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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


Steven said...

Hi Andrew,

I live in Sagada and do some Kayaking in the area. You won't be able to paddle in May, the level is just too low. The section you saw is really only runnable from June-Oct. Downstream from Bontoc the river is more tightly channeled, and below the confluence with the Talubin river (about 4-5km downstream from Bontoc) there is more volume. This is where rafting is possible, though we can raft above Bontoc in high water. Sections below the Talubin confluence are usually runnable through January. The Chico downstream in Kalinga has a longer season. Best time for paddling is really Oct-Nov, not as much rain but levels are still good and many of the smaller rivers are still runnable.

If you're bringing an inflatable to the Philippines you might also want to check out Cagayan de Oro, there's an active scene with a year-round season there.

Russell Gore said...

Ahoy Steven,
I live in Chiang Mai Thailand and do some kayaking here, see I am interested in heading over your way with my inflatable kayak. Hope to meet someone to paddle with and find out how things work there.
Happy Paddling
Bad Water Bob

Melo Smith said...

Thank's for sharing. I also belived that Chico River is one the perfect place to have kayak in philippines.