Saturday, August 1, 2015

BUSHCRAFT BUHISAN XXXI: Baptism by Water

TROPICAL STORM SENIANG IS approaching but I liked the way it is behaving.  It is moving too slow.  I can go on among the mountains unperturbed today, December 30, 2014.  In fact, my enthusiasm led me to rise up early and be the first at the assembly area, as it had always been, on the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.  The sky is still in semi-darkness at 05:47 and the cold wind stung as I sat alone on the makeshift bleacher.

The activity is a Year-Ender Hike, the last activity of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild for 2014.  It is just a dayhike but it demands stamina and patience owing to the challenge brought on by a wet ground caused by rains for the last two days.  This morning, the sky is dark and cloudy and rain is ominous.  It is windy.  A good sign that the weather will be fair.  There are two options for the route depending on the number of people.


By and by, Nyor Pino – a resident of the island city of Lapulapu - arrive after ten minutes.  He has discipline and commitment and arrived almost an hour before the next person – Jhurds Neo – a Cebu City resident.  Then all came, just a few minutes of each other:  Jonathan, Justin and and Jon Daniel Apurado; Boy Olmedo; Aljew Frasco and Christopher Maru with guest Bona Canga; Mark Lepon with guests Rommel and Nelson.  Last to come is Dominic Sepe.  We are fourteen in all and I will choose Option B of the route. 

We left Guadalupe at 07:30 after procuring ingredients for our noontime meal.  We will tackle first Heartbreak Ridge but there will be no heartbreak tales today since the weather played into our wishes.  I take the lead and deliberately make my pace slow to accommodate the newcomers and the slow starters.  For the same reason, it is best to take it slow since there will be slippery parts.  

This activity is a preparation of sort for my scheduled training which I imposed upon myself starting next week next year (January 4, 2015), which is also in preparation for the Segment 3 of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project.  Part of my preparations today is to test my newly-purchased 5.11 Tactical Series Shoes.  The wet ground with its slippery spots would be an interesting challenge for the new pair, which actually were provided for by a sponsor.

Anyway, I also see Bona wearing a new pair of purple Merrell hiking shoes.  She would also get to test it on the proving grounds of the Buhisan Watershed Area.  Yes, the Buhisan is a good training ground, especially at its wildest parts and along its many small streams.  It is there where shoes gets its real baptism by water.  The stream banks also make you think where to place a foot and then use another muscle group that you would not do while walking on plain terrain. 

I keep looking back to Bona since the time I started to ascend the terrible heartbreaking piece of hill as it would be her first real hike.  Although she had one last week during a charity event on the other side of the Babag Mountain Range, it was nothing compared to this.  When we got past the tower and resting above a tunnel vent, I am quietly relieved that she had hurdled the first step.  Uphills are hard but going down a trail on wet ground is different.  That would be her second test.


After we had overcome the hill, the trail goes gently downhill.  Polished limestones are, by my previous experience, do not work well on some type of rubber.  I found the 5.11 shoes doing very good here.  I even deliberately stepped on exposed coconut roots which had previously left me staggering on another pair.  I could not hide my amusement but, altogether, kept it to myself.  I hide the smile when I look back to see how the good lady is doing with her Merrell.

The terrain goes into a man-made forest of fruit trees with wild shrubs growing in between.  I reach the Portal and I wait of the others.  Ringing around me like wheel spokes are seven trails, three of these are getting wilder and wilder as the uninterrupted rains after a 2010 drought had given the vegetation some good reason to live on.  Aside that, my visits to these trails are now few and far between.  

Since we are more than ten, 14 to be exact, I will take Option B.  That is Lensa Trail and it cuts around higher ground so the chances of walking on the streams of the watershed is out of the question.  However, there is a hindrance to that.  I have to make sure that I will not overlook the marker – a young fish-tail palm.  Failing that, it would lead me to a false trail going down to Banica Creek which I am doing now.  Option A wins!

I had created a path through this thick jungle last March but it got overwhelmed by the same jungle.  As I had done the last time, I begin slashing the spiny plants that are blocking the path with the AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife.  Behind me is the creator of the knife and I could feel his satisfaction and approval.  He had loaned me this knife for testing in the real world and it is with me ever since.  The Gahum is the prototype of his succeeding creations but it is the only one of its kind.

