Three Swiss, two Dutch expats and one Filipina meet in front of 7-Eleven on Davao City’s Ma-a road. It’s seven a.m. on what promises to be a sunny Sunday. This peculiar looking squad of six embarks on a trip that will take them to the hills of Marilog District. And from there into the jungle and onto a local hidden gem: Kwagsik Falls.
The drive is pretty smooth, notwithstanding the occasional pothole or reckless road user. We arrive at a small village where the barangay captain points us to the best place to find a guide for our hike. We end up with three, all teenage boys, who lead the way to our parking spot for the day.
The first stretch of the hike takes us through large open fields with various crops. We even spot strawberry plants carrying not yet ripe fruits. It’s my first real taste of rural Mindanao and it’s gorgeous. The moderate climate at this elevation (ca. 500 meters) is a nice change from downtown Davao’s humid conditions. The trek continues and not before long we find ourselves surrounded with lush jungle forest.
It’s muddy and the “trail” is at times steep and narrow, but we gradually proceed to descend deeper into the forest. Our guides speak little English. They do kindly point out beautiful native flowers and plants that they know will make us pull out our phones for pictures. Colorful butterflies the size of my hand graciously flap by. Insects we don’t see produce eerie, arm hair raising buzzy noises.
It’s my first real taste of rural Mindanao and it’s gorgeous
Throughout most of the hike we can hear the sound of the waterfalls. Once we witness them up close after an hour or two, it’s a relief and a reward. The water feels fresh and cold on our skin. We hang out splashing and climbing around, eating snacks, sandwiches and sweets.There’s even chocolate cake for the eldest of the expedition whose birthday it is. The teenage guides share in the bounty.
We take a detour on the way back to visit a small dripstone cave. Here the bike helmets and lights we’ve been carrying with us come in handy. We spot some bats and a stoic looking spider before we carry on. Occasionally, the oldest of our chaperons puts his machete to good use cutting away branches to clear a path for us.
Towards the end of the trip, most of us are pining for the refreshing waterfall bath we had a few hours before. Fresh clothes will have to do. With legs already slightly soar, but loving the roominess of my passenger seat, my fellow travelers and I leave the hills and return to the city.
It’s dark when we park near 7-Eleven on Ma-a road. A deep sleep awaits.
The picture below this blog’s headline shows our little jungle expedition passing by a strawberry field right at the beginning of the hike to Kwagsik Falls.