I’m not entirely a pro, so apologies for the semi-misleading title.
But, I’ve had my fair share of endless waterfall adventures. I chase waterfalls enough that waterfalls actually reminds my friends and family of me. Besides from being tagged by them on anything mermaid related posts on social media, apparently, waterfalls has somehow become my thing too. And while I’m not entirely a professional adrenaline junkie that has hiked for days to reach a certain waterfall, I’ve had some pretty bomb experiences over the years. And yes, yes, although I’ve whined my way through the struggle of the hike to the best ones I’ve seen, my waterfall résumé continues to grow.
Here’s a few that I’ve written about;
Monsoon season is almost over in the Philippines and that means more waterfalls in my agenda are about to happen. And what better way is there to inspire you lovely ones than with a short guide to make it less intimidating to chase them. Because regardless of what TLC says, life is too short.
Chase that damn waterfall.
1.) Start really early, or start really late.
Starting early is basically the golden rule when traveling. For very obvious reasons, the early bird always catches the worm. Heading out before everybody else does won’t only benefit you from avoiding the crowd, but the earlier you go will also make the hike easier for you. Less sun exposure and heat will make your stamina last longer, and if you’re hiking anywhere near the equator, trust me, you’ll appreciate this advice.
But if there’s absolutely no way you could go early in the morning, by all means, go late in the afternoon instead. Most people leave around 5, and most national parks with waterfalls closes around this time. Go just a little before that and I guarantee you that you’d still be left with several minutes of peace and quiet. The down side to coming really late is that the water in the pool may not be as great as it would be if you come first thing in the morning. If you’re expecting a clear turquoise pool, then definitely avoid going late because if it’s a pretty popular spot, chances are, it’ll be murky by then.
2.) The most popular ones you see on Instagram may actually disappoint you in real life.
Ah, the misleading photoshopped Instagram pictures that we’re all very familiar with. Not that some of those popular ones aren’t drop dead beautiful, but sometimes, reality doesn’t really quite meet our expectations. Whether the water’s not as blue or the cascade isn’t as grand, you’ve got to remember that photos can be pretty deceiving these days. If it’s extremely popular, do expect a shit load of other tourists too. I mean, you’re all there for the same reason, so I guess the point is, don’t expect to see the same exact version of those on Instagram. Do a little research when the best time to go, and clearly, don’t let photoshopped photos fool you.
3.) The harder the hike, the more rewarding it is.
They say it’s all about the journey, not the destination. I say bullshit because I can really just skip all the struggle and get blown away by the surprise in the end already. But as convenient as it is to go for the tourist friendly and Instagram famous waterfalls, the down side can be apparent as what I’ve mentioned above. But like with most hidden gems, anything remote are usually the most mind blowing. Just think of it real quick. Not many are down to put themselves in danger or to at least break a bunch of sweat. That leaves those places keep their magic alive. Less people, more natural. And clearly, more natural, more magical. One example of this was my hike to Casaroro Falls. It was once a popular place of attraction near the city of Dumaguete but because typhoon has completely ruined the cement bridge that serves as a trail to the falls, it’s no longer as popularly visited. Back to its un-modified state, it is once again a challenging hike to get to– one that is completely worth the tiring journey. (READ: The Raw Beauty Of Casaroro Falls)
4.) On proper attire:
We all have different styles when we’re out adventuring. I’ve always been a believer of wear whatever the hell you feel comfortable in the most. Ok sure, fast dry material is a genius invention, but you don’t need to splurge and buy outfits you don’t have for a waterfall hike. Just opt for the simplest, lightest material you have in your wardrobe. Unless of course the temperature is on the colder side, then maybe you should invest on appropriate clothing. Otherwise, wear whatever the hell you feel comfortable in. I’ve hiked in actual active wear, a onesie, bikinis, and heavy jean shorts. Keep in mind of bug bites though, you might want to cover up for that.
Footwear? What footwear? Just kidding. Definitely take footwear seriously when planning a hike. Don’t be like me who refuses to invest in actual hiking shoes because she thinks she can get away with flip flops or faux hiking boots. I’ve been through it all– bad achy feet, bleeding toes (yikes), and even went barefoot in the mud. Besides the comfort, make sure you choose something that has a good grip and would be appropriate for crossing streams. You don’t want to be falling on your ass.
So what do I personally like to wear? Honestly, I’m more of a swimsuit, shorts, and flip flops kinda hiker. Obviously a rookie, but it’s what I’m most comfortable in. Except maybe the shoes part. But sure, I’ll invest in actual hiking shoes this year (I just think they’re so ugly), but I don’t think I’ll give up the bikinis. I mean, I am gonna be swimming in the water after all.
5.) Here’s a few ways to maintain your stamina.
- Hydration is pretty much the answer to everything if you ask me and it doesn’t get less true when it comes to hiking. Hydrate the day before you even go on your hike, and always bring more water than you think you’ll need. If you must pack heavy, make it heavy with water. Add a bottle of Gatorade or two for added variety.
