DISCLAIMER: Forgive me for the low quality photos! It was incredibly difficult to get any good photos inside the cave because of the low lighting (it is literally pitch black inside, the only illumination we got was from the headlights) and the fact that we only brought one phone (we were scared to bring any cameras inside because we couldn’t be sure that it would get out still in one piece)
Here is a story: during the days of the construction of a road in the local province of Benguet, Philippines, some of the workers mysteriously went missing. Upon investigation, the locals claimed that these workers had been taken by the “big people” and bought to the caves under the mountain. The large caves were left largely unexplored, and in 1990, an earthquake cracked the mountain and covering the entrance. Today, a small crevice can be found at the side of a mountain which serves as the entrance. Inside is a cave that serves as a destination for adventurers, spelunkers, and brave tourists. They call it the Aran Cave, meaning “giant”.
My high school friend wanted us to have a year starter celebration. And he wanted us to have an adventure. I almost refused: my sister had told her about her experience in Aran Cave, and how it was largely possible to be put into very dangerous situations once inside. But after promising myself I would go on more travels this year, I couldn’t say no. So one cool January morning, we packed our bags and headed for Aran Cave.
NOTE: Aran Cave is 30-45 minutes away from Baguio City center. If you don’t have a car, there are jeepneys that run up to 5PM, and they only cost PHP 35.00 per person!
The first thing we saw upon getting out of the jeepney was a small open shack with a registration table and Crocs hanging by the side. This is where you can pay for a guide and headlights, and also leave your things. This cost PHP 165.00 each. You also have the option to rent the shoes for PHP 35.00 each.
After changing into the proper attire (I recommend leggings, rash guard, and CROCS. You’ll be doing a lot of crawling and holding onto sharp rocks, and these clothes are best to protect yourself from random cuts. They’re also perfect for swimming—another activity you’ll be doing later on) and securing all your things with the admin at the registration table, the guide will lead you to the mountains opposite the ones you are in, and you’ll be crossing the river through the hanging bridge.
You’ll then be walking through an uphill pathway of huge rocks, until you get to the small crevice that serves as an entrance. Before we went in, the guide told us a few things:
- Aran cave was not a recreational cave, it was a more technical one, and the experience, especially for beginners was not going to be easy
- Being stupid (which in this case meant careless) was not allowed
- Follow the guide a.k.a.: if he walks, you walk. If he crawls through mud, you crawl through mud. If he wades across water, you wade across water.
- Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and something else (I’m pretty sure the complete quote can be found in google)
Here, I was forced to swallow the last traces of my fears. I was with a group of really outdoorsy friends, but I was not willing to be the person everyone has to slow down for. So we buckled on our headlights and started the journey.
The guide wasn’t lying. The entire trip was an experience. To get into the cave, we had to get down on all fours, and squeeze ourselves through the small hole. And that was the easy part. After a few moments of relative peace where we just had to walk through chambers, we then had to rappel down a sharp edge, wade through freezing chest-high water then squeeze into and climb down tiny holes with only the guide’s hands as a step. Then, after following a steady stream of water which eventually led to a creek, we arrived at a place which made me genuinely worry about my life.
We had to rappel sideways using only a rope (no helmets or any other safety equipment) through a wall while a roaring and God-knows-how-deep creek rushed underneath us. I’m pretty sure I was shaking through the whole experience, but the experience after it was worth it. After some more hiking, he reached two pools, the latter one with a small waterfall in it. And although the water was freezing, my friends and I couldn’t help but swim.
It is after the second pool that the guide led us back to the entrance, this time using a route that made us crawl through mud, slide our butts down rock, and lay ourselves flat (as in, like a worm) on the ground and push ourselves through a very small slit between two rocks. By the time we again saw the light of day breaking itself through the holes in the cave wall, we had already spent around 2 ½ hours inside the cave.
We were naturally exhausted when we got out, but all of us agreed that the experience was one we were willing to repeat again, and again, and again (it turned out to be true, because two hours later we ended up rock climbing to find a waterfall…but that’s another story).
Have you ever gone spelunking? Do tell me about your stories, too!