Outdoor enthusiasts know Daraitan as a village nestled in the Sierra Madre mountain ranges somewhere between Rizal and Quezon. After visiting the place during a trail run and on a mountain bike ride, Art of Outside Slacker likened it to Rivendell, the Elven realm in Tolkien’s Middle-Earth. After finally seeing the place first-hand, I have to agree. The scenery wouldn’t look out of place in a fantasy film. You get that sense of wonder just walking through the white rock formations and crossing the clear streams snaking through the mountains.
A few years ago, Art and I attempted to motorcycle all the way here but turned back because of the bad weather and roads. Since then, it’s always been on my list of places to visit. So when Art scheduled an epic biking + camping trip there with friends, I decided to follow on the scooter, so I could get back to Manila easily later that day.
Unfortunately, my scooter has been showing signs of aging lately. Despite numerous trips to the mechanic to get Chocobo tuned up, rides haven’t been the same. As soon as I start to speed up on a nice road, the engine slows down and sputters like it’s going to die. He’s been fine for short rides around the village and for city driving in traffic, where you crawl most of the time. But passing through the winding roads of Sierra Madre, it was evident that Chocobo was not in the best condition. During the ride, I noticed that the headlight was rattling more than usual and the steering also felt extra jerky. Even at a standstill because of some one-way roads, the engine would accelerate slightly if I didn’t press on the brakes.
At around 8:30 am, we met up at Cafe Katerina along Marilaque, where Art and I had parked before during our Calinawan Cave biking trip. This Filipino restaurant offers good meals and coffee with a great view. Plus they have a secure parking lot for vehicles.
I went ahead to the junction of the road leading to Daraitan to wait while Art and friends proceeded on bike. It was Maundy Thursday, so traffic was pretty bad as we neared Regina Rica, with buses and vans full of people on pilgrim rides heading that way.
From the junction, I soon found out that while parts of the road are paved, most is a mix of dusty dirt roads riddled with loose gravel. For hardcore mountain bikers, the steep ascents and downhill slopes are the stuff of epic-worthy rides. For me riding alone, the steep grade going down was a scary prospect.
Several other motorcycles, some carrying two riders and even whole families overtook me, their wheels wiggling through the rocks. I asked a local on his way up how far Daraitan was and he said it was still roughly 10 km of rough road. Traveling solo in Chocobo’s condition and with no tools on hand, I didn’t want to risk it. Times like these riding solo really has its downsides and I wished I had a riding buddy to help if something went wrong. I didn’t want to give up the adventure, but I didn’t want to be stranded either. I decided it was better to be safe than sorry, so I headed back to the nearest house and asked if I could park my ride there. The owners obliged.
Most of the tricycles that passed were full, so I ended up hitchhiking with a delivery truck on its way down. The driver, Dante was nice enough to let me ride after I explained to him that my companions had all gone ahead on mountain bikes. We easily overtook them on the truck and I got a look at the rough road. Dante mentioned that motorcycle accidents were common especially in the steeper parts and when it rained. He said it’s better for tourists to go by jeeps, tricycles or habal-habals to be safe. It was not exactly the ride I expected, but sometimes, you just have to rely on the kindness of strangers.
We regrouped at the entrance to Daraitan River, which was dotted with native huts and rafts made of bamboo, with a refreshing drink of buko juice. There were lots of groups out on picnics, with kids swimming in the water. The surrounding rocky riverbed is where most people who bring vans or jeeps park their rides. From here, you have to cross a wooden bridge to get to the Barangay Hall of Daraitan to register and pay the fees.
From the Barangay Center, we got a good view of Mt. Daraitan, which visitors can climb on a half-day hike if they start early. Because of our limited time, our agenda was to hike to Tinipak River and Cave. Most of the route going there is covered in huge boulders which makes biking difficult, so Art and friends chained their bikes up at the barangay center. I also did a costume change at the barangay’s bathroom, substituting my jeans and riding jacket in favor of more appropriate swimwear under hiking shorts and a sleeveless shirt. The heat was really stifling, so I was looking forward to swimming.
We stopped for a late breakfast / snack of fried chicken, lumpia and halo-halo at an eatery nearby, and stocked up on water from a sari-sari store before continuing on foot.
I have this impression that the best places in the country can only be found in far-flung provinces rarely visited by tourists, but the scenery in Daraitan and Tinipak River is really something else. We passed through rivers and streams of clean water where only a few locals were swimming surrounded by stunning rock formations reminiscent of Kapurpurawan Rocks in Ilocos Norte. Flanking the river where rocky cliff walls which reminded me of the rocks along Siitan River in Quirino. It was unexpected to find something so beautiful, just a couple of hours away from Metro Manila.
