Kuta Bungliw: The Heart of Sierra Madre | Travel Guide at Daraitan, Tinipak Cave and Agos River
Fuelled by passion, the thrill-seeking souls heading towards the majestic peak of Daraitan have been marking the hiking destination map with endless footprints of relish and pride. Stretching a 57-kilometer distance from Manila, the enchanting beauty of Daraitan remains untouched as it sits decently over bed of Sierra Madre range. It is home to pristine waterway of Tinipak—a river exuberated by fresh alkaline water—and also to the fascinating stalagmites and stalactiles hiding inside ferocious cavern over foothills.
Blueprinted by time, Daraitan's geographical position help to build its popularity because of her peculiar beauty showing a bouyant combination between mountain, river and cave. If you are a person dreaming an escape from the bustling traffic of the metro, a thirsty soul seeking an oasis of relaxation, well Daraitan is not as far as "universe" to make you say "no". As a testament, it is just an hour drive from the municipality of Tanay Rizal.
THE ROUGH ROAD
Unbeknownst to many, beyond urbanization, there are still undeveloped road in Tanay—rough and rocky—leading towards Barangay Daraitan. To expect an ardous ride, may not come as the first hour of the trip lay out nothing but a smooth and concrete driveway. Showcasing a 28 kilometer distance from Tanay Market, the journey will become devastating once reaching Sandal road. Its an uphill nightmare going up Daraitan. Floored by enormous number of rocks, the narrow road is a major knot as it seems to convulse any vehicles coming her way. Protecting our head also became our priority as we went over cliff, drove on downward slopes, and stumbled accross uneven slants. And after what seemed an everlasting ride, we arrived at Daraitan. Beholding the stunning glam of the mountain is a quick relief. The aromatic scent of rainforest is wafting to the air, filling my lungs with the most pristine air imaginable. The journey going up is agony but nevertheless a sweet and worth-sharing experience, because after all, you'll get to find a paradise!"
STAY AT KUTA BUNGLIW
Named after "Bungliw", an endemic specie of tree populating an area where the camp is situated, the camp has started to sail over multiple travel blogs primarily because of its stunning and perfect position. It is home to hundreds of brave souls who once aimed to traverse the beauty of this rocky paradise of Sierra Madre. Owned by Ms. Jacq Laruan—a former member of Philippine Army—the camp was a result from her perpetual affair to promote the enchanting beauty of the mountain that once attracted her and eventually cathes her heart in every glorious second of the day. Garnering knowledge about environmental awareness, Kuta Bungliw also has a big heart to brace forest preservation thru their initiative to perform ethical waste managagement.
Camp Bungliw houses a number of rooms showing indigenous tradition as it feature authentically polished nipa huts. We were given a tree house to stay for the whole night. Upon entry, I immediately survey the premises to behold a reinvigorating balance between native architecture and bouyant freshness from the materials being used. Fabricated with wooden slats, the house is banded together by tree strings, giving a strong grip to the roof. Walls are made of ubiquitous type of timber and the floor is finely composed of resilient series of wooden rods. Lying over this rustic piece of heaven is truly an oasis for all the weary souls seeking an escape from city life. It brings back time as this kind of house embodies the character of the provincial landscape and reflects the Filipino identity as well as the heart and soul of Filipino country life.
A destination for weary souls, Kuta Bungliw also offers bewitching view as it lies passionately over the rocky edge of the mountain. As a testament, a view deck is erected to give any guest a chance to dive deeper into relaxation by simply beholding an eagle-eyed view of Barangay Daraitan. Set amidst tropical landscape, anyone may also notice an enchanting drama of the river. Tinipak river is awarded as the most pristine river of region IV. And along with her ardous flow, the view from the deck becomes so magical each time you will rest your eyes into the unwinding kaleidoscope of the town.
|The forest does not care for seconds or minutes, even hours are inconsequential. The smallest measure of time here is the cycle of daylight and darkness. Photo credit: A hammock facing the ravishing forest painted by sunny hue.
Kuta Bungliw truly resembles a piece of heaven. Hiking is not a requirement for you to witness breath-taking forestland of Sierra Madre. It is a camp where time stops. The rock does not care for minutes or hours, it doesn't care for days and hardly for years!
Prior to mountain hike, we decided to explore Tinipak Cave first. Derived from the term "Tinipak" which means " smashed" in reference to the stunning rock formations, the cave with its beautiful landscape has splendid naturally sculptured marble formations making you feel like it has been intentionally carved by machine.
