The whole itinerary in Negros was planned by my friends, the P’s. They’d gone to Dumaguete before and knew where to eat and what to do. It was truly a “vacation” for me at this point, because all I did was follow their plans and enjoyed myself.
On our second day in Dumaguete, Pia said we were going “camping” (glamping?) at Lake Balinsasayao (BAH-LIN-SAH-SAH-YAO). I’ve heard of it in passing before, but I never really knew anything else about it except that it was a lake.
That morning, we met up at the plaza before cycling around looking for a brekkie place. Proud of myself because I didn’t get lost going there.
Our first stop was the public market, where we dined on puto and tsokolate amongst an entire row of breakfast shacks. This region’s version of puto is slightly sweetened sticky rice served by the heap. You douse it down with rich hot chocolate drink made from cacao tablets. Each serving is only 5 pesos… an unheard of S$0.15 cents. In hindsight, this breakfast would have been more awesome if I’d bought fresh mangoes at a nearby stall and ate that as well. Mango sticky rice with a chocolate dipping sauce? Heaven!
The photo might look shabby but I was too busy nomming to be bothered to setup a shot.
After breakfast, we walked to the other side of the market to figure out what food we would bring to our lakeside picnic. Paul was boyscout ready with cooking equipment and a burner, so I originally thought we were going to cook our food from scratch. In my mind, I was envisioning a giant bonfire where we would roast hotdogs and marshmallows. Stereotypical camping. Perhaps we were even singing Kumbaya. LOL.
The truth was that we ended up buying cooked foods at the nearby eateries. Veggie dishes, pancit, rice, eggs, bottled water, and some other such. We also bought fruits.
After the market, we headed back to my room where we all zoned out.
After waking up, we left our bikes at the GoHotel, and took a tricycle nearby going to the multicab headed for Sibulan, a small town around 6km north of Dumaguete city proper.
The multicab dropped us at the base of the hills heading up the twin lakes. The journey was quite short, but it seemed longer because of the slow speed. Dumaguete was affected by an earthquake earlier this year, and they are still repaving roads that were cracked by the shifting surface.
In Sibulan, other than going on foot or renting a 4 wheeler, there is no other public transport going up the lakes except a habal-habal. These motorcycles rent out their pillion and you have to learn to negotiate their rates. It’s annoying because there are no standard rates for the habal-habal drivers. They can charge you whatever they like and you’re at their mercy unless you don’t give a f*ck and decide to do something else that day.
If you’re a foreigner who earns in a different currency, you might think that the fare being charged you is quite cheap. However, as a local, I think it’s shameful how they gang up on you and force you to pay amounts decidedly larger than what you’ve been told by other travelers just because you’re a “tourist”.
I can’t remember how much we paid exactly, but I know the P’s gawked at the price… What’s worse was when our trip ended, they asked us for TIPS because they waited for us for longer than they expected. We didn’t even spend half a day at the lakes!
UGH. I SWEAR.
Nobody likes the feeling of getting ripped off.
In any case, we didn’t have a choice as we really wanted to go to the lakes so we said yes to their rates, cursed them in our minds, and hopped on two habal-habals.
Balinsasayao and nearby Danao (DAH-NOW) are crater lakes that lie atop a mountain range. That’s that in the distance yonder.
The ride was scary as hell because not all sections of the road are paved. Imagine going uphill at a pretty fast speed, where you’re hanging onto the motorcycle for dear life while your whole body gets jarred as your motorcycle bounces along the rough (and I mean rough!) and stone-y road. Now imagine doing all that next to a cliff.
I wouldn’t recommend renting your own motorcycle and doing this yourself — getting an experienced habal-habal driver, no matter how crap his rates may be, is infinitely safer.
Never was I so glad to see the huts where we were going to pay park conservation fees. After paying, we took another short ride going up the only entrance to the lakes.
Obligatory photos at first sight of the lake. This here’s Lake Balinsasayao. It may look small but the water’s surface area is 76 hectares. This area is actually a canteen viewing deck.
Then it was a short descent to the edge of the water where we planned to rent out kayaks for the day.
This place is immense!
At the waters edge lies the boat dock, a pavilion and a few huts for picnicking. Unfortunately, heavy rains and storms have raised the water level up, sinking some of the lower level huts like that one on the right.
We were quite unlucky to find out that all the kayaks had already been rented out. We had to settle on getting a canoe instead. The canoe came with its own boatman.
We were rowed across to our “camping ground”, a tall tower pavilion on the ridge separating Balinsasayao and Danao. The tower is high enough to catch views of both lakes. It was windy too! Too bad we didn’t have a hammock.
That is Lake Danao. It’s much smaller than Balinsasayao at only 28 hectares and the only way to get there is to hike. There is no civilization.
Paul played chef and heated our food. Pia and I ate pancit directly from plastic bags all the while munching on boiled native/kampung eggs. Native eggs are the best!
The P’s. Great hosts, greater friends.
We only rented out the canoe for two hours, so after our super quick picnic, we hiked back down to the water and asked the boatman to paddle us back to the dock via the long way round.
Balinsasayao actually has a hiking trail on the waters edge. I suppose we can’t see it anymore because of the higher water level.
Paul took a turn rowing while our boatman had a few snacks.
You can swim in the lakes provided you know how. There is no lifeguard to save you. The deepest part of the lake is 90 meters. That’s scary — you never know what kind of lake monsters are under there just waiting to gobble you up.
The lakes are protected as part of a national park and kept totally wild — no fishing or hunting are allowed here. I took photos underwater but I couldn’t see anything beyond a greenish algae. I settled for dipping my feet in the water instead.
Back on land, we paid the rental for our canoe and clambered up a steep steep road going back to the view deck.
The degree of incline was worse than this in real life. I was really glad I wasn’t climbing it on a bike.
At the deck, Paul ended up meeting a new love. This dog was a hussy.
Going back down the mountain, the P’s and I traded habal-habal‘s. Theirs was worse because the pillion seat wasn’t fully padded! I bruised my bottom.
At one point of the ride, I was jarred so much that my right slipper flew off. The driver was able to stop while I went back to get it before these billy goats could nab the slipper. Can you see the rocky path? Some stones were larger than a softball.
Afraid of losing any more stuff, I asked the driver to descend more slowly and told him to stop in case there was a nice view. He stopped here to let me take a photo. We were halfway down. That’s Cebu Island in the distance.
Also, this was the day of the super moon! Is this the super moon or some other planet? Hmmm…
That afternoon’s activities ended when we caught a multicab going back to Dumaguete City. Our trip to the lakes may have been short, but my legs were tired from climbing all those rocky paths.