Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sliding Above Lake Sebu’s Seven Falls

pic courtesy of E. Gales
I’d been raring to do it for the longest time. But something often got in the way of my best-laid plans in the past.  Recently, in one blink of an eye, the moment I’ve long been waiting for was suddenly unfolding before me.

With quiet aplomb, I climbed a short stairway leading to a steel platform where I will be taking off for what would eventually become the reality of a flight of fancy.  But I wasn’t taking that helluva “death slide” alone; I was about to fly with a fellow travel photography buff, Leo, who, I think, must have done it a number of times in the past. Before our turn at the zip line came, there were several other tourists who’ve already crossed the deep, wide chasm between the stage where we stood and the other end of the line.

Stepping into the platform, my zip buddy and I were geared up by the crew with some kind of protective suit. Then they attached our harnesses to the cable. To prepare us for our flight, one of the staff kept telling us to relax and enjoy the ride. Quickly, I held on to my digital camera, which was strapped around my neck, and touched the red button to start recording what was to become my first zip line experience.

The two of us were part of the 60-plus entourage who came all the way from Davao City just to experience the “death slide” up in the highlands of Lake Sebu. Leaving the city in the wee hours of the morning, the bus carrying our boisterous group reached the heartland of the T’bolis at about 7:00 in the morning.

We then proceeded to Lake Lahit, one of the three bodies of freshwater dotting the municipality that’s known as South Cotabato’s summer capital. There, our group had a hearty breakfast of fried tilapia, scrambled eggs, and piping hot rice at one of the lakeside eateries along the highway.

After eating, we negotiated for a habal-habal (which accommodated only two passengers per ride) that would take us to Falls 1, the first of seven magnificent cascades that’s been charming Lake Sebu’s visitors. Warning: the habal-habal ride isn’t for the fainthearted. It would be best for those with motion sickness who want to go there to just hike for a kilometer to get to the first falls. For there was a whiff of danger every step of the way as we raced through the winding stretch.

There can be no margin for error. One wrong maneuver of the driver over the muddy path could send everyone tumbling down to—heaven forbid!—a fatal crash into the ravine. But it’s the peril and suspense that spiced up that trek of mine into the first of the seven cascades.  Good thing, our driver knew his way around that serpentine dirt road. Otherwise…

I was beginning to enjoy the lush scenery when the thriller of a commute suddenly ended as we reached a sprawling vacant lot where a number of motorcycles and other vehicles were parked.  From there, we hiked towards Falls 1 where we had a grand time snapping ourselves and taking in the beauty of the breathtaking cascade. After seeing enough of the first falls, we hiked towards the staging area of the first zip line where I had my daredevil ride. 

“On the count of three, sirs…one, two, three!” the staffer barked as he released the harnesses that held together two devil-may-care shutter guys whose hearts were almost bursting with hysteria as they slipped into their mid-air adventure.

Geez, this is it! I thought as I felt the cool breeze brushing against my face. Before I could say anything, there we were, speeding at 120 kph into the other end of the 700-meter zip line. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!,” I roared endlessly as we dashed at breakneck speed from the foliage-covered ravine into the great divide. I held my camera tightly for fear that it would escape my grip and fall into the 700-feet deep expanse underneath us.

As we zoomed up in the air, I sensed the surge of adrenaline pumping into my bloodstream. I felt my heart skip a beat, my pulse quicken, my spirit teeter with tension as we darted past the picturesque vista below us. Less than 40 seconds later, we slowed down, reached the drop zone and then ground to a halt.

The crew then rushed and helped us get out of our suits and harnesses. So, there, in one fell swoop, my spellbinding flight of fancy was over. But that was just the first one. We still had to conquer another “death slide”, albeit a much shorter one—300 meters, if I’m not mistaken—which lasted for about 20 seconds.

At the speed we were doing the second zip, I hardly caught a glimpse of the breathtaking charms of Falls 3, 4 and 5 hundreds of feet below us. Later, I just took some distant shots at those three cascades for posterity's sake. Since reaching them entailed trekking for almost an hour, I also passed up the chance to see Falls 6 and 7. Instead, I joined most of my fellow zippers who lingered at Falls 2, talking about our experiences at the zip line while basking in the beauty of the lush surroundings.

Never mind if I didn’t get to see the five other cascades up close and personal, I thought. For it’s the zip wire odyssey that really counted the most. It was a fantasy fulfilled for this incorrigible thrill-seeker, a rare opportunity to upsize my sense of self and push my personal boundaries to the max. It was an exhilarating joy ride that gave me a wispy but gripping aftertaste of life on the edge.

Organized by RTours, a group of Davao-based travel aficionados, the zip line adventure we had in Lake Sebu has become one of the many reasons why throngs of tourists these days are heading towards that part of Mindanao for some adrenaline rush. 

In different parts of the island, a number of such attractions have sprouted overnight in response to the growing demand for extreme forms of adventure. But I think Lake Sebu’s thrill rides are a cut above the rest. I guess nothing beats the magnificent views that await those who zip there, most especially the town’s awe-inspiring Seven Falls. 

Here's a video showing my encounter with the death slide...

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