Tarlac: The latest kayaking destination

Whitewater rafting on the Bulsa River in Tarlac offers both thrills in churning rapids or stretches of calm where one can enjoy the view of majestic mountains and the idyllic countryside.

MANILA, Philippines - It used to be that enjoying the extreme sport of whitewater kayaking meant going all the way to the Chico River in Kalinga, or down south in Cagayan de Oro or Davao. These days, there is a quiet town in Northern Luzon that is fast gaining a reputation as a great spot for rapids, especially suited for beginners.

Only around four hours travel by land from Metro Manila, this famed destination is the Bulsa River in San Jose, Tarlac, which was just recently discovered kayaking enthusiasts.

The rapids of the Bulsa River are categorized as Class II, which affords just the right amount of adventure for neophyte kayakers. The rapids are generally smooth and gentle to moderately quick, and the passages between rocks are clear and open. The sport is also professionally facilitated by guides from Rapid Stream Ecotours, the sole operator of kayaking trips in the area.

The experience begins in the mountain village of Maamot, where the body of water originates and meanders through the lush greenery of San Jose with its charming rural scenes. The next few hours in the water increase the pace to a more intense ride, as the river picks up and churns the kayak around with its frothy tide. On some days, the current is at its most powerful and can even capsize the kayak - making for a veritable roller coaster ride.

Shortly thereafter, the river returns to a calmer mood once again, inviting riders to gaze upon the majestic mountains looming in the distance and to bask in quietude as they recover from the adrenaline rush. For the more adventurous, there are spots along the river to enjoy cliff jumping and kayak surfing.

Going through all of the 12.5-kilometer stretch of the Bulsa River will take riders around three to four hours, with a good mix of adrenaline rush and peaceful solitude - the perfect antidote to a stress-ridden urban life. Kayaking in the rapids of Tarlac might lead to strained arms and an exhausted body, but the adventure amidst the beauty and majesty of nature is definitely worth it.

Discovering the Bulsa River in San Jose is quick, easy and affordable with Victory Liner buses. A one-way trip only costs a little over P200. The company's fleet of well-maintained buses are manned by highly trained personnel and provide complete amenities such as cushioned seats, efficient air-conditioning and strong Wi-Fi connection to make the four-hour journey more comfortable and pleasurable.

From the Victory Liner Siesta stopover in Tarlac, one of the best options to get to the starting point of Maamot is to arrange for a two-way transfer with Rapid Stream Ecotours for a minimal fee of P200 per person. The road travel to Maamot will take around 45 minutes.

The complete kayaking experience will cost only P2,500 inclusive of the briefing and short lecture, snacks, as well as rental of helmets, vests and kayak. The Rapid Stream site office is conveniently located at the end of the river route.

Hourly trips to Tarlac from Victory Liner's Cubao and Pasay terminals are available for booking. To learn more about trip schedules and terminal locations, visit www.victoryliner.com or e-mail info@victoryliner.com. Follow Victory Liner as well at www.twitter.com/VictoryLinerInc.

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