Naga City was where we decided we should no longer ask Filipino’s for directions, for we realised none of them it seemed, had any sense of direction, or any idea how to get anywhere, without “riding a tricycle.” Unfortunately, nobody had actually forewarned us about this prior to our trip. Instead, everybody we asked gave us directions willingly and often gleefully, usually with great confidence and self assurance, but without fail, they were usually wrong!
When a local person tells you with absolute clarity that the SM Mall is, “That way”, you generally trust them, right?
Well don’t. Certainly not in Naga City at least.
After 45 minutes of traipsing around town, including two trips back on ourselves after receiving conflicting directions from four different people, we finally gave up on trying to find the SM Mall, pretty much the biggest landmark in the entire city (town) by ourselves, and got a tricycle driver to take us. The tricycle journey took us two minutes.
To anybody in Naga City who may read this, if in future a foreigner asks you for directions and you don’t know, please just say so. It’s okay, we really don’t mind. It is far more preferable to being given the wrong directions!
Apart from that, Naga was brilliantly unspectacular. Once we finally found the SM Mall, we went to the cinema, ate pizza, and then ate some ice-cream before retiring to our hotel room and watching Rush Hour. I’m pretty sure that’s your average Saturday for most middle-class Filipino’s nowadays, so we were trying to embrace the local way of life a bit..
Our primary reason for coming to Naga was perhaps surprisingly, not actually to watch Hollywood movies, and stuff our faces with pizza and ice-cream on the cheap (although admittedly, they were added, more than welcome bonuses). No, our motivations were far more adventurous, daring and exciting than that. We were going to be visiting #2 on our hit list of volcanoes for the trip, Mount Isarog National Park.
So on day two, we went out to explore. We took a jeepney out to a village at the foot of the volcano, to begin our trek to some well-known local waterfalls that can be found within the park. The walk to the park entrance was peaceful, green and scenic, a welcome relief from the fumes and noise of downtown Naga. Arriving at the entrance, we were blown away. We’ve seen some grand entrances to some spectacular National Parks in the last few years in Asia, but this topped the lot.
Once we had waited for the queues (lol) to die down, we hiked down to the waterfalls. To be fair, it was quite a little beauty spot. The supposed great view of the volcano was completely obscured by the thoroughly miserable rain that was teeming down by now. It wasn’t all bad though, my spirits, at least, were lifted by the birds eye view I was able to enjoy of a large group of female university students frolicking in the pool, in all their wet white T-shirt glory. Needless to say I deservedly got a good slap from Amelia, and no doubt will again when she reads this.
After a couple of hours, we decided to explore some more. Rumour has it that Mt. Isarog contains some of the last virgin rainforest in the Philippines. Having walked back to the entrance, we discovered there was another trail that went up the mountain. We decided to go for a stroll.
Barely twenty metres into our walk, Amelia calmly told me I had something on my leg. I looked down to find, to my sheer, absolute, like I’m staring death in the face horror, that a leech had managed to attach itself to my calf. So what did I do, I hear you ask?
Well naturally I did what any self-respecting 25 year old alpha-male would do…
I screamed, shrieked and jumped around like a little girl, frantically trying to brush it off. Luckily, it obviously hadn’t been there long, and did come off, much to my relief. And then I cried. Well not quite, I made that last bit up, but there’s no telling how badly I’ve reacted had it not come off straight away.
I hate bugs, absolutely hate them.
After my tarantulas in the toilet experience in Cambodia, this was possibly the second scariest moment of my life.
At this point, we debated our options. Continue trekking through virgin jungle for a couple of hours, in the rain, running the risk of being eaten alive by leeches, or; go home, take a shower, and check out that exceptionally nice looking Italian restaurant we found the night before…
It was a no-brainer.
Shower and pasta it was.
With hindsight, we can categorically say that we made the correct decision.
The first two of our three volcanoes hadn’t quite captured the imagination, but number three surely would…