From the Barangay hall, it takes forty five minutes to traverse numerous rocks before reaching the mouth of the cave—a large fracture in the otherwise solid rock—served as entrance to the cavern. The narrow opening measures about ten feet deep. And while standing in front of the small threshold, the cool, musty air from inside the chamber leaks out and pricks our skin. Going down is pretty challenging too as you need to plant your foot on the right position while battling the law of gravity to avoid dragging your skin along ragged walls. With appopriate body angle, your foot will surely meet the floor safely.
The distinct change in atmosphere is immediately apparent once inside the spacious environment. The cave’s cold, damp climate is an abrupt contradiction to the warm, dry air outside. The cave is floored with beautiful limestone and shined by fresh water flowing from the natural spring pool. And take note, despite of the cool water temperature, we still managed to soak!
Filled with ice-cold alkaline water, the natural pool lying inside the cave is calling our weary legs to come and soak our stress away.
Dubbed as the cleanest, free-flowing river of the country, Tinipak river resembles an enchanting drama where you can run wild imaginations toward possible cause why tremendous rocks happened to scatter over the river bed. Some myth-related opinions relate this scenario to the legend of "Bernardo Carpio", a Filipino mythical character who said to be trapped within the mountain ranges of Sierra Madre.
In 1992, the locals known as "Dumagats" won the goverment's decision to stop mining activity within the area. Since then, Tinipak river seems to sprout on cosmic number of travel blogs primarily because of her crystal clear water, flowing ardently with pride and sophistication. The river is best explored thru soaking and in some area, you may also get interested to cliff diving. Its warm water offers tranquility and peace. As the sunray fall as a blanket of white upon the greenery, one may survey the magical place while beholding eyes to the orange sky over the luscious trees.
The sun rise as a blanket of yellowish ink upon the greenery. In their glow the nascent leaves of spring lie papery and delicate, drinking in the energy the trees crave. Indeed, there is no more magical than beholding an enchanting morning of a rainforest mountain. All were set and ready to go.
We have decided to ascend towards summit around four in the morning. The air is rich with the fragrance of leaves and loam, my lungs savours the minty air and the birds started to sing their most dramatic voice imaginable. The first portion of the trek offers an easy trail. We were so sensitive upon our surroundings as it still dark and sometimes exuberated by varied sounds of bird. About our feet are only the browned remnants of branches and needles that have fallen in the recent high winds.
Soon after an easy trail, we came accross a merciless path floored by sharp and slippery rocks. As per the tour guide, its better to experience a rainless hike as rain highly compromises the asperity of the trail. He also closed out the mountain as destination for brave souls and not for the fainted heart. This makes quite a contradicting thought from what people usually hear about Daraitan. Dubbed as "Mountain for Beginners", I personally expected an easy path, but what my footprint showed is a different story. It almost lost its way along the muddy trails. Stained by romatic sap, my knees were unforgiving. The sunrays started to peep over the hills, our legs were totally exhausted but our hope and perseverance to get on top seemed to be endless.
Finally, around seven in the morning, we arrived at the highest point of Daraitan. Boasting an elevation of 2,358 ft, the summit offers enchanting paradise where cloud gently kisses the ground. With majestic mountain, lush forest and relaxing river, Daraitan can feel like a seperate world from the metro. As a matter of fact, for some vantage point, Mount Daraitan can feel like a seperate world from Earth!
Indeed, the trek is treasurable. Its a mountain filled with challenges, excitement and fear-dominating attributes. Its a frolic dream where anyone can abandon the congested streets of the city, dive deeper into relaxation and exercise unlimitted independence!
So where do you plan to escape the obtrusive kaleidoscope of the city?
1. From Shaw Boulevard, take a van bound for Tanay and alight at the drop off point. Fare at 70Php.
2. From Tanay, you can either ride a jeep or a tricycle going up Daraitan. Its more convenient to ride a tricycle especially if your in a group. Fare at 500Php per tricycle (Good for 5 persons already).
1. From Edsa Crossing, drive towards Teresa—
Manila East Road—Morong—Tanay.
2. Turn left upon reaching Tanay-Sampaloc Road. Your landmark is Jollibee.
3. When you reach Sampaloc intersection, turn right to Marcos Highway.
4. After around 5 km, turn left to the Sandal road with a huge yellow sign "To Mt. daraitan".
5. At the end of the road, you will see a wooden bridge traversing the Agos river. Pay the toll and proceed. (20-50Php per vehicle)
6. Follow the road until reaching the end, then turn left bound for barangay Barrio.
7. Upon arrival, you will find many pay parking areas. Choose the one nearest to the covered court as you may find the distance pretty challenging.
