Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Off to Mt. Pulag's Peak

Mt. Pulag is the second highest mountain in the Philippines & the highest in Luzon.

We met up with the Jam Shoutboxers at Victory Liner in Cubao. We left Manila past 11pm & arrived in Baguio at dawn.  We rented a jeepney to take us to the rangers' station which is located at the foot of the mountain.  We had  breakfast in a humble road side restaurant. The food was ok but the toilets are  unforgettable. They use squat toilets with very narrow cubicles. Its very hard to balance in one & I almost got stuck. It was fun experience though.

 It's hours driving through the winding road. There are times we're smothered with clouds of dust. We passed  by the dam & the rocky river. We had a stopover to register & have our orientation.  We learned about the do's & don'ts. I remember the part “don’t go around naked" &  the most important of it all. "Respect the mountain."

When we reached the rangers station, I never thought that there could be so many people. People are walking in all directions. There are several jeepneys coming & going besides the ones that are parked. We had our lunch in a home near the station where we also left some of our backpacks. When we started hiking, we passed by the  vegetable gardens. I love the little white flowers that spread out. They look like  snow from afar. At first, it was not so cold but once we entered the forest, the  climate changed. 

When we begun, the hike was a breeze but nearing the camp we're already catching up our breathes. It was like a pilgrimage. Tents are everywhere.  The camp site has the view of the grasslands above and the lush forest below. It  was starting to get cold at sunset. We pitched our tents & settled in. We rested  for awhile. I felt my fingers getting numb. Good thing Alain cooked up some warm soup.  I held on to the cup to get some warmth from it. We were all inside the tent  looking pale & looking like refugees with our ration of food. 

10 deg cel and dropping

The temperature kept  dropping & it was the start of the longest night of our lives. We're scared of the  cold outside, but we still managed to get out and get dinner. In the middle of the  night we had to go out to take a pee. We were shivering in the dark looking for the  "all natural toilet" at the end of the camp.  If the barometer reading was correct we were  in a 5-10 deg Celsius. It's the coldest we've encountered. What's weird is, it's  colder inside the tent, so we decided to unzip the flap. We never got the chance to sleep, it  was too cold. I was worried that my sister will get sick. We're going crazy inside  the tent. We changed positions, we sat back to back. We tried everything to get  some sleep but nothing worked. We were praying that it was already morning, I've  never missed the sun so bad.

 By 3am, everyone was up on their feet. It was too cold for the hike so we decided to take our  blankets with us. It was a slow 2 hours hike to the peak. With only one light in  hand, we blindly followed the path. The hikers made a line of flickering lights  amidst the dark silhouette of the hills. It was all grassland. Without enough sleep for 3 consecutive days, I was groggy & had fear of falling off to the side of the hill. I sometimes glimpse at my left where the ravine drops into a gradual slope.  Well, actually I was really looking for something that will help stop the fall,  just in case. We did stop from time to time to catch our breaths. The altitude &  the cold climate wasn't helping. The peak always seemed to be nearer & nearer, but  still not in arms reach. At last, when we reached the peak, we just stumped in one  place surrounded by dwarf bamboos.

 Again it looked like pilgrimage up there. Every  summit fan waiting to be greeted by the sunrise. We enjoyed the warm hot choco to  keep the blood circulating. The horizon is monochromatic. There are shadows of  mountains as far as the eyes can see. Slowly the sun showed itself, everything went  into a warm color of gold. How I wish it would rise up so we will be all warm. It  was weird, I didn’t feel a strong force then, not like in my sunrise hunts. Maybe I  wasn't able to find peace due to the number if people up there. I'm used to breathing in nature. The place was just full of different energies, it wasn't as pure. But still, it is a beautiful, no trace of bad weather. The blanket of clouds are at the back of the mountain. After bathing under the sun, we had to head back.

By 9am, we reach the camp, ate breakfast & packed our things. On the way back, it was more pleasurable. I got to stop at times to appreciate the view, to wonder at the folliage. Sometimes I would peek behind the bushes to see what's from afar. The only thing I forgot on the trek down was water. My sister went before me & she had it with her. She & Ryan raced with the locals. Blame it on both their long legs.:) I was trekking down with Meds,Ria & Jena.It got really tiring, by noon when we reached the base. We had an authentic lunch of "pinikpikan". It was like Tinola, chicken cooked in broth. But they prepared the chicken in a special way(battered chicken).

After our Pulag adventure, we drove off back to Baguio. At times the jeep will stop because of some engine trouble.We were all looking forward to getting our showers. :) And that night, we celebrated Ria's birthday. Alain & Jena bought some delicious food from my favorite Good Taste Restaurant. The others are lucky to be able to extend their stay, but some of us had to go back to Manila. We waited at the bus station for the 11pm trip. Mau, Kris, Meds, Ryan, Lanie & I, all sat at one corner of the station.The station was packed.

Though tiring, it was an enjoyable adventure.  In the end we all gained more experiences & gained more friends.

To all of us who made it to the summit; Mau, Kris, Grasi, Ria, Jena, Alain, Polie, Boy, Bernard, Pete,Teddy, Ryan, Meds & Lanie... Live Life!!!

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