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Finally, Kalinga!Jun 17, 2011

Finally, Kalinga!

Bus to Tabuc
After a filling breakfast the following day, my guide, Francis Pa-in and I, met up and top-loaded ourselves on the bus to Tabuc (but we get off in Tinglayan, not Tabuc). To make sure the bus won't leave without us, we were there as early as 7:30 am. But the bus didn't leave until 8:45 am.

Top Loading
We could have stayed inside the bus, but there is no experience in the Cordillera like top-loading yourself (being on the roof) for a full view of the mountainscape. Even though I've lived 3 years in the Cordillera and visited most of the remote destinations within the area, the Kalinga is new ground. Seeing the new landscape from atop the bus was pretty exciting.

It was a challenge though being vigilant about the low-lying branches while appreciating the beauty of the terrain. It's not unusual to be branch-whipped all of a sudden. Another challenge was where to stay on top. The ravine-side for great views? or the slope-side just in case the bus falls off the ravine? On the slope side, you can easily jump out. On the ravine-side, it's simply sayonara-baby!. I didn't go this far just to compromise on the view. Of course I took the ravine side.

Luxurious Roof Deck
Even though the trip took over 2 hours, I was still pretty comfortable - there was lots of space on top and I was seated on the flat roof of the bus (not on tubular rails). I didn't realize how much a luxury this was until I headed further inside Kalinga in the days to come.

Narrow Single Lanes
The rough riding was definitely part of the experience. The road was narrow, mostly single-lanes that accommodates only one vehicle. There were of course a sprinkling of wide points where a driver can stop to give way to oncoming vehicles - but it's just a point, not a continuous double-lane road. And that's the trick. As the driver, you have to be vigilant about oncoming vehicles and be familiar with the road system well enough to know if there is still a wide section up ahead or if you should already make that stop. It's also not clear to me who makes the stop? The drivers, already familiar with the local road convention, know who stops, and where. But to the hapless tourist braving the Kalinga road on his 4x4? Hmmm....good luck!

Uncleared Landslides
There were many road challenges. As the bus meandered its way along the contour of the mountain slope and the Chico River, we passed through a few land slides that were just cleared, or being cleared, or not cleared. Not cleared? Yes, it's not a typo. The vehicles simply rolled over the top, sometimes off-camber towards the waiting ravine on a steep rise that's far from smooth. I thought that it was simply business as usual even though it was frightening - specially if you're on top where the wobbling is amplified.

The Petrified Foreigner
One foreigner-tourist I met in Banaue a few years ago who brought his SUV told me that finding an oncoming vehicle on a rough, narrow single-lane mountain road was the most frightening thing for him because somebody has to back up...and it may be a long miss and you fall into the ravine.

Arriving Tinglayan
It's been 9 days since I left Dumaguete for Kalinga. Finally, I'm here, arriving at Tinglayan, a municipal hub of Kalinga that serves as gateway to the more remote villages (the same villages reputed to have sporadic tribal wars amongst themselves). We were dropped-off at Sleeping Beauty Hotel where a cafeteria served us a hot satisfying lunch. I was tired and starved.

The Jeep to Tulgao
We were supposed to board a 1:00 pm jeep to our first village, Tulgao. But the jeep was nowhere. We waited...and waited. Finally, at 3:00 pm, it showed up but it didn't leave until 3:15 pm. It was over 4 hours of waiting until we were off. It was the first of many long waits in the Kalinga. Patience is a virtue here. Nothing goes like clockwork. Kalinga seems to have a rhythm all its own...and outsiders like me simply have to adhere in compliance.

Off to Tulgao
Finally, the jeep engine was fired up. Tulgao, here we come!

--- TheLoneRider

How to Get to Tinglayan from Bontoc:
  1. Take the bus heading to Tabuk. The bus is parked on a side street near the main road. Just ask around. Make sure to tell the bus conductor to drop you off at Tinglayan. You don't want to end up in Tabuc. My bus left at 8:45 am and arrived Tinglayan, 11:00 am. Cost: Php 110.00, Time: 2 hours 15 mins.

01tabuc_bus 02leaving_bontoc 03cleared_landslide 04double_lane
05ravine_side 06top_loading 07scenic_view 08rice_terraces
09anabele_sadanga 10washout 11mountainscape 12bugnay_village
13rice_terraces 14wooden_bridge 15chico_river 16landslide
Vehm and Genesis at Mogwai 18kalinga_kids 19stonewall head first slide

These guys like this story:




"Wwhat's the road like?" -- Joel Disini
(Aug 6, 2011) Bontoc - Tabuc, winding paved/unpaved road with little change in elevation, great scenery, similar to the Sabangan - Bontoc road. What I would recommend is the Tomiangan (in Pacil) - Balbalasan - Bangued (Abra), mostly dirt, more technical, elevation range is 1500 meters, great scenery, less traveled. But my blog is not yet a few days.

Joel DisiniJoel Disini
(Aug 7, 2011) Wwhat's the road like? bikable? compare it to, say Bontoc-Banaue (portions paved/unpaved), or Dantay-Sagada (unpaved, bikable only on granny gear) or Besao-Sagada (you must be of your f*** mind to do this)

Mutya BernardoMutya Bernardo
(Aug 6, 2011) I've always wanted to go to Tinglayan!

"what's in Tulgao? I thought the highlight of that area is Balbalasang" -- Joel Disini
(Aug 6, 2011) There will be many more destinations before I finally hit Balbalasang!

Joel DisiniJoel Disini
(Aug 6, 2011) ...what's in Tulgao? I thought the highlight of that area is Balbalasang?

Andrew MitchellAndrew Mitchell
(Aug 5, 2011) ...beautiful but that bus ride looks freakin dangerous!

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