“There’s a waterfall we could go to… Though we probably shouldn’t go chasin’ waterfalls.”
“Yeah. We should just stick to the rivers and the lakes that we’re used to.”
This is the story of our little joke, the one about how we try to see waterfalls but always fail. Obviously the TLC quote just makes the joke all the sweeter (for Steph).
We had been in Dumaguete for three days and were looking for something to do outside the city. The noise and the heat was getting to us and we were itching for a good day trip. I had read that there were a couple of really great waterfalls not even 15 kilometers from the city and that they could both easily be done in a day. We decided to rent a motorbike through our hostel and have an adventure.
The next morning when the bike arrived I could see it was worn out. It had an empty tank and threw heat off the gearbox like a furnace, almost burning my foot. We headed out to Casaroro Falls in Valencia, the little black motorcycle chugging away beneath us.
About halfway to the falls the bike died. We were on flat ground going 40 km/h, nothing difficult. Realizing we were halfway to nowhere, I decided that if the bike started again we would press on and hope someone was near if it died for good. Fortunately the little bike that couldn’t decided a little rest was all it needed and we were off again.
After a brief tour of Valencia and a bite to eat from a fly-infested cantina, we were on our way to the falls proper. To our dismay the road immediately turned into a steep grade and the tiny 100cc bike decided it just couldn’t pull both of us up the hill. By this point the road had turned into a muddy track that wasn’t terribly suitable for the narrow street tires on the bike anyway. Sensing this, the bike made the choice for us and stalled.
I got off and just stared at the thing for a bit, not sure what to do. It wouldn’t start, no matter how hard I kicked and it wasn’t flooded. Fortunately two young men were walking up the road and offered to help. One checked the spark plug, fiddled with the choke and checked the fuel cut-off valve to no avail. He then asked if he could try a hill start, and after I nodded assent he jumped on and performed the most dangerous hill start I have ever seen. His risk was rewarded and the bike chugged to life, and he sent it back up the hill with a vengeance. We thanked him profusely for his trouble and continued on. Shortly after that point the road became too dangerous for our bike and we left her at the side of the road, hoping she would start when we got back.
After a short hike we arrived at the entrance to the falls, only to find the admission booth manned by chickens who were not interested in our pesos. Undaunted, we headed down the slippery 335 steps to the bottom of the valley. Nearing the last few steps a portion of the railing had been wiped out by a tree, making the last segment rather dangerous. Fortunately we weren’t far from the ground. Unfortunately this was a portent of what was to come. Reaching the bottom, we discovered that a landslide had demolished the trail to the waterfall. Unsure of how many rocks we would have to climb or how far we had to go, and hearing the rumble of thunder overhead, we decided not to test our luck any further.
We sat out the rain storm in the little shack at the top of the stairs while the chickens clucked contentedly around us, listened to the rain and talked about life and how weird it is that we would each turn 30 somewhere entirely unexpected. We both felt like 30 was some age we never thought we would get to, and now that we finally made it we didn’t really feel 30. It was one of those hard to quantify things where we felt young and old all at once. Once the rain let up we walked back to the bike and headed down hill. This time it ran the whole way, but the front brake would lock completely any time there was weight on the handlebars, meaning anytime we were going down hill. This is mind-bogglingly dangerous on a steep muddy hill. Needless to say, we survived and made it back to our hostel, where I quickly called the bike’s owner and negotiated for a new, functional, bike for the next day at half price with a FULL tank of gas. Waterfall number two would have to be chased tomorrow.
The next morning we got on the new little yellow bike and headed out of town. True to their word, the rental agency had provided a better bike and our ride to “Red Rocks” Waterfall (a.k.a. waterfall umber two…) went without mechanical incident. As we rode through the countryside our limited directions began to break down as new intersections and turns appeared. Every time we stopped, a helpful local was always glad to point us in the right direction. We were finally told that we should take a right once we passed the clouds of gas that smelled bad. Unsure of what this meant, we pressed on until we were given our answer: along the roadside foul smelling clouds of sulfur were jetting out of the rock in great gusts. The mild volcanic activity in the area that caused hot springs was making itself known, and helpfully directing us where to turn.
As we traveled further from the main road it seemed as though we were also traveling back in time. We both remarked that it felt as though we were driving into the set of the Flintstones as the lush greenery of the jungle mixed with gigantic red boulders and a river of vivid blue. The area felt nothing if not prehistoric. Once the proper road ran out we got off the bike and crossed a rickety bamboo bridge and walked the last hundred meters to the waterfall area. The park is nothing more than a collection of small huts, one of which is the “office” where the entry fee is paid, and the other is the residence of the mayor. There are two waterfalls, small and large, the smaller feeding a swimming hole lower down the hill. Everywhere we looked the rocks were stained a vivid iron-oxide reddish orange. The water there was rich in iron and over the thousands of years it had been flowing it slowly turned everything it touched to rust, hence the name “Red Rocks” waterfall. Not terribly creative, but beautiful to behold nonetheless.
Both falls are beautiful and slightly hard to get to. We went to the smaller of the two first, to get a taste of our first waterfall in the Philippines, and wandered into the freezing pool at its foot. The rush of cold water was a good bromide for the heat of the day and just cooling our legs left us feeling reinvigorated. We couldn’t really get under the little falls, so we decided to head for the main event.
The large falls required some minor bouldering and creative path-finding, but we found our way down eventually. We had to wade across some fast moving currents with tricky footing, but we eventually made it out to the little spit of sand and rock at the base of the falls. Though it was perhaps not the world’s largest falls, we were still impressed with the primordial power and raw energy of the water as it exploded over the lip of rock 10 meters overhead. A tremendous amount of water was hammering down considering the size of the falls. We wandered out towards the rushing water, but as we got closer the power of the falls was too much, and too cold, so we stopped short, buffeted by the wind and spray from the water, content at the fringe. Soaked and stung and alive with energy, we headed out of the maelstrom.
Having finally sated our yen for a good waterfall, we slowly headed back to Dumaguete soaking in the scenery and letting the rush of the air dry our wet clothing. Our pursuit of waterfalls had been a mixed bag in terms of actually seeing waterfalls, but overall we were happy. It had been a good adventure into the wilds of Negros Island and left us eager to explore the more intrepid side of our time in the Philippines. In the end, it may be wiser to stick to the rivers and the streams that you’re used to, but then again, where’s the fun in that?