7 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN ICELAND

By Where’s Jason

I am one lucky guy who was able to live and study in Iceland from May to October 2015. My classmates and I went to several excursions throughout the course. On weekdays, we studied hard, researched, and did our paper works. On weekends, we traveled harder, explored, and did our IG works. LOL!

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What to do when at the top of Gulfoss? An IG selfie with friends, that’s right!

We saw several waterfalls, bathed in a lot of hot springs, hiked a number of mountains, drank a gazillion glasses of beers (whoops), and ate a million Icelandic hotdogs. It was an unforgettable experience and it was the best part of my life.

It was so freakin’ cool that I even went back to celebrate the New Year ’s Eve that same year. I booked the most expensive ticket I’ve ever paid for and it was worth it. Iceland became my favorite country. And I’d be more than happy to share this blog post to my friend, Dean, creator of The Quick Escape. (ed – next time share an Iceland ticket, bes Jason hahaha)

Check out the list below for 7 awesome things to do in this wonderful, wonderful country:

  1. GOLDEN CIRCLE TOUR

The most common and popular tour in Iceland is the Golden Circle tour. You can book a tour or rent a car to explore this route. It’s common because it’s the most reachable tour from Reykjavik, the capital city. You can visit up to four tourist hot spots this way.

I did this thrice by doing a field trip with classmates, renting a car, and booking a tour. For flexibility and to have control of your own time, of course, renting a car would be the most obvious choice. But if you want to relax, just sit on the bus, get off to see the guided attractions with limited time, then go ahead, and book a tour. This depends on your travel style.

The first stop would be Thingvellir, followed by the Geyser, the Gulfoss, and then Kerid. This is the usual sequence when taking a tour.

  • Thingvellir is a historic site and a national park. It’s known for its rocky cliffs and fissures. Take a look around and absorb the greenish, mountainous scenery. A scene from the TV series Games of Thrones was even taken here. DCIM108GOPROGOPR0073.
  • The Geyser is a hot spring that erupts every now and then. Wait for a few minutes and watch as it shoots up water and steam. It’s fascinating just to watch this natural phenomenon. DCIM106GOPRO
  • The Gulfoss is a big-ass waterfall. It’s not as big as the Niagara Falls in Canada but it’s still an amazing site to see, especially if there’s a rainbow above the waterfall.DCIM104GOPRO
  • Kerid is one of the prettiest volcanic craters I ever saw. It’s like Christmas sparkled on nature – a mix of green grass and red ash rocks. DCIM106GOPRO

Jason’s hot tip: Book your tour at www.grayline.is

  1. SOUTH ICELAND TOUR

After the Golden Circle Tour, the South Iceland Tour is the next big thing you ought to do. I did this twice, both by road tripping with a friend’s car and a rented one. You can either start very early in the morning to finish it in one whole day or spend a night somewhere for a two-day trip.

OPTION A: DAY TOUR – Start very early around 2 to 3 AM and drive from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon. It is a 5 to 6 hour drive. From Jokulsarlon, head back to the city while stopping for the hot spots.

OPTION B: OVERNIGHT TOUR – Start at 8 AM and stop at the selected attractions. Spend the night at Hofn by booking a hotel or Jokulsarlon by camping. We opted to park at Jokulsarlon and sleep inside our car. We were like the guardians of the glaciers – an extremely cold act I would not advise you to do the same!

