Monday, November 8, 2010

BUSHCRAFT BUHISAN III: Guille's Trail

IT IS SHOWERING as I waited for the others in the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu Parish on June 20, 2010. It is Father's Day today. It is almost seven and the early morning Mass is about to end and I know Ernie Salomon is there inside praying for the success and safety of today's activity.

A blue Honda City arrive and out came Guille Zialcita in a blue shirt and beige shorts. Hmm...strange? We have the same outfit today. People streamed out of the church and Ernie is among them. Good. Three is a crowd. Boy Toledo arrive later and next came Marco Albeza. This is Camp Red at its best.

Five is the ideal number to penetrate a protected area and I am hoping nobody will come at the last minute else I would not have to make some drastic changes like taking out one or two details. We are going to the Buhisan Watershed Area to practice bushcraft and survival and, to get there, we have to follow Bebut's Trail, which is just above us.

After taking a light breakfast, we buy chicken meat, milled corn and other ingredients for our lunch. Boy T is bringing with him raw seaweed while I picked several fruit from an eba tree. I also buy two sets of bread at twenty-five pesos each for two homesteads which I found very special in my heart.

We start at 8:30 AM, thanks to the sudden heavy downpour and it delayed very well our departure from Guadalupe. Anyway, the rainclouds blocked the sun away as we slowly ascend the hills. I left the first pack of bread hanging in the doorway of the first small house I identified as my beneficiary of my own private charity affair. The occupants are absent.

The so-called “heartbreak ridge” isn't heartbreaking today but it almost claimed Guille until I volunteered to carry his bag that improved well his balance and mobility. We stopped by the small house of Ricky Flores but he is not home today. His three little children are and I gave them the rest of the bread. Ricky's house is just adjacent to a war-time tunnel.

I stayed with Guille as Ernie, Boy T and Marco took their usual pace and they were already way ahead of us and Guille found the distance over a steep trail a very very great obstacle. I look over at Guille and I could see that he is already approaching the limits of his endurance and I don't want to let him down so I have to think quick.

Along the route is another fork leading downhill to a farm and into thick vegetation. I will have to take this chance and explore an unknown trail. I hailed the blazing trio to backtrack and follow us to a new trail. Slowly the trail unwind itself into a very good route with good cover and passing by an ancient mango tree where there is a good campsite and a very huge chopping board.

Taking advantage of a rest, Ernie improvise a length of rope and made it into a pair of shoulder straps to carry Guille's bag. After that, Guille could walk better especially when I provided him with a wooden staff. This route joined Bebut's Trail near where Nathan's Garden is located and we took coffee break there.

Guille brought out his Enzo Trapper knife and whittled a piece of dry wood. I tried the knife myself and it is exceptionally sharp making short work of a dry branch by slicing off the ends as if I am slicing paper. Guille made the scales himself with a pair of red hardwood secured by four thin stainless-steel rivets. It is a good knife and it is my first time to see and hold one. He also showed me a Mora knife in its original neck sheath.

We move on and I stop by to gawk at a bamboo grove. Bamboo thorns called kaguingking protected the grove all around and I have to look for a gap and saw one. I climb one pole and cut another pole from there in the middle with my hatchet. It is hard work really perching along the middle of a bamboo pole while reaching to cut another pole.

The pole went down with minimal crash sound. I choose the best two segments and cut it from the rest. I found a natural cordage and Ernie use that to make a sling for the bamboo. The bamboo I choose today is almost a meter long and much much lighter than the previous one which I used for cooking on May 2, 2010. By the way, we are going to do cooking again with a bamboo.

We reach the Portal and we take another long rest. Guille is enjoying every moment of our company while Boy T, as usual, lay down on the ground with his ground tarp. Marco took out from his new North Face backpack trail snacks which Ernie and I happily munch. I drank a lot of water here exhausted by the climbing and the chopping. I'm not worried, I carry a lot of water today - six liters.

We went down the route into the jungles of Buhisan. We are passing the wildest part of the watershed where there are almost no trails to follow and vegetation is quite thick. Our pace is slow to accommodate Guille, who is a first-timer with this kind of activity. Guille's bulk have hindered his walking but he showed sport and never complained especially where you have to stoop low or going down a steep route.

By the time, we reach the creek bed, I assured Guille that the terrain ahead will be friendly this time and we will take a long rest up ahead to cook and eat lunch. We were quite delayed and started preparing for our lunch at about 2:45 PM. Instantly, Boy T , Ernie and Marco became engulfed with the details of preparing the food like slicing meat and spices.

Meanwhile, I leave the group for a while to look for firewood. I came back with an armful and leave again and looked for more. I carried more when I came back and worked on the bamboo. With Guille's folding saw, I cut a hole along the ends of one segment and left the other untouched. Then I pry open the part between the two cut ends and out came my lid exposing a long rectangular chamber from where we would cook milled corn.

I chop and split wood for our fire while Guille gently stack the wood over the other for our fire. With flint and steel he tried to make a fire without success over a piece of wet wipes. I gave him my collection of dry leaf tinder which roared to life with a flame from a butane lighter. The bamboo is much smaller than I thought and I filled it almost full with water.

Boy T steamed his seaweeds with his own stove, Ernie cook chicken sinigang with my stove and Marco keep on slicing spices for the next food to be cooked – dried fish in tomato sauce. Guille and I concentrated our attention to the boiling of the water in the bamboo. I blow the fire to life again and again on half-wet pieces of wood. The smoke is thick indicating some moisture on the wood. I tried hard and the water heated up so we decide to pour the milled corn into the chamber instead. I stir the corn evenly inside and waited.

Meanwhile, the seaweeds have been finished while the sinigang soup is about to end with the dried fish waiting in line for its turn. We decided to cook milled corn in a standard pot on a spare stove knowing that cooking with a bamboo take a long time to finish and it is already 3:30 in the afternoon. Long shadows began to show among the trees and gullies. Beside that, the bamboo we use today could accommodate only cooking good for two persons.

Finally, at four, we eat a very late late lunch – Spanish style. We left nothing. We were that hungry. Time to go now and we leave the place behind for the catchment basin which is a kilometer ahead. From the basin we pass by the man-made lake, which is still empty, and into the old-growth man-made forest where a wide trail lead us to the concrete road.

We would have loved to ride motorcycles-for-hire but we opted not to. Not with Boy T and Ernie around. They don't want to do with that. They'd rather suffer bruises while walking than cheating themselves riding. At the vicinity of the Mary Help of Christians Parish in Buhisan Proper, Guille suffered severe cramps in the lower calf and I immediately arranged a tricycle to transport him to a pre-destined meeting place.

Guille showed a brave effort hanging with us along on the most difficult route from Guadalupe and into Buhisan. The guy has character and rightly so. Boy T is all praises for him and we drink a toast to that until we all reach safely in our favorite watering hole back in Guadalupe. The place where we call “Camp Red”.

By the way, Guille is a connoisseur of fine blades. He is a knife collector, like me, and sells quality ones. He is also the top hombre of Animal Wellness Clinic and is a keen lover of pet animals.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer

3 comments:

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