Spectacular Sagada: livin’ in a spelunker’s paradise

My caving cohorts - Jenny and Sarab from... you'll never guess. New Zealand! I can't escape the Kiwi vortex!

Given the depth of my spelunking experience, I didn’t expect to be impressed with the cave tour in Sagada. I grew up taking the elevator down to walk through the national treasures of Jewel and Wind Caves just across the border in South Dakota. As a teen, I talked a video-store customer out of vague directions to the Tongue River Cave above Sheridan. Then I found a friend (Hi Ross) crazy enough to take it on with me, despite having zero cave navigation skills between the two of us.

From our mis-guided first trip (with only one flashlight between the two of us!) – to my most recent visit (headlamps, food, three extra light sources each, and purposeful, deliberate exploration) — I found another favorite activity! Since then, I’ve been on cave tours around the world — self guided and as part of the flock. I’m not so uppity that I think I’ve seen it all, but I feel like I know a thing or two about caves and caving.

One of the many pools we crossed on our journey.

So hopefully carries some weight when I say the Sagada Cave-to-Cave Connection tour is mind-blowingly AWESOME!!! Never have I ever, in one round of caving, climbed and descended hundreds and hundreds of feet, waded through chest-deep water, saw hanging coffins, skinny-dipped in a clear cave pool, walked barefoot up sixty-degree slopes of supernatural rock, seen bats roosting, and enjoyed incredible flowstone formations with the occasional stalactites. While the water fluctuations in the connection are too great to allow the gorgeous formations found elsewhere, the physical adventure on offer here is unmatched by any place I’ve ever been. So cool.

What else did I do in Sagada? I’m ashamed to admit… not much. I guess I did go to Echo Valley (more hanging coffins — to help your spirit escape to the sky) and took a self-tour under the pines across the valley. And saw the stunning altar at the Episcopal Church — it looks straight out of a museum wildlife display with Jesus done up in various tones of carved wood. And I spent a good hour exploring a trail to nowhere with new friends (Mike from Canada, Sarah from Germany, and Leigh from Israel).

Hanging Coffins in Echo Valley - a local tradition available only to top tribesmen who can afford to sacrifice several animals for the privilege of getting your soul closer to heaven.

But my personal goal for this (and I suppose next) year is to figure out how to lead a more balanced life (practicing when it doesn’t count so I’ll have the pathway cemented when it does). Stress doesn’t do anyone any good. The down side of acknowledging my need for rest and do-nothing days is that my list of accomplished tourism grows very slowly. Then again, I’m rarely stressed. In fact, contentment pervades my day. Even if I spend half of it on Facebook. So I’ll admit it — I spent the better part of my waking hours one day doing laundry, wandering around a bit, talking to Pat on the internet (more on this later), and generally vegging out in my enormous room at Igorot Inn. And then I went to the Yogurt House for dinner, even though it’s the least authentic experience possible. But the food was heavenly, and worth every penny. What the heck. If I’m going to pamper myself, might as well leave no stone unturned!

Okay, but really the message here is: Go to Sagada!!!♣

Need more convincing?   Check out these photos on facebook.

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