Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Rain on Our Bicol Parade, Part 2

the rain magnet travel companions (minus one) at Bagasbas Beach

We woke up the next morning to silence, but the gloomy gray sky overhead didn't give us much to hope about. The night before, we had already heard from the locals that even the town fishermen had been warned against going out to fish in the rough Pacific waters. The chances of the low-pressure area suddenly disappearing and the sun coming out were slim to none,and we weren't quite sure what we would do with the rest of our day.

After a heavy breakfast (the food was the one thing consistently great about this particular trip), we went to Bagasbas Beach, just a five-minute drive from the heart of Daet. Bagasbas Beach is slowly gaining fame as a surfing beach, with its gently sloping shore and sandy bottom a good place for beginners to learn how to surf. But while the gentle sloping of the shore allows for swimming, bathers are warned to be vigilant because of the surprisingly strong undertow.

We had optimistically brought our bathing suits in the hopes that a morning frolic at this beach was still an option, but the sight of the frothy surf and whitecaps as far as the eye could see quickly dissuaded us. Given the turbulent waters, it would be easy to get pulled far from the shore towards the open sea regardless of how strong a swimmer you were. As a testimony to the dangerous state of the water, despite the abundance of waves, there was not a single surfer in sight, local or otherwise.

Despite this, the sight and sound of the powerful waves marching inexorably toward the shore was a compelling one. The indescribable clean tang of the sea mingled with the smell of the rain, and the strong winds whipped through our hair as we played tag with the waves. The dark-brown sand was surprisingly powder-fine beneath our bare feet, and we might have stayed there a little longer if it hadn't started to rain. Really hard.

It seemed as if the weather was determined to drench us wherever we went. The dark grey clouds raced with us as we drove from one destination to another. The torrential showers were so perfectly timed to coincide with each of our stops that we just had to laugh at how unlucky we were. Our stepping out of the car seemed to be a cue for an episodic downpour that would force us to move to another site. The rain would then stop once we were inside the car, already well on our way to another destination.

Our local guides brought us to a resort in the town of Basud fancifully tagged as "Little Tagaytay" by its owners. To get there, one must travel via dirt road cutting through several barangays and bordered by the coast on one side and farmland on another. The climb to the resort is quite steep but short, and the view of the gulf from the "ridge" is amazing. From across the deceptively calm dark blue Philippine Sea, islands with dreams of white-sand beaches beckoned and made us promise to go back and see them someday.

Our next stop was supposed to be the banks of the San Lorenzo River in the town of San Lorenzo, but we found the makeshift ford across one of its tributaries too deep for our car to cross. So we decided to stay where we were, dip our feet into the cool flowing mountain waters, and take lots of pictures under the rain.

A narrow steel hanging bridge connecting one bank to another was found a short walk upstream. The metal bridge was a vital connection between a settlement on the far side of a wide stream that would swell up during the rainy season and the main road to town. It is sturdy enough for motorcycles to drive over (we saw one do so while we were there), but walking on the wobbly bridge several feet above the rocks still made me quite nervous.

The bridge is barely wide enough to accommodate two people walking abreast of each other, and one would have to face sideways to let someone in more of a hurry than you pass. While we were taking these pictures, we had to stand aside more than once to let local folk transporting sacks full of small, sweet Queen Formosa pineapples from farms on the farther side of the bridge to a waiting truck on its way to the maket pass.

We left Daet early Sunday morning to avoid the northbound traffic, still persistently trailed by wind and showers. Making good time, we drove along the Quezon province coastline and cut through the majestic Quezon National Forest Park via Eme Road, a segment of the Maharlika Highway connecting the towns of Atimonan and Pagbilao. The zig-zag road and hairpin turns rival Baguio's Kennon Road, and park aides guide motorists in almost all the road curves using flags during the day and battery-operated flashlights at night. Vehicles going up are given the right of way at all times because of the road's steep climbs and sharp curves.

Despite the rain (which started, predictably, to pour once we alighted from our vehicle), we stopped at one point to appreciate the view of the rainforest shrouded in the mist, the air thick with humidity and filled with sounds of forest life.

All in all, while our Bicol trip did not turn out as expected - whether as a result of bad timing or maybe bad luck, we still got the much-deserved break from urban life that we wanted. It was a testimony how persistence and great company can turn a weather-cursed trip into an excellent experience.

We're already planning a return trip for this coming April. Want to come?


Manggy said...

Aww.. Sorry to hear about the rain.. Who was the fifth one by the way?

I love just being on the seaside, with the waves crashing so loudly you can barely hear each other, haha :)

I hope you have a much more fun trip in April (isn't it supposed to rain even more then?)! I think I ought to be studying already, so I can't join!! :p

Jean said...

so glad i was part of the adventures claire! jot these down in your must-go list too: caramoan (in march)!!!, siquijor, dumaguete, camiguin, coron in palawan, malapascua in cebu. looking forward to more travels with you my fellow quirkyalone! haha!

MegaMom said...

This is a great travelogue Claire! Will take tips from here, if and when I get to travel to Bicol/Quezon, NOT on business.

By the way, just realized that my underwater camera would have been useful for your previous adventure. (the wakeboarding)

dr_clairebear said...

@manggy: aral for what? :) pasyal na lang tayo! heheheh. Dude-with-balat number 5 was Vicvic Chato. Not a good combi!

@jean: mother, ayusin na natin ang return trip natin... will ask vics kung on-call sya then. if march, late march tayo, para di na tayo ulit ulanin. i want to see calaguas!

@megamom: there's really so much to see! jean brought a lonely planet philippines with her, but they only list popular spots. It's really better if you have locals showing you around. :) enjoy naga!

Sheena Pimentel said...

Nice photos you have here :)