“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
I have lived in the Philippines since birth, but I was never able to set foot in Mindanao throughout my twenty-four years of existence. That streak, however, ended exactly two weeks ago, when my family and I embarked on another journey for our little tradition.
We left home at two in the morning for our 5am flight bound for Cagayan de Oro. I slept through most of the flight, but awoke when we were about to land. Just when I was about to dismiss it as another uneventful flight, I peeked through the window and saw nothing but clouds clumped together like cotton candy! I was excited to see my first ever sea of clouds, with the sun rising on the horizon as its backdrop.
We landed in Cagayan de Oro, or CdO as fondly called by the locals, ahead of schedule. The city is at the northern tip of Central Mindanao and the start of our week-long journey. We were greeted by blackout at the airport upon our arrival, which would persist in our succeeding days. We were met by a staff of Bugsay, the company I contacted to do the activity CdO is most famous for: white water rafting.
It was about 9 when we set for the Cagayan River, and it took another 45 minutes to get there. Once we arrived, the staff instructed us to wear helmets and life vests, and soon oriented us to the different commands in rafting – paddle forward, paddle backward, and stop. We had a little bit of practice before embarking on our adventure, and soon enough we set off for this great activity.
We had our first taste of rapids just a few minutes after we started. The boat was suddenly being tossed by the current. That was the first of about fourteen rapids in the beginner course in the Cagayan River. Over the course of two and a half hours, we felt the thrill of rafting, and many times I felt that I was about to fall into the mighty river. There were places when the guide would instruct us to sit on the front edge of the raft, or to stand on the boat just when we were about to encounter the rapids, and that was when you would feel the river’s strength.
Beyond the adrenaline rush, it was also great to see the natural beauty of these provinces. The Cagayan River serves as a natural boundary between CdO and Bukidnon. On our right was CdO, and on our left was Bukidnon. CdO’s landscape resembled that of a coconut plantation, while Bukidnon had dense forests on its banks. I was impressed with how clear the river’s water is, in spite of the volume of its visitors. The landscapes looked lush and fertile, while fossils sprawled here and there across the river. Water falls from the mountain and you can drink its spring water. I also loved how cool the water was against my skin whenever I took a dip into the river.
While the scenery was relaxing, I wished for more action. Because it’s almost summertime, the river was at its normal level, and the water was quite peaceful. The interval between the rapids and the gentle traverses were too far apart – I wanted more exhilarating rides than what the 14 rapids offered. My brother and I conceded that we’ll try an advanced course next time. (Yes, that’s how fun it was!)
Here are some tips when you go white water rafting:
1. Protect your skin and eyes. Wear a rash guard, sunscreen and sunglasses.
2. Rent the entire boat. I’m sure it’s fun to meet other people, but being with your loved ones is so memorable during this adventure. Plus, coordination is better when you aren’t strangers 🙂 Only five people are needed to have one boat to yourselves.
3. Go early. Heat is unbearable when you’re there at the middle of the day. Early morning is best.
Until next time, happy travels!