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Getting Intimate with Cows at Almarai Company’s Al Danah Farm in the “Milk Road”

Almarai Company (Almarai) never stop committing to its catchline: “Quality You Can Trust”. This is the reason why it embarked on providing the general public with free visits to its cow farms and processing plants in Al Kharj in the year 2013 as part of its whole new level of bringing intimate connection with the customers.

Our last visit (“Almarai’s Central Processing Plant In Al Kharj“) did not include any of the seven dairy farms: Al Hamra, Al Fanar, Al Nakheel, Al Rabiah, Al Badiah, Al Danah, and Todhia. Almarai is so gracious that we were given another chance to book a visit last 14 August 2016. Our gratitude to our colleague, Warren Rivera, for including me and my friends in the invite sent to Almarai’s Communications & PR Department two months prior to said date. (Booking is a bit of challenge due to the rising public demand especially during this time of the year and early summer.)

We had to check the bakery plant once again because the arranged visit included it as the first stop. The final one would be the Al Danah Farm, which is just a few kilometers away from Almarai’s Central Processing Plant (CPP) area.

We were all filled with so much anticipation and excitement as we were nearing the dairy farm’s gate. Finally, we were setting foot on one of Almarai’s seven dairy farms. How interesting it would be to see herd of cows in the desert. I had always thought cows are only a thing in the tropics where grass ideally thrives. It was difficult to picture farming them in a Saudi Arabian desert. Thank God for the booming dairy farms in the capital city that challenged the imagination of the concerned locals. According to what I read, there are more than 120,000 heads of cattle being raised in Al Kharj and 80 percent of the dairy products produced in Saudi Arabia comes from the area. Hence, the name “Milk Road”.

Almarai, of course, holds the highest number of the figures; it is the largest integrated dairy foods company in the world.

Before we entered the facility proper, we had to undergo disinfection at the gate. The bus that carried us had to be disinfected too through another form of disinfecting equipment a few meters away from the gate.

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At about ten minutes, we were already seeing the cows peacefully resting in the sheds which the caretakers call “‘parlor”. The smell of sheds was what took my attention for a minute. It brought me back to my hometown in the Philippines where a number of cows graze in front of our house.

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The smell is something not so, for lack of a better word to describe it, inviting because of huge milk vats mixed with cow dung on the grounds. Nevertheless, it was something that made me feel closer to home in a special way.

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I am not a technical person when it comes to this kind of facility but one thing I observed, based on the the way the geezers run the operations of the farm, is that everything is closely monitored―from the cows’ identification system to how much milk they produce respectively, even the narration of how silage are being meticulously made…among other processes.
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These thousands of cattle are all of Holstein breed. Logic and research tells me that is so because of their outstanding milk production.
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The entire herds produce an average of 13,000 liters a year.
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A total of one hour and a half was spent at watching and photographing the cows, the parlors, and the milking house. We all went back onto the bus for a drive through the restaurant in CPP for our lunch. Then, after gorging our sacs and taking a bag of freebies, we were again back inside the bus to, this time, head home. 
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The trip was a great way to break the monotony of my travel trips. Funny how dairy farms in the desert emerged this big. Keeping cows in the middle of the kingdom’s barren lands is no easy task. Almarai never fails to impress the world with its innovative demonstration of relentless pursuit of providing quality dairy and food products everyone can trust.
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For booking requests, please visit the Almarai website or click here to get straight to the page in the screenshot.

Related Articles

Dairy Farm Visit (snapshotsofsaudi.worpdress.com)
A Tour to Al Safi Dairy Farm in Al Kharj around Riyadh (life-in-saudiarabia.blogspot.com)
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Joyride to Nofa Farm and Resorts’ Safari Park & 1MW Solar Power Plant

It was already gloaming when Ace came to fetch us from the lawn (Nofa Farm and Resorts: A Private Oasis of Tranquility and Restful Retreat). Yahoo! Off to Safari Park at last.

When we were at the court’s parking lot, we were given the privilege to choose between a van and a 4×4 pickup. The adventurous spirit in us picked the one that suited the character. The next thing we knew was we were “cargo-loading” as opposed to top-loading on the pickup’s. We were also joined by some of Ace’s fellow tennis players who were not able to visit the park in the morning. It was so much fun―really! We had to shoot a live video. Check it out!

We were only able to catch a few animals like the lone gazelle at the entrance and ostriches near the paved road.

There were those that were visible and roaming around the park but were either elusive or too far away that could not be nicely captured by our cameras.

The growing vibrancy of the gloaming was actually the thing that made this joyride worth having, I believe. Staring into the distance as darkness slowly fell was breathtaking.

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The kind of views that could be framed were so unique that I could not help myself bask in the glory of the moment. I felt so blessed that I was on that vehicles open cargo.

The experience was soon epitomized by the rolling hills capped by sunset colors in the distance; the glittering sand dunes; the center pivot irrigation equipment and the grass below them; and the astonishing structure of the one megawatt solar power plant comprising 28 units of CS500 Concentrator Photovoltaics (CPV) Dish System.

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This solar power facility is the very supplier of clean energy into Nofa Resorts’ whole internal grid.

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It is worth mentioning that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a key emerging market for Solar Systems, which paves the way for a cleaner and greener energy source and, soon, replacement of domestic oil consumption. I must say I love this place now more than ever.

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This area of Nofa Resorts has fleeting desert riches that make for quaint golden hour pictures. With all the beautiful adjectives that came out from each of our mouths while witnessing the spectacular scenery nature was painting during that time, we were all enthralled beyond question. The opportunity to view the entirety of another Saudi Arabian destination in Riyadh Province during the gloaming is such a cherished experience. 

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It was another perfect time for sunset picture when we got back to our accommodations and the court.

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It felt incredibly satisfying to bear witness to this another equally rare moment―when the sun is that low and creates a nice, warm light that makes the skies come alive at the ending of the day. Seems like everything around lights up as the day gradually transitions to night. Yes, we have not fully seen the animals at the Safari Park but the kind of attraction that fed our senses during the entire ride was more than enough.

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That golden light makes the world look insanely beautiful! We were so happy and content to have been part of this once in a lifetime joyride.

Nofa Farm and Resorts or Nofa Equestrian Resort (Location Map

P.O. Box 66223
Riyadh  11576 Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966-11-6542981
Phone: +966-11-6542900
Email: support@nofaresort.com

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Nofa Farm and Resorts: A Private Oasis of Tranquility and Restful Retreat

I am a nature lover. I would instantaneously trade malling or watching TV series with nature trips. This was exactly what happened last Wednesday, November 09, 2016. After dinner, thechinitowanderer, who is a flatmate, were discussing plans for the weekend. I really wanted to window shop or splurge on food. I also felt the need to undergo another session for green therapy because the workplace had been an energy and time draining ground in the past few weeks. My heart actually preferred the former but when my phone beeped, there was an instant change of plans. The beep was a message from our good friend Ace Galleta, who is  also a certified  traveler, inviting us to join him in his second “sponsored” visit to Nofa Farm & Resort.

The Nofa Farm and Resorts (Nofa Resorts for short), at present, is a destination that almost every expat in the  kingdom as well as the entire Arab world would want to set foot on. It is privately owned by His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Mohd bin Saud Al Kabeer up to this time, but rumor has it that Radisson Blu – Riyadh will soon take complete possession of the place. Prince Al Kabeer is also the founder and owner of the largest dairy foods company in the Middle East: Almarai Company.

Then Friday morning came. Ace fetched us at exactly 5:30 AM in Al Izdihar―just in time for the sun to peek in my bedroom window. The sun’s rays sent a glossy silver sheen all around the room, blending with the dull cream paint and hanged t-shirts and long sleeves slightly wavering in the Arabian winter breeze. I wore my backpack and ran to my flatmate’s room who was also all ready to zoom off .

A few minutes later we headed straight to Hyper Panda along King Fahad Road in Takhassusi to meet with the rest of Ace’s friends and co-members of Pinoy Netters Club – Riyadh Chapter. At 7:20 AM, we were already  on the long and winding Makkah Highway bound for Nofa Farm & Resort in the town of Al Nemar, Riyadh Province. We completed approximately two hours (84 km) for this journey.

The sunshine was all over the map by the time we alighted from the vehicles.

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The Nofa Resorts is like a town of mini gardens, out of which interminable supply of fresh air, based on the views we were able to see from the threshold and on our way to its golf course, equestrian centre, tennis courts, residential estates, and stables―our penultimate stops. The ultimate would be the Safari Park.

Since we were in a group of tennis players and the idea of the visit was actually a one-day tournament, we settled at the tennis court, which is nestled in a large expanse of grasslands and partially divided by either date palms or woody perennial trees.

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Side trips for guests of the guests, us, are just byproducts.

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Adjacent to it are the equestrian centre and golf resort whose joint forces make for a stunning Western countryside landscape during spring.

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As for us, “guests of the original guests of a private member”, who are not really in love with tennis, we resorted to feasting on its breathtaking surroundings after gorging our sacs with some food and, subsequently, watching three matches. Any player in a tournament needs support.