Address: Atburan, Pagsangahan, General Nakar, Quezon and Daraitan Tanay Rizal
Facebook page: Kuta Bungliw
08:00 AM — Assembly at Starmall Shaw Boulevard
08:30 AM — ETD, Take van bound for Tanay
(travel time will take around 2-3 hours, depends on the traffic)
11:30 AM — ETA at Tanay Public Market
11:30 AM — ETD, Tricycle ride bound for Barangay Daraitan (travel time is 1 hour, a tricycle can be rented for 500 Php)
12:30 PM — ETA at Barangay Daraitan / Registration
(we have already contacted Kuta Bungliw prior to travel date. For our convenience, they already managed to register our names to brace hassle-free experience)
12:30 PM — Meeting our Tour guide provided by Kuta Bungliw / ETD to Tinipak cave (traverse rocky trail leading to Tinipak Cave)
01:00 PM — Stop over at Canteen to refuel
01:30 PM — ETA at Tinipak Cave / Explore and soak in the natural pool exuberated by frrsh alkaline water.
02:00 PM — ETD to Tinipak river (30-minute walk)
02:30 PM — ETA to Tinipak river / Swim and relax
03:30 PM — ETD to Barangay Daraitan / Ride tricycle bound for Barangay hall
03:50 PM — ETA at Barangay hall / Ride tricycle going up Kuta. (you may choose either to ride a tricycle or walk. You may spend around 30-45 minutes of walking but it you ride a tricycle, it will abbreviate the journey as you only needed to walk for 15 minutes. Your tour guide will assist you and accompany you until you get to the camp safely)
04:10 PM — ETA at Kuta Bungliw Eco Lodge and Campsite / Check in
05:00 PM — Dinner (served freshly right to your room) / Chat and relax with friends
07:00 PM — Lights out
03:30 AM — Wake up time / Breakfast
04:00 AM — Ascend to mountain (Just for the sakes of beholding sea of clouds, Tour guide suggested this time slot. Flashlights are required as the trail is still covered with darkness. The hike is expected to be around 3-4 hours depending on your speed)
07:00 AM — ETA at summit / Pictorial (we managed to ascend to summit for 3 hours only)
07:30 AM — Breakfast at summit (bringing food is okay as long as you understand your role on how to preserve the environment)
08:00 AM — Descent to camp
10:00 AM — ETA at camp (going down is pretty easier and more speedy than ascending)
11:00 AM — Lunch time
12:00 PM — Check out / Ride tricycle going down barangay (the camp has a list of driver contacts so as you left, you will find a vehicle waiting for you, ready to give you convenience)
12:20 PM — ETA at Barangay / Ride a tricycle going down Tanay Public Market (travel time takes up 1 hour)
01:20 PM — ETA at Tanay Publuc Market / Ride van bound for Shaw Boulevard (travel time is around 2-3 hours depending on traffic)
03:30 PM — ETA at Shaw Boulevard
SUMMARY OF EXPENSES
FARE (Group of 5)
Van bound for Tanay: 70 Php per head
Tricycle going up Daraitan: 100 Php per head
Tricycle from Tinipak going back Daraitan: 20 Php per head
Tricycle going up Kuta: 20 Php per head
(Single journey at 210 Php per head)
Total fare: 420 Php (Back and forth)
Entrance Fee: 200 Php per head (Overnight)
Bahay Puno room at Kuta: (950 Php per room, Overnight good for 6) 190 Php per head
Total fee: 390 Php per pax
TOUR FEE (Group of 5)
Day 1 Tinipak River and Cave: 300 Php per head
Day 2 Mt. Daraitan: 300 Php per head
Total fee: 600 Php per head
FOOD (Group of 5)
Note: Adjustable depending on your prefered food
Grocery (Optional): 150 Php contribution (Food at the camp)
Carinderia meal at Tinipak: 50-70 Php per meal
Total estimated price: 220 Php
OVERALL TOTAL: 1630 Php per pax (Group of five persons)
Note: Fees are more likely to decrease when your group have more than five people.
THINGS TO BRING:
1. Packed food (Ready to eat)
2. Extra Clothes
5. Insect repellent lotion
6. Garbage bag
8. Power Bank
9. Extra money
10. First aid kit
Thank you friends!