Friday, July 8, 2011
A PROMISE OF A fine sunny weather came to present me in the early morning of January 9, 2011. A little window of just a day is what I need right now from a week of a monotonous drizzle that bring cold temperatures during late afternoons and nighttime. Boy Toledo is so restless today and he fetched me near my home in his car and off we go to Guadalupe.
We found the assembly area empty and, after almost an hour of waiting, we decide to take breakfast at the back of the church. Then we buy just a little provision for lunch for just the two of us when Tonton Bathan of Tribu Dumagsa came just in time when we were about to depart. Tonton, by the way, came with us during a cold-weather training in Mount Babag a week ago and began to like our cheap-budget outdoor exercise. His mindset meshed with ours and so we are now a crowd.
I will be bringing Boy T to Kilat Spring today. But first we will have to tackle Bebut's Trail which will pass by the dreaded Heartbreak Ridge. This ridge is the backbone of Guadalupe Hills and it is most harsh at nine in the morning, like we are doing now, because it is a bald hill devoid of tree cover. I know of four people who backtrack from here and another four who almost gave up.
Sadly, this place became a convenient garbage dumpsite for an informal settlers' colony nearby and some structures are beginning to encroach upon this route. Amidst all that, the ridge is shrouded with short green grass and groups of common-floss flower weed. A switchback route will shield you though from the hot probing rays of the sun and passes nearby a wartime tunnel entrance.
The humble abode of Ricky Flores and his family are now abandoned and left to the elements. I am just saddened about the fate of the children. I just brought bread for them. Meanwhile, we pass by a another small hut and part the bread to another family where there are small children. This is the beauty of each and every journey I take in the hills: to make people forget hardship for a while and elicit a smile.
We start to climb up the apex of a hill and found rest under a tipolo1 tree where we were in good company with four farmers who took a moment's time to converse with us. One farmer narrated of a now-dead coconut tree that was struck by lightning a month ago and how he survived a minor burn after being thrown meters away. Nevertheless, it is always a good opportunity to talk with simple folks.
The trail is slippery because it had rained last night. Exposed roots are sure ankle breakers if you step along the grain and that elicit caution from me and the others. Never be in a hurry unless you are very flexible motor-wise. Eye-to-muscle connection is most important if you know your body very well and, if not, be slow. Nothing is lost with being last. Bush hiking is not a race but a battle of wits.
By 9:45 AM, we were at the Portal. Referred to by the locals as “puertahan” or “pultahan”, this is a crossroad of seven trails. This is the hub, so to speak, and the trails are the spokes. This is also where we took rest and make coffee. I retrieved my hidden bagakay2 cane from under a mango trunk which is very lethal against snakes. The trail to Kilat are full of surprises. I encountered two snakes, a monitor lizard and a palm civet the last time I explored the route.
Kilat Trail is now thick with weeds and bushes due to the recent rains. Few people pass by here and so few disturbances are felt except around a felled tree. Boy T counted twelve stumps of fully-grown tree, whose felled trunks are either left to rot or to be retrieved later in small parts by illegal loggers. It follow the fringes of the Buhisan Watershed Area and is so dense of vegetation.
We arrive at Kilat Spring at 10:30 AM. A half-hour too early. Water gush forth from a tap which comes from a concrete spring box and a mother and her two children are washing clothes. We decide to prepare lunch. I do the cooking of the milled corn while Tonton helped Boy T with the cooking of the seaweeds and pork. As we were in the middle of our cooking, the heavens begin to growl and dark clouds accumulate overhead.
It rained when we start our lunch. It is eleven o'clock. Boy T cursed me for not bringing a bottle of our favorite alcoholic drink after eating our meal because we have a surplus of time. Poor Boy T. Somebody should tell him that drinking liquor is banned inside and within a protected area. I am not a lover of rules but, at least, I have an excuse of not having to carry unwanted weight. There you go.
There are too many seaweeds and milled corn left and we gave it to the woman who is still washing laundry and her two children who both were now taking a bath. Two men arrive from below and another from above. The last man have two dogs with him and one dog instinctively climb a high stump of a burnt-out tree. A good dog. It perched above and stood as sentry for his master.
Meanwhile, I watch at my sorry pair of McKinley hike boots. This will be its last trip. It had served me well despite its imperfections. It got mangled during a cold-weather climb to Mount Babag last week by way of Ernie's Trail. It lost two studs for the shoelaces and the thin leather uppers bristle out and the original owner – Boy T – gave a nod of approval. It had been given to me by him in Olango Island in May 2008 but it had outlived three pairs of branded shoes during the same period!
After washing our cook sets and utensils, we slowly retrace our route and came upon a deceptive clearing where you would lost your way. I forgot to mark our way and so suffered the fate of walking around in circles. The third trail I tried took me to the true path. During my wayward traipse, I notice a lot of traps placed along the trails, perhaps, to snare small mammals and monitors.
We found the Portal after that and rested for a very brief period to sip water then we go right back to Bebut's Trail for Heartbreak Ridge. Along the way, I slip on smooth limestone and almost fell on the tunnel vent. Fortunately for me, nobody have seen this awkward spill but I was shaken by the fact that it would have been a sure embarrassment if my fat butt got stuck in that hole. I sit for a long minute until Boy T arrive.
The upper ridge offer a good view. Not steep, but I did not pursue my habit of running downhill this time. A spill near that vent gave me a lesson to watch my step. After pursuing rest at Guadalupe, we three decide to spend time at Summer Kyla, the new Camp Red watering hole, to talk of the just-concluded activity and to rehydrate lost energy and body electrolytes.
Ernie Salomon joined us and I am glad that he was able to borrow me a spare pair of sandals. Most appreciated. After downing six big bottles of Red Horse beer, Tonton parted company while the three of us joined a meeting of the Cebu Mountaineering Society somewhere in F. Ramos Street. This time, we behaved like schoolboys.
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1Artocarpus blancoi. A tree related to breadfruit, jackfruit and breadnut.
2Schizostacyum lima. A kind of bamboo.