ATTRACTIONS ALONG SOUTH ICELAND:

  • Seljalandsfoss is one of my favorite waterfalls because you can go behind the falls to experience its misty vibe. DCIM107GOPRO
  • Seljavallalaug is Iceland’s oldest swimming pool. Drink beers while you bathe  against nature’s backdrop. Skinny dipping, perhaps? DCIM106GOPRO
  • Skogafoss is a waterfall where you can climb up for that spectacular panoramic view.DCIM107GOPRO
  • Vik is unique because of its black beach. (ed – I think this was where Daenery’s set foot in the season premiere of GOT Season 7? One thing’s for sure, Gendry was spotted here!)DCIM107GOPRO
  • Fjadrargljufur is a magical hiking trail featured on Justin Bieber’s “I’ll show you.” Yes, I’ll show you the right angle in taking that perfect shot. DCIM106GOPRO
  • Svartifoss is another awesome waterfall known for its columnar structure. DCIM106GOPRO
  • Fjallsarlon is an odd place like Mars with ice and brownish landscape. DCIM106GOPRO
  • Jokulsarlon is a glacial lagoon filled with bluish ice bergs. DCIM107GOPRO

Jason’s hot tip: Rent your car www.citycarrental.is

  1. DIAMOND CIRCLE TOUR

If you have one week in Iceland, consider going to the North to do the Diamond Circle Tour. You need to have at least three whole days to do this.

DAY 1: Drive from Reyjavik to Akureyri

DAY 2: Diamond Circle Tour

DAY 3: Drive from Akureyri to Reykjavik

ATTRACTIONS ALONG NORTH ICELAND:

  • Akureyri is a laid-back town up north known as the capital of North Iceland. Sounds like my kind of town to just chill, literally. DCIM104GOPRO
  • Godafoss is an elegant yet dramatic waterfall, which was used as a film location for the movie “Prometheus.” Jon Snow, where you at? (dunno your name in the film ha)DCIM104GOPRO
  • Lake Myvatn is the quieter version of the Blue Lagoon. Do some rock balancing while you’re at it.DCIM104GOPRO
  • Hverir by Mt. Namafjall is a land of geothermal hot springs and mud pools. DCIM104GOPRO
  • Viti is a crater near Krafla Volacano. Safest spot to take a groupfie! #NoPun DCIM104GOPRO
  • Dettifoss is the most powerful waterfall in Europe. #PowerDCIM104GOPRO
  • Asbrygi is a gigantic horseshoe-shaped canyon. DCIM104GOPRO
  1. WESTFJORD TOUR

We covered the Northern and Southern parts of Iceland. Now, I’ll take you to the West. This can be accomplished on a weekend or a 2-day trip. Drive from Reykjavik to the West and sleep at Flateyri. In my opinion, it’s best to go here during the winter season. Just be mindful that you may need a 4by4 vehicle to get pass through the thick layers of snow.

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  1. HIKE MT. ESJA

To get the best panoramic view of the city, trek atop Mt Esja. I hiked this beauty three times – the first one with Filipino friends, the second with classmates, and the third one for a concert. A concert was held on top of a mountain?! You bet!!!

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  1. DIVE SILFRA FISSURE

This is my best dive to date. This dive site is located within the Thingvellir national park. It’s open all-year round. Get a chance to dive or snorkel between the Eurasian and North American plates which drift apart for about 2 cm per year. The water is crystal clear and refreshing; you can actually take a sip. Take note that temperature does go down to 1°C.

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It’s definitely a unique and rewarding experience. Get ready to experience the best brain breeze of your life! (ed – I wouldn’t mind getting brain freeze if I can be at two continents at once!!!)

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Jason’s hot tip: Book your dive tour at www.dive.is

  1. BATH IN THE BLUE LAGOON

The most relaxing thing to do in a cold country like Iceland is to bath in its geothermal waters. And the most popular geothermal spa in this country is the Blue Lagoon, which was formed by accident. The water is blue because it contains Silica, which is a by-product of the nearby geothermal power plant.

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I recommend you try this right after arriving at the airport. It will calm your nerves and your body. It’s soothing. Drink a beer while dipping your body in this geothermal wonder.

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Jason’s hot tip: Book your airport transfer plus blue lagoon admission at https://grayline.is/tours/blue-lagoon/

In sum, these are just 7 out of the tons of awesome activities you can do in Iceland. These are just the ones that pop up first in my head. Don’t think for a second I forgot about Aurora Borealis. Here you go folks – a bonus attraction that everyone has to see or at least if the skies allow you to – The Northern Lights! Those dazzling lights will definitely blow your mind.

