February 21, 2009

Playing Hide and Seek With Mayon Volcano (Part 1: Lignon Hill)

The majestic Mayon volcano was in a playful mood when we landed in Legazpi City, teasing us all throughout the day as we pleaded for it to blow away its white shroud even for just a moment.
View from the Tarmac
Gin and I were expecting to be treated with a view of the world’s perfect cone upon stepping out of the plane. I even excitedly told her that we might even have a glimpse of it while we’re still in the air. However, we only saw lush vegetation and forests on our approach towards the airport. We were still combing the greens with our eyes for something interesting to see when we were nudged to our seat by a rough landing. It felt as if the pilot just dropped the plane on the runway like a bowling novice dropping a bowling ball on the lane. Gin begged to differ, though.

After stamping our first mark on the tarmac, I immediately tried to look for Mayon. At first, I thought I was just looking at the wrong direction. But after mimicking the possessed child in The Exorcist, my strained eyes and neck couldn’t find the volcano. While wondering as to where it is, I noticed a wide mound just below a band of clouds that hovered behind Lignon hill. I then realized that it was Mayon!

After passing by the tourist desk, we set out on foot to Lignon hill. We were told that it was just a 15-minute walk from the airport. But after five minutes of avoiding mud and potholes, we decided to just take a tricycle to the foot of our first stop.

Lignon Hill

Lignon Hill is the first accessible tourist attraction from the airport. It’s a favorite among first timers and locals alike as it gives one a good 360-degree view of the whole city, including a panoramic and unobstructed vista of Mt. Mayon. At first, the trek seemed easy as a paved road laces Lignon from head to foot. However, just 10 minutes through the climb, my knees were starting to remind me that they were missing a few ligaments. On the other hand, Gin was just taking it in stride (to think that I was the one in Nikes), going up on bends and inclines as if her Havaianas had wings on them. I ended up trailing her for most of the hike.

One thing that made our climb interestingly difficult was Legazpi’s fickle weather. We were initially thankful that the sun didn’t get out of bed immediately. After thanking the heavens for what seemed to be a sweat-free climb in view of the sun’s absence, the clouds played a trick on us by sprinkling us with rain on some stretches of our hike. Gin was saved from a second bath, thanks to her umbrella. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t bring one. While we shared her small piece of roof, I still ended up looking like I needed a spin drier.

The climb was worth it, though. Upon reaching Lignon’s peak, we were treated to a spectacular view of Legazpi City. The summit also seemed to be a very good viewing deck for Mayon hunters. Serving as Lignon Hill’s crown is a huge gazebo. The structure and the area around it are still undergoing construction and landscaping, so visitors have something to look forward to in the months to come.

While we were feasting on a sensory overload courtesy of the surrounding mountains and the Albay Gulf, the temperamental Mayon still wasn’t in the mood to give us a moment of its time, so we went down the Lignon mound with only pictures of a gray-shaded volcano. Before reaching the base, we took shelter on a nearby sari sari store as we were again threatened with a third bath. Coconuts littered the area. I was hoping for a buko shake. But after noticing the absence of electric posts, I gave up on the hope that the store has a blender. I just settled for a bottle of Pop Cola while Gin had a whole coconut for herse

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