Finding The Enchanted River of Hinatuan, Surigao Del Sur
As with most of my trips, this one’s a spur of the moment thing. The significant other was supposed to meet me in Manila but since it’s a long weekend, I convinced her that I should be the one going home to the province instead. The roundtrip fare nearly cost me an arm and a leg, but that’s the consequence for unplanned trips ( I paid P7.5K, ouch!).
There’s no lack of companions when going to any part of the country as long as you shoulder everything (in this trip, I did). But since Hinatuan is a bit closer to home and I knew that there wasn’t bound to be any expensive destinations in that area, I happily treated my elves (two of them) for the entire trip.
To make good time, the elves and I decided to take the earliest bus (which was around 2:30 AM) out of Butuan City to Mangagoy. Since we clearly had no time for sleep, we decided to get drunk instead. It was an inspired decision as it made time fly really fast!
By 2:45 our bus was cruising out of the terminal. Upon advise from one of the passengers, we bought our breakfast in one of the terminal stalls. The goodhearted passenger said that there’s no accomodation around the river so it’s best that we bring along food and water. He also said that we can get off crossing Dugmanon (a barrio right before Hinatuan town) where there are habal-habal’s waiting for passengers going to the enchanted river.
The bus trip to Hinatuan was surprisingly quick and comfortable. There were a few rough roads, but it made of for only around 10% of the trip. We were standing on Dugmanon soil 3 hours after our bus left the station, wondering where the hell all those habal-habals were. Of course it was still before 6 in the morning so we were’nt really expecting any at that hour. We did hope though.
Good thing that we chanced upon some guy who was getting water from a nearby water pump. He said he has a habal-habal and volunteered to take us to the enchanted river and back for P250. The amount may be laughable for some folks but remember, this is the province and the cost of living is way, way low compared to the city. I thought it was a very good deal so I agreed.
A little seque here. What is a habal-habal? Simply put it’s just your ordinary motorbike modified so it can fit an unbelievable number of people and bring them to their destination. Some habal-habals can fit up to six people in one go. There are habal-habals who have wings but that’s another story.
Anyway, our habal-habal turned out to be a modified scooter. Oh lord, I was already rubbing my knees just looking at it. Can you imagine three big-assed men fitting into that thing? Let alone four? But we were in a crazy mood so we got on it, bags, food, water, and all.
The roads were terrible. Not much mud or potholes but rocks protruded everywhere! One slip on one of those rocks and we say goodbye to our knees. Our habal-habal driver also had to negotiate a few uphill climbs on those same roads. One of my companions was sitting in front of the driver so he had to crane his neck sideways just to see the road.
Seeing these habal-habals negotiate such roads is enough to make safety professionals scream bloody murder.
Anyway we arrived at the river in one piece and in less than 30 minutes time. And then I panicked.
…to be continued