Wednesday, April 13, 2005
A Trip to the Twin Lakes
John Don and Ipe posing on the landing to Lake Danao
Last Sunday found me at the Twin Lakes of Sibulan, one of the nature spots that I had been promising myself to visit. At long last it was a promise fulfilled.
The Twin Lakes are touted as "The Philippines' Best-Kept Secret." Now with a tagline like that, I think a change in label is in order pretty soon, but I wouldn't split hairs with the provincial marketing folks just now.
Getting to the Twin Lakes is easy enough, what with the initiative of the local governor to develop it as an eco-tourism site. Taking the Negros Oriental North National Highway through Sibulan, you turn off at a clearly marked path going up to Mt. Talinis.
Going up the path is a steep climb, with grades of 40 degrees or more in some sections. Newly-paved roads alternate with dirt paths so using a 4x4 would be well-advised. The more adventurous locals do take a motorcycle known as a "habal-habal" but I think it's every bit as dangerous as it looks. On the other hand, going up with a mountain bike is a very tempting prospect as I've seen some people do.
Rough riding notwithstanding, the trip up the mountain is breathtaking. On either side of the road are deep valleys covered with dense forest greenery. It does go a fair bit up, about 1500 meters above sea level at the highest point of the trip. My softdrink bottle was proof of the pressure change.
The Twin Lakes are a bit lower down, around 1,047 meters above sea level. We arrived at the bigger lake, Lake Balinsasayaw, after a 45-minute drive through the winding paths. We parked our van at a wooded area and walked the rest of the way down.
Lake Balinsasayaw is small as far as lakes go, but it still boasts of a respectable 76-hectare surface and an impressive depth of 150 meters. The waters are serene and surrounded on all sides by mountains and hills. There's no outlet to the sea, I am told.
Life's a picnic
Sitting on the banks are two rudimentary picnic sheds, but they are adequate if you want to rough it out. Over the past few years, workmen in the area have covered the picnic area with flat rocks so it's clean and not muddy. The rocks also form rudimentary landing points for the bancas -- outrigger canoes -- that ferry visitors to the other parts of the lake.
Balinsasayaw's twin sister, Lake Danao, lies across a hill some distance away. There are two ways to get there: a rough rocky trail hugging the surrouding hillside, and a banca ride to another landing point. I managed to try both.
Trail going from Balinsasayaw to Danao
The rocky trail winds its way through dense jungle foliage. You have to climb at several points, dodge a tree branch here and there, walk down at other points, and be careful not to slip (well, I did, once). It's a half-hour walk, good for cardiac exercise, but all told not too difficult. You walk your way to the small port where the bancas land and there wonder if it wouldn't have been easier to row over.
Easier to row over
From the landing point, you walk up another hill and down again to where Danao lies. Danao is smaller at 30 hectares but deeper at 200 meters. Like Balinsasayaw, it too is surrounded by mountains on all sides.
On the banks of Danao
Along the same path is another route going higher up to a platform on the side of the mountain. The platform really isn't more than a dirt clearing surrounded by rocks but it commands a magnificent view of both lakes. From there you can shout out your conquest to the world.
Surprisingly, people do actually live around the area. They are mostly fisherfolk, as both lakes have an adequate supply of tilapia. You can see the fish swimming near the banks of the lake.
But just as surprisingly, the lakes are also volcanic. Last year, the waters turned red owing to an increase in temperature and release of sulfur from underwater springs. The same thing happened four years prior to the last event. Thankfully, there hasn't been significant activity so the area should remain safe.
Worn out from my exertions and explorations, I spent the rest of the day lounging around the picnic area with friends and family. At the lake's elevation, the weather was cool, so much so that I got sunburnt without really noticing it.
All in all, a worthwhile trip, and highly recommended to adventurous souls.