From the trail, we eventually reached a store at the boundary of Brgy. Daraitan, Tanay Rizal and Brgy. Pagsangahan, Gen. Nakar, Quezon, which required a separate entrance fee.
The trail was pretty easy to navigate, though there were choke points in some areas with wooden ladders leading down. Eventually, we arrived at the entrance to the cave, guarded by a huge Ent-like Balete Tree. The underground entrance was pretty small, and we noticed blood smears on the rocks. Our guide told us that locals still sacrificed chickens to the spirits of the cave to ensure the safety of travelers.
It was tricky navigating the pitch black cave since the rocks were slippery. Luckily, Art’s friends had extra flashlights and bike lights. After walking for about 15 minutes following the sound of water, we reached a subterranean stream coming from a “jacuzzi” like pool.
After the hot hike, dipping into the cold water was just perfect. The current coming from a gushing stream deeper within the cave was pretty strong. It would have been cool to explore the cave even further, but our tour guide said visitors weren’t allowed to go past that point for safety reasons. I wouldn’t have minded staying there all afternoon.
The hike back was pleasant, and we couldn’t help but stop by the stunning rock formations for several photo ops. It was way past noon by the time we got back and we had worked up an appetite for lunch. For the guys, it would still be a long bike ride back.
From the barangay hall, I hired a habal-habal to take me back to the junction (P100), a sturdy pantra-like motorcycle made for these kinds of roads. It just seemed to fly over the loose rocks and gravel and soon enough, I found myself at the house where I had parked Chocobo who was waiting to take me home. I found out the next day that his wheel bearings were badly damaged and had to be replaced. Thankfully, both Chocobo and I live to ride another day.
HOW TO GET THERE:
The place is accessible by mountain bikes, motorcycles, tricycles, jeeps, vans & SUVs but may be difficult for sedans.
- Head out to Marcos Highway and follow the Tanay-Infanta Road.
- After you pass Regina Rica, look out for the small road sign on the left that says “To Daraitan.”
- Make a left turn here and follow the rough road that leads to Brgy. Daraitan.
- The main parking is just before the river crossing which is connected by a wooden bridge.
- Expected travel time (except for bikes) is 2.5 to 3 hours.
By public transportation / commuting:
- Take a jeep from EDSA-Shaw to Tanay, Rizal (1.5 – 2 hrs; P50)
- Get off at Tanay Public market and go to jeepney terminal; Take a jeep to Sampaloc, Tanay (30 mins)
- Take a tricycle or hire a habal-habal to Brgy. Daraitan (P100/person; 30-45 mins)
- When you arrive at Daraitan River, cross the bridge to the other side and take a trike (P10/person – 5 mins) to the Daraitan Barangay hall
- Allot 3-4 hours travel time because of stops and delays
The best option for groups without transpo is to contact the Daraitan-Tanay Jeepney Operators and Drivers Association, Inc. to hire a jeep. Contact info: 0927-7782843; 0935-2652785. Contact number of Dante (the driver I rode with who is a member of the association): 0917-4592232. Standard rates are as follows:
- Daraitan – Tanay (15 persons w/bags) – P 1500
- Tanay – Daraitan (15 persons w/bags) – P 1500
- Daraitan – Tanay (16 persons above w/bags) – P100 each
- Tanay – Daraitan (16 persons above w/ bags) – P100 each
- Daraitan – EDSA Shaw (24 persons below) – P3,500
- EDSA Shaw – Daraitan (24 persons below) – P3,500
- EDSA Shaw – Daraitan (24 persons below) back and forth – P7,000 (roughly P145 one way per person)
TRAVEL TIPS & USEFUL INFO:
- For inquiries, please contact the Municipality of Tanay, Province of Rizal Tourism Information Center. Contact info: 0906-2436298/ 0908-4579509 / 0998-9881590 / 0923-6810969
- All visitors need to register at the Barangay Hall to get a permit to visit Tinipak Springs and Cave or climb Mt. Daraitan
- To minimize trash, it’s best if you eat in the village before or after your hiking trip. If you do plan to camp and picnic bring back your trash with you.
- Environmental Fee – P20
- Tour Guide for Day Hike – P500 (per group)
- Tour Guide for Overnight – P1,250 (per group of up to 10 pax)
- Photo shoot (non-commercial – debut, pre-nup, hobbyists with models & equipment)
- 10 Visitors equivalent for 1 tour guide
- 5 minutes orientation by the tour guide
- Parking Fees: Four wheels – P30.00, Tricycle – P20.00, Motorcycle – P10.00, Bike – P10.00
- Payment for crossing the bridge: Person – P2.00, Motorcycle – P20.00, Tricycle – P30.00, 4 Wheels – P50.00
- Payment for crossing between the boundaries of Brgy. Daraitan, Tanay Rizal and Brgy. Pagsangahan, Gen. Nakar, Quezon. – P20.00 each