Okay, here it goes.
As a DIY travel loyalist, I am not ashamed to admit that I have never been in a joiners trip before. Yes, you read that right. So when I had my first joiners trip planned with my friend Ange, I was partly nervous and partly excited.
It was early this year when I started searching about Dingalan, Aurora. And since it was dubbed as the “Batanes of the East”, I have always wanted to go (because I can’t afford flights to the real Batanes). We booked a Day Tour package with Pobreng Wanderer and viola! We’re scheduled with around 60 more travelers!
There are four vans and we were in Van 3, along with some other joiners who are also from Bulacan. Before the trip even started, there was a group chat where you can find every joiner for the trip. I did a little creepy stalking of all the members of the group chat (Sorry, guys! Just checking your profiles out.)
So let me walk you through the itinerary of the trip.
Exactly 1AM, the vans left the meet up place in Ayala, but we requested to be picked up in Sta. Rita Exit (Guiguinto, Bulacan) so we don’t have to go to Manila anymore. Before 3AM, they picked Me, Ange and 3 other joiners in Sta. Rita after they picked up some other joiners in Munoz, Valenzuela Exit and Bocaue Exit.
A little past 6 o’clock, we arrived at the town proper of Dingalan, Aurora. There were many eateries where most joiners had breakfast.
At 7 in the morning, we are already on our way to the Feeder Port where we are going to ride passenger boats to the White Beach.
There we met the guides that will lead us to our Destinations. There were 10 of us in Kuya Michael’s group. Me, Ange, Ate Beybs’ group (there were five of them), and Zei and his (um, her?) two companions.
A few minutes after, we headed to the boats. We were given the life jackets (better safe than sorry). I lost track of time after that because I removed my watch and put it in my small sling bag.
When we arrived at the White Beach (which is not exactly white), we were told to wait for all the groups before starting the trek to the view deck.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t expect that the whole trekking thing is serious. I mean, I’ve seen people go up there in the view deck and I never see complains. But we were told that because of the very unpredictable weather (it has been raining the day before), the path is a little (or maybe too much) slippery.
We were in one line, following one another as we made our way to the top of the mountain. I was at the end of our group. We were trying to distract our minds from getting too tired by talking to each other. Yep, I had the time to talk even if I barely had time to breathe.
I am not a mountain kind of traveller. I’m more of the beach and sea girl. But once in a while it was refreshing to be out in the mountains. Even if I am too small and too thin to actually be fit for a hard trek.
Other than being too slippery and steep, there were many tall trees that provide lots of shades for the trekkers. And even though I almost thought I wouldn’t make it, I did (ha!).
And it was worth it. The view was so picturesque that I didn’t even thought it was real.
The green mountains, the blue sea, the clouds, all of it. Mother Nature never stops with her surprises.
The descend down was not even easier. I’ve had so many almost-slipped-down, and oh-my-God moments. The ropes on the side were the ones that saved my life.
We had to go back almost half (or was it more than half?) of the way to a flat area where we will turn to reach the light house. We stopped for a few minutes to breathe and drink water before starting the hike.
It was steeper than the path to the view deck, but there were more stones to step on and the land is almost dry because of the lack of shade.
When we reached the light house, Kuya Michael told us that we cannot go up the top of it anymore. It was because of some careless travelers who broke something up there. And since it was the coast guards who maintain the lighthouse, they decided to lock the gates.
When we descended from the lighthouse, we found an ice drop vendor at the flat area where we turned from the view deck. It was like the miracle we were waiting to happen. An ice drop vendor in the middle of the woods! We each bought one (some of us, two) and decided to rest for a while to recharge. And what a very nice touch to the hotness of the weather.
When we reached the white beach, most of the joiners who didn’t go to the lighthouse where resting in a table and drinking sodas and water. It was a little too expensive, like any other destinations might offer.
Then we got on the boat again to go to the Suah Rock Formations. It is where Lamao cave is located. It was a part of the town where large rocks where beside the sea instead of the beach. The waves are pretty awesome back there.
After some photo op, walking, climbing, jumping and swimming, we hopped back to the boats and went back to the Feeder Port. I think it was around lunch time already. Back in the port, we found an Ice Candy vendor and she went sold out in a few minutes.
Then we head back to the town proper where we ate breakfast to have our lunch. Nothing fancy for me, just an order of Nilagang Baboy and half rice (I don’t like to eat too much when I’m on a trip).
Then after a few more minutes, we went to the next destination: Tanawan Falls. Um, if I’m being honest, I didn’t make it to Tanawan Falls or neither Ange. Since I wasn’t able to sleep on the drive the night before and I didn’t eat breakfast, I can barely open my eyes as we head to the jump off point. My adrenaline stopped the moment I ate lunch and I already feel my muscles tightening. I know when to push myself, but I also know my limitations. We decided to stay at the jump off point and clean ourselves ahead of the others.
We left Tanawan past five in the afternoon already since most of the joiners took long at the falls and some took long washing up and eating. We were the second group that came to the final stop of the trip: the I-heart-Dingalan sign.
That was our last photo op so we didn’t miss any of the chance. We took a selfie at the sign, of the road, a groufie with the people at Van 3 and the tour coordinators, and of course the favorite part of the day: the amazing sunset.
Here are the 10 things I learned during my first joiners trip:
- For goodness sake, try to sleep on the long drive. I can assure you that you do not want to be getting all sleepy and tired on a 15 minute boat ride.
- Make sure to eat breakfast. Trust me; you would barely survive on two pieces of Skyflakes and a gulp of water.
- Do not trust weather forecasts online so much. The weather is very unpredictable that even if they said there would be thunderstorms and rain showers, it might actually be a very hot and dry day. So don’t leave your sunblock behind. You do not want to get sunburned nose (like I had!).
- Do not wear slippers on a trek. Period. (Just ask Ange).
- Do not forget to bring water while trekking. I’m sure you do not want to get dehydrated when you’re on top of a mountain.
- Don’t blame the guide if he can’t take good photos of you or your friends. It is not his responsibility to give you a good shot. He. Is. Not. A. Photographer. If you’re a little of an Instagram conscious shutterbug like me, try to direct how you want your photos to end up. Or you can just use a monopod with a shutter or a tripod.
- Always bring pocket money. You never know when you’ll see Manong Ice Drop vendor.
- Be friendly and mindful of others. Even if you’re going in the tour alone or with friends, you’re still in a joiners group so it is very important to jive with them.
- Be careful and don’t push yourself too hard. Know your limitations so you know when to stop.
- It is not so hard to make new friends. Especially for an introvert like me, I realized that people are not all snobs. That you could actually have a descent conversation with them even if you don’t know them at all.