There is no landmark to keep track of but there is an unseen stream beyond.  The arc of my slashes are short confined only to the harmful ones and, even as I am doing these, I get snagged by those that I had overlooked.  The ground is soft and steep but we hold on to trunks or branches and, sometimes, rattan vines if we have no other options.  I get some scratches on my arms and my t-shirt begins to look like a miniature battlefield.

The sound of the stream is getting nearer and nearer and my frown begins to lose its intensity.  I touched base at Banica Creek and come to gaze at a big rock which I had seen during my first visit here in 2009 and which appearance gave me an inspiration to seriously shift to bushcraft.  It is on a confluence of two small streams and still retained that primeval look, the only difference this time, is the streams are now full of water.


We walk carefully downstream.  Our eyes cast on the polished stones and mossy rocks.  We left a lot of shoe prints on the sand and on moss.  That is why I do not want to bring a lot of people on the streams for this reason but, what can I do, I missed the trail sign!  And there are many other reasons aside that like wayward bullets from hunters, sudden floods, accidents and personal necessities.  

It is gloomy walking on small streams since the banks are narrow and covered by trees and gloomier still when when you pass by a marshy area with trees reaching high at two different tiers.  Once everyone sees that wide-open catchment basin, they let sighs of relief.  Some are tired now and craving for something hot like coffee.  Not here but upstream.  At a place where two streams meet.

We set up our AJF Folding Trivets and prepared our cooking fires on a flat rock located just a little downstream of the merging of the two streams.  Just perfect.  We have brought two kilos of pork meat and we intend to grill it over coals.  The trivets would support the pots for coffee and rice.  The coffee came first and we savored the liquid. 

I take time to explore a trail that I have eyed for some time.  Vegetation is thick and the trail begins to disappear but I follow the gist of the terrain and come upon an abandoned camp used by poachers.  It is small but it is flat and could accommodate a single tent and four hammock shelters.  The faint trail move up to higher ground and I see an even better campsite.  I noted these places for it is perfect for a “Survival Day” activity.


When I returned, two pots of rice were ultimately cooked and fresh fern tops were blanched and mixed in to a spiced vinegar concoction and becomes the grilled pork’s companion in a late lunch by the riverside.  Everybody enjoyed a full-sized slice each of grilled pork and an almost bottomless serving of rice.  Finally, the food gets decimated without a whimper. 

I washed my black-bottomed pots the traditional way with rough sand and free-running water on the stream.  We clean the place but we leave the ashes.  Believe it or not, there are birds who find ashes a very favorite ingredient for their grooming.  Drops of rain begins to fall now, turning what had been a gregarious setting into a gloomy state again.

I take a trail found on a headland and the rest followed.  We weave among mahogany trees and pesky rattan palms.  The path near the waterfall is deteriorating and it is not a good path right now since the side facing the waterfall is very steep.  Everyone walk very carefully until we reach the stream bed.  I look back how Bonna fared and she managed it without difficulty.  Good God, she is a gutsy lady!

We follow Lensa Creek and I see the twin logs which marks Creek Alpha.  We walk past it and proceed upstream and reach Creek Bravo.  Sunlight peep from the clouds and it restored my confidence.  Probably, it would have the same effect on the rest.  I follow Creek Bravo and switch to a trail that ascend to Camp Damazo.  It is a moderate ascent but it is a good path.  We rest when we arrive at the old camp.

After a group pose before cameras, we resume our homeward trek.  After crossing a small creek, the route gets a bit steeper and longer.  When we got past that we cross another small creek and the path winds up to a road.  We cross the road and walk down a path going to the community of Lanipao and gets our thirst quenched with cold soda drinks.  The remaining kilometers can now be walked on a paved road and it goes to Napo where we found motorcycles to ride.


I had assessed that the 5.11 shoes I acquired are good enough on terrain I choose which posed a difficulty provided by jungle and streams.  It is kind of easy on wet limestone but some polished stones and moss-coated boulders are places which need to be stepped less.  It is ready for the big adventures ahead.  The Merrell which Bona recently bought is, according to her, are comfortable and had given her good footing on the same places where I had walked.  


Photos courtesy of Mark Lepon
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Saturday, July 25, 2015

POST-TYPHOON RUBY ISLAND MISSION

I GOT TAPPED AGAIN to assist and be involved in yet another humanitarian mission to Guintarcan Island, off the coast of Northern Cebu.  I had been there seven times; four as a local tourist and three more as a relief worker.  So, this would be my eighth trip there.  The Children of the Coast Foundation, for the second time, make use of my familiarity and knowledge of the island today, December 13, 2014.  Aside that, I will do the documentation.

