Tuesday, September 6, 2011

BUSHCRAFT BUHISAN VI: A High-Ground Trail

MY BUHISAN EXPLORATION is a work in progress. City people like me depended too much navigating by foot on rivers and dry ravines for want of more knowledge of its hidden trails among thick jungle. You must remember that Buhisan is a watershed area and a considerable part of Metro Cebu's drinking water supply is sourced from there. So, the chance of pissing around and leaving human waste within that place is a big possibility.

It is for that reason that I refuse to bring a big party of outdoors people even if they are well-acquainted with the principles of the Leave No Trace. You cannot stop body necessity especially when you are on the throes of stomach trouble. Get what I mean? (I have to accept these facts even if I am not a staunch advocate of LNT. But that is common sense, isn't so?)

But there is an exception: Take the high ground!


On March 27, 2011, I commenced another exploratory hike among its secretive trails. I am with two old tenderfoots. We start from Guadalupe by way of Bebut's Trail. We passed by “Heartbreak Ridge” and I see an improvement of its appearance. The ugly garbage dumpsite have been removed by the Solid Waste Disposal Unit of the Department of Public Services after Mayor Mike Rama acted on my January 9, 2011 hike photos uploaded in Facebook. However, some garbage are re-appearing.

Along the way, we met three Danes out on an early morning hike near the war-time tunnel vent. We exchanged pleasantries and they knew of the Danes that we brought on an eco-tour hike to the hidden waterfalls of Kahugan and on an island tour somewhere on the northern tip of Cebu. They went on their way to Guadalupe while we have a long way to go and it will take a whole day to finish our purpose.

We stopped by the Portal1 to slurp coffee under a morning shower and went down afterwards a seldom-used route among thick jungle growth to Kilat Creek. We passed by the huge rock that split in two many years ago. I lead the way and the two followed. As trail master, it is my task to clear the route of blocking debris and vegetation so the next man behind me will not be inconvenienced; identify loose and slippery rocks; and to watch out for everyone's safety and that means looking out for lurking snakes.

Finally, after weeks of rain, Kilat Creek is running with clear water again. It is a fragile ecosystem and minute traces of life are appearing in and along the water route. As much as I like the now-living appearance of dry creek beds, I disdain to walk about it. For one, I hate being caught on low ground by people with rifles above me and, two, I don't want to spoil the ground with my passing. Even if you caution others to leave a small impact with their feet, city people are always careless and don't know the ways of the forest.

My eyes searched everything all around as I walk almost never missing a detail. Poisonous snakes and stingy plants are my priority and then there are gun-toting people to watch out to. You'll never know you might accidentally step into the crosshairs of their rifle sight the moment when they are on the verge of shooting a bird on the ground. It is very important then to look for traces of men like a footprint or a cigarette butt to awaken you that someone's been here before you.

Kilat Creek is now joined by a muddy creek that effuse brownish particles on the former and then another clear one up ahead where we used to spend lunch and siesta. The sound of water pervaded in my consciousness until a time when the creek took its destined path and vanished from my sight when I followed a trail into the catchment basin. For a half hour, I have missed that sound even when I arrive at a wide wash. I walk upriver enjoying the open spaces after being constricted by jungle growth.

By the shade of an old banyan tree, I saw water from up ahead stopping in its tracks on the sandy bed. I follow the water upstream and it is full. There were many deep pools and the river is gregarious. But I could not believe how this surging river kneel down at the mercy of a mere banyan tree!

We stop at a large pool among a jumble of granite rocks and prepared our lunch. We boil water for our seaweeds, cook milled corn, stir-fry a mixed-vