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Most of us can relate to the fun we had canoeing at summer camp when we were young. But that was nothing compared to the experience of whitewater kayaking that came next for me. I have always loved canoeing, though it always seemed difficult to participate. It has only been in the last decade that the development of inflatable canoes has made a big difference. You can more easily access rivers, you can store a canoe in your car, you can even take them on a plane. They are very light, very cheap, with little loss of functionality. Perfect for weekends away or campervan holidays. Social networking was the other big change. You can now use Facebook, etc to join canoeing adventures in your local region or abroad.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kayaking the Chico River

Last week we visited the area of Sagada, which hosts some of the Philippines best limestone caves. Actually I did not visit the caves, as I was quite sure they would not be as spectacular as Jenolan Caves, west of Sydney. Anyway, 10km south of Sagada is the town of Sabangan, which lies on the Chico River. The Chico River would have to be one of the better rivers in the Philippines for kayaking. The river has a continuous series of rapidsore interested in the canoeing, so for those who are similarly interested, I am planning a return to the area in May 2010 to kayak this river. The rapids are mostly grade 2-3. I hear there are grade 4-5 rapids, though based on my river observation from the main road, this is more likely the lower section. I only saw the river as far as east as the Sagada turn-off, and it was not suited to rafting (i.e. too narrow, too shallow). The Chico River flows from Mountain Province, a few hundred kilometres north of Manila, but it takes 6 hours alone to drive the 80km section from Baguio-Sagada because although the road is mostly sealed, its VERY windy. Fortunately there were no tricycles in this section.

I would also be worthwhile to take some time to walk along the river from Panorama ParkView to the town of Sabangan. I have no doubt that you should be able to get a tricycle back to your car if you leave your car there, otherwise its a steep walk back to the car. There appears to be a steep alternative exit further back (round trip). I did not do it on this walk, but I would like to return to the area to kayak the river and to walk along the Chico River. The pathway passes along the river through rice terraces.
Increasingly I see that the Dept of Tourism in the Philippines is starting to spend money on worthwhile project as these to boost tourism, and to give visitors something to do. If you are more interested in rafting, there are groups that run rafting trips on the river. I have information on this, or you can inquire at the Rock Inn, in Sagada. This is a fairly nice place to stay. Nice accommodation, though off-season you will have to wait a few hours for a meal as they do down to the markets to buy the food.
If you want to get to this area, I would advice coming in from the Nueva Viscaya province (east side). The road is not as good, but it will be faster, particularly as they are currently upgrading the road - sealing it with concrete. Baguio is a great market to buy food, and there are some good entertainment places there. Many foreigners like living there because its cheaper, cooler, though it is congested because of the mountain topography.
Andrew Sheldon