16-Jan-2016 -- Last fall I started working as CTO for Open iT, an international sw development company which has a large development group in Lucena City in the Philippines. On my first round the world trip in November, visiting all our sites and many customers I noticed that Lucena is quite close to this amazing confluence spot but I had no time for a visit then. I did tell my CEO that I would like to make an attempt on my next visit to Lucena and he suggested I make it a team building trip, so when I came back this week the plans were ready. (Lea Anne did a very good job organizing everything, thank you!)
The confluence is located near the south rim of a big (2km across) volcano crater, with a lake inside it. This volcano is embedded in Taal lake which is located inside the remains of a previous, very much larger, volcano eruption which left a 20 km wide crater. This means that the small island inside the innermost crater lake is an island in a lake in an island in a lake in an island. This is one of very locations on the planet were you can experience such a sight.
We took a group of 12 people in a rented minibus, starting at 04:00 in order to make it to Taal lake before sunrise: Even though the driving distance is just 85 km, the traffic here is so bad, even in the middle of the night, that the drive took over two hours.
At the Taal Lake Yatch Club where our boat transport was waiting Lea Anne, our trip organizer, had setup a hot breakfast before we entered a pair of the interesting boats they use here: Quite long and very narrow, but with dual bamboo outriggers so they are extremely stable. The engines seemed to come from old gasoline trucks, they had no problems pushing these long canoes up to 12-13 knots.
From the one successful and many failed previous attempts on this confluence I knew that we needed to start from the SE side instead of the normal north side hiking access, this made the boat ride almost twice as long but meant that we had just 1300 m of steep uphill on a good trail to the internal crater rim.
From this spot the straight line distance to the confluence is 985 m, mostly along the top of the crater rim ridge, so I expected that it should be doable in 10-15 minutes, right?
The first problem was that our (compulsory) local guide told us that it was illegal to leave the trail and hike towards the confluence point, but after telling him that I had traveled all the way from Norway to get here I was allowed to make an attempt. The second problem was the fact that at this time of the year, a month or so after the rainy season, the grasses were at their maximum height, taller than me in many areas, but at this point I had changed into my regular orienteering gear including fairly solid black running tights, making it possible for me to force an opening in the vegetation.
Those of my colleagues who had long pants came along, the rest opted to stay as the sightseeing pavilion on the crater rim.
When we started hiking towards the point it quickly became obvious that I was far more experienced in bushwacking than my native friends, we ended up taking about 1.5 hours to get to the spot and back. We then hiked down into the inner caldera lake for a swim in the volcano-heated water before retracing our path back to the boats. (You can see a steam vent nearby the white beach area on the panorama of the inner lake.)
On the way back, halfway to the Yatch club harbor we passed again an area of very intensive fish farming, at least 100+ floating net enclosures where the local sea farmers were growing Tilapia. Large groups of sea fowl were using these fish ponds as a convenient food source.
We had some of that Tilapia for a late lunch/early dinner before our bus drove us back to Lucena, the total trip took about 13 hours making this my second longest confluence excursion. The longest was when I visited 60°N 8°E on Hardangervidda in Telemark, Norway: There we had to take a catamaran about 40 km along Møsvann, a large lake, then stay overnight at the Mogen cabin before hiking 8 km each way up to the point and back, and then another overnight stay before we could get a return boat trip. Last weekend, the day before I flew to Manila and 29° C we had -21° C for our xc skiing just south of the same lake. A drop of 50 degrees in just a few hours is very noticeable!