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Jason Gotuato is the guy behind www.wheresjason.com. He writes technical reports during the day and travel stories at night – an engineer by profession and a traveler by heart. He has done a lot of crazy stuff from diving between the North American and Eurasian plates, to jumping out of a plane. Hats off to you bro!!!

His quest is to conquer this world and bring out the adventurer in all of us. Take a peek into his adventures @wheresjasong on Facebook and @wheresjason_ig on Instagram. Follow him as he lives his life, one adrenaline rush at a time.

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Quickies, out!

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Long Weekend Laresio

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Looking for a quick, adrenaline pumped, weekend getaway? Hurry now and waze your way to Laresio Lakeside Resort & Spa!

Above is the ginormous slide for Slip ‘N Fly and on the far right of the photo is the intimidating 32ft cliff dive.

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So why did we end up here? Convenience,  budgetarians, and we’re thrill seekers, so. It’s just an hour drive from Manila! In order to meet the schedule of our balikbayan friend, Marcris, Cristina and I opted for a day tour. We just walked in and  booked a day tour from 7:00am -12:00am (the longest day tour I ever experienced).

Hello there, Alligator Lake!

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Yes, this lake used to be crocodilian’s home; but now, alligators and crocodiles have been extirpated. Sad. Would have been exhilarating to kayak with these wild creatures.

Laresio three-l seekers! Get it? lol

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So let’s have a run down of some of the activities we partaken that pretty much banged us up (in a good way):

The Blob (Jump and Fly) –  just lay peacefully in the blob, next thing you know, you’re 20 ft in the air.

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Ouch. But it was fun!

Zip line Lake – you get to see entirety of this lake. Surreal.

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Introducing the cheapest go pro pole ever  (safety of your go pro not guaranteed)

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Wall Climbing – we couldn’t care less climbing this wall even under 30 degrees. Nognog goals.

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Rappelling – you know what they say, what goes up must come down.

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Slip ‘N Fly – smile, slide then take don’t forget to take a selfie

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Kayaking – we got to see the lake from above, now we experience the lake itself.

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32 ft Cliff Diving – save the beast for last, yup, this one is the beast!

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Kuya Jomar, the best Laresio staff ever, was so generous he allowed us to party and karaoke our lungs out till the wee hours in the morning.

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We got Laresio all to ourselves!

The extreme activities Laresio has to offer aren’t for everyone. If you want to lay back and chill, you can do it too here. They have a spa for goodness sake 

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Itinerary:
Extreme Laresio for 1,500php/pax (2 meals included)

10:00 am – arrival at Laresio
 Overhang Swing️
 Vine Swing
 13ft Cliff Diving
 Blob (Jump & Fly)
1:00 pm – Lunch
 Slip n’ Fly
 Zipline Lake
 Kayaking
 Wall Climbing
 Rappelling
 32ft Cliff Diving
6:00 pm -Rest
6:30 pm – Dinner
9:00 pm – Comedy Bar & Live Band
12:00 – 4:00 am – Karaoke & Walwal

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Here’s our extreme, adrenaline pumped weekend where we paid to get bruises

Please watch in HD.

🎧🎶 Matoma & Becky Hill – False Alarm
🎥📷 GoPro Hero4 (no filter)

We had a great time! Well, zoom in to Mac’s face if you want proof. Hahaha!

I definitely recommend this place – great staff, value for your money & extreme water activities!

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Quickies, out!

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Captivating Calaguas

“One hell of a ride yet heaven when we arrived!”

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I have used that line back when we went to Dicasalarin Cove; but I think, the trip to Calaguas toppled it all in every aspect.

