Apayao: Cave Mystical

Had we been warned that a big unidentified emerald snake lives in this enchanting underground river trail by the cave, we probably had already given up on the journey before we even started. Instead, wrongly armed with slippery shoes and a camera barely protected by a dry bag, we witnessed the majesty of cool, raging water seemingly rejuvenating our senses but making our every traverse among slippery boulders cumbersome.

We had to take the balsa, a makeshift raft designed precisely to enter the cave’s challenging rapids and semi-darkness. At some points where the cave’s ceiling is really low and the tide is high, we had to get off the raft while the strongest swimmers in our team dive into the mad rapids, impossibly taking the raft with them by sheer strength and agility to our next stop. Meanwhile we climb slippery rock boulders and by the next stop I gave up my shoes for a much firmer grip–and it was the best barefoot sensation being one with the cave.

Inside, the cave is pure mystic. Floating orbs of fleeting light prepare our untrained eyes for the endless array of stalactites and stalagmites ahead—their shapes at times intimidating, grotesque, whimsical and altogether beautifully musical. Our journey, we were told, has merely begun, yet the theater before me is more than enough to keep my eyes and mind wandering.

Not to mention the many times I had to watch my every step or it’s the cold, raging rapids for me!

Towards the other end of the cave, the gentle rays of the peeking sun greeted us into a wonderful show of emerald stones and lush greenery awaiting our next destination: onto the great waterfalls, the source of the cave’s rapids. Until I realized that a mammoth of a boulder as dangerously slippery as the ones inside the cave stood between us and the waterfalls whose either invitation or warning we could hear from beyond that huge rock.

Tried as I did, my hand and feet did not hold as much dexterity as our local guides who seemed to have made the entire trail their everyday playground. Not today. And so I soaked in the greenness and the majesty of the rapids instead and having been told midway back in the cave about how a seemingly enchanted green snake lives here and was never caught, it sure suddenly felt like being in the belly of the beast, only that she is all beauty and perhaps that’s her enchantment.

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