Waist Deep In Nature’s Last Frontier

We were embarking on a journey to the last frontier. Waking up in the bus at the Northern edge of Luzon after 12 hours in a bus confirmed one nagging concern I had since even before we embarked on this trip: it had started to rain! The tourism officer warned me that the timing was less than ideal. The rainy season for the region was October to March, and it was also a New Year’s Eve. In the Philippines as with most countries in Asia, New Year is a very significant event. And everyone, regardless if they have few or plenty, celebrates it.

We arrived at the bus terminal at the town center of Luna, Apayao around 8:30 in the morning. A short 15-minute tricycle ride took us to Pensione La Vinia, our home for the next 4 days. It was a long and tiring ride, and it would be a good chance for everyone to freshen up and relax for a little bit. But as long as this introduction has been is as short as the respite we would be getting! We were in here, and our Random Road Trip Apayao was underway!

Lussok Cave

After we had lunch at a nearby (and the only one open the day before New Year) carinderia named Millenium Kitchenette, the local tourism officer Bong met up with us to brief us for today’s adventure and we quickly walked back to the hotel to change into clothes for getting wet and dirty! The way to Lussok Cave was a small dirt road cutting through farmlands as far as the eye can see.

Tricycle To Lussok
The Road To Lussok Cave

Rains had previoiusly rendered the road even more unwelcome to even small vehicles and there were a few times we had to alight just so our tricycle could move forward. We also had to cross a small stream, which gave us our first preview of how ice-cold the water is! But once we got to Masi River just a short walk past the jump-off point, we were instantly at awe at what we saw!

Masi River
Masi River

 

If  we did this trip in the summer, it would have been pleasantly tropical. But right now on a rainy December, our balls were frozen! The whole province would also look different. While it’s true it would be warmer to go to in the summer, right now everything took a mystical, magical feel to it. There were two ways to go to Lussok Cave. One was to traverse the tranquil waters of Masi River. The other way was to cross the forest alongside it. We split up and tried both! After the short hike and boat ride, we all rendezvoused at the mouth of Lussok Cave, and it was nothing short of majestic!

LussokCave

What you can see in that picture is the “mouth of the cave. What you DON’T see is the “throat” which is the only way to get through. In order to get to that throat, you will have to climb to an 8-meter high ledge (assisted by the guide, thankfully). But Lussok Cave was just getting started on us. Inside, we had to go up and down ledges and squeeze through small holes just a bit larger than our shoulder widths. At one point, we had to rappel down a 15-meter drop with only a rope to hold on to.

Inside Lussok Cave

Rappeling Inside Lussok Cave

It’s interesting to note that lussok means lusot in Tagalog or “to pass through”. After you pass through all the challenges of Lussok Cave, you’ll find yourself on the other side, and a short trek through the forest will bring you back to the mouth of the cave. It certainly was a challenge to all of us travelers, and quite a way to start off our first day on this adventure! When asked if it was his first time to rappel, our newest Road Tripper, Gab, exclaimed “no, but we had carabiners and climbing rope and stuff!”

Before and After Lussok Cave
Before and after Lussok Cave.

New Year in Apayao

After quite an abrupt jolt to our bodies with the day’s spelunking, we headed back to the hotel for a nice shower. And when I  say “nice shower”, I  meant  busted heaters, frigid cold waters, and rust-smelling tap water. But after a physically exhausting day, nothing compares to the cheap goodness of a Frank’s Burger stand for a snack! We had our  fill of 2 burgers for just P32 ($0.70). Burger stands. #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines!

But as I mentioned earlier, New Year’s Eve isn’t complete without the requisite feast. And we surprised those who joined us on this trip with one!

New Year's Eve celebration with one of the best and craziest Random Road Trippers!
New Year’s Eve celebration with one of the best and craziest Random Road Trippers!

As we counted down to the New Year, we remembered how thankful we are to have met so many new friends from the trips that we organized, and for having the company of some of them for the New Year!

Fireworks in Apayao

Exploring Apayao

After a night of karaoke, food, and merriment, this morning was reserved completely for being lazy. We’re not always slave drivers on all our trips. Some of us walked around the neighborhood, and onto the farmlands.

Around Apayao

And for today’s schedule, it was all just sightseeing. Plain clothes not for wet or getting dirty was the order of the day. So we got in the van, and made our way through the gloomy, rainy weather to the town of Pudtol, about an hour away from Luna.

Maton River
Maton River
Apayao River
Apayao River
Nagan River
Nagan River

One of the stops we made about the middle of the afternoon was at Mataguisi Church ruins. This church was built some time during the Spanish era, and has long been left to ruin. Despite its present state, ceremonies are still conducted in this church!

Mataguisi Church
Mataguisi Church

Our day was supposed to be capped by a trip to Bayugao Falls. And while the weather was not really conducive for swimming in its waters, we would still have loved to see the majesty of the falls. Fate had other plans though, as the bridge on the way to Bayugao Falls was unpassable.

The bridge on the way to Bayugao Falls was out. Bummer!
The bridge on the way to Bayugao Falls was out. Bummer!

The APAYAO Random Road Trip has been our MOST EXTREME ADVENTURE YET! And it wasn’t over yet! Not by a long shot. The next day we would be having the most extreme day in our 4-day adventure! Stay tuned to Part 2 of this story to find out all of things that happened!

UPDATE: Waist Deep in Nature’s Last Frontier Part 2

A big thank you to Cielo, Tom, Gab, John, Evie, Richelle, and LA. And to Jeff and Gian for organzing such an extreme adventure trip.

~~~

Interested in our Random Road Trips? Check out our 2015 Road Trip Schedule. Come, and let’s travel differently.

About the author

Jeffrey is a half-Filipino, half-Chinese guy who doesn't speak Chinese but is fluent in Japanese and occasionally sports a Korean hairdo. Among his many passions are snapping pictures, climbing up rocks, swimming, motorbike touring, and watching an occasional musical just to balance things out. Check out his personal space at http://www.livingunderimagination.com

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