- Speaking of packing, obviously the key is to pack light. Any burden on our back will hinder us from moving faster and clearly, it tires us a lot easier. I actually do have scoliosis so this is non-negotiable for me.
- Don’t be ashamed to take breaks. It’s a great way to indulge in nature and the surroundings too. Take as much pause as you need. Your destination isn’t going anywhere. But the sunlight is, so learn proper timing nonetheless.
- Bring some snacks high and carbohydrates that you can munch on during your breaks or when you reach your destination. This will refuel your energy to get you back on your roll. Just make sure you clean up after yourself. The last thing we need in this world is another disrespectful tourist.
- Eat a heavy breakfast, also sticking with high carbs. This will give you the perfect jumpstart to your adventure packed day.
- Take advantage of the shades you come across. The sun is an exhausting powerful force and the more exposed you are, the more your body needs to exert more energy. So stay in the shady lane if this is an option. And like I mentioned earlier, time your hike right to avoid overheating your body.
- Do some stretches before your hike to avoid leg cramps!
6.) Perhaps do not go alone.
As badass as it is to be hiking alone, I would personally discourage this. Yes, I was completely inspired by Reese Witherspoon in Wild and I’m all for solo travel and women empowerment and all that. But shit happens. All the time.
And I believe the most essential thing to advocate when it comes to solo female travel is safety.
It’s always best to have someone with you in case of emergencies because no matter how careful you think you are, nature is a wild thing and you’ll never want to go against it. Sometimes, it’s not even nature that you’re against, but rather human beings too. Given of course that you know never to go during bad weather conditions, I’d still recommend playing it safe. Bring a buddy, or join a group. You could even go with a guide. But if by all means, you must go alone, just make sure you let someone know about your whereabouts. Blah blah blah, you’re a grown up. You know the drill.
7.) Hack your hike with proper gear such as;
- A microfiber towel— a towel made of super light material that isn’t only fast drying, but it saves a lot of room in our backpack too.
- Do you really need a fancy schmancy stick if you’re hike is a challenge? Meh. Just find a stick in the woods! Actually, many popular hiking spots in the Philippines already have kids waiting at the jump off point selling those walking sticks. Gotta respect the hustle.
- Sunscreen, because come on girl. (READ: 15 Skin Hacks Every Traveling Women Should Know)
- Water resistant backpack to waterproof your stuff. And maybe another smaller water resistant pouch for extra important things like money and your cell phone. (READ: A Beach Bum’s Guide To Packing Smartly)
- Mosquito repellant— or any protection from bugs. I’ve had my horror stories, plenty of them that only the maps of those scars in my body would be able to explain. But here’s one solid advice: once you get bit, DO NOT SCRATCH it!
- First Aid Kit— cause like I said, shit happens.
8.) Wet season is both a good thing and a bad thing.
I do try to avoid hiking during the wet season because not only do I hate mud, but also because it can be pretty dangerous. I’ve heard plenty of stories about hikers going missing, even worse drowning. Sometimes, constant rain can make rivers overflow and once you’re trapped, man you’re trapped. Other obvious dangers rainy season poses includes extra slippery steps and one wrong move can be fatal. You can’t fcuk with nature, let’s get that right. Plus you know what else would be a buzz kill at the end of your hike? Nasty muddy water in the basin. Not entirely something you’d want to jump in. And not that photogenic tbh.
But the one thing wet season is good for when it comes to waterfalls is the grand cascade it gives. Huge, angry, and feisty water cascading down in a waterfall can be such a beautiful thing. A dangerous beautiful thing, that is. Summertime is great for hikes, but many waterfalls end up looking like sheer droplets of water. But it’s not really so much of a catch 22. Just do a little research about where you’re going. Not all waterfalls are the same. And if worse comes to worst, go at the very end of wet season, or the very beginning of dry season— when it’s actually NOT raining. I can guarantee you the cascade will still be glorious.
9.) Half the fun is the actual hike.
I know I’ve said I can skip the journey sometimes and I wasn’t lying about that. But as I look back on those physical struggles to reach a waterfall, I remember how it became the sole factor of how accomplished I felt once I reached the destination. I’m not telling you to over exert yourself. I’m saying ignore what you heard, forget how intimidated you are, and just go for it. What stopped me from seeing waterfalls anyway is because of the dreadful hikes it usually comes with. But once I exposed myself to the challenge, I was hooked. Let’s also not forget about how nature never fails so keep in mind that you’d still find beauty on your hike. Keep your eyes open for all the floras and fauna nature has to offer.
10.) Get out of your comfort zone!
Simply put, there’s too much you’ll be missing out if you stay inside your bubble. If you’re physically fit, take advantage of it. Chase those waterfalls that you’ve been dying to see— forget how long and how challenging the hike is. Keep your eyes on the prize. Not used to roughing it and getting down and dirty in the mud or nature? Go anyway. You’ll be amazed how zero fcuk will be given once you reach your destination. Hikes are not your thing? Start with the shorter ones. You’re not that convinced? That’s your loss.
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