Sleepless in Sagada : Lumiang - Sumaguing Cave ConnectionMonday, October 26, 2015
During our Sagada trip, I was thrilled about one specific destination, and surprise, it's not Kiltepan! Given that I was soul searching that time, I was more excited about spelunking at the Cave Connection. It's called as such because the two caves are literally connected. You pave your way in through Lumiang Cave (also known as the Small Cave), and you eventually find yourself out at Sumaguing Cave (also known as the Big Cave).
Trained and authorized guides are required in order for one, a couple, or a group to be able to navigate through Lumiang and Sumaguing caves. Interested in spelunking in Sagada must drop by SAGGAS (Sagada Guides Association) Office first to ensure proper record of the visit and for the association to provide guide/s who knows the ins and outs of this cave connection.
As mentioned in my previous posts, I went on this challenge with my sister and her boyfriend. There were actually 12 people in the group, but only the 3 of us took on the cave connection challenge. The others settled for the Sumaguing Cave entrance instead. We've read some horror stories online about people getting into accidents or going through a series on unfortunate events while inside the cave. Luckily, our guide was very informative. He explained to us the reason why such incidents happen and what we should do to avoid them. Apparently, most of the unfortunate incidents that happened inside the cave were due to stubborn tourists. Insisting that they can take on the challenge despite unfavorable weather, to name one. I forgot the name of our guide but he was very helpful and answered all of our questions to ease our worries before entering the cave.
The locals consider Lumiang Cave as a sacred place. Our guide told us that is served as a burial cave, which is evident in the pine wooden coffins piled on top of each other. The coffins can be seen at the entrance of the cave. The photo on top is the entrance to the cave, and yes, it's dark. The guide was carrying a pressurized paraffin lamp to light the way. During the descent to the cave, we had to drop and push our bodies through small holes. Oddly enough, the descent also included using a rope to yet again push our bodies through holes that seemed impossible when you look at it in the beginning.
Lumiang Cave is known for its incredible rock formations. It's true when they say everything that's good doesn't come easy. We had to navigate through a labyrinth-like maze just to witness the said rock formations. We also had to follow strict instructions from the guide like stepping on just one specific point because the next step will direct you right off a cliff. The descent was not all tedious parts. There were points where we can actually walk straight and enjoy ice-cold, knee-deep waters. According to our guide, during the rainy season, the water can rise up to dangerous levels which is why there's always an advisory if it's safe to go inside the caves. Good thing we went last February, which makes the water just right.
Sumaguing Cave on the other hand is known for its glorious chambers and sensational stalactites and stalagmites! Of course I had to ask the guide what the difference is between a stalactite and a stalagmite. According to our guide, Stalactites are mineral formations that hanf from the ceiling of a cave while Stalagmites grow from the cave floor. We were informed to be careful in touching these mineral formations as the oil from our bodies would prevent the formations from growing for a short while. You might say, but it's just a short while? That's also what I thought but the guide said, they entertain tourists almost everyday and if one tourist would touch the mineral formations everyday, the ripple effect would be massive.
The mineral formations were breath-taking. A small amount of light showcases a dazzling, glitter-like effect which makes it appear as if they're sparkling! The only light source inside the cave would be the guide's lamp which made viewing even more pleasurable since it highlights the shining, shimmering mineral formations.
And I know the guides do this all the time, but our guide was still very enthusiastic in showing us what they're perceived the rock formations to look like. We stumbled upon crocodiles, elephants, a chocolate cake, a mother and child and yes, even sex organs. LOL.
We had to take off our shoes when we reached Sumaguing Cave because the rocks are just downright slippery and according to the guide. the best suction instrument would be our feet. And he was right. Our aqua shoes were useless.
After several small holes, slippery slides and ice-cold water, we re-joined the group at the entrance of Sumaguing cave. Took some photos, played in the water and rappelled our way out. I thought, yay, we're finally done. What an awesome experience. But on our way out, I didn't know we had to climb a plight of stairs to get to our van, hahaha! The plight of stairs proved to be more tedious than the whole cave connection adventure! The guide also gave us certificates for successfully traversing the challenging caves. We were told that it usually takes about 4 hours to fully make your way through, but our record time was about 1hr 40mins! We were trying to compete with a bunch of people ahead of us hence the time, haha! #competitive The cave connection was already included in our trip package which is why we didn't have to pay for anything. But since our guide was fun, patient and kind, we gave him extra money. They are the kind of people we should be helping anyway since tourism isn't much of an income when the rainy season begins.
With that, I want to share a few tips in case you want to do this activity in the future. To begin, don't be scared. I was living a sedentary lifestyle and I don't workout. To say that my body is wasting away is an understatement. But even with that, I still managed to enjoy the hell out of this activity. Just make sure you do a few stretching here and there before you take on this challenge. Here are additional tips;
- Listen to your guide! This is very important as you can sustain injuries if you don't. They know the caves like the back of their hands. And they sure as hell know what they're doing. If they tell you to step on their leg so you can get from Point A to Point B, do it. They're fully capable of handling your weight. They wouldn't instruct you to do so otherwise if they can't.
- Prepare. I've read countless accounts of injuries incurred while inside the cave which is why I made sure that I at least refresh my first aid basics. I'm not saying something bad will happen but it's better to be safe than sorry.
- Dress appropriately. Or dress as you deem appropriate. I wore a rash guard because I know I'll be wading through the water and a rash guard dries up fast. I also wore leggings since they also dry up pretty quickly. I wore two leggings by the way since I know we'll also be sliding through some wet rocks and I've read accounts of other bloggers saying they ripped their bottoms halfway through the caves. For my footwear, I wore my ever dependable aqua shoes. My sister and I also thought of wearing gloves since you have to rappel your way in and out of the cave. It served as protection for our hands since the ropes can be pretty brutal.
- Respect the place. We had to pick up garbage left by other tourists along the way. There were cigarette butts, plastic bags and candy wrappers. I don't know what's up with the tourists who left their garbage there, I mean, if you can bring your snacks with you, can't you take your trash as well??
- Have fun! The labyrinth-like navigation and the small holes may seem tedious at first but I found myself appreciating the wonderful works of nature when I stopped worrying. I trusted our guide to the full extent and I ended up having one of the best experiences of my life.
Will I do this again? Hell, yeah! I'll definitely bring a DSLR next time since I know it won't be much of a hassle anyway. My photos have poor quality because we brought our water-proof digital camera and it struggles in taking photos in low light. Next time, I'll make sure I get to capture magnificent photos so I can share them with you guys!