CCF is engaged in philanthropy works that focuses in the betterment of marginalized children, those of which are considered vulnerable.  CCF is working with Wine to Water, a US-based charity organization that specializes in providing potable water to the poorest communities of the world by any means using technology.  The recipient of this mission is the post-Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) community of Langub.


Supervising this activity is Wine to Water’s international project coordinator, Mr. Brad Ponack, who came here all the way from Cambodia.  Joining us is CCF’s executive director, Ms. Jonnette Alquizola.  A coaster van and a double-cab pickup are loaded from CCF’s depot at Mandaue City and left for Daanbantayan at 05:45.  By 09:30, me and my three crews begin transferring the items from wharf to a small outriggered boat.

The items were 50 pieces Sawyer Bio Bucket Filter, 40 pieces 20-liter water container, 40 pieces 20-liter bucket, 40 kilos rice, 80 sets basic health and hygiene kit and 80 pieces towel.  Mr. Ponack came along for a ride together with two of the crews while Ms. Alquizola opt to stay behind and utilize the remaining crew to help her distribute the other items not loaded into the boat to a community in San Remigio.  

Typhoon Ruby did not intensify into a super typhoon as was forecast but it stayed for four days in the Visayas region bringing rain and storm surges of 3 to 5 meters high which threaten shoreline communities and small islands.  As we cross the Bantayan Channel, swells of up to one meter threaten our small boat brought on by another weather disturbance approaching the islands.  We reach the village of Langub at 10:40 and, immediately, we transfer the items straight into the home of the village chairman, Mr. Rolando Villacarlos.


Mr. Villacarlos welcomed us and showed us his rain-impounding system installed on his house after Mr. Ponack inquired of how they source fresh-water.  This system is common in most households but is not altogether reliable owing to the need of frequent rainfalls as a source of drinking water to support a family the whole year round.  Then you have hygiene issues.  Impounded rain would have to be boiled or filtered for it to be potable.  Boiling needs heat which a private power plant supplies electricity for just a few hours only which is costly.

After Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), several relief agencies and non-government organizations donated different water filter systems to improve the living conditions of Guintarcan residents.  Mr. Villacarlos showed one such type, which is a Korean-made ceramic-type filter.  It is well-maintained but the lack of replacements for the filter elements have hounded the other households to condemn it and utilize it for other uses instead.  

We had observed that relief agencies/NGOs had not bothered about the filters that they had donated and left it to the fate of the locals or that it had not been their priority.  Actually, the supply of filters are available in the big cities like Cebu and Manila and it is just that the residents are not knowledgeable of its availability or that the filter replacements are expensive.  But the big obstacle is maintenance.  The residents just lacked the know-how in the care of their filters.


We learned also that a private enterprise located on the island are supplying households of drinkable water.  The water is sourced from a deep well in the middle of the island and pumped to the surface and converted from brackish to fresh water by reverse osmosis.  A 5-liter container costs 35 pesos but not everyone have cash to buy one bottle to last for a week.  So we looked instead to some residents who really are vulnerable for which Mr. Villacarlos is now tasking himself to produce with a list.

Meanwhile, we decide to check on the lone public school of Langub.  We talked to one teacher and we were informed that there are a total of 344 students in seven different grade levels.  The school has two modern rain-impounding systems which were built and donated by Mercy Corps and each classroom is equipped with a Sawyer filter system each given by the All-terrain Medical Relief Organization.  Almost all filters are working but a few had worked below its expectation.  This is caused by lack of knowledge.

Mr. Ponack fixed one existing filter system and added another better system for the Grade 4 Classroom.  For good measure, Wine to Water donated a total of seven Sawyer Bio Bucket Filters to the Langub Elementary School to bring to a total of 14 filter systems or two filters each per classroom.  The present system is an improvement of the existing which only utilized a plastic jerry.  This time, Mr. Ponack ensures the students have a stock of enough water by attaching the filter to a bucket with a lid and its flow of clean water going into a jerry.


Before leaving the school, we gave the Grade 4 teacher 56 sets of hygiene and health kits for her 56 students.  When we got back to Mr. Villacarlos’ residence, we were feted to a lunch of freshly-caught fish, grilled on charcoal, to add to our packed meals of fried chicken, spring rolls and rice.  It is 13:10 but Mr. Ponack have a lot of work to do.  He has to attach the rest of the Sawyer filters plastic jerries and buckets and he has two of the crews to help him as I will do a little exploring.

