We peeped into the volcano

I have been working in Manila, the Philippines already for a few weeks, when with my colleagues on one of the weekends we managed to organize a trip to the lowest active volcano of the world, the Taal, which is only 50 km south from the capital, in a relatively highly populated area, the Batangas. The timing was exciting, because increased volcanic activities were measured during those days.


The Philippines lays on the western part of a fire ring, which is running around the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. 75% of the active volcanos and the majority of the earthquakes can be found on this ring. One of the most interesting active volcanos of the world is the Taal, a volcano complex, which has two rings because of multiple explosions, and the crater is filled with water. 

This is the view on Taal volcano from the cliffs of Tagaytay


Organizing the journey seemed to be easy, until I started it. If a European toursist would not like to use tour agencies, which usually apply Western prices, then either we can use public transportation or rent a car. Our local friends talked us off from public transportation, because they circulate differently from what we were used to. Renting a car is not easy either if we consider the local driving habits, where keeping in line is not common, and where daily car accidents are usual. Finally we rented a van with a choffeur, and the tour kicked off on a Sunday morning. It was the first time that we got out of noisy and dusty Manila, and it was a true relief to see green palm forests. After one hour driving, we finally saw the lake and the Taal volcano from the cliffs of Tagaytay. The active volcano lays in a caldera with an average diamater of 15 km. This is filled with water, and in the middle of it emerges the volcano-island with a diameter of 5 km.


Prohibitions do not work

From the cliffs we drove down to the shore of the lake, where our next project was to pick a finishing boat with a fisherman and a good price. After a short bargain and a satisfied hand shake, our finishing boat departed. This boat was already a great experience, until now I only saw them on pictures. The narrow hulk of the bangka was kept in balance with wooden poles on the sides, like a hidroplane.

We traveled with these bangka boats


As soon as the inhabitants of the volcanic island saw the approaching boat full of with tourists, they ran to help us get out, and lead us in a shady place where they offered drinks and souvenirs. Despite the fact that the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, the PHILVOLCS marked the island dangerous, and prohibits to settle down here, there are many poor families living on the land, who make their living from fishing, cultivating the good quality volcanic soil, and tourism. Such touristic service, for example, that the visitors are taken up to the cliffs of the volcano by horse. Because of the heat and the 'I-rode-up-by-horse' feeling, we could not miss this opportunity. 

Riding up on the hill with my guide, Carlos

Everyone got a horse and a guide behind the back to share the saddle. While my guide, Carlos, drove the horse he told me that they do not care about the prohibitions and they are not afraid of an erruption. What is more, they have a mission, which is protecting the Goddess of the volcano from the bad vibes.


The Goddess is unquiet

There is a lot to protect, because the Taal is one of the most active volcanos of the Philippines, though the Goddess has been sleeping for almost 30 years. Since the 16th century the volcano had more than 30 erruptions. One of them happened in 1911, which took the lives of 2000 habitants. That is also the date when the little lake in the middle was born. According to earlier records, the erruption could be heard from 1000 km, and the ash clouds were visible also from Manila. After this the activitiy of the volcano changed radically, and during the next erruption in 1965 the ask clouds did not only sperad upwards but also sidelong, which meant another 200 victims. Till 1977 some firework-type lava erruptions followed, then the volcano fall asleep. A few days before our visit, however, the PHILVOLCS raised the alarm level to 2, because the temperature of the inner lake and the quantity of the carbon-dioxide effusion increased, which meant the rising of magma.

Releasing steam heated the air


I did not see the signs of anxiety on Carlos, so I kept listening to his stories. During our tour we passed by their village, where I saw some wooden huts. Carlos showed me one by one his family: that was his wife, and the other was his cousin. In a little while I was not able to follow the family tree, because everyone connected to someone someway. Of course, I bought a bottle of water for Carlos from his wife, which, as he said, he will not drink, but will again offer to the next tourist to buy. We went on leaving the family behind. While slaloming up in the steep and dry pit, Carlos started to talk about the work affairs. He told me that every member of the family does something. The youngsters, like him, is in charge of the horses, the women sell drinks and souvenirs or cultivate the soil, and the men do fishing in the outside lake.

Boys saddling the horses waiting for the next tourists

Arriving to the top we left the sweaty horses and ran to the fence which surrounded the inner crater. We had a breathtaking view over the bubbling lake, the crater and the outside lake. Steam was leaving constantly from the rocks around, which increased the felt air temperature. When we spent enough time delectating the panorama, we went to look for tailing paps, where the steam released. After a successful mission we were waving for the rest of the group about the discovery. During the one hour spent on the volcano I never felt in danger. The place looked very calm, so it was difficult to imagine those huge forces hiding underneath the quiet lake.

View on the inner lake, on the left releasing carbon-dioxide stirs up the water

We left late in the afternoon. I said good-bye to Carlos, who answered to my silly questions all the way down from the hill. We crossed the water again with our fishing boat, and drove back to the loud capital. The boiling volcano stayed calm this time, we were only burned by the sun. We could get off with it, wishing the same to the next visitors and the inhabitants.
 


The original in Hungarian is published here.



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About Tiny Girl With Big Bag

Hobby writer and autodidact photographer whose passion is to travel and get to know new people and cultures. She has been on 4 continents and 30 countries, and the outcome is this travel blog where she shares travel stories, thoughts, tips and photography always through a subjective eye.

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20 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. It is gorgeous.. but the volcano was also dangerous. such a combination :)

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  2. Wonderful story again :-). I like how you guys used all different forms of transport to get to the top, it looks so adventurous!

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    1. Thanks Bram :) indeed it was adventurous. it was one of the greatest experience I had.

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  3. Excellent post ...cool!
    Did you get down to water level at the lake?
    Was the temperature of the water very high?
    Thanks for sharing.
    Cheers
    Bryan

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    1. Hi Bryan, we did not go down because of the emission of toxic gases. As far as I understood, the temperature raised from 32 to 34 degrees.
      You might want to check it out:
      http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=372:taal-volcano-advisory
      Thanks for commenting :)

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  4. Just in Manila last month - have to say the horses looked a bit skinnier than in your pics - was so scared they were going to break under our fat ass - what really put us to shame though was the elderly lady escorting the horses sprinting it up the volcano. Blerb. So unfit.

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    1. Hey, what a coincidence :) So you did the same trip! I am sure that those poor horses are used to much bigger travelers than us, and I can not thank them enough to take me up on that steep mountain! Thanks for visiting my site, Cat.

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  5. Lenyűgöző táj, fenomenális képsorozat és egy érdekes leírás :-)
    Csak gratulálni tudok hozzá! Amúgy nagyon szépen nézel ki a képen!

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    1. Köszönöm. Valóban nagyon érdekes élmény volt :)

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  6. I'd love to visit this heaven and want to get wonderful experience while riding on horse. How it would feel?

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    Replies
    1. It does feel exciting. Hope that you can try it one day! Thanks for the comment :)

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  7. thank you very much for sharing the information, god bless you

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    1. Thank you for the comment, and welcome on my site :)

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  8. that looks like a great day trip. I love volcanos and this one looks really beautiful

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  9. What a fascinating trip - even the boats are really cool! I think I'd be a little scared to get that close to an active volcano, but I know I would like to see it too. Thanks for the great story!

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  10. Looks wonderful! I much prefer making my own way to sights rather than using tour companies. It is more fun, you can interact with the locals and you don't have to stick with annoying and slow travelers. ;-)

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    1. Haha, so true! And these were exactly my points, too :) Thanks for the comment.

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