To get to the summit of the Volcano Island which is the Crater Lake, one has the choice to hike or to ride a horse with a guide. It just stopped raining when we went to the island and was overcast, so our best choice (thinking that it could be a muddy hike) was to horse-back ride. It was a good choice after all. Talking to my horse guide during the ride, he explained that the two-way trail is shared by both the horses and the hikers. There could be more than 100 horses climbing up and down the island per day. Depending on the flock of tourists riding and the time of day one visits the island (it could be very humid and hot in the middle of the day), hiking, in my opinion, could be very uncomfortable. This is not to mention the presence of manure defecated by the animals wherever they please along the trail one will be trekking on.
A view of the horse trail overlooking Lake Taal. This is taken from the horse terminus where tourists get off to walk by foot to the observation area and to explore the rim of the Crater Lake.
The ride to the top takes about 30 minutes. Don't be surprised if, in the middle of the journey, the horse guide all of a sudden ride with you on the horse. I was startled when my horse guide jumped at the back of my horse without telling me. But I found approaching horses with both the tourist and the horse guide riding together. I could imagine it could be a tiring walk to the top, and while the guides could not stop to rest, they then opt to ride with the tourist for a while before walking to control the horse again.
Horses lining up with their guides to be rented out to tourists.
There are more than 500 horses for rent in the island. These are too many horses for the number of tourists that visit the island per day. For this reason, a horse and a horse guide will only get a job once every three days. A horse guide is paid P 50.00 (US $1.20 ) per day. Each horse has a number and a numbering system is followed. If a horse misses its turn (ex., a tourist refuses a horse and chooses a different horse, a tourist prefers a female guide which is very rare), both the horse and the guide will have to wait for all the remaining horses to be rented out before he gets in the numbering cue again. This can take a week.
The ride to the top of the island was very pleasant. Nearing the Crater Lake, I noticed steam coming out of the crevice on the ground. According to my horse guide, this is a common site especially after a rain. This is very exciting because it is a sure sign that the volcano is active.
The last section (Part 4) of this article will show magnificent photos of the Crater Lake and an account of the ride back to the shoreline.