21-Mar-2008 -- We had planned to take the Easter break visiting family back in the Philippines. We arrive late on Wednesday night planning to have 2 days in Manila catching up with family there before catching the ferry to Negros. Normally the short stops in Manila usually involve visiting the local malls with the family and friends but on our first trip to the Mall on Thursday at noon it became apparent that all the Malls were closed for Easter weekend and would not open before we were due to catch the ferry on Saturday.
I was heart broken! and pushed the wife to suggest something else we could spend Friday doing. She mentioned Tagaytay which meant nothing to me, but when she mentioned it was a volcano to the south somewhere, my interest was aroused. I remember reading Edward Christophers report on his successful attempt on 14N 121E and thinking that this confluence, on a side of a volcano growing out of a larger volcano crater is got to one of the coolest confluences to attempt. I had seen the Taal volcano from the air and it looked very impressive. I have Ozie explorer on my mobile phone now so a quick look up on the 1954 US military maps confirmed that Tagaytay was the ridge to the north of lake in the Taal volcano so I was immediately hooked. We visited an aunt who knew where we could hire a bus for the day and after the arrangements had been made, more of the family volunteered to come along. We were late back to the hotel and I did not get a chance to log on and do some more research on how Edward had achieved it. I vaguely remember he got a boat to the south side of the volcano and hiked from there. Next day we set off at seven thirty and made good progress getting out of Manila and up to Tagaytay. As soon as we mentioned that we wanted a boat to go a cross the lake to the Taal volcano, our driver said his boss had a friend who had a boat and quickly made some calls and made arrangements. Not that getting a boat would be difficult as boat hirers, by the boat load, were touting for business on top of Tagaytay ridge some 600m above the lake!
Anyway by nine we had made our way down the steep and twisty road from Tagaytay ridge to the lakeside and were negotiating for the boat hire. I tried asking about going round the volcano but he was more interested in the straight ride across and then taking a horse ride up to the crater. As I had no better description of where I wanted to go and 3 kids dying for a horse ride, I agreed figuring I could then hike round the crater ridge to the point.
We sped across in a typical outrigger boat and were soon haggling for the horses. I of course would have nothing to do with a horse, I wanted o conquer the volcano and the confluence on my own two feet. The wife decided the exercise would be good for her and decided to walk as well so we arranged 3 horses for the kids and set off. However a fourth horse followed us, the owner having decided that the wife would give up on the first slope. This proved correct and I felt a sense of satisfaction that they had not deemed that I would be in need of such services. Either I looked fit or they knew about mad dogs and Scotsmen climbing volcano’s in the mid day sun! I was quite surprised by the amount of horses on the route, a steady line all the way up to the ridge 250m above the lake over a distance of 2km’s. They had sold us kerchiefs to protect from the dust of trekking horses and hats as protection from the sun, both of which I was soon glad of. The climb was fairly steep in places and certainly got my heart rate going by I got to the top. I was also offered to be taken down into the volcano for a swim by a couple of descending guides. It was a spectacular view from the top I could see the trail down to the interior lake come down the far side of the crater, hence I was fairly sure there was a good track along the crater rim that presumably the guides would have taken me. Encouraged and only 2km from the point, I left the wife with the kids to enjoy the view and have some refreshments to skirt the top rim. I was accosted as I left by security asking I was going down into the crater but I said not, just walking around the rim. He seemed happy at this and off I went. The wide track that horses used stopped about 100m further on and I followed a much narrower but quite clear trail through tall grass and some trees. The rim was not flat and I started climbing again.
This is where the heat started to get to me, there was little wind and none walking through the long grass (head height), it was clear sky, hot sun (mid 30’s C) and quite humid. I had sweated lots on the climb but I had plenty of water. I stopped half way up a ridge I was climbing to drink water and was surprised at my heart rate and the time I took to cool down but on I went. At he top on this small ridge, probably only 30m higher than the view point I was looking down a steep hill and stopped for more water. I had only covered 600m but had not got any closer because I was skirting the edge of the volcano. I was starting to wonder whether I could handle the heat and climb back up the hill I was looking at but I plunged on. However at the bottom I was really starting to heat up. I have suffered from heat exhaustion before and knew how quickly you loose control. I decided then that I would be foolish to continue, took a long rest, more water and started to scramble back up the hill. I had to stop half way for a longer break and more water but eventually reached the top for another break and then back to the view point. They had chilled fresh coconuts for sale and when the wife saw the extremely red and flustered state I was in, ordered me up one. It was great and after a good half hour recuperation I was ready to tackle the descent. It was not till I reached the bottom that I confessed to the wife that I had not reached the point, even though I had been gone over an hour.
It would definitely be possible to get the point going this route but you would need to be fitter and better acclimatized that I was for the conditions. I was surprised at my inability to complete the hike, although it might have been a while since I would have described myself a finely tuned athlete, I thought I would have handled the hike better. I was hoping to have a go at 10N 123E on this trip and I was pretty sure that would involve a lot of hiking and climbing – obviously need to get some exercise in first. The other problem is that the wife had set her heart on Boracay – world class beach resort or unnamed jungle mountain that the wife thought was still full of bandits? I would need to hone my negotiation skills for this one but I had a day sailing on a ferry to come up with a strategy.