Tarlac White Water Kayaking

Now Showing: WhiteWater Kayaking in Tarlac

Tuesday, September 04, 2012Ryan Mach

Date of Production: September 2, 2012
Running Time: Approximately 3 hours
Genre: Thriller/Action, a little bit of comedy
Budget: P2,000.00 (kayak tour, lunch, van rental)
Synopsis: 14 young people who have an insatiable hunger for thrill and adventure went on a whitewater kayaking escapade in the scenic rivers of San Jose in Tarlac.
Idyllic town of San Jose
Location: San Jose, Tarlac
San Jose is considered as a fourth class municipality in the province of Tarlac in Central Luzon. It has a population of approximately thirty-two thousand with an economy that is dominantly agricultural. To get there from Manila, take a bus bound for Tarlac City then from the Central Terminal, hop on a jeepney to Barangay Villa Aglipay. The jump-off point of the whitewater kayaking is at Maamot, an idyllic barrio nestled up the mountain about a 30-minute ride from the town proper.

It's much easier to get there by renting a van.
Characters: Colleagues from IBM and friends from IngramMicro and HP showed up in high spirits at Mcdo, QAve, a proverbial meeting place among travelers. Probably skipping booze the night prior, everyone looked rather well rested and ready for some serious paddling. After some quick breakfast and requisite introductions, the group drove (via a rented van) North beneath grey skies that hinted rain.
Backstory: Kate received an invite from a former officemate to try Kayaking in Tarlac and after getting the details (fees, date of availability, inclusion) from Rapid Streams, the company that organizes the kayaking trip, she shared it with us. We've been looking for another rafting after our unforgettable experience in Cagayan de Oro River last year. There's whitewater rafting in Kalinga, we heard, but its accessibility has always been a hindrance. We're stoked to have found out that we didn't have to go all the way in Cagayan de Oro or Kalinga just to ride the rapids.
Director: Christian Yap, the owner of Rapid Streams, is a young businessman and sports enthusiast. He manages the tour himself and executes the demo and briefing prior to the actual kayaking. He's a little soft-spoken but extremely approachable. His crew is composed of robust, local men whose six-pack abs can grab the attention of both the ladies and the boys.
You'll be forgiven if you mistake Christian as one of the guides. As a matter of fact, he is but he's also the boss. As you interact with him, you'll begin to notice his conotic accent and lanky build - a stark contrast from his boys. Christian said they've been providing kayak tours for over two years, a fairly new business compared to Cagayan de Oro River's famous whitewater rafting.
"The river's pretty much dull during summer and the water level's not ideal for kayaking which is why we temporary close operations from March to May," he explained to Jhyng, a colleague who's obviously smitten with Christian's boyish charm.

Briefing and orientation are done at the 'office' of Rapid Stream, strategically situated somewhere alongside the river where the action happens. (Sorry, folks, I don't remember the name of the barrio but you won't have hard time finding it, believe me). The office is not brick and mortar, but a wall-less thatched hut carpeted with gravels and smooth stones. An elevated platform made of bamboo occupies the half part and serves as a stage in which Christian does the demo. In the distance, you get a glimpse of the river.
Christian introduced to us his crew and after making sure that we have all changed to a more comfortable outfit, he suggested that we start donning our kayak gears - helmet and life vest. He then proceeded to the briefing and talked about the do's and dont's when kayaking.
It was around past 10 when we left their office and headed to Brgy. Maamot where the kayaking tour commences. Along the way, we saw the breathtaking view of the meandering river and undulating plains of Tarlac. Maamot, needless to say, has scenic landscapes and panoramic vistas. Dark clouds were looming in the horizon when we reached the jump-off point.
Blue rubber boats lined the side of the river. We excitedly hopped on them and one by one, we paddled our way down the river.
It's a three-hour paddling and riding the rapids, so muscle sore is to be expected at the end of the tour. Although its level of difficulty is just average (Class 1-2), a few rapids are pretty nasty they can upturn a rubber boat and send some poor rider down the current. Our friend, Jem, was among the 'casualty.' If anything, it made her a star. Her fall provided a much needed drama.
Christian doesn't know the total number of rapids but our guess is it's around 10. The Camaling-Bulsa Rivers is just Class 1 which is considerably tame with fair waves and little to no death-defying obstacles however there are some parts that are considered Class 2 with rough waters and dangerous rocks providing some challenges and excitement.
It's an ideal venue for beginners. If you want more challenging rapids, simply ask Rapid Stream and they can book the right whitewater kayaking option for you.
Our kayaking adventure came to a satisfying conclusion at around 2 in the afternoon. No one had an injury and everyone was dead tired and utterly famished. The journey ended right in front of the 'office,' where a spread of mouth-watering native food - native chicken tinola, organic veggies and grilled bangus - was on display. After a hearty late lunch, some boys took a nap at the mini-stage, others took a shower at the roofless shower rooms, and the rest decided to start on the booze they've especially set for the trip back to Manila.
Critical Reception:
Whitewater kayaking is a relatively new sport in Tarlac. Rapid Stream is the only company that organizes a kayak tour and they have just started two years ago. For people who have tried the whitewater rafting in Cagayan de Oro River, it's quite easy to notice the differences of the guides in terms of communication skills. Guides in CDO have a few tricks up their sleeves and they know how to entertain their guests. They throw in bits of trivia and funny anecdotes which make the trip more fun. You can't expect the same with the guides in Tarlac. They're quiet most of the time but they'll answer all your questions with honesty and they're well-trained as kayak guides.
One of the guides
What the rivers offer, apart from the rapids, are the stunning landscapes of verdant mountains. My kayak partner, Cha, had commented in numerous occasions that they look like New Zealand. I didn't give any response because I've never been to New Zealand and I didn't think the mountains in Tarlac bear a resemblance to those in New Zealand. They reminded me of the picturesque scenery in Mt. Pinatubo sans the barren fields and plains (the photo below doesn't show this either).
View of the river from Monasterio de Tarlac
I'm not sure if Rapid Stream is promoting eco-tour but I have observed that they don't seem to observe proper waste disposal. During our fun break, in which we stopped at a certain rapid with strong river current to water-surf and have a quick snack, I noticed a few litter on the rocks (Skyflakes wrappers). I could not say whether it came from our group or from the crew, but no guide picked it up or at least reminded us to dispose of our own trash properly.

Our guide told us that a dam is going to be built in the river. The president has already signed the project. "Once it's built, kayaking is no longer possible here, will that be the case, Manong?" we asked, suddenly sad about the possibility. "Hindi naman," the guide told us. "However the water level in the river will be affected. And we're afraid that our town will have flash floods come rainy season. There's never flood in San Jose," he added.
But all that may change once a dam is built in the river. For the mean time, tourists can still enjoy the rapids of Camaling-Bulsa Rivers and the panoramic views of Tarlac mountains.

How to Get There: Driving Directions to Rapid Stream

Whitewater Kayaking is operated by Rapid Stream. For booking and inquiries, you can reach them at 09175843278 or rapidstreamecotours@gmail.com

You Might Also Like


Contact Form - Powered by Blogger