What Went Wrong in Dumaguete: Backpacking 101

Apparently, there are a couple of things you can do in Dumaguete. I had just enough wifi in Coron to read up on a travel blogger who had just been there, so my quick stopover was based on his account, before my plan to proceed to Bohol. So while I had enough wifi to find out the things he did when he was there (go to a restaurant to eat cheesy dory and visit Apo island), unfortunately, I didn’t have enough wifi to find out that, actually, you shouldn’t go to Dumaguete at all. 

Of course, as mentioned previously, I was blessed with the unfortunate by-product of being located 15 kilometres outside of town and without the proximity of non-intimidating places to consume food. Maybe it was an adventure, but I was utterly alone and I was not feeling it.
Nevertheless, I decided to stick to my original plan: After too many boats and islands, I finally wanted to go inland and do a little bit of trekking. My guesthouse was near the Casaroro Falls, a waterfall that is advised to take up a whole day in your itinerary. I decided upon the trek, bought some water and stodgy plain bread rolls from someone’s front room. I walked up the road until it literally ended, coinciding with the location of the waterfall. It took me 15 minutes.
On the way to the Casaroro falls.


But the trek down was nice. You pay 10PHP and descend a 300 step staircase, then proceed to climb over rocks and water to get to the waterfall. Some other people arrived after me with a guide, which has useful for me, as they passed me and I could trace their steps a little bit. There used to be a walkway but it got ruined, I assume by a typhoon, so you have to know how and where to zigzag across the river and rocks. Someone who worked there and who had come down also pointed me in the right direction at one point. I took my time, and the rocks were slippery at times. Normally I would’ve ran past them, but travelling alone in a strange country, I didn’t really want to tempt faith.
The long staircase down to the Casaroro Falls.
The beautiful views of the green vegetation around the waterfall.






I cannot recall having seen a big waterfall before, so I assumed it would be a bit of an anti climax. I enjoyed climbing across the rocks so I didn’t really mind, but my expectations were not very high. Ultimately, it’s just water, you know. But when I got to a turn and suddenly witnessed the intense rush of the water falling down, I actually did gape with my mouth open, for a little while. It’s a powerful sight, a waterfall, and the turquoise water at the bottom was a nice feature.
Catching the first glimpse of the Casaroro Falls.




I stayed for a short while until I got bored, then slowly made my way back up the 300 steep stairs (that certainly don’t comply to anybody’s building regulations). At the entry point, I made my way to the other side of the road where I had noticed a hiking path. Four hours hiking, the guy at the waterfall had said, and I was curious, although also aware that my supplies were running out. I was running low on water and there was nowhere to buy.
Nevertheless, I thought I would at least amuse myself for a couple of hours to get through these coming days, stuck in an area I should have never gone to in the first place. I was adamant to just stick to the bread rolls for the day without going all the way into town, a pretty miserable sight, but better than the alternative of the journey into Dumaguete. So I set out on the trail. It was lovely, actually, it would’ve been very enjoyable if you could have done the entire hike with someone else. It was merely a thin trail carved out of the jungly forest, which at times was a steep incline that had me hold on to trunks of trees, worrying about the inevitability of tracing my steps backwards later on. After about 45 minutes I had run out of water. The trail kept going up and up and even though I was still curious as to where it would lead, the guy was probably right when he said it would take many more hours, and I would just get stuck in a never ending loop of wanting to get to the next turn, the next tree, the next top of the hill. So I turned around, and slid my way down through the leaves, a very Autumn sight if it wasn’t for the lingering heat. I longed for a cooler climate but alas, the Philippines is not the place to be.
Following a hiking path in the Casaroro area.