Why is that? Let’s go back to where my quick escape started…

But wait, check out first our happy faces and the beauty of Calaguas caught on cam here:

I am always a DIY person when it comes to traveling and soul searching. But whenever I’ll be organizing a trip for more than 8 pax, I’ll ask for someone else to do it for me – hence; Cookies Travel and Tours is my go to agent. Full list of itinerary and expenses below.

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Our group met at 9pm Friday night in SM North and braved the place where forever existed – EDSA. We stopped at 2nd pick up point in McDonald’s Buendia to meet the other groups the travel agency was hosting. All in, we’re about 4 groups (40 people displaced in 4 Grandia vans). This was the major setback – we didn’t have control over our time. We had to wait for other people to arrive, not to mention, how frequent they insisted on having stopovers after a couple of minutes cause they wanna pee (they’re already drinking along the way). Another thing that prolong our already long agony drive was that one van lost his way and we had to convene and discuss the plan (which I thought, they already had since they won’t be a travel agency for nothing, right?) Our estimated travel time of 7 hours became a dragging 12 hours. It’s safe to say I am reverting back to DIY trips be it a large group or what not. We reached Paracale, Camarines Norte at 9am.

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But that was not the worst part.

We only got half an hour before we board our boat– our group dispersed in buying last minute essentials – (2) 5 gallon water, plastic bags for waterproofing our things, pulutan, coffee and booze. We hopped on to a 25-capacity banca hoping against hope – a safe, smooth ride.

Safe? Debatable. Smooth? That was the craziest, bumpiest,stomach- turning, worst boat ride I experienced to date. We’re like survivor castaways (yes we’re dripping wet, wet from the rain and waves!) with no staff and crew to help if the boat stumbled over. A normal person could’ve endured that ride given enough rest. Luckily, our case was entirely the opposite. Hashtag no pun. The other groups had it worse, yup the ones I mentioned drinking, you can imagine how comfortable their trip was –stretch it to freaking two and half hours of seesaw motion.

Finally, our faces lit up when we saw the captivating Calaguas’ coast!

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Huge surfer waves welcomed us as we alight the boat. I couldn’t care less since I was already soaking wet – I jumped off as soon as we reached the shore. The struggle was real when we needed to transport our belongings off the boat.
Tips: Waterproof your things! Bring raincoat or plastic jacket too!

We were exhausted from the trip that waiting for our travel agency to cook us food would drove us nuts. Good thing, one of our friends, prepared a packed lunch good for 10 pax. What a relief. Another tip right there!

Now a bit energized, we faced yet another roadblock – setting up the Vango (the humongous 10 people tent where you can glamp all night long). After an hour, we managed to erect the goddamn shelter. And the food from our agent were ready too. Round 2 of Man Vs Food commenced.

With no cellular service, we were left to enjoy what we have around – good company, majestic view, fine sand, amazing beach. who am I to complain right?! Sometimes, it’s exhilarating to disconnect from the world and strengthen your relationship to the real connections you got – your family, your friends. The virtual world will still be there when you get back, trust me.

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With our phones just for snapping pics, playing JB songs, and occasionally as flash light, time surely can pass slowly. We partied the night around in our rented nipa hut and drank til we drop in the sand. Dancing and shouting  in the shore like crazy, oh boy, hashtag no regrets. I remembered sleeping in the tent only to wake up an hour later. That’s my body clock telling me to sleep anywhere but here.

I was greeted by a cool island breeze as I step out of the tent. My friends and I decided to play volleyball and cap it off by a morning swim.

Ronnie of PlanB tours invited us for a quick 10 minute hike to a hill at one end of the island. We got to see an awesome scenic view of Calaguas and its neighboring islands. What a sight!

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The waters of Calaguas isn’t for the weak of heart – especially when you easily get sea sick. But for those who can endure the ride – this piece of heaven is for you. Boracay can boast its impeccable white sand and crystal clear waters but Calaguas can rival its spotless, powdery sand and the serenity this virgin island has to offer.

