Trekking the Mananap Falls in San Vicente, Camarines Norte
I've been hearing stories from Soshi's relatives that Mananap Falls is the hidden gem of San Vicente. Tucked in the inner forest between the mountains, it would take 2 hours of trekking difficult trails to see the beauty of the falls. Only a few dared for as it has been a dangerous trail.
This year, the city government has decided to take action by improving the trail going to the falls and they are doing rehabilitation of the forest by initiating a tree planting project. The people in San Vicente are well aware of what happened at Mananap Falls. Tree cutting and harvesting of logs are eminent in the area and the river coursing through the falls have been a means of transporting the logs to town. Good thing the town of San Vicente finally realized that they have something that should be taken care of not only to boost tourism in town, but also as a favor to the environment.
I most certainly urged Soshi to talk to the town folks (Good thing Soshi is fluent in Bicol language) and ask how to go to the falls. Since it was the town fiesta, everyone was busy preparing for the week long activities so it was hard to find someone in their tourism office.
After lunch, We were able to get someone from the barangay hall to tell us how to go there. We were told that the new trail is available for trekking just past the town of Fabrika. We could use the motorcycle to shorten the 2 hour long trek because the road construction is ongoing. We just need to go through path paved by the construction and at the endpoint, it's just 20 mins trek inside the forest to reach the falls. Good thing Soshi is familiar with the way.
Apparently there are two roads leading to Fabrica, and the person we asked along the way gave us vague instruction which led us to the road to nowhere. We were lost and going through mud and dirt without any hint of where we are going. Our bike was a normal scooter bike, so going through those dirt roads was hell.
Our instincts told us to turn back because we were going deep into the unknown forest. We turned back and asked for instruction at the last house we seen before we got lost. We were told that we are on the right track, but it's not a good idea to use the bike because that path was for trekkers, it could only be accessed by foot. Good thing they suggested to take the easier route, which was just past the Fabrica town proper.
Finally, we have a clearer view of the trail that was given to us. The instruction was pretty simple. Go follow the path until we see the big tractor. After reaching the tractor, we leave the bike and trek for 20 minutes in the forest.
But after just a few minutes on the bike, we were greeted by this steep road down, which was a dangerous path for the bike. I'll describe the path: You have to go down the slope which was like 75 degree incline, turn left, cross the small bridge and go uphill at the same 75 degree angle. It would be hard and dangerous to get uphill with the motorbike. We were arguing with whether leave the bike there and just start walking because the bike might overheat and may not make it uphill.
So we decided to leave the bike there and walk, which turned out to be a wise decision later on. We walked through several uphill and downhill dirty and muddy roads. I felt that I just trekked through 2 mountains, with no exaggeration. Soshi kept checking if I can still walk further, as if edging me to turn around and walk back while it's not too late. He had a gut feel that the falls are still far, far ahead, hidden in the mountains. I was determined to see the falls so I was not planning on turning back. After 45 minutes of walking, we finally saw the truck! It was a big relief for us.
We were positive that the falls is just within reach, so we walked further going through another set of uphill and downhill slopes. My legs were actually starting to burn, it felt like it was leg day weight training at the gym. It took another 30 minutes before we reached the forest. The sight of forest got us excited because we know that the falls was near of reach.
We went through the lush forest following the trail the town people made. There were bamboo to hold on through the trek down and even wooden stairs to make it easier. It was true, it will take 20-30 minute trek into the forest and you'll finally see the beauty of the falls. Mission Accomplished!
The Mananap Falls is approximately 20-25 ft tall, tucked inside the thick forest and mountains. The water was ice cold and we had the whole area to ourselves! There is a small raft tied which will lead you near the falls and a ladder to get to the top of the falls. There's a jumping point as well.
Since we are the only people there, we did not dare try the jumping point and going at the top of the falls for safety reasons. If something happened to one of us, there's no one to ask for help and the trek back to ask for help is not a pleasant option. We just carefully dipped into the water, mindful of the rocks and not attempting to go near the raging current of the falls.
We just stayed for a few minutes and went back. We decided to head back early to avoid the twilight. Trekking in darkness with those slopes is just suicide. We were not properly equipped that time. We only have swimming clothes and a bottle of water. We were even wearing slippers (which was a no-no). I slipped several times, good thing it was just small slips and trips.
My feet cramped on our way back. It was the worse cramps I had! It's as if my toe fingers had no bones kind-of-cramps. It's the first time that happened to me and I freaked out! Imagine limping though those slopes for two hours? (Hell no!) Good thing Soshi reassured me that it was just normal, he also experienced it during their soccer training. I just need to rest and ease up my feet for a while until they relaxed.
It's not the only worst thing that happened. Luck has been just not on our side. On our way back, it started raining hard. The forest became darker and creepier because of the rain. The rain did not stop until we reached the town. We were trekking through the muddy slopes drenched. We wrapped our gadgets with our towel, praying that it wouldn't get wet. We trekked back carefully the muddy slope, careful not to slip. (Though it would have been easier to just roll ourselves in the mud downhill, it may have cut the walking time in half. Hahaha!)
It took us more than two hours before reaching San Vicente. We got weird stares because we were both drenched while the town was dry as summer. We left town at around 1PM and got back past 5PM. We stayed less than 30 minutes at the falls and spent the whole 4 hours walking and getting lost.
Despite all the hardships, the experience was a milestone for me. I was able to trek and see the falls for the first time. The journey was no joke. It may take a few months before I consider trekking again for the experience was a bit traumatic BUT it was definitely fun.
Mananap Falls will still remain a hidden gem for this year, I think. One must be physically prepared to conquer its beauty (Consider yourself warned, just kidding!). For those adventurous people who want to conquer the Mananap Falls, better ask for a guide from the city to help you. Don't attempt what we did for IT IS dangerous. Go as early as sunrise while there's still light from the sun.
Does my experience excite you to conquer the Mananap Falls?
If you have questions, feel free to post them in the comments below.