When I got back to the lodging it was still early afternoon and I was dreading it. What do I do? I couldn’t stick around and decided against my initial idea of staying around the area. I packed my things and decided to head into town, with the heat like an unwanted friend, a lasting source of discomfort. My face sweaty and my day bag stuck to my back. It was getting to be the norm, but it wasn’t comfortable.
Walking down the hill fortunately, although not surprisingly, proved a lot less painful than the hike up the night before. I calculated it would take about an hour to get down to Valencia, then it was a long road into town. The locals living along the street were surprised to see me walk past and I took the time to smile and say hello to everyone. They appeared to genuinely appreciate it. Halfway through, an old man on a motorbike offered to take me to the bottom of the hill and even though I wanted to politely decline, I was too desperate and said yes.
On the way down to Valencia.
In Valencia I opted to stay put, but there wasn’t much there. There was a complete lack of restaurants that didn’t look like somebody’s front room and I was way too intimidated to approach anyone. I knew the jeepney lead into town but had no clue as to how to get on one when it was already going, so I decided to walk. And walk I did. It was like another really bad decision. I couldn’t really see a way out, but I consider the act of walking as the one thing I can definitely always do, so I decided to be brave and see it through. I could take a jeepney on the way back, and then pay extra to get someone to take me up the hill to my guesthouse.
After about an hour walking in the direct sun, a car slowed down beside me. A man and a teenage boy sat in front and he told me to get in the car. I never thought I would’ve said yes to a stranger like that, but the comfortable air-con was too appealing to decline. He was laughing at me, saying he saw me walk around Valencia and was shocked to see me on the road heading to Dumaguete. He asked if I knew how far it was, I said no. Eight kilometres, he said, and I cringed. I was going to walk that. I was dropped off in town and took the opportunity to ask a few random people about the boat to Apo island and to Bohol.
But I had decided upon my mission: my favourite travel blogger mentioned a restaurant and a dish he had had just a week before. In my state, I was desperate for food and some comfort, so I decided to track down the restaurant he had been at. Their Facebook page led me to a street and an indication of the location on a map. It was good enough for me. I traversed the street and kept a keen eye out. I couldn’t see it. I walked back down the long street and still, nothing. Surely it was there? I searched on google Maps, which gave an entirely different location. Perhaps their Facebook page hadn’t been updated and they had moved? I didn’t have much hope but decided to take the gamble. I walked to the new location. Of course, it was at least 45 minutes away and I was led to some back alley. It wasn’t there. I was hot and hungry and hoped for a miracle. But I couldn’t find any other places to eat, just a myriad of aggressive traffic and endless crowds of people. I was the only foreigner. I found a seven eleven and bought a soft ice cream that made me happier than anything ever should. And I made my way back home.
The next day I emerged early to take the boat to Apo island. It wasn’t difficult to get up in time, the sun would rise before six and illuminate the bungalow. The hens would start roaring and a myriad of jungle noise would ensue, including the neighbours’ house music that would blast through the region every morning. I left at seven and walked down the hill where I had discovered from where to take the jeepney. It was perfect. Im Dumaguete I managed to find a bus and with the help of another passenger, found my way to the pier for the boats. It was just after ten. It had taken me three hours to get there, but at least I was close to having a nice day out.
When I approached the pier the man selling tickets and assigning boats told me there were no more boats. My heart sank. I knew the last boats returned from Apo island to the mainland at three in the afternoon, so there wasn’t much time anyways. He said I could wait to see if more people would come, and then they could maybe fill up a new boat. I sat down and waited, imagining sitting there for a few hours and then having to head back, without ever even reaching the island. I had pretty much lost hope when I was suddenly told a few more people had arrived and I could get on a boat to the island. I’d have to return at 2pm, giving me merely a couple of hours on Apo island. I took it. It was better than the alternative, especially after having travelled three hours to get there already.
Arriving on Apo Island.
Stunning views from above.
Apo island is very small and not too far out, so it didn’t take too long to get there. My boat mates were a Filipino guy and a girl. We didn’t know each other but somehow, after arriving, we stuck together. We were adamant to find a white sandy beach, but where we arrived was mostly rocky. We set off to explore the other side of the island, trekking through little alleys in between picturesque homes and climbing several long stairs that left us gasping for air and water. After a dramatically tiring venture to the other side and upon finally reaching it, we were met by even more rocks the first beach featured. Then a local woman told us that Apo island doesn’t have sandy beaches at all. We were laughing at our own silliness. Apo island is for diving and turtle watching. Not for the beaches. We decided to head back to the beach we arrived at, since it had more sand than any other. We journeyed back, and had an hour left of paddling in the cold water before our boat’s captain motioned for us to head back. It was almost 2pm.
Following one of the many staircase trails around Apo Island.
Local houses on Apo Island.




Reaching the other side of Apo Island and finding a rocky beach.
Ultimately, there are lessons to learn here. It’s like a Backpacking 101 class. The moral of the story is: read a guide book. Don’t go to Dumaguete. Just don’t. Just say no.



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Rosanne Luciana

A Dutch-born London-based hiker who has swapped an East Asian backpacking experience for the opportunity to truly immerse herself into nature, by quite simple, walking.

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