Monday, September 8, 2014

Dunsulan Waterfalls of Bataan

Dunsulan Waterfalls (Pilar Bataan)

I had climbed Mt Samat probably more than 30 times but never paid a visit to its nearby falls.
Until last week…

I was looking for a relatively easy place to hike/walk to, so my family members-in-tow will not complain. Call it ‘introduction to the great outdoors’.  And I wanted something with a ‘nice ending’, and a view of a beautiful waterfalls seemed to be the perfect choice.

I googled the ‘how to get there’ and concluding that it was easy – we decided to go for it.  I’ve frequented the place so I have an idea how to grope around.  I guesstimated that it's only around 12km from my mom's place, a good side trip. 

Bataan is fairly easy to navigate.  There’s one major highway (Roman) just outside (west side) of most eastern towns (Orani, Samal, Balanga, etc.) cutting through the province from North (Dinalupihan) to South (Mariveles).  At the junction of Pilar road (leading to the western towns of Bagac and Morong), one has to turn westward (right if coming from Manila) and it’s only 6km to the Samat junction. 
I initially thought I can pass through the ‘zipline’ station in Samat, or take some trails from somewhere along the Samat road, so I took the Samat road (leading to the giant cross) and went straight to the zipline.  It was still closed. The ‘kuyas’ manning the place suggested that I take the Barangay Liyang road instead which will directly lead me to the falls.  I told them that I wanted to walk and not drive all the way, so they suggested that I park in the barangay hall – not knowing the distance to the Falls.

Being a good boy scout, I followed the advice and drove around 2.5km on Bagac-Pilar road, and stopped at the Dunsulan junction (there was a big sign).  As suggested, I parked in front of the Bgy Hall. 

Hear this - “it doesn’t mean that if there’s a road, you should not hike.”  I’ve walked on many roads as part of long walk trainings in the past.   My intent was a walking or hiking trip, never mind the road or the people looking at us.

My little group set up for the walk.  Seeing a casual road hike ahead – I’ve decided to keep my slippers on (vs. shoes).  One may experience a bit of ankle pain, if not used to slipper or barefoot walk (as I am).
A curious man (typical Pinoy) stood nearby, observing.  I asked him how long it will take (to walk) – and he replied “Malayo yan” (it’s far).  I asked him what’s the estimated distance in kilometres and he answered “not less than 3km, maybe more”.  And that answer was good enough for me.   If he answered 10km, I’d hop in the car and drive on hehe.  We only have half a day to spare.
nice clean road for walking, very few houses and few scared dogs.

Soon we’re enjoying the nice scenery, albeit a big cemented road in front of us.   The good news was that – there’s no considerable traffic (of vehicles) at all.  Maybe only a total 5 or 6 cars/tricycles passed us by.
In the first couple of hundred meters, I chanced on an mid-aged woman and asked how long to the falls. She almost panicked and said “nako mga dalawang oras pa yan” (2 hours!).  If you’ve not travel well enough in the Philippine mountains, you’d probably believe that.  To ‘erase’ that presumably wrong info, I asked a younger one.  To my dismay, she answered in somewhat the same line of message.  My interpretation – the message was “you should be taking a jeep/car/ tricycle and not walking” typical of ‘there’s road, let’s ride” philosophy of most people.  But it failed to answer my distance or effort question accurately.
I stopped asking from then on.
September bloom.  Didn't know what this was, but it was nice and pleasant. The swiflets love the flowers.

The views were pleasant, and some trees were in heavy bloom (dunno what kind).  After about a kilometre or so, we reached the junction.  How did I know?  The big arc in the junction clearly said “Dunsulan Falls”.  Clearly, local tourism invested a ton to promote this forgotten place, and the road exists all the way to the falls.  There were few segments of bad road easy for SUVs but a challenge for sedans, but mostly very drive-able if not spotlessly easy. 
you will not miss the arc sign, this junction is after taking the inner Dunsulan Liyang road 

Around halfway to Dunsulan light rain started.   Typical of any mountain trip, one should be prepared even if it’s a bright, sunny day.  Knowing how easy and fun and sunny the trip should be, no one brought camera bags or raincoats.  I have a big belt bag that fits cameras and smart phones so that little ‘issue’ was quickly addressed.

Soon, we saw a landscape change – Mt Samat and its giant cross is clearly seen.  The drizzle also stopped allowing us to smile and enjoy the sun once again.  Eventually, the road rolls down into a valley and I instantly know that  we were close.  There was not much around after the first hundred meters from the junction, mostly plantation of some sort, few houses ‘somewhere out there’,  occasional lost-looking dogs, and there near the valley was a great scene of a preserved (secondary) forest of Mt Samat.
half-way, the giant cross of Mt Samat can be seen (center-left).

We heard the waterfalls before we reached the deserted parking area.  No one seemed to be around.
I entered a ‘facility’ with a clear sign on entrance fees.  I paid 50pesos (for each head) and started what awaits excited travellers.  PHOTO SHOOT!  
inspecting a jungle tributary near the park
Once we had our fill, we rested in a giant tree near the water line and ate our snacks.
Dunsulan falls was fortunately a nice, picturesque destination.  It was good that the sky cleared, giving us a better mix of colors (i.e. blue sky, white clouds, green surroundings, white falls, gray/black rocks).
I thought of dipping but the river water seemed to be a bit unclean owing to a recent rain perhaps.  But that was ok, I didn’t want to walk back wet and slimy.

I checked out the place quickly, it was developed lightly, There are toilets, few cement seats and an administration's house. I saw tree-based challenges good for team-building (ex. hanging bridge, rope traverse, etc.).  300pesos/pax was the charge I heard.  The only overnight option is to go to a nearby resort –St Gabrielle (which I have not tried).
Having enough photos for the day – we decided to head back.   It seemed shorter walking back, then again – most of my return trips were always quicker.  Eager to rest and eat, or excited to go home.  Or maybe both.
'facebookable' waterfall scene

How to Get There
1.      Take a bus to Mariveles, Bataan.  Stop at Pilar junction (around 24km from Layac border of Pampanga, or 40-60min;   around 4km/10mins AFTER Balanga junction). 
2.      Take any jeep/ small bus to either Bagac or Morong (westward). Stop ~8-9km at the junction of Dunsulan in Barangay Liyang.  Better to visit/hike Mt Samat combined with Dunsulan to maximize your trip.
3.      Either walk (as I did), or take a tricycle directly to the falls, if you’re lazy. ;)  

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jANI Jack said...

You have shared great information for all visitors and especially for me. Your shared images are very nice and represent the natural beauty of God. I'm a tourist and like to go different places around the world. For this purpose I recently came back diamond head volcano tour. I never chance to go Dunsulan Waterfalls before but after reading your blog I want to go there in the next months. I believe that fall is the best place to inspire the Natural beauty. What you think about it?

Garduch said...

ya give it a shot. i do think it's 'bitin' so i suggest you walk from the junction (3km or 1hr), and explore other areas like Morong, Bagac or climb Samat..