I found four rowhouses of 10 units each which gave shelter to the households that was displaced by Typhoon Yolanda.  The vegetation had recovered well and youths are playing basketball on a concrete court.  I walk past houses whose concrete floors are half-covered with white sand.  I understand a strong storm surge had caused sand erosion from the seabed into the shoreline and into the main road of this side of Guintarcan.  Langub had bore the brunt of Typhoon Ruby on the island.

I visit Judith Illustrisimo, who had hosted me during my first relief mission here last year together with the crews of the Death Valley Expeditionary Corps, a US-based humanitarian aid group composed of private security and military contractors.  She is selling fresh fish for me – cheap – and I ordered two kilos, for which she gave me more than that for 200 pesos.  I gave thanks and said goodbye and went back to where I came from, passing by the road.


On the way, I saw a white steel box.  I came nearer and I discovered a small solar-powered desalination plant.  This was donated by the Italian contingent of Oxfam just this year.  It gets its water from a very deep hole in the ground, pumped to the surface by clean renewable energy supplied by photovoltaic panels and by wind vanes.  Ultraviolet tubes cleans the water of impurities and bacteria before it pours out of the taps.  Ingenious.

By now, people are beginning to converge at the house of the village head.  Mr. Ponack and the crew are almost finished with the assembly of the water-filter systems.  Joseph Rojo, one of the crew, begins to explain to the residents in plain Cebuano dialect, how and when to clean the filters.  Then we delegate the distribution of all the relief items to Mr. Villacarlos.  

It had started to rain when we left the island at 15:00 and boarded the small boat back to the mainland.  We encountered slightly rough seas in the middle of the Bantayan Channel but I am undaunted.  The boat touched base at 16:00 and, immediately, we left the wharf for Mandaue City. 


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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LXXXVI: Real-World Education

IN THE COURSE OF MY outdoor activities, it cannot be denied that people would ask and wish they could join me. I am very gracious when it comes to that but I cannot accommodate all since I find most of my weekend time focused on the development of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. Another reason is that I am a bit choosy now of the kind of people I welcome.

I would be very happy to bring people to the seldom-known places that I frequent but, at the same time, I have second thoughts. The main cause for that is these people I bring are bound to abuse this privilege. I would always assume that everyone understood fully about the Leave No Trace principles, especially those that professed to be “mountaineers”, but, on the contrary, they use their “new discovery” as an opportunity to promote themselves and gain a profit from the very people they invite. The more people coming, the better the profit, is it not?


Wrong! The more people coming, the more you get to disturb these pristine places and the higher the chances of accidents. People would only follow LNT when somebody is watching and when there is a profit to gain they do not care. That is why I found LNT amusing and cumbersome since the very people who are supposed to promote it, even to the extent of quarrelling and threatening other people over it, are the ones who are likely bound to discard it.

LNT is taken advantaged of by the outdoors-gear industry and the people that thrive in it like travel agencies and income-driven individuals that they used the logo as part of their corporate symbol and a tool to gain profits. I do not follow LNT because I found it shameful to be associated with these people but I respect its intent and I believe it will give the uninitiated the proper knowledge and guidance when in the outdoors and on their everyday life.

Let me remind all that you cannot, and never could, impose LNT on everyone and that includes me. If you think it is a rule, suit yourself, for you are only exposing your ignorance and naivete. Do not worry. For the many times that I have been invited in a mainstream activity, I would always show courtesy to the crowd and blend in with the activity as if I know my LNT well. That is flexibility for you. I hope you have it also.

On the other hand, I would always inform people that had been fortunate enough to tag along with me about my methods else they might find it revolting. I do not want to give an impression that what I do is conventional and ordinary like everyone is doing. When you are with me, you will act like real outdoorsmen. You will appreciate silence and nature to the very core. You will learn a lot aside from doing all your “jump shots”.

That is what is happening today, November 30, 2014, when I answered a request by four guys who worked in a business process outsourcing company to join me. They name their informal group as Takoy Outdoor Club and one member looks familiar. He looks like my eldest son. Anyway, I demand that we should leave by 06:30, which we did. I place great emphasis on punctuality from hereon and I do not want somebody derailing my itinerary again.


