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Travel Round-Up: 12 Travel Highlights for 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012Ryan Mach

12 for '12

If my massive desire for travel were a symptom for some serious addiction, then 2012 would have been the year when I have become a complete junkie. Travel junkie, that is. The burning passion to be always on the road, the insatiable craving to go someplace, the irrepressible yearning to take off - they've gone very persistent this year. I had no choice but to cave in. This travel addiction isn't a sickness but at some point, it felt like one. The only cure was to simply travel; there was no other way around it.

But where has this wanderlust taken me? Were those travels worth every penny, time and effort? Did they make me a better person?

In a literal sense, this wanderlust has led me see and experience several destinations, some of which I've already been to before. Eye-opening experiences and life-changing realizations make every centavo, time and energy well-spent (I had no problem with time and energy, it's the money part that was a huge bump). I can't say for sure that these travels have made me a better person but they have let me see things with clarity and view life in a different perspective.

2012 was a year with so many firsts. It was my first time to travel solo, first time to climb a mountain and first time to go back to the same destination within the same year. It's also the year when I met friends who share the same passion as mine (traveling, what else?) both in the real and virtual world. Last year I made a list of my travel experiences, and in keeping with the tradition, I created this travel-round up, which is basically another list of travels I have embarked on for the past 12 months.

Beer for one (Hayahay Restaurant)

I celebrated my birthday in a quaint and bustling city of Dumaguete in Negros Occidental. Alone. It's my first time to travel solo and also my first time to celebrate my birthday without any friends or relatives. I was in a company of complete strangers - both humans and animals - for a change. I went snorkeling and had a wonderful time with the underwater creatures in Apo Island. Celebrating my birthday away from home didn't only exempt me from the requisite birthday treat, it also made my special day meaningful and memorable.

Feeling like a king of the world

My fascination with mountains officially started with my Pico de Loro climb. Prior to this climb, I was what you can call a mountain virgin. The devirginization was both sweet and harsh but altogether unforgettable. The muscle sore, the fatigue, the blisters - they're nothing when compared to the feeling I experienced on top of the mountain. Took my breath away, quite literally.

Simply beautiful

A thing of beauty is a joy forever, said a famous poet. Mt. Pinatubo with its lovely turquoise lake is indeed a thing of sheer beauty but it's a kind of beauty that is both exquisite and deadly. It's very Tolkienesque too - a scenic barren vastness and panoramic gullies that extend beyond the horizon where mountains meet the sky. Just like in every Tolkien story, there is also impending doom in Mt. Pinatubo. On the day we trekked to the crater, a section of the wall surrounding the lake sort of erupted, creating a thundering sound and sending massive dust and smoke up in the air. Quite a scary experience and a reminder that Mt. Pinatubo despite its beauty and grandeur remains to be a sinister and deadly place.

Matukad Island, not very postcard-worthy on rainy days

For a huge Survivor fan like me, seeing the production site of the American reality TV show was a dream come true. Despite the balmy and stormy weather, we had a swell time in Caramoan mainly because I got to see Jeff Probst in the flesh. Apart from the once-in-a-lifetime encounter, what made the trip memorable was the enduring 19 hour travel time from Manila to Guijalo Port in Caramoan, aboard a defective bus and cramped boat.

Unspoiled beach in Nausa, one of the few barrios in San Jose

For the longest time, I have been meaning to go to Carabao Island, a buffalo shaped island located south of Tablas Island. It wasn't until April of this year when I finally got a chance to see why it's being touted as the next Boracay. Powdery white-sand beaches dot its shorelines and its close proximity to Boracay makes it a good alternative for those who like to enjoy the beach sans the rowdy crowd and crazy beach parties. Carabao Island is charming and peaceful.

Beautiful karsk formation

I didn't have many expectations on our trip to Puerto Princesa. I just wished that I'd have great time, that's all. The unique character and beauty of this sprawling metropolis inside a forest slowly unveiled itself as we hopped from one tourist attraction to the next, each offered an aesthetic experience that's good for the eyes and soul. Two of these experiences (Iwahig Firefly and Underground River tour) were transcendental, at least for me.

The majestic Mayon Volcano

My solo trip in Dumaguete played a huge part in bolstering my self-confidence to travel alone. Six months after that liberating experience, I challenged myself again to do another solo travel. This time at a destination much closer to Manila: Legazpi City in Albay. But there was a big damper - storm was brewing in the south which reduced my trip to holing up inside my hotel room. A supposed one-day stay in Legazpi was extended because of the flight cancellation caused by a weather disturbance.

It's official - 2012 is a year of solo travel. A month after my disappointing Legazpi trip, I embarked on another solo trip. The weather this time was more friendly, despite the monsoon rain. Boracay isn't a good place to travel alone, it's meant to be experienced with friends or families. A one-day stay on an island known for its white sand beaches and insane parties was enough to have a good glimpse of the island life.

Camping under the rain

Climbing a mountain on a rainy day is like flirting with disaster. So many things could go wrong. There was a typhoon when we trekked Tarak Ridge, known for this beautiful and panoramic ridge. I wasn't dressed for the occasion - I had no raincoat, my backpack wasn't waterproofed and I was recovering from sore throat. But I just couldn't back out for some reason. A challenging climb it was and that I kind of swore I'd never do again. On the contrary, I'm not saying no to another climb.

Our insatiable hunger for adventure led us to the Camaling-Bulsa Rivers in San Jose, Tarlac where we kayaked our way down crazy rapids aboard a rubber boat that tossed and upturned by currents. Equally worthy of note was the breathtaking view of meandering rivers and undulating plains of Tarlac. The adventure continued long after the end of the kayak tour, when we lost our way in a dark, vast field.

Basti of Wolfgang

My La Union trip was probably the most emotional of the bunch. It was supposed to be fun, because we're on a beach and there's a Surf and Music festival happening. Emotions ran high after a few sets and I ended walking away from all the fun.

Lahos Island

On the last day of our stay in Caramoan, I posted a status on Facebook that summarized my Caramoan experience: Caramoan was indeed sweeter the second time around. Lovely weather, awesome islands, great food and fun company. Will definitely go back again anytime soon. Yes, this wonderful peninsula deserved a third try.

Here's a cheesy video-cum-picture-slide of my travels for 2012.

This is my blog entry to this month's carnival - 2012: This Year in Travel, hosted by Pinay Travel Junkie and Between Coordinates.

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