An expedition to Sagada underground river, caves and Bokong falls is a thrilling adventure that will challenge your endurance and patience. We never expected that we will be climbing humungous rocks, walk on muddy soils and slide in slippery slopes. Getting ourselves soaked in a raging river was the worst. This trek is the last phase of our Sagada Adventure Trail in the Echo Valley.
This place was called Echo Valley because of the loud echoes that you’ll hear when you shout in several parts of the area. After learning about the echoing nature of the place, our son started shouting like it was new year’s eve while laughing hysterically. I guess that’s his last laugh before starting our long and tiring adventure. This walking tour is around 3 hours but that includes the short visit to the Episcopal Church and the Hanging Coffins already.
Unlike in the main town, we never felt much of the sun’s heat during our trek. It was great to have trees as shelters along the way and to feel the fresh cold air coming from the plants everywhere. You could easily get lost here if you don’t have a guide because a large part of this forest is dense. Some of its guide paths go in many directions as well. We had lucky timing because there were very few other tourists around that day.
Cave and Boulders
We took a rest after reaching a large cave. A closer look made us realize that it only has a large opening but it’s shallow. The cave’s ceiling already fell and covered its deeper parts. A pond with clear water can be seen right in front of it. It looked so nice to swim there until we saw some footprints and stools of a water buffalo close to it. Looks like one just recently wallowed in that pond.
We continued our walk and got to the part where there are boulders blocking our path. This made me wonder “how are we supposed to get through?” Our guide Angel said that we’ll have to climb above those large rocks. This made me pause and ask if there’s a different way that’s more kid-friendly. He gave us an assurance that it’s safe to climb there. He also mentioned that he had guided tours before where the parents brought kids as young as 2 years old and they were able to get through. That gave us a bit of a relief but we can’t get complacent considering how sharp and slippery those rocks are. Starting that moment, Angel became our son’s guardian angel.
Climbing a series of large rocks with wet slippers is a risky fun adventure. That is if you’re just by yourself! I don’t recommend going on a trek like this with a kid despite the constant reassurance of our guide. Beyond the safety reasons, they also have a tendency to endlessly complain along the way when things get difficult. Some of you might get reminded of Donkey who keeps on asking “are we there yet?” in the movie Shrek 2.
Sagada Underground River
The annoyance was put to halt when we finally reached the Sagada Underground River. Its entrance is well decorated with random stacks of balanced stones. The mossy wall added enchantment to its aesthetics. We had to go on a quick break so that our guide could take some time to apply gas and heat up his kerosene lamp. Our son had a fun time playing in the water while Juliet tries to balance some rocks. You can already tell that it’s cold inside the cave just by hanging out in its entrance.
After a few minutes of pumping gas, Angel’s lamp is finally up! We carefully entered the cave full of caution. There are some hanging rocks inside that could hit your head. Waters were constantly dripping in these rocks which I guess is the reason why they look smooth and polished. We’ve also seen a few bats along the way. We had to slightly bear with the foul odor coming from their wastes. It was pitch black when we reached the center. It must be very spooky to explore it alone with just a flashlight. Angel then told us that the river’s water could fill the entire cave during flash floods which is very comforting. *smile*
Light at The End Of The Tunnel
After spending our entire lives in the dark for 30 minutes, we finally got a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. This reminded me of the Thailand Cave Rescue recently. I can tell based on my short experience in this cave that what they went through was really terrifying. Their successful rescue mission was quite a relief.
At last, it was also time for us to finally get out… But, boulders again!? This tunnel is not making it easy for you to leave! You’ll have to go through its large, wet and slippery rocks before you can exit. My son’s guardian angel definitely experienced greater challenges in guiding him out of this one.
After finally getting out of the underground river, we continued our trek. We passed by more rivers and smaller caves. Despite the sunny sky, it suddenly rained! I was afraid that this was going to happen after hearing our guide sing as we go. Good thing we were already near a cave so we immediately took shelter in it. We had some chitchat moments while waiting for the rain to stop. I told my son about the Filipino folklore that there’s a Tikbalang’s wedding when it’s raining even if the sky seems clear. It took about 18 minutes before the rain lightened up. Since we’re just getting a drizzle, we continued our journey to reach Bokong Falls. The rain made our trip more challenging because the path became muddy and more slippery. A loud annoying sound can be heard every time our son slips and get his sandals stuck on the mud.
The River Challenge
After getting through the muddy paths, we walked by the side of the rocky river. Looking far ahead, I felt ambushed by a home TV shopping guy telling me “But wait, there’s more! Another boulder!” But this time it’s so high and standing flat that it’s impossible for us to pass through it. Our guide said that our only option is to get down the river. He also told us to be careful in certain parts where there’s a strong flow of water. He led us to the safe routes while holding my son on each step. One of my son’s sandals slipped from his foot and got carried away by the water. Good thing I was behind them so I was able to catch it for him.
We can’t step on the rocks on most of its parts because of how small and slippery they are. Walking through the water is safer. It’s hard to imagine what would happen to our camera if I slip on one of the rocks then fall the wrong way. I had to lift up my shorts on the deeper parts of the river because they’re already above my knees. I wasn’t able to take photos at that time since I had to use both of my hands. It’s hard to see what’s below the river after the rain made it soily. We’re just thankful that the sky is getting clearer and that there were no more signs of possible rain.
We finally passed the river challenge and were able to walk on the sweet grassy soil. It’s muddy but is easier to walk on compared to the river. Finally, a sight of the Bokong falls! It looked small from afar but it was actually smaller up close! I bet that its water is clear if it didn’t rain during our trek. The locals are clearly having a great time swimming and hanging out in the waterfalls area. We let our son play in the water for a bit because it was the final destination of our trek.
This trek was really difficult than we’ve expected. We would have backed out if we only knew what we’ll go through but I’m glad we didn’t. It was a rich experience that our family will forever treasure. Especially for our son, whose adventures are mostly in the virtual world inside a mobile device. It was a pleasure for us to see him explore the real world, learn about hardship, rise above the challenges and enjoy its wonders.