We hit the trail once I gave them an on-site briefing at Napo. Our route is the “Rosary Loop” which consists of the Napo Main Trail, Manggapares Trail, Liboron Trail, Babag Ridge Trail and the East Ridge Pass. It had been raining for the past two days and two nights and the ground is wet and muddy. Today, it had not, although, I expect heavy rains caused by an approaching weather disturbance.

Running parallel to our activity is a patented dirt time by members of Camp Red. They will be passing the same Manggapares Trail later. However, they would start at 10:00. I found the trail undisturbed yet by footprints made by yuppies. The sky is gloomy with a high chance of precipitation. I inform everyone the proper name of the river below the trail. It is important that correct names of places be known to everyone so you would not look stupid by giving it another name in Facebook which a lot of people unintentionally do.

We reach the trailhead to Tagaytay Ridge at 07:10. I told everyone that we are too fast. We may suffer for that when the terrain becomes steep since we did not stretch our muscles prior to walking. It could be muscle cramps, overfatigue or loss of body heat. It is important that they know this. Now they understand why you have to control your pace. The path to Manggapares is thick with weeds and I regret I did not open carry my AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife yet.

It is 07:30 when we we arrive at the first steel pylon. I take the time of rest by retrieving the AJF Gahum from my Silangan Predator Z tri-zip sack. I talk about the history of this trail and how I re-discovered it. I could see the adrenaline of the four beginning to show for the reason that they had been yearning to explore for themselves of this place which they only heard as the “Six Towers Trail”. They are now on the threshold of it and they will not regret their luck today for they will see and learn more.

Going to the second tower, I show them an edible snail. This is a snail that lives on trees and it is abundant here. We push on down to a saddle, cleared some vegetation with the knife, and up again until we arrive at 07:50. The guys are exhausted but desiring for more. We did not tarry and proceed to the third one, which we reach at 08:00. Along the way, I showed them fruit trees which are free for picking like I did with a pomelo (Sp. Hystrix grandis). The view from up here is just too stunning for the four. They are now smiling.

They begin to appreciate the beautiful trail that lead to the fourth tower. We reach it at 08:15 and I inform them that we are now walking on a dirt road. They are confused since they only see a trail but, up ahead, they saw an abandoned payloader. They are now beginning to make sense in everything I talked about. The fifth pylon is easy to reach and we got underneath it at 08:25. They are now staring at the sixth.


I shift to another trail and the sixth power pylon faded from view. I am onto a path that is very difficult as it is very challenging which make passage of the sixth tower unnecessary. This is the Liboron Trail and it had returned to a condition when I first walked here. Rains caused the softening of the ground and my footing slip time and time again despite my effort not to ruin the path. It was for this reason that I insist that everybody should wear shoes.

I point to the place where I fell six meters and everyone are now very careful. After that very tiring walk, we rest at a saddle and enjoying the chance to drink water. I teach them water discipline since they swallow a lot of water. When we think it is alright to proceed, we shoulder our bags and walk up a hill. I tell them the story of my encounter with a grass owl as we pass by a field of cogon grass.

We go down into another saddle where bamboo poles fell during the recent typhoon called “Queenie” and blocked the path. I crawled underneath and the rest followed. A barbed-wire fence is another obstacle that we have to go over. Fortunately, a path had been cleared between it and another grove of spiny bamboo. I pass by between it but I advised the rest to watch out for the spines which might catch their eyes.

We walk on, crossing a small brook and climb another hill where the Caburnay homestead is located. Barking dogs greeted our arrival as Julian Caburnay welcomed me and my companions. I showed the guys the water source and I begin to boil water for coffee with a butane stove. Leaving that, I went out of the homestead to gather dry firewood and kindling. It is hard to find dry wood but I am able to bring back partly-moist small branches, old banana leaves and cloth-like coconut fibers called “guinit”.

I drink my share of the coffee. I found a cord from my bag and begin to make a tripod where the cook pot will be hanged over a fire. Once done, I cut a whole leaf from a giant taro and laid it on the wet ground. I break the small branches and arrange it over the leaf. With my William Rodgers Bushcraft knife, I shave some wood and made several feather sticks. I remove bark from the bigger wood and split it so it could air out moisture.

I crumple the guinit and the leaves into a tight bunch and rub it with my hands until it begins to break in small pieces as friction warmed it a bit. I place the kindling above the fire nest. I retrieve a black hair-like kindling from my fire kit and place it underneath the nest. I struck a single match and the material caught the flame and it spread rapidly. Thick smoke begins to show from the coconut-and-banana material as heat begins to wick it of moisture.

