Thursday, May 15, 2014

Day Trip: Minalungao National Park, Nueva Ecija

Another month, another adventure!

For May, the traveling friends went on another day trip to Nueva Ecija's Minalungao National Park. This time around, our group grew to 20 (yey!), so we rented 2 vans.


For this trip, I went with my high school, college, church, traveling, and newfound friends! Some of us met each other for the first time during the trip, but I'm happy to say everyone clicked.

We all met up at around 7:30AM in Quezon City and had brunch at NLEX around 8:30AM. By 9:30AM, we were on the road to Nueva Ecija. Come 11:30AM, we decided to take an unnamed 23.8km "shortcut" we saw at Google Maps to avoid the traffic in the main roads, but this led to 2 valuable lessons:

Lesson #1: There are no shortcuts in life.

"The Road Not Traveled"

Our "shortcut" started with the typical unpaved and a little bit rocky path. It was a rough and bumpy ride, but we were all busy alternating between dozing off and waking up again to chat. I noticed that the climate of the area was so hot and dry, even the plants around the path are dried up. And then, we would suddenly encounter muddy "ponds" in the middle of the road (!), where the wheels of the vans we were in would get really stuck (that would require prayers and a whole lot of strength to push the vans). Not to mention the small rocks that would hit the the van and the tree branches that would make painful screeching sounds against the side of the van. (Hello, gasgas!)

 
Floating wheel

Whenever we encountered multiple muddy ponds, huge rocks, and sudden (steep) dips on the road, we would get out of the car from time to time to make it easier for the van to move with less weight. Good thing our group consisted mostly of big guys who helped push and pull the vans.

With the many ups and downs (of the road) and ins and outs (of our van), who knew that our "shortcut" would serve as an adventure/teambuilding/roadbuilding/bonding experience on its own?


Lesson #2: God will make a way, where there seems to be no way.

If you take a look at this, it would seem impossible for the vans to pass. There was definitely divine intervention here. The van's wheel would sink at the super soft soil, so we had to take rocks to create a makeshift road. Even with that, it wasn't not enough. One of our traveling friends, Niko, went on to find help nearby (if ever it was available), and not a few meters away he spotted a house wherein he was able to borrow a shovel and some pieces of wooden boards. There were also some locals who happened to pass by where we were, so they also helped us with moving the van.

Treading the road less not traveled


This first part of our trip served as our bonding too, where new friendships were formed, and old friends got to reconnect.

We reached the place at 2:00PM. So our total travel time to Nueva Ecija got stretched to around 6 hours, but no one complained because we were just so happy and content to have reached our destination. Yes, our group was amazingly positive all throughout!

 

Minalungao National Park (established 1967) is a protected area of the Philippines located in the municipality of General Tinio, Nueva Ecija in Central Luzon. The park covers an area of 2,018 hectares centered along the scenic and pristine PeƱaranda River bordered on both sides by up to 16-meter high limestone walls in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range.


Upon arrival, we rented a cottage where we rested and ate our packed lunch.


Some people were already swimming there, but at this area the water is a bit dirty and hazy. There were food wrappers and plastic cups by the shore. We were told that the cleaner parts of the river lie ahead, but we'd have to either rent a raft or trek the limestone walls. Trekking it is!


The view from our trek was breathtaking. Everything about the place - the unique limestone formations to  the (now) clear waters -  is beautiful. The trip, at this point, was already so worth it. Take that from the least  outdoorsy person you'll ever know: me! I am afraid of heights, of slipping and falling into the river, and falling into cracks like these:


But hey, if I survived, you will, too! Just make sure to have a pair of trekking sandals that clings onto rocks and you'll be fine. :D


But if you prefer not to trek, you can always rent a raft (which costs P250.00 per way).


Towards the end of the trek was a cave to be explored. But first, a group picture!


It was my first time to go spelunking with this baby cave. Even with the hot weather outside, it was cold inside (as if it were air-conditioned) and dark, so we had to use a flashlight as guide so as to not hit anything. Also, you can't be noisy inside lest the bats fly off everywhere. (Eww.)



After spelunking, we walk a short distance towards the #medyobeach (made that up) part of the park. It had a bit of sand but the shore was mostly rocks. This was like the far end of the river (away from the tons of crowd), so the water here was indeed clean but still not cold as we expected it to be.


Our big group of traveling friends!


I watched an episode of Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho about the mystery that surrounds the river. Locals say that this river sucks in beautiful/gwapo guys. We had pogi friends aboard, but thankfully no mermaids were present that day to take them away. Haha!

Tip: Some parts of the river are deep, so you really have to know how to swim if you're planning to cliff dive.
Do not drink and cliff dive to lessen the chance of injuries!


Half of our group went on to swim and cliff dive, while the other half went on to hike the highest peak of the park (which counts to 1,000 steps) to see a large cross atop the mountain.


Our group got split into 2, since this bamboo raft could only accommodate 10 people.


I actually prefer climbing the 1,000 steps than cliff diving and the limestone trekking. Gotta love the even stairs! I'm so boring. Haha!

500th step

The 500th step is dedicated to a Korean missionary who helped build schools for the children the the area.


Of course, each day trip wouldn't be complete without a photo op with Benny, our trip's muse! (This is now a tradition. Just like the old times!)

Girls team: Gen, Jeanne, and Helen ♥


Near the 1,000th step were these beautiful columns. Hi, Kimber!


The cross of Christ sits at the peak of the 1,000th step.


Don't be intimidated by the sound of 1,000 steps. It's actually very do-able, provided you have with you good company. We were chatting, and I went jogging (for a few seconds), some danced while going down the stairs (haha). What's weird is that going downwards was even more tiring than going upwards. Someone please explain that to me. :D


Our day trip was packed with a lot of fun. You can have a picnic, swim, go fishing, ride a raft, trek the limestone walls, go spelunking, cliff dive, and take a sunset shadow selfie like this.


This particular day trip won't be forgotten, that I am certain of. This trip was brought to you by #TopeTravelandTours.

Love,
Helen

PS. Photo credits to the traveling friends (Helen, Christopher, Genevieve, Jeanne, Toni, Richard, Gilbert, Benny, Aldric, Kimber, Raymond, Niko, Char, Merwin, Joy, Ian, Neil, Jathniel, Oscar, and Yuri). Please do not use without permission.

18 comments:

  1. Let's go back to the shortcut soon, yah? Cheaper than most team-building activities but way more effective plus we get to see God in action :) This is definitely a trip I will never forget. Thank you #TopeTravel&Tours!

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    1. Thank you, #TopeTravelandTours! I'll never forget this trip as well. :)

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  2. Ang kyot naman ng tumalon na bola sa cliff dive :'>

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  3. Looks like a nice place! How do we contact topetravel&tours?

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    1. Haha. You can leave me a message at www.facebook.com/LuckyCitrine :)

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  4. There are no shortcuts in life. AMEN.

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    1. One of the important lessons we learned and will never forget. God is good. :)

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  5. #MedyoBeach! :) Thank you guys for the company! Next trip na please! Happy to have new friends. :*

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    1. Haha! Miss ko na yung #MedyoBeach. Thanks also, Toni! Hope to see you soon! :)

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  6. #TopeTravelandTours and #medyobeach FTW!

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  7. Ano po kinain niyo nung brunch?

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    Replies
    1. Jollibee ata. Nasa tiyan ni Chris. :D

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  8. Replies
    1. It was. Can't wait for our next trip. :)

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