Climbing the towering limestone cliffs, called taraw by the locals, of El Nido town was something we viewed as an activity we did when we were bored. And at that time, we we’re bored a lot. Yes, we climbed often enough that the 45-minute climb, considered as half-truth by tourists who climb the taraw for the magnificent view of El Nido town and Bacuit Bay, was sometimes only 30 minutes to us, depending on who was climbing with us.
H was over for a visit and we we’re all off for semestral break. H, having come over from Manila through Puerto Princesa and endured the grueling 10-hour trip by non-aircon bus on half-paved dirt roads, couldn’t possibly leave El Nido without going up the cliffs. So we did.
The best time to go up the cliffs is early in the morning, the earlier the better. Any later and the sun would be scorching hot. It’s hard to appreciate the view when you are exposed under the harsh sun with no shade whatsoever at the top. Not being actual morning persons, we started the ascent at 9am and was at the top before ten. We stopped often to take photos.
Just a warning, this climb is not your usual climb. When my brother was in El Nido for a visit in 2003, he declined to go up the cliffs because he did not want his expensive Nikes to be damaged.
I found some really good accounts of their own climb up the cliffs and let me quote some of them:
From TheKillerFillersdotcom: “Mountaineering experience won’t prepare you for climbing Taraw. It was serious rock climbing from the first assault. And when I say serious, I meant serious like 80-degree-5-storey-high-limestone-piercing-death-drop serious. I wrote many climb stories and talk about death cliffs all the time and I want to take that back for if death cliffs have a picture in the dictionary, the cliffs in Taraw should be it. There were times you will need to pull yourself up with the strength of your arms just to get to the next stepping stone and I am not the leanest person you’ve seen, so go figure.”
From IronWulfdotnet: “I thought this was gonna be easy. Like walking on regular mountain trails and winding roads… My mountain climbing experience didn’t prepare me for this. We were traversing the sharp and jagged limestone trails and pulling ourselves up along almost vertical walls… A few more climbs to the peak, the trail became more challenging and dangerous that one step could send me plummeting down to the sharp rocks.”
Our group was considerably experienced so none of us were very scared. We always made fun of people climbing up the cliffs every time we reach this spot (refer to photo above). We’d tell them there is something that can be seen if one puts his head through that hole. Then we’d laugh our asses off at the ridiculousness of having someone’s head into that hole, facing the wrong direction, surrounded by sharp steep rocks and afraid for dear life. I have yet to meet someone who did not fall into this one. A good laugh is needed during this rigorous climb. Though seriously, something can actually be seen through this hole – the beautiful view of the bay.
I remember this trip quite well. They were making fun of me because I had a fan and an umbrella with me, in addition to a bottle of water and a face towel. I was fanning myself during rest stops and I had the umbrella for a shade at the very top. I can be very ridiculous like that. (Click on the thumbnails to view full size.)
Truly, there is nowhere else in El Nido one can have a view as breathtaking as this. Not even atop the hill at Rose’s house, not even at the Pangulasian Island view deck, not even atop that beautiful house where one can do yoga in Corong-Corong. If the two hundred-or-so steps going up Rose’s house in Caalan is worth it, this climb up craggy limestone cliffs that would send you plummeting to your death with one careless step is more than worth it.
When these photos were taken, it was low tide and one can see the exposed beds of the beaches in Caalan (round that first bend on the right) and the rocks round that second bend that leads to Malugaw Beach and if one chooses to continue on, the Lio airport. In these pictures, I can see my favorite spot! Right there on the second bend, with all the rocks and where the waves break! I love that spot! Back then, there was nothing in it except rocks, last time I visited El Nido Resorts had put up little resting huts for tourists who wanted to skirt around town to the airport or just find quiet empty beaches for you-know-what-but-dare-I-suggest-it!
I love this little town. It’s as simple as simple can get, with its 12-hours-a-day electricity supply, its people and all the little places for eating and hanging out with so many choices and you can choose Filipino, French, Swiss, Hungarian, German, or Italian food! It’s as provincial as it can get and yet, not. Oh you little town of El Nido, how I love you so. Sorry that was me just going over myself.
When we reached the peak, we all chose our little spots and were left with our own thoughts. I always loved that part of the climb.
By eleven, we were all at the bottom of the cliffs, having photos taken.
Shortly thereafter, we were having lunch at Pacing’s, our favorite carenderia in town, owned by the family of one of our beloved students at school.
If the climb is worth it and many want to do it, why not put up something to make the climb easier, like a rock climbing facility, complete with harnesses and all that, you might ask. Well, some years back, someone did and failed.
Will I climb the taraw again when I come back? Maybe. If I’m fit enough.
*** All photos on this blog were taken with a Pentax Optio WP camera in November 6, 2005. Except this photo on the left of H and me while we were waiting for lunch at Pacing’s carenderia, which was taken with a Canon Powershot SD 110.