Have you ever felt jealous of Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) after watching the “Eat, Pray, Love” movie? Who wouldn’t want a year off, exploring exotic destinations like India, Bali, and Italy? I’ve spent a week in Ubud a couple of years ago but instead of self-discovery, I explored artsy shops, yoga stores and spas (C’mon guys, we all have weaknesses! Haha).
Little did I know that somewhere east of Manila, there’s a hidden sanctuary where I could actually have a weekend of calm – the Mount Purro Nature Reserve (MPNR) or simply known as Camp Explore (I actually prefer to call it the latter, MPNR is kind of too formal). Here, you can stretch your Php 1,000.00 for a 24-hour solitude.
HOW TO GO THERE
Whether alone or with friends and family, a commute isn’t that bad because along the road leading to the camp, it’s one heck of a breezy ride. Mount Purro Nature Reserve is situated at the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range. On the other hand, if you’re driving your own vehicle, it would be easier to pull over for a snapshot of the mountains and rice paddies along the way – a rural scene you rarely see but always crave. (Click here for COMMUTER’S GUIDE)
Jeep (Cubao to Cogeo), 60 minutes – Php 24.00
Jeep (Cogeo to Veterans), 30 minutes – Php 22.00
Tricycle (Veterans to Brgy. Kalawis Welcome Point), 15 minutes – Php 75.00
Tricycle (Welcome Point to Camp Explore), 15 minutes – Php 60.00
*NOTE: A single tricycle ride from the highway up to the campsite isn’t allowed by the local tricycle associations. But from the camp back to the highway, you can take a single ride. If you’re scrimping on expenses, wait for another passenger to share the ride with.
WHERE TO STAY
Every cottage has enough space for the whole family, a bunch of friends or a group of office workers out for some team building activities. A cottage that can accommodate at least 8 persons has two private toilets/baths (watch my video, & peek into the spacious interior of MPNR cottages).
If you’re not too privacy conscious and you’re on a budget, your Php 350.00 can go a long way – a cozy bed, a shared bath, and toilet in Camp Explore’s Pavilion Dorm.
All topped by thatched roofs, the cottages and cabins are well placed in the 34-hectare forest farm eco-retreat. Surrounded by lush green trees, you will be lulled to a peaceful sleep by crickets chirping at night. Add a lazy and relaxing acoustic guitar sound to the scene, the mood becomes perfect.
In the morning, you’ll wake up to the sound of water flowing from a nearby mountain stream. (Confession: The rain poured on my first night, I didn’t want to get out of bed ever!)
WHAT TO EAT
One of the struggles of being a solo traveler is you have to finish everything on your plate especially if it’s sinfully appetizing. At Camp Explore, you can choose between buffet-style and plated meals, all home-cooked.
The mess hall is very laid-back, you’ll forget you’re tens of kilometers from home. Dinnerware sets are charmingly placed on open wooden shelves. From ceiling lamps to wall frames, everything spells H-O-M-E.
WHAT TO DO
Bringing a book should be on top of your list, as there’s no shortage of secret and not-so-secret spots where you can drown yourself into the pages of a good book. Seven “Martha Stewart Gazebos” with draped curtains and soft pillows are spread out. I actually planned on tracking them all but I only made it to the 5th.
And where there’s a lungful of green grass, you can lay down a yoga mat and discreetly get into a meditative state.
There’s a garden tent area, a designated spot for a bonfire, a hiking trail, a mini-zipline for kids, and an outdoor infinity pool with an amazing view of Mount Purro.
I particularly liked the idea of being surrounded by a huge diversity of trees and plants because I can run through my amateurish photography skills.
No, I didn’t meet any Brazilian businessman at Camp Explore like Liz did in the movie. But at least, even for a little over 24 hours, I got bits and pieces of the self-discovery that she had on a yearlong journey.