Itinerary 

Day 1

9:00 pm Pick up point SM North

10:00 pm McDonald’s/ Shell Buendia bound for Paracale

9:00 am Paracale, Camarines Norte

9:00 – 10:00 am Waterproofing, last minute shopping

10:00 – 12:30 pm Epic boat ride

12:30 pm Lunch, set up tent

1: 30 – 6:00 pm Beach time

6:30 pm Dinner

7:00 pm – 5:00 am Walwal aka party all night long

Day 2

7:00 am – Breakfast

8:00 am – 11:30 am Volleyball, swim, hike

11:30 am – Depart Calaguas

1:30 pm – ETA Paracale port

7:00 pm – ETA Manila

Expenses:

Cookies Travel and Tour: Calaguas

2D/1N stay at P 2,999/head

Package includes:

Roundtrip van transfer

Environmental fee

Entrance fee

Roundtrip boat transfer

3 Meals – Lunch, Dinner and Breakfast

Personals (transpo and dinner at McDo)  x contribution (booze, food, essentials): approximately P 1,000
I’m pretty sure my friends won’t be back here anytime soon. As for me, I am open for any invites!

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Mt. Pamitinan x Mt. Hapunang Banoy Twin Day Hike

I am always a beach guy without the beach body and I never liked hiking (of course I had no idea this view is waiting for me, I just placed it here to capture your eyes in finishing my blog laughs).

I don’t have the time for it”, “I just don’t like exhausting my muscles and sweating profusely” were my reasons why I didn’t partake with friends whenever they schedule a climb. Some of you (with brows raised) would ask, “Then why blog about it?

Simple. I thought, “Oh my god, look at that view, you look like my next mistake.” That would be a deadly mistake so be careful guys!

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After my first official twin day hike, I had a change of heart. I learned to love hiking in less than 12 hours (setting aside the gallons of sweat I excreted, multiple cuts I endured, sore muscles and dead toe nails).

Stay with me as we climb and quickly escape to the peak.

Peaks of Mt. Pamitinan (+426 m) left and Mt. Binacayan (+424 m) right.

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To do that, I will need a lot of help. Good thing my wanderjunkie, Daryl, basically did everything – itinerary x expenses x few reminders prior to the climb. She really pushed me to give hiking a go and I wouldn’t wanna see her efforts put to waste.

The original group of 10 hikers was trimmed down to just the two of us. I can’t blame them for backing out due to rescheduling and erratic weather.

Compromise was our ever young and fit, ate guide. You can call her Myrlyn. And yes we were older than her.This escape was a lot of surprises… Can’t wait to see what’s installed for me.

Since I was on a night shift, Daryl and I agreed to meet at the office when my shift ended at around 5am Saturday morning. We hopped on the bus that took us to Cubao. Dropped by McDonald’s for a takeout breakfast and aboard an FX (with Eastwood sign) that will take us to then Montalban, now Rodriguez, Rizal. Took tricycle instead of jeepney to Brgy. Wawa (jumpoff point) since we were running late.

Local guide was required for the climb and after registering at the DENR office, we’re good to go. We started the ascend at quarter past 8 am. I could only hope for a trail as inviting as this hanging bridge.

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And look at this lovely trail. I said to myself even though I had no sleep and drank a few beers (after my shift as I waited for Daryl; hashtag defensive), I would be able to keep up. I mean, this stairway to heaven, why would I not, right? Plus I have two lovely ladies as my guide. Couldn’t be any luckier than that.

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I was wrong. Zoom in to my face.

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So wrong I was already contemplating on how on earth will I reach the summit, let alone another mountain! But that’s not who I am as a person, I finish what I started. With no gloves on together with my very comfortable running shoes, I pushed myself further. And my shoes died after.

Myrlyn ate guide paved us the way to what seemed like an uncharted territory. Daryl, on the other hand, taught me some basic mountaineering etiquette. For one, always greet co-hikers you meet along the trail. A quick “Good Morning/Afternoon, Ingat po” wouldn’t hurt. To my astonishment, we did encounter a couple of hikers descending, “If they reached the summit, so can I.” The trail was comprised of assaults below and bouldering above.

