The Not-So-Chocolaty Hills
Tagbilaran (Bohol), Philippines
Easily the island of Bohol's most famous tourist attraction—one of several Filipino sites proclaimed as the "Eighth Wonder of the World"—the Chocolate Hills are an expansive cluster of 1,200-plus perfectly cone-shaped hills of about the same size.
The conical mounds are actually grass-covered limestone hills, that generally vary in size from 30–50 meters high (100–165 feet). During the dry season the hills dry up and turn chocolate brown, transforming them into unusual chocolaty mounds, on an otherwise flat landscape of jungle and rice paddies.
Geologists still are uncertain (and debating) as to how the hills were formed, and several theories on the subject are still bouncing around, such as: Simple limestone weathering, sub-oceanic volcanism, the uplift of the seafloor, and a more recent theory which maintains that as an ancient active volcano self-destructed, it spewed huge blocks of stone which were then covered with limestone and later thrust forth from the ocean bed.
The Chocolate Hills are conical karst hills similar to those found in the limestone regions of Slovenia and Croatia, only that the Bohol Chocolate Hills have no caves. According to the karst theory, "sea level changes and uplift combined with terrestrial erosion and air exposure of biogenic reef regions have given rise to hummocky landscapes that are often impregnated with sinkholes and caves." The Chocolate Hills are considered among the examples of this karst topography.
The other explanations come from two legends explaining the formation of the Chocolate Hills. The first legend tells the story of two feuding giants who, in battling with each other, hurled rocks, boulders and sand trying to destroy their foe. This fighting lasted days and exhausted the two giants. In their exhaustion, they forgot about their feud and became friends that when they left, they forgot to clean up their mess in the battlefield, hence the Chocolate Hills.
The much more romantic legend tells of a giant named Arogo who was extremely powerful and youthful. Arogo fell in love with Aloya who was a simple mortal. Aloya’s death caused Arogo much pain and misery that in his sorrow, he could not stop crying. When his tears dried the Chocolate Hills were formed.
The journey to the government-owned and operated resort called the "Chocolate Hills Complex" (just outside the town of Carmen, about 55 kilometers from Tagbilaran City), was a scenic and fast. An aging jeepney dropped us at a rural intersection at the base of the complex (built atop two of the limestone hills) where a hired a motorcycle taxi (P$20) zoomed us to the resort, after paying the P$10/person entry fee.
214 Steps (and several dodged touts) later, we were atop a windy observation deck 210 feet above the ground. I was intrigued by not only the sight of the not-so-chocolaty hills (as August is certainly not the dry season in the Philippines), but by the Korean tourists paying to have their photos taken in preposterous poses (such as Harry Potter boom riding, jumping, and mound fondling). Hilarious.
So, after passing on a seaweed-covered beach, illegally touching a tiny tarsier (naughty), and checking out some strange green-brown mounds of limestone, I think we're done with Bohol. Tomorrow it will be off to Cebu City for two nights, before Tatiana and I catch a very welcomed flight to Indonesia.