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Zambales: The Nagsasa Outback

No this ain’t Colorado or some far-flung out of the country outback, it’s still in the Philippines. And if there are any place within the country that resembles these landscapes, Nagsasa Zambales is definitely one of them. Nagsasa is more than its beautiful cove, while we explored deeper along the river, I can’t help but feel elated with the scenery I’m seeing. Along with this is the disappointing reality of what a few selfish hunters would go through just to get their prized game.

The golden fields and a lone tree at Nagsasa Outback
The golden fields and a lone tree at Nagsasa Outback

No this ain’t Colorado or some far-flung out of the country outback, it’s still in the Philippines. And if there are any place within the country that resembles these landscapes, Nagsasa Zambales is definitely one of them. Nagsasa is more than its beautiful cove, while we explored deeper along the river, I can’t help but feel elated with the scenery I’m seeing. Along with this is the disappointing reality of what a few selfish hunters would go through just to get their prized game.

Morning light through the woods
Morning light through the woods

I was the last one who woke from my slumber that morning. In between stretching out from my hammock, my sleep was interrupted by the touch of cold sweeping over my feet that I have to cover with my malong. Later giving in and moving under the hut where I was sheltered from the cold wind. A gentle purple and pink along the cloud linings behind the trees were the first sight I saw waking up. The camp was already deserted as my companions have already started shooting this amazing morning light.

Serene morning view of the river and mountains
Serene morning view of the river and mountains

Splashed my face with cool water, grabbed my camera, secured our bags inside the tent, took a bite of bread with guava jam spread from Koronadal and crossed a bridge to the woods to catch up with the group. The trees were like leading frames as I approach the river as the tranquil view of the mountains and painted morning sky unfolds. It was a wonderful sight to say the least. For an urban living folk like me, this was truly refreshing scenery.

The sun rising behind the mountains
The sun rising behind the mountains

My Olympus E-5 DSLR camera was clicking happily on what I’m sure would only capture a portion of what my naked eye was seeing. From the warm light slowly draping over the landscape, sun rising behind the mountains, tall cogon grass dancing with the wind and the river reflects everything that’s happening. It’s one of those moments when nature unfurls.

A tree standing proud in the morning light
A tree standing proud in the morning light

Breakfast was Koronadal Tapa and Langonisa, Fried Rice, Corned Beef and Hot Dog. It was enough to give us the needed boost on our trek to one of the falls of Nagsasa. Our guide Bok said it would take an hour to reach that nameless falls.

Nagsasa Scenic Tree to the Cove
Nagsasa Scenic Tree towards the Cove

We finally ventured into the open air outback and onto the trail the locals would use to reach Subic on foot. Passing through tall cogon grasses we crossed the river heading to large open trail on what seemed like a deserted wasteland due to burned trees and grasses. A large part of the mountain were burned brown. Bok told us the hunters caused this forest fire just a week ago to drive them out into the open. That’s really disappointing to hear. I like leafless trees and branches but not one that were burned to crisp.

Passing through high cogon grass
Passing through high cogon grass

Finally as we made a turn pass the mountain foothills we reached another area where the vegetation was still dense and we made our way through the golden cogon grasses. It was easy to get lost there. Half an hour later we reached a stream which we would follow lead us to the falls. It has a very minuscule amount of water flow and we’re guessing the falls would be dry at this time but we pushed through.

A wasteland
A wasteland

Thirty minutes of bouldering while following the stream, we reached on what could have been the falls. And yes there was no falls there since it’s the dry season and what’s left is the pool which we jokingly called “Water Pool”. To fend off the heat from the trek some of us dipped on the pool and it was really cold and invigorating. It was a great way to cool down before we head back.

Hunters burning the forest
Hunters burning the forest to drive out the games

Under the heat of the noon time sun, the walk back to the cove was like the long trek to mount Pinatubo crater. Since it has the same volcanic ash, it easily heats up making making the walk a lot difficult with the hot sand getting in our sandals. We got back to the cove with our boats already waiting to take us back to Pundakit. We quickly broke camp and packed our things. We boarded our boats and soon sailed to avoid afternoon rough seas.

At the Nagsasa Water Pool
Dipping at the cool Nagsasa water pool

We were leaving Nagsasa Cove all too quickly. I thought there was still a lot to explore in the area. A lot of photographic possibilities to do. It’s a beautiful place no doubt, I’m just hoping that when I come back everything would still be as good.

Leaving Nagsasa Cove
Leaving Nagsasa Cove

Essentials

  • Nagsasa can be reached via San Antonio, Zambales, then a tricycle ride to Pundakit (Pundaquit) then a 45min to 1 hour boat ride to the cove
  • From Manila take a Victory Liner bus to Iba and alight at San Antonio. Travel time is 3 hours. Fare is P271
  • Tricycles to Pundakit is P30 per person with a 15-20min travel time
  • Boats to Nagsasa can be hired from P1500-2000 round trip
  • Tents can also be rented at Pundaquit
  • bring food provisions and water
  • There are no phone signals at the cove

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