A lake within the crater of a volcano that is within another lake that is the crater of a larger volcano.
That’s probably the best way I can describe Taal Volcano.
But if you want a more succinct (and honest) description, I’ll probably say it’s a “most beautiful piece of dusty hell”.
When we got to the Philippines, I knew that Jo would want to climb some volcanoes. Despite all odds, I managed to prolong the inevitable (that’s is why we managed to spend weeks of glorious time just chilling by beaches and taking it slow), but it was only a matter of time before she eventually got things her way.
Trying to fight the battle on my terms, I proposed we start with the LOWEST active volcano in the Philippines – Volcano Island within the Taal Volcano caldera; with the caveat that we would try a higher one IF and ONLY IF we found the trek up Taal Volcano manageable.
That’s the whole reason why we were in Tagaytay in the first place.
At the suggestion of the owners at our Bed and Breakfast, we started our ascent at 630 in the morning to beat the crowd and take advantage of the cool(er) temperatures. (You’d think that that would be enough to turn Jo off the trek altogether)
It’s a good thing too. Taal Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the Philippines. Walking along, we saw many “steam pits”. The ground itself was unbelievably hot. The temperature at 8am in the morning felt pretty much like how it would be at 1pm anywhere else. When the sun was up, we felt like we were baking in a convection oven.
To make things worse, the vegetation on the ground of the walking path were all dead. Without any foliage, the trail itself was unbearably dusty. The throngs of tourists on horses galloping up and down the trail, kicking up sand did not really help matters.
Of course, we could have taken a horse too. It was relatively cheap (180PHP), but we’ve heard horror stories of extortion rings forcing tourists to buy exorbitantly priced drinks for the guides who walk their horses at the end of the trail. (Also, I was trying to put across a point that volcano trekking is hard and hope that this will turn Jo off volcano climbing for the rest of the trip)
And then there was the walking…. I knew that it was the lowest active volcano around, I just did not account for it to be one of the steepest too…
Yes… I have to grudgingly admit that the views along the way are gorgeous too. But at this point in time, I am not too sure whether that was because of some kind of high that might have been induced by snorting in so much dust.
At the end of it all, we were rewarded with some time by the infamous caldera lake, where we promptly proceeded to buy ourselves a couple of exorbitantly priced drinks.