A Dream Destination Fulfilled : Enchanted River

Me and my good friend Jules left the lodge around 6:00 am on a drizzling Saturday. We hopped on an ordinary bus marked Mangagoy from the Butuan bus terminal and traveled  four hours towards the municipality of Hinatuan. The ride with amazing mountain views for entertainment costs 163 pesos/head.

Upon arrival at the terminal near the public market in Mangagoy, we headed straight towards the first eatery we saw. It was only a few steps from where the bus stopped. For 30 pesos, I was able to order a big serving of octopus which was more than I can consume but since it was so cheap I couldn’t afford any of it to go to waste and so I committed myself into finishing everything. We were traveling on a tight schedule. Who knows when we can eat again properly?

During lunch, Jules asked the lady at the eatery where we can hire a habal-habal to take us to Enchanted River. Since she’s the only one who can speak Bisaya fluently and an expert on bargaining, I let her do most of the talking. She can probably sell me to strangers and I wouldn’t know about it. :P

The lady called a habal-habal driver from the terminal and Jules managed to negotiate with him before I finished the last piece of my octopus. For a 40-minute rough ride from the market to Enchanted River and back, we only had to pay 200 pesos for 2 persons. (Another faster alternative which I read from a blog is for you to alight at the crossing in Dugmanon - no need to go to the town proper. Hire a habal-habal from there but you might not be able to get one if you arrive at 6:00am).

It started to rain a little but we were not deterred. Enchanted River is a place that I’ve been wanting to see for myself ever since I saw pictures from Jojie Alcantara’s blog. Just visit her site and I guarantee that you will drool at the pictures. She even mentioned in her blog what a local told her about the river - that nobody swims past 6pm because the place is guarded by spirits and that even though there are fishes, no one has ever caught one by any method – net or even a dynamite.

I never knew how intimate a habal-habal ride could be until this experience. For approximately 40 minutes, I was thigh to thigh with the driver and my lucky friend behind me. I cringed every time we hit a bump on the unpaved road as I got thrown closer to his body. I now have a very clear understanding of the cliché - too close for comfort. I’m just so grateful I wore a jacket and the guy was wearing a rain gear so that our skins aren’t in full contact. We just met. The intimacy, was just too sudden for me. :P (Wah, the sacrifices I would endure just to see something amazing!)

While "bumping and grinding" with the habal-habal driver on our way to Enchanted river, I almost forgot why I wanted to see it. My butt was feeling numb, I felt cold from the rain, I’m not exactly fond of motorbikes and my legs were aching from the compromising position they were in. The different trees and rock formation we saw served as my source of comfort.

When we finally reached the entrance of the river, I immediately got down from the bike. I was in pain and walked like a duck for a couple of seconds but all pain was replaced with awe when I fianlly saw the Enchanted River which was only a few steps away. I was reminded once again why I was willing to go through all this trouble. From where the motorbike was parked, we can already see the clear blue waters Enchanted river is famous for. What’s even more astonishing was that we were the only ones there though it was a weekend.

My eyes excitedly looked around the vicinity of the river. There was obviously some construction being done to spruce the place which meant that it won’t be long until tourism picks up. I just hope the local government would be extra vigilant in ensuring that its beauty is preserved. There were restrooms but those were locked. We stayed for about 30 minutes after we took pictures and waded in the water which was surprisingly warm. We wanted to swim but we didn’t have enough time. We still had to go back and whiz off to another town to see the majestic Tinuy-an falls in Bislig.

Amazing is a simple but fitting word to describe it and I’m just so thankful that we were able to squeeze this in to our 2009 adventures. I was planning this for 2010 actually. God has been so generous!

Travel Information:
Location : Barangay Cambatong, Municipality of Hinatuan, Province of Surigao Del Sur

How to Get to Enchanted River From Manila:
STEP 1: Manila to Butuan
From the NAIA terminal 3 in Pasay, we rode a Cebu Pacific plane to Butuan – www.cebupacificair.com ; Air fares can go as low as zero, plus taxes! We got our roundtrip air fare for 718 pesos each, inclusive of all taxes and 15Kg baggage allowance. Just check out their website regularly, join their mailing list or their group in Facebook (I think the group’s name is Cebu Pacific Air promos).

STEP 2: Butuan to Mangagoy
From Butuan town proper, take a tricycle towards the Butuan bus terminal. Shouldn’t cost you more than 20 pesos (two persons) to get you to the terminal. Travel time from city to bus terminal is about 15 minutes or less.

From the Butuan bus terminal,  take a bus marked “Mangagoy” (pronounced as mgagoy). Fare is at 163 pesos/head, ordinary bus. It was supposed to depart at 7:30AM but the driver informed us that another bus broke down so we had to leave earlier than planned – 6:45am. I read from somewhere that the first trip going to Mangagoy is at 2:30am. Anyway, just ask around when you get to Butuan and if you need to head back to Butuan the same day, make sure to ask what time the last trip is.

STEP 3: Mangagoy to Enchanted River
Option 1 – From the integrated jeepney terminal, hire a habal-habal.
Option 2 – Alight at the crossing in Dugmanon which is less than 30 minutes from the town proper. Hire a habal-habal from there. There might not be one if you arrive as early as 6:00am.
Habal-Habal Rate : 200-250 pesos (we got ours for 200 pesos – round trip for two persons, coming from the Hinatuan jeepney terminal). I guess that is a fare rate considering the road condition. From the terminal to the entrance of Enchanted river, ride takes less than an hour. Expect butt aches because the road is pretty rough.

Notes on Enchanted River :
No vendors or stores here as of our last visit so make sure you bring enough food, water and insect repellant.

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