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Be fully equipped, should you decide to conquer these trails – pack light, wear elastic and comfy clothes, slip on hiking shoes/sandals, thick gloves will be handy, prepare trail food and bring enough water. We reached summit at around 10:15 am, oh boy, the evergreen Sierra Madre washed my weariness away.

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I’m on the edge of glory.

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And here we were at summit 1 Mt. Pamitinan, casually laughing our worries off.

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Wait for me, wait for me!

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All smiles at summit 2 from these two gorgeous girls while I squeezed in my daily crunches slash fixing my cap. Yes we’re the crazy trio who laughed out loud the whole time we’re climbing – shouting acronyms to the hikers we met along the way PMYT to ate who’s having a hard time rock climbing – Push Mo ‘Yan ‘Te; SYL to confused kuya – See You Later among others. I even heard them murmuring as we passed, “That chick’s their guide?” and then I will look at them – “Why? Do I look like a guide to you?” Of course in a friendly way! No harm done – we’re just enjoying our climb 🙂

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We decided to descend at around 10:45 am and reached the Mt. Hapunang Banoy junction at around 11:15 am. Since we started the climb late, we decided to change the initial plan. Besides, Daryl got curious of that protruding rock (zoom in below) waving at us as we climb – Mt Hapunang Banoy (+460 m) it is! Itinerary x expenses listed below.

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We descended further from the junction and had lunch at the local tindahan instead, we had trail food but I begged to buy ice cold buko juice there (sorry na). By the time we finished lunch, the sky turned dark and let out its angry roars. I was hesitant since I was already stuffed and ready to hit the sack. But Daryl won’t back down. She said, “If this weather proved to be a hindrance halfway to our ascend then let’s go back. I just didn’t want to quit when we haven’t even tried it out yet.” And she’s right. F yeah let’s do it.

We started ascending again at 12:45 pm and were welcomed by slippery, muddy trails, plus zero visibility cliffs. We didn’t get the chance to take as much photos cause we’re dripping wet. Those slippery, sharp, 90 degree assaults and sharp limestone were the hardest parts of the trail. It took us about one and half hours to get to the peak. Blame it on the weather, better be slow than sorry.

Then again, the view was worth the risks! Thank God for clearing the sky when we climaxed to the peak.

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Let’s take a closer look…

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We descended at around 2:30 pm and reached jump off point by 4:30 pm. Since we’re all wet and dirty, Myrlyn insisted on having a quick shower at her crib with no extra charge. What an angel!

I’m ready for more harder trails. Til next time! Peace out!

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Itinerary x Expenses

August 29, 2015

5:45 am Bus (SM North to Cubao) – 12

6:00 am Take out breakfast at McDonald’s – 40

6:15 am FX to Eastwood Montalban – 50

8:15 am Tricycle to Brgy Wawa (jump off point) – 20

8:30 am Register at DENR – 2 (yes, just 2 friggin pesos)

8:45 am Ascend: Mt. Pamitinan

10:15 am Summit

10:45 Descend

11:15 Mt. Hapunang Banoy junction then descend to local tindahan

11:45 – 12:45 pm Lunch

12:45 pm Ascend: Mt. Hapunang Banoy

2:30 pm Summit

2:45 pm Descend

4:30 pm Jump off point

4: 45 pm Freshen up at Myrlyn’s

6:00 pm Tricycle to terminal – 30

6:15 pm Van to Cubao – 50

9:00 pm Cubao…let’s call it a day

Ate guide Myrlyn’s fee: 800 (400 per pax)

So call her maybe:

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I shelled out approximately PHP 800 for one whole day x twin day hike (I have added my trail food and additional transportation costs). The more hikers, the cheaper it gets!

All photos taken were courtesy of thewanderjunkie. Do check Daryl out, I mean the blog, not her.

Stay tuned to my next escape!