riverbank.  Relaxed or charged, this river surely captivates the heart.

 

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While you’re there, why not visit Callao and Sierra caves?  The first cave requires an easy trek on a big-domed cave with skylights.  A 206-step flight of stairs will lead you to a little chapel with pews and an altar.  Sierra, on the other hand, is a recreational cave with an array of well-preserved and very delicate speleothems (stalactites and stalagmites).

callao-cave

Be sure to stay and watch the phenomenal circadian bats leave their nesting place in droves to look for food just before the sun sets.  These are fruit bats so not to worry as they only eat fruits.   😀

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pinacanuan-bats

If you find your way to this part of the world and would like to try this out, you may contact Anton Carag of AEPI.

Visit more worlds here.

*Edited 02/14/10:  The AEPI website is no longer available… you may contact Anton Carag at +63(917) 532-7480.

Summing Up the Year That Was

I am blessed.  Blessed to be able to explore the world, albeit not as extensive as I want to but I’ve had some fair share of adventure and fun last year.  So I’m not complaining.  Last year was a good mix of local and international travels, small and big trips. Rounding them up, there were highs and lows, great satisfactions and some disappointments.  Here’s a run down of my best and not so best experiences of 2008.

The Disappointment

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Donsol – in pursuit of the elusive whale sharks (Feb)

We were ready to jump anytime but the whale sharks were scarce.  There were way too many boats, way too disorganized and so we caught a glimpse of its… tail.  Oh well… this calls for another trip sometime in the future.

One Miserable Climb

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Mt. Pulag – rained out! (Feb)

We started the trek with just overcast clouds, then it drizzled and when we reached the campsite, it poured.  It let up a bit just so we can go to the loo and cook our dinner.  Then it started again.  Rained the whole night and the whole day, next day.  Needless to say, the summit was foggy and really, really cold!  No sunrise, just slippery, flooded trails.  Good thing this was not my first time here and I’ve seen a glorious sunrise in 2002.  But we still had fun.

My Favorite Asian Destination (thus far)

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Luang Prabang, Laos (Mar)

The jewel of Indochina and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by mountains at the junction of the Mekong and its tributary, the Khan River, Luang Prabang to me is a city where time stood still.

It was a wonderful 5 days of various adventures. One day was spent trekking to the Kwang Si falls, another learning to cook Lao dishes. There were a lot of walking, eating (Lao and French meals), sunset cocktails and we even had a taste of a traditional Khamu massage. It was fantastic.

A Delightful Road Trip

ugo-display

Viaje del Sol (Apr) – a blend of good food and the arts.  From Kusina ni Salud (for dinner) to Ugu Bigyan (for lunch and his potteries) to Carlito’s (for coffee, mangoes and his sculptures) in one weekend resulting to another follow-up weekend.  This time, we stayed in Casa San Pablo, checked out Kinabuhayan Café, and had a satisfying lunch at Sulyap Gallery Café, a restaurant cum antique gallery.  There definitely will be a 3rd trip to this Viaje del Sol sometime in the future.  Perhaps we’ll try a meal at Kinabuhayan Café, try that famous buko pie locals are raving about and do an overnight at Sitio de Amor.

Wonderfully Surprised

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Dolphins Galore at Puerto Bay (May)

Didn’t even know that they had a lot in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.  There were tons of ’em.  What we didn’t see in Donsol, these dolphins made up for.  We didn’t even need a spotter as they were all over the place.  Never saw so much in my life.  Tons and tons of them.  Hope to dive there someday.

A Junk Experience

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Cruisin’ Halong Bay, Hanoi (Jul)

When in Hanoi, one must experience cruising along Halong Bay in a junk at least once. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the bay features calm water and thousands of limestone karsts and islets in various shapes and size.  Something like Palawan.

A Star-strucked Moment

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Dinner at Restaurant Bobby Chinn, Hanoi (Jul)

Even if he wasn’t around, I was excited to be there.  Totally am infatuated with this celebrity chef of Travel and Living’s World Asia Café series.  And the food did not disappoint.  Maybe because I’m so infatuated. Hee Hee! Expensive but superb.  Sorry but no photos of the food and the place except from across the street.  It was a treat from DBF to cap our Hanoi adventure and we agreed no cameras, besides the place was too dark to get even one decent photo.

Great Amusement

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Watching the traffic of Hanoi at the Old Quarter (Jul)

We spent hours atop a restaurant sipping beer, relaxing and watching the traffic below with amazement.  The chaos of Vietnam traffic just amused us no end.  Watch and be amused.

The Best Reunion Ever

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A San Francisco get-together with my high school buddies (Aug)… some I haven’t seen in 26 years.  It was a trip down memory lane but more importantly, it was literally a food trip as well.  Our friend and classmate, JT, now a chef cooked a superb dinner for us!  They’re actually planning another one this year… a US trip 2 years in a row is out of my budget if I want to explore other new places as well, so boohoo for me.

A Cove Truly Breathtaking

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Anawangin Cove (Sep)

This could pass as my runner-up for the Most Miserable Climb too.  I am a clumsy person and more often than not, I fall and hurt myself.  So during the trek I was already asking “why do I do this to myself”? when I banged my knee in the course of what I thought was an easy trek. I’ve seen beautiful pixes, read and heard so much about this “not so secret” place and finally am hours away from it. Thrilled and excited as I started the 7.3 km trek to Anawangin Cove, I was 3rd to arrive at the saddle (which had an awesome view of the cove, by the way). Not bad, if I may brag… Many months of lifting, walking on a machine (that goes nowhere), puffing and pushing is finally paying off.  THEN… without warning, I slipped and fell about 30 minutes through our descent, all because I was not paying attention to the trail. It was agony from then on. Let’s just say that I trudged downhill, passing rocky streams for another 2+ hours before I reached the camp… From 3rd to last! Thirsty, tired and in pain but dampen my spirits it did not as it was indeed so BREATHTAKINGLY BEAUTIFUL! Picture this, Agojo (imagine pine trees as it looked so much like it) forest on the beach with a meandering fresh water stream that flows out to the sea. And that is why I keep doing this to myself.

An Adrenalin-filled Birthday Weekend

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Rafting the Chico (Oct)

Been doing this for almost a decade but never on my birthday.  So that’s new.  If you’ve never tried this, you should!  You will experience one heck of a weekend, a totally worked out upper body, and the thrill of a lifetime.  Contact Anton Carag of AEPI for bookings.

An Incredible Underwater Experience

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Mantas and Sharks up close in Yap (Nov)

Amazing… is all I can say.  An experience of a lifetime.  Read more about it here.