The trail to Tineg, Abra’s Kaparkan Falls, our travel organizer warned, is “physically and emotionally taxing”. This was reiterated by the tourism representative who did the briefing for all travelers before we were allowed to ride the 6×6 SKW Military Trucks.
Now, sometimes the tour organizers and tourism officers would exaggerate for safety reasons. This time, though, it really is advisable not to continue if you’re not at your best state of health like if you’ve been drunk or sleepless from the night before.
Road to Kaparkan Falls
From Manila, we had to go first to Abra which is a 9-hour-drive away. We left Manila on Saturday night, slept all the night inside a van to Ilocos Sur, and spent breakfast to lunch in Vigan. We traveled to Abra in the afternoon, passing by some famous stops and slept in an inn a few kilometers from the jump-off point. Day 2 was solely for Kaparkan Falls.
From the jump-off point which was actually a Farinas Empanada branch where tourism briefing was conducted and where we loaded the military trucks, we traveled 45kms more to Kaparkan Falls, 35kms of which was concrete road while the rest of the distance was
hell unpaved road.
The 6×6 military trucks bear the tag “#Abramazing” on their fronts. I think the trucks and the drivers were amazing! They were able to safely transport us on trails with mud as deep as 3 feet, and climb on trails as steep as 75 degrees along mountains’ ridges. To ease your anxiety on the 8 hours round trip trail, one advice I’d like to give is: trust the trucks and the drivers.
Concrete Road – First 35 kms
The concrete road was easier but it doesn’t mean it was comfortable. One military truck contained 50 passengers, in open air, without dedicated handles for each passenger, without separate seats. Hold on to dear life if you want to survive. What was there was an overhead cover, 3 stools of the same length of the truck’s back – placed on both sides of the truck and in the middle – and big chains to be attached later on all the truck’s wheels before we embark on the muddy part of the trail.
Unpaved Road – Next 10kms
There is a point in the border of the concrete and unpaved road where all passengers have to unload the trucks. That’s to allow the trucks’ personnel to attach chains around the wheels to enable the truck to drive through the muddiest part of the trail.
You know what they say how it’s about the journey, not the destination? It’s applicable here. You need courage and patience to make it to the falls in a good mood. You will be pushed, and pulled, scratched by shrubs if you’re sitting on the side stools like I was. You’ll develop callouses during those 8 hours, your shoes most probably will be soaked in combinations of mud and animal poop which you and your fellow travelers have stepped on, before finally reaching a point when you just don’t care anymore.
The Twenty Minutes Hike
After we offloaded the military truck, we then had to hike for twenty minutes to reach the entrance of Kaparkan Falls. This is relatively easy considering all that we’ve been through. All in all, it took us four hours before we heard the roaring sound of majestic Kaparkan Falls.
Road Going Back to Jump Off Point
Going back from the falls to the main road was the same trail, same story except that we had to add roughly two hours to the travel time because of a broken axle in one of the wheels of our 6×6. We’re blessed that though it took some time,
no NPA approached us axle was repaired and we did not need rescue which is sometimes the case during mechanical breakdowns. Rescue means longer waiting hours as the spare 6×6 will also come from the jump off point, more than 35kms away.
It was said during the briefing that breakdowns are highly likely to occur due to punishing terrain.We in fact saw one truck which malfunctioned along the trail. It looked like it’s been sitting there for days waiting for retrieval.
Cases like this are the reason why bringing extra food and water is recommended. In my case, because I wanted to travel light, I brought only packed lunch. I did not eat from 11AM up to the time we reached our accommodation at night, at a circumstance when energy was badly needed. With my migraine triggered, I found out for the first time that it’s possible to feel like throwing up because of hunger. There was a small store in between the paved and unpaved road but their supply wasn’t enough for everyone. I brought enough water though. And oh, a few friends I made inside the truck gave out candies.
Also, while we were all giddy and enthusiastic before reaching the falls, we were a lot more silent with some even half asleep going back.
We were finally back at our accommodation, Hollanda Transient, by 7:30PM. We traveled from sun rise to sundown, endured bruises, scratches, hunger, and exhaustion just to spend 3 hours in Kaparkan Falls, lunchtime included. Is it worth it? Definitely worth it! In fact, the masochist in me is willing to go back given the chance.
I was a solo joiner in a tour organized by Viajero Gabrielle Travel and Tours. It means I joined eleven total strangers for this Vigan-Abra trip. You may DIY but only up to some extent. It will be a challenge to DIY Kaparkan Falls unless you can hire an entire 6×6 military truck. You can hire 4×4 before but now, I’m not sure if it’s still allowed. If yes, for your safety, check first their rescue capabilities because of the circumstances discussed above. You may also try to hike all the way through. That I’m sure you may do because we saw a couple who did that on the same day we were there but it requires a whole new level
of craziness of sense of adventure.
Realities vs expectations of Kaparkan Falls is on my next post.