Everyone watched of how I prepared the fireplace in such a different way from what they had known; of the careful way of how I made the firewood and the kindling ready prior to the introduction of fire. When fingers of flame begins to consume the smaller wood, I place more twigs over it and I start to measure rice into a pot and then pour water. I hang the pot over the fire, adjusting the tripod so the bottom of the pot touches the fire. They watch and feed the fire while I get busy with the pork meat.


Julian gave us ripe bananas to munch on. It is organically grown and it is very sweet. Meanwhile, the guys look over the dragonfruit plant and the different ornamental plants that Julian had been growing here. The sky remained gloomy and it is our lucky day that it had not rained. When the rice got cooked, I hanged another pot over the fire. I pour cooking oil then saute crushed garlic and sliced onions. Later, I added sliced green pepper to the fray and finally the meat. I pour soy sauce and waited for it to boil.

As we were in the middle of the cooking, a lone hawk whistled. It circled above us. We continue our cooking when it disappeared from view. I let one of the guys improve the taste with just salt and then I add basil to enhance aroma. Now, time to enjoy that well-deserved meal served hot in a real boodle-fight location. The food was wiped out clean from the banana leaves and just a few morsels for the dog. However, I made it sure that Julian has a fair share, including uncooked rice and canned goods I brought specially for him.

Before saying goodbye to Julian, I show the guys how a basil herb looks like. Beside the basil, is a miniature guava tree with small fruits. They were just amazed at these discoveries and hoped to come back again. I brief them again of the remainder of our journey. We walk up to a ridge and the guys gets a good view of the wide landscape again. The trail now is thick with vegetation so I let the knife work – again.

Branches fell during the typhoon and it littered the trail as well. It is hard work but I love it. The knife cuts efficiently and, when there is nothing to cut, I return it to the sheath; then I start again and again until I reach the Babag Ridge Trail. I let them know that this is an old trail that I had used as training ground in the early ‘90s. It is a trail I lose track of when I laid low from climbing mountains and re-discovered it just more than a year ago.

They were all amazed at the wrist-thick rattan trunks that cross the trail. I also let them know that this trail is frequently used by off-road Enduro riders on weekends. Up ahead the trail would be fenced and we would make a long detour. Property owners had blocked access to motorcycles but these had not stopped. Some trees had fell, blocking the path, but we manage to go over it. I scan the upper part of the forest to see if there are hazards above.

We pass by the place where there is a cave. The path going there had been destroyed by the typhoon and we were not able to climb up to that higher ridge. So, I just told them that it was used by the Japanese as a defensive camp during World War II. We walk on and pass by a tunnel entrance that was blocked by logs. I told them that this is just one of many that the Japanese had constructed. I pointed to them the place that I referred to as the “last wild place”. I pick up a broken branch and remove Spanish moss. Future tinder.

We stop at a saddle and, there, the guys fell in love with the view of the Bonbon River Valley. This vantage do mesmerize a lot of people for it expands their adventurous spirits when gazing at the far wide-open spaces. One of them asked if I leave trailsigns. Good timing of question. I do not frequently leave signs unless it is for a last resort. I showed them my only trailsign on this whole route which, coincidentally, is located just a few meters away.

The route passed by along fences down into a dry brook and up into a different ridge, crossing it, down into a saddle and up to the Babag Ridge. Winded, we rest on a bench. A dirt road leads to the “tower area” where the highest peak- Mount Babag (752 meters) – is located. There is a trail going down - the East Ridge Pass - which lead to the Roble homestead, which we reach at 14:00. The guys are happy to get a respite from that downhill knee killer


After drinking green coconut water, the guys climbed the tree house and took rest there while I take time to talk with Fele and Tonia Roble. The children Manwel, Juliet and Josel are here too. They cook wild sweet potato for me and I munch on it. I will bring some for home and this is the kind that my wife loves best. We leave the Roble family at 15:00 for Sapangdaku Creek. We reach the stream and walk back to Napo. I notice six sets of shoe prints, to include a female, and it had already disintegrated due to contamination of other footprints made by locals.

We ride motorcycles-for-hire at Napo for Guadalupe. We transfer to the new watering hole, the Bikeyard Cafe. It is still 16:00. We had walked fast and one of my knees suffered. It is numb. But we are on safe ground now with plenty of cold bottles of beer on a bucket full of ice to curb dehydration. I just taught real-world education to these guys which they cannot find in LNT-laced activities.


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