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The heavy food in our stomachs was what compelled us to go for a stroll a little bit later. That was supposed to be just me and Onel, the chinitowanderer, but Ace is naturally a hospitable “guest-host” that he had to leave the tournament for a tour guide’s role―our tour guide.

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With the weather getting colder and colder here in the Middle East, a lot of people opt to stay indoors. But for born wanderers like us, the first we think about is going for stroll at a place that is as awesome as this.

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How could you say no to the crunchy green leaves gracing the trees, the equally crispy grassland, the gleaming blue skies, the birds heralding  winter, and the stables discharging an exquisite Western countryside vibe. Together, they define some of the most spectacular views of nature at its finest.

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According to the website ”globetrotting.com”, this luxury private members’ club has an estimated value of $80,000,213.45 (SAR 300,000,000). It is a combination of Equestrian Centre (Nofa Farm) and African Theme Resort (Nofa Resort). It shelters  one of the largest equestrian facilities in the world and is only a few  years old.

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The nourishing cool feel and vista of  the greenery of sprawling grasslands are the standouts for me. But we got to that part of the resort where  we saw a nipa hut solely protruding on top of a hill, things slightly changed. We all got totally enamored of the Philippine vibe it projected.

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It was an opportune time for our tired feet. We only became aware of the time when we decided to  take a rest in the inviting hut. We did not know we had been leisurely roaming around for 45 minutes.

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We were all the more disarmed by the pulchritude of the place when we took a rest inside the nipa hut. The views atop are exhilarating.

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We now completely understand why Nofa Resorts is aesthetically described as a private oasis of tranquility and restful retreat.

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We all suddenly felt home while we were all comfortably settled in our respective spots inside the hut, simultaneous with savoring―and later photographing―the irresistible nature views from that vantage point.

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Being able to feel you are one with nature has no exact words to describe it. We, again, forgot to check our watches that it took us almost an hour before we remembered  the wildlife safari schedule. Nature has a mysterious way of making us forget time. We then rushed back to the court hoping we could still make it to the wildlife safari but to no avail. Apparently, we were already an hour late and we are no VIPs; the truck left on time.

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But Ace is Ace. He did not give up. He went straight to Sir Ogie, a senior member of Pinoy Netters Club and the major sponsor of this visit. First, he requested to organize a repeat of the safari experience; the request was not granted. He pleaded and was denied. He gave up. No. The sponsor had to eventually bend to his will by offering a proposition: that we will visit the safari but on the condition that we will only be able to view the animals through the gates via a 4×4. And, that would be four hours after lunchtime (5:00 PM). 

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The first thing that we had to worry about upon learning that was where to spend the next four hours other than the court. It was a bit of a puzzle until the winter zehpyr slapped our bodies and all our heads turned to a viriscent boscage that was then right in front of us obscuring the view on the other side of the court. Things became less complicated when we all realized that relishing the simple nature wonders around is the best thing to do. As white collar workers, this is the perfect time to really slow down.

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At this very moment, I must say that ultimate bonding with nature made us all feel restored. It is always a pleasure promoting the benefits of undergoing a green therapy every now and then as well as sharing the beauty of nature here on the blog. People around the world gravitate to images of nature regardless of culture. We have an inborn affiliation for nature; therefore, we cannot resist views of the natural world, even the ordinary ones.

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The long hours of conversation soon made our backs demand for crunches; we had to give in. After a few crunches and stretches, we took a lot of usies. Nature made our bonds stronger. The ground where we spent the long hours at somehow became our green gym. The engaging long talks, relishing of the natural views around, and feeling the gentle afternoon breeze complemented our green exercises. It feels extra special to be with people who appreciate and value nature the way I do.

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For me, what happened during that four hours was, by far, became one of the best winter afternoons. The Nofa Resorts (location map here) is indeed a private oasis of tranquility and restful retreat.

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The sky at 4:45 PM. It was almost time for the next adventure…

Thank you very much, Ace and to your sponsors from Pinoy Netters Club, for sharing with us the privilege to set foot on this wonderland!

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Nofa Farm and Resorts or Nofa Equestrian Resort

P.O. Box 66223
Riyadh  11576 Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966-11-6542981
Phone: +966-11-6542900
Email: support@nofaresort.com

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A Minor Excursion to One of Saudi Arabia’s Historical Treasures: Al Masmak Fort and Museum

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Top 5 Spots for Nature Lovers in Riyadh

We, humans, have an intrinsic emotional need to connect with nature (also known as biophilia) and this has been repeatedly proven through researches or reviews such as “Health benefits of urban vegetation and green space: Research roundup”; “Environmental Benefits of Green Space – Project Evergreen”; “Health benefits of green spaces in the living environment: A systematic review of epidemiological studies”; and so forth. Such that urban planning, which is a relatively new profession by the way, has emerged from concerns for health and well-being through preventing illnesses and diseases that have something to do with substandard sanitation, exposure to different kinds of environmental pollution, and even overcrowding.

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Street Photography in Dirah: A Prologue to the “Top 5 Spots for Nature Lovers in Riyadh”

I got into a no blogging phase after my last post (“Calaguas Island Tour’s Day 2: The Time of Our Lives“) on September 12 due to working on some higher priorities so to speak.

A few days ago, I tried so hard to get back into blogging after the long pause. It was foiling…I wrote different blog titles but none of them reached the draft stage. Tonight, I just dived into it and―look there―this prologue to the post (“Top 5 Spots for Nature Lovers in Riyadh”)  that I had tried to finish long before the hiatus.

The title was actually a suggestion from Ms. Laura Alho of the Blue Abaya. She commented on one of the photos I posted on my Instagram last July 25. I was star-struck; nonetheless, got more motivated and inspired considering her reputation. Subsequently, she sent me an email  about guest posting. I did not fully understand it was about that until my long break. When I was in the mood to compose it though, priorities crept in as stated earlier. I was unable to get back to her on time so I now decided to have the post on the blog instead. Thankfully, my writing mojo is back and there is no stopping it (at least for now).

But before I publish that post, I would like to share with you three of my most favorite snapshots―which were all taken along Al Thumairi Street in Ad Dirah during my first (“The Very Colorful And Nitid Land Of Golden Souqs“) and second visits there to do street photography with my housemates (Alvin and Marwin), officemates (Ace and Charles), and Onel (thechinitowanderer).

Doing photography for almost five years now, I still consider myself an amateur because the only “science” behind my technique is trial and error―pressing the shutter countless times only to pick just a few in the end.

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That said, there were a lot of things that I learned from the experience of being a non-pro photographer. One of which is that there is something beautiful out of the mundane. That I have the power to make something boring interesting rather than trying to capture something interesting in a boring way. I believe this is what matters most in photography. It has become my social media platforms’ catchphrase as well as a guiding principle in this craft ever since.

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Those two visits in downtown Riyadh made me realize that, beyond question, street photography is all about capturing beauty in the mundane.

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Learn to embrace the ordinary things around you because doing so could unlock your true potential in photography.

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Calaguas Island Tour’s Day 2: The Time of Our Lives

After our fun-filled hiking and relaxing wrap-up on our first day in Calaguas Island, we were promised a very mobile second day by Lisa and Anthony. We all entered our castle tents with a smile and crashed out with so much anticipation for the next day’s activities. The overflowing vigor and enthusiasm enveloping us didn’t wane just yet. Not in a place like this.

In 2013, the Isla Lipana & Co., a Philippine member of the London-based PricewaterhouseCoopers—a multinational consultancy firm, conducted an online survey showcasing 175 of the country’s pristine natural tourist destinations to increase the awareness and appreciation for these spots in order to upheave the tourism industry. Every Bicolano, adopted or native, stood proud after voters posted their choices. Calaguas Island in Camarines Norte emerged as the number 1 “tourism gem” of the Philippines…The other must-visit sites that made it to the final 10 were Lake Sebu, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Biri Island Rock Formation, Mt. Kanlaon Nature Park, Danjugan Island, Panglao Island, Apo Island, Apo Reef Natural Park, and Batanes Island. This was the very gist of the travel article from Philippine Daily Inquirer that compelled me to add Calaguas Island to my bucket list three years ago.

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At about 4:30 in the morning, we were awakened. Our tent was shaking because CJ and Algend were prompting us to go out and jog on the beach, repeatedly, but we were still so sleepy. They only gave up when they saw our languid demeanor. The last thing I remembered before I dozed off again was Ms. Wonderwall handed my camera to Algend. Roughly thirty minutes later, we got up and invited, Teyshaun, Harry, Lisa, and Rosh to come with us and go after CJ and Algend.

With all the things that had happened that day, Ms. Wonderwall and I still consider spending a night at the beach the most romantic time ever.

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We caught Algend and CJ, along with other visitors, doing a photo shoot at the far right side of the beach where volcanic outcrops dominate the lanscape. Good thing I had my camera phone. I was able to capture the views that were molded into sublime beach scenery.

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There’s a subtle difference in the kind of beauty the views around exhibit when the sun is at its peak and when it’s just peeping in the distance.

Then I felt the cold wind from the sea hugging the entire place. I thought a little warm-up was necessary before dipping in the water again. I then suggested to do another hike. Right then and there, my optical organs got magnetized by a signboard to my right boasting another trail to the peak. It sealed the deal despite the entrance fee.

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The trail started off right from the beach area and it was indeed facile compared to the one we treaded before it. There are man-made steps and markers on the bushy trees are also visible along the way. After more or less 30 feet down the trail, we saw a nipa hut. The first hike didn’t give us a convenient place for Take 5. The nipa hut did. From there, the peak could already be scaled somewhere in the region of 55 meters. One can also get a decent view of Calaguas Island’s densely populated yet picturesque area.

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We took a few usies and aerial shots of the island before we did the assault. Another set of group selfies and pictures of the scenery atop were framed. When the sunshine started scratching our skin, we prepared for descent. Nevertheless, the day was too charming to just spend it inside the tent or under the trees. An idyllic, vigorous day of kayaking in this paradisaical island was what I anticipated. 

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By the time we were conditioned for swimming, the entire Mahabang Buhangin was already crowded. We dillydallied for a while until we came up with the idea of sneaking into the private area of Tinaga island, which is the one that can be fully seen at the peak and is located straight down the hill.

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For the record, we hesitated but upon knowing that there was literally no one but us in the place, we went it. Thank goodness, no one appeared to drive us away. I had to sing  one of my favorite travel songs, “Pure Shores”. We did all sorts of fun we could do and we instantaneously turned into the younger versions of Harry, Teyshaun, and Rosh. We ran here and there as if we were playing Hide and Seek. We jumped. We yelled. We tumbled. We shouted for joy…It was like a total time warp of our seven-year old selves. It was a fantastic way to kill time and definitely a great segue to the kayak that’s going to come any moment.

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The four elements seemed to be in unison for providing us the perfect atmosphere. We were not to waste a second.

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We relished the summer’s warm temperatures, clear skies, and epic views of the whole private spot of Tinaga Island with requisite boats that either currently crossing or transporting visitors, who can afford scuba diving, at the smaller islands nearby. Owning the entire spot during that day was way more awesome than doing any of the other activities included in all the available island tour packages.   

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In the middle of our frolic, Lisa and Anthony came over—with the kayak. It goes without saying it bolstered the amusement we were already having all the more. Trust me when I say we needed that kayak. 

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We decided to take turns on kayaking. CJ and Liza set out first. They were able to propel really far. I could barely see them in the next photo. What I didn’t know was the paddling part was insanely difficult. Liza showed no tinge of that adjective until our turn came.

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I wished I didn’t take the paddler. I should have given it to Algend. So my ignorance of the sport, kayaking, was revealed. I thought paddling was as easy as posting a photo on Instagram or Facebook. It wasn’t. It isn’t. I was utterly stripped of my all athletic abilities the moment they noticed the difference between flapping and paddling. Picture me doing the walk of shame. That’s what they did to me. But my happy self didn’t falter so I took all the insults in. That’s where the friendship’s breath rides on. These people, with the inclusion of Ms. Wonderwall, are the kind that turn me into a handsome, playful monster. The same is true for the rest of the group. It’s worth swallowing the embarrassment not to mention pride.

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We were so having the time of our lives I must say! The last time we were exactly in the same position was at the beach in Batangas near our friend’s house—16 years ago. It didn’t matter how brown our skins got in broad daylight, we weren’t going to our tents and nipa hut for lunch until our knees weakened and our facial muscles contracted. I wanted to freeze every minute of that moment.

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We only became immobile when our energy had been zapped and our mouths were already craving savory and authentic Bicolano victuals. It was already quarter past noon when we got once again to our designated nipa hut. Time to gorge ourselves on the meals courtesy of the couple, Lisa and Anthony. They really know how to take care of their guests. They served up fantastic meals, and thank God they gave in to our short-order requests (fried fish and Bicol Express with Gulay na Santol) on our last day.

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All these wonderful moments wouldn’t have been possible without Liza and Anthony of Calaguas Island Tours and Packages by Anthony’s Travel and Island Tours with their two sidekicks, Melo and Jiero, of course. I couldn’t help but already feel nostalgic when I was finishing my lunch. It was only there that I felt the sad part of good times like this: waving adieu—to this paradise that had been our sanctuary for two days and one night.

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I used to be terrible at dealing with this kind of situation until I got to where I’m at now, working overseas. I now fully comprehend the incredibly painful yet hopeful part of life: dealing with the inevitable farewell. The easiest way of coping with it is knowing that you’re never alone at this and only a call away just in case. I couldn’t be any happier my friends manifested the same kind of coping mechanism.

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On our way back to the reality so to speak, we had nothing but smiles on our faces. It looked like we have all reached maturity now that we can turn sentiments into cachinnations.

“The best things said come last. People will talk for hours saying nothing much and then linger at the door with words that come with a rush from the heart” (Alan Alda).

I heard you loud and clear, mga Parekoy! See you around.

#bicolbloggers #itsmorefuninbicol #calaguasisland #Phoneography #kayak #kayaking #mahabangbuhangin #gemofthephilippines #PhilippineBeaches #PhilippineImages #tinagaisland

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Catching the Rustic Sunset in Calaguas Island

One thing I adore about my college friends is their adventurous nature. There’s no dull moment whenever I’m with them. They can always awaken that dormant humor in me or expel that spoilsport from me. But when it comes to outdoor adventures or anything that requires strenuous activities, I take the lead.

I was the first to get out from the water when Melo reminded us of the next activity in our itinerary: hiking. That’s one of the most motivational words in my dictionary. I take every chance to exercise so I was so glad when my super travel buddies and Ms. Wonderwall followed what I did and showed enthusiasm for hiking. We’re already on our early 30s. Opportunities for us to exercise should be a priority.

We immediately took a shower in an open area of the island where a bucket of water is equivalent to five pesos. Our bodies were just too hungry for adventures that we didn’t even feel hungry after swimming. After changing our clothes to something less revealing, we waited for the Exsagged Team (CJ, Algend, Liz, Rosh, Tayshaun, Harry, yours truly, & Cy) and Calaguas Island Tours and Packages by Anthony’s Travel and Island Tours‘ (Lisa, Anthony, Melo, & Jiero) to be in complete attendance. At that point, I couldn’t contain my excitement to hike the nearby hill, which loftily stands towards the northern end of Calaguas Island when directly facing Mahabang Buhangin. After a couple of minutes, I began counting heads. It’s a standard operating procedure I learned from my mentors during mountaineering days. There were 12 of us who enthusiastically went on an extended walk for exercise and pleasure—to witness the most supernal nature feat in my book: sunset.

When I asked Lisa about the name of the hill, she told me the hill has no name or that there’s one circulating yet. She enthused, “I’ll call it Tralala for now.” Then everybody laughed.

On our way up to the hill, we felt so delighted to see cows grazing on verdant herbage. Such is an amusement for city dwellers who only get to appreciate simple things when in a rural area. I also grew up looking at cows grazing in our neighbor’s backyard almost every day yet I was completely one with my urban, college friends at that moment. I guess my immersion in the city for more than a decade now has taken its toll. Nonetheless, the good thing that comes out of it is my now urbanized life enables me to see value and beauty in the mundane. The wide and open extent of healthy trees was also noticeable.

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A few minutes later, the trees gave way to a glade—which opened a better view of the beach and the rest of the islands—and eventually to the hill’s crest. It was just past five o’clock in the afternoon by that time. The sky was still clear.

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Below the cliff is an aerial view of Tinaga Island’s beach that is equally picturesque as Calaguas’.

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That moment reminded me of my Bagolatao hiking experience because that was how I and Ms. Wonderwall wrapped our summer escapade’s first day at White Pebbles Beach Resort in the summer of 2015. We also hiked the nearby hill to catch the sunset and to frame the circumambient view of Bagolatao shoreline (“Bagolatao Trilogy’s Part 1: Basking in the Natural Scenery“).

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When I was at that vantage point where I saw the ever captivating view of the horizon showing the sky kissing the sea, I suddenly felt nostalgic.

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The tear duct of my optical organs silently broke for the feelings I came to crave after my first summit experience. The overwhelming silence (“The Playground Of Demigods And Nephilims: Tarak Ridge“). The exquisite feeling of amazement when you see the world at a higher level. The exhilaration of being able to walk miles away from the mountain’s foot (“Why Do I Love Mountain Climbing?“). The thrill of holding on for your life that made me realize how alive I can be when I’m  at the brink of losing it (“Embraced By The Labyrinth’s Trail Of Mount Marami“). The happiness of carrying an eighty-liter backpack, which contains my vittles and camping gear, for hours (“Tirad Pass’ Historical Trails in Ilocos Sur“). The chance of meeting people from different walks of life and become friends with them (“Mount Maculot’s Irony“). The acts that cut life down to the basics: get up, move, eat, sleep, get down (“Weekly Photo Challenge: Simple“). The life lessons that only the mountains can teach (“Where The Four Great Amputees And Mountains Led Me” and “To The Mountains”). And, of course, that chance to witness the sun setting at that thin silver or golden lines shooting across the horizon.

In all my travels, specifically nature trips, I consider watching the sunset the ultimate experience.

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Standing on the edge of the hill’s crest at that incredible moment made me feel I’m indeed part of one of the most spectacular sights in the Universe—of something important.

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Once again, I was stunned at how the unique harmony of colors starts to seep through the rustic sky of Calaguas Islands. While I was marveling at the sunset, I realized just how it mirrors life’s cycle of duality. The sun must create a space and time for darkness. Think of the hard times and the good times or the dark tunnel and the light at the end of it. Funny how natural wonders like this make us realize how, without a doubt, connected we are to nature.

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I read an article about sunset on highexistence.com a few months ago. Based on the article, the beauty of sunset is something that the painters have been trying to capture, the poets have been trying to describe, and the scientists have been trying to measure.

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I agree. Looking at it deeper, there’s really no description or measure that can truly capture the sunset’s mysterious majesty but only a few words can express its beauty. At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to grasp that beauty and truth, which is held within a sunset.

The main reasons why we took this Calaguas Tour were to recharge our batteries, disconnect from the hurly-burly of our urban lives, to catch the sunset up a hill, to be reunited after four years, and to celebrate the milestone of our friendship. It’s been 16 years since we became friends. Now that we’ve successfully passed the seven-year expiry date on friendships, friends should be definitely changed to “super friends or travel buddies”. There was no better way to commemorate that milestone than to have the sunset as witness. Here’s to our 16th year, to never growing old, and to our unconditional love, mga Parekoy!

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We all descended with big smiles on our faces, and we ended the day by standing again on the beach, gazing out over the ocean to the golden horizon.

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“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart” (Elisabeth Foley).

Related Articles

Sunset in Calaguas Island, Camarines Norte (eaglenews.ph)

The Traveling Panda: Calaguas Island: Travel Guide (mikelaagan.com)

Photo of the Day: Sunrise at Calaguas Island (visitpinas.com)

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Calaguas Island: A Perfect Microcosm of Paradise in the Bicol Region

It was 02-03 April 2016, and the world smelled of ocean breeze and salty air. I was, once again, at my happiest!

A few months before I went home to the Philippines for my vacation last April,  my forever friends in college (Algend, CJ, & Liz) had informed me that they will be visiting Camarines Sur (CamSur) for the group’s yearly reunion. In addition to that, they’d be joining  I and Ms. Wonderwall’s planned summer getaway to Calaguas Island. I haven’t really given much thought about it, to be honest, considering that they said the same to us—a lot of times—when we were still based in Manila. The fact that we’re now extra farther from their respective places in the metropolis, put my expectations in a quiet corner. Guys, I have a free pass for saying things like that to you here, right?

Until I received a text message from my younger brother from another mother, Algend, that they were already aboard a bus bound for CamSur. I lied when I said I wasn’t expecting much from them. One of the many preparations I and Ms. Wonderwall did was we bought special bottles and finger food. We also cooked plenty of their favorite desserts not to mention stuffed the fridge with something edible. They’re not special. They just have big sacs that don’t get filled up—easily.

Receiving visitors like them is no pressure even though their confirmation only came a few hours before their arrival. Until they also signified their intention to join us in the getaway. No. The right words were “confirmed their attendance”. Thank heavens we had such a flexible travel and tour agent, Liza Concordia, of Calaguas Island Tours and Packages by Anthony’s Travel and Island Tours. The last-minute changes were quickly settled, with a mild headache.

The next thing we knew was we (Algend, CJ, Rosh, Liz, Harry and Tayshaun) were setting out to the getaway in the early morning of Saturday, 2nd of April. That was just a couple of hours after their arrival. We needed to catch the first van going to Daet, Camarines Norte otherwise we wouldn’t be able make it to the agreed pick-up time and place (i.e., 8:00 AM at Jollibee).

It’s suffice to say the agreements fell into place so we had a very smooth travel via the jeepney in Daet, where we met Liza’s husband (Anthony) son (Melo) and right hand (Jiero). They’re the commendable team behind Calaguas Island Tours and Packages by Anthony’s Travel and Island Tours). From there, we were transported to the penultimate destination, Vinzons’ Port Logpond, which impressed me with its amazing panoramas. The smooth cruise transformed into a challenging one—at least for some of us—during the two-hour boat ride to the ultimate destination, Calaguas Island. CJ and the son described their experience as one hell of a ride. She couldn’t stop screaming whenever the boat resists the violent moves of the sea. We were literally riding the waves. The Cyclopean slaps of the waves made the boat succumb to the moving ridge’s course. For someone like me who already had countless, for lack of a better word to describe it, waves’ experience, I was just like watching a pair of dancers gracefully moving to a pelagic tune.

A few minutes later, I started seeing a strip of white beaches nearby. I wanted to plunge into the water and swim my way through right then and there.

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I was that excited! For a year of being confined in a desert scenery, this kind of reaction is expected of me, a beach lover since birth.

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You could just imagine how my feet itched when we were finally approaching Calaguas Island.

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The sight of Mahabang Buhangin beach on Tinaga Island, which is now the one being promoted by the provincial government of Camarines Norte as Calaguas Island, made my heart skip a bit.

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The beautiful scenery during the stopover at Port Logpond proved that it was a just a prelude (“A Sneak Peek At The Astounding Landscape Of Vinzons’ Port Logpond In Camarines Norte“) to this perfect microcosm of paradise. The port reminded me of the Amazon River while the island reminded me of the movie, “The Beach”, and one of my favorite songs: “Pure Shores”. I, Ms. Wonderwall, and the rest of our forever friends couldn’t stop exclaiming beautiful adjectives to describe what our optical organs were feasting on.

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The sun was directly overhead by time we reached Calaguas Island. The paradisaical scapes were overpowering that we didn’t mind being toasted.

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How cool it is to watch the water mimicking the color of  the sky, to hear the hypnotic murmuring waves of the pulsing turquoise sea, and to gaze out at the offing that seemed to have been stitched with a silver line. The picture was a far cry from the scene described earlier on our way to this place.

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And when we started walking on the island’s long strip of white powdery sand—the finest of its kind—we were completely swept away. The beach looks like a well-scythed sward one would die to play on. Our toes were happily sand kissed.

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We became all the more invited to immediately settle in our spot upon hearing the laughs of children and adults frolicking in the crystal clear water simultaneous with seeing fellow weekend sightseers wearing tanned but joyful faces passing by.

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When Anthony and Liza were cooking for lunch, they prompted us to go lollygag in the sun or swimming.

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We chose dawdling the hours away as the sun was already too unforgiving by that time.

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An hour passed and we were eating three authentic mount-watering Bicol viands. Great local food and an atmosphere of humming waves accentuated the scene. By time we finished lunch, our accommodations were already pitched, waiting for us right under the trees in front of a lush vegetation. What a perfect hive.

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We let the kids roam around a little bit later so we could finally catch up. The countrified environment may have been too persuasive to make us sleep but our conversation was far engaging then that of nature’s force. We didn’t notice that we had consumed almost three hours talking about everything under the sun. Time flies faster when you’re having a good conversation I must say.

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When the sun’s rage began frittering away, the sea began casting it’s spell. It was about time to give in to the serenading calm, azure water.

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This is one of those extremely rare moments when the least that I could think of is holding my phone let alone pressing the shutter.

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I took that very moment to look at the ineffable natural wonder that is Calaguas Island.

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It’s now all clear to me why most of the blog posts I saw on the net used this word to describe it: paradise. I say, indeed!

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For the nth time, I noticed the tides ebb and flow languorously.

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I got fascinated by the way the waves gently crashed against the rocks and sands of the beach, their curling fingers painting the big and tiny stones with a gentle caress as the wind ushered them softly towards the shore.

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When I looked at Ms. Wonderwall with our great friends merrily swimming, it gave me a sense of satisfaction with life in the moment.

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Then I found myself floating in the turquoise ocean with them like there’s no tomorrow—free of gravity.

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I realized that my affinity with the water element is intrinsic. No wonder I’ve always turned to water for sense of calm, clarity, and rebirth.

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Our swimming chortles got  stirred  when Melo came over. He was yelling, “Kuya, ate, dudes, magha-hiking na daw po tayo para sa sunset” while cheerfully telling us to get out of the water as soon as possible. I wouldn’t mind being interrupted from my woolgathering if the reason is the same as Melo’s.

The next activity on the list is something I wouldn’t want to miss for the world. It’s been ages since I last hiked. My feet itched earlier because it wanted to get soaked and tickled by the fine sand. Now, it is itching to hike the nearby hill where visitors can witness the most supernal nature feat in my book: sunset! (Stay tuned for the sequel.)

#‎storiesofthewanderingfeeandmind‬ ‪#‎travel‬ #‎nature‬ ‪#‎wtnadventures‬ ‪#‎bicolbloggers‬ ‪#‎travelph‬ ‪#‎daet‬‪ #‎camarinesnorte‬ ‪#‎itsmorefuninbicol‬ ‪#‎traversephilippines‬‪ #‎thewanderingstenographer‬ ‪#‎iphoneography‬

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Calaguas Island Paradise (pattytriestoblog.com)

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Calaguas Island – Paradise of the Pacific (camarinesnorte.net)

Experiencing Paradise through Calaguas Atbp (s1expeditions.com)

CALAGUAS ISLAND: Paradise lost,Paradise found (pusangkalye.net)

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A Sneak Peek At The Astounding Landscape Of Camarines Norte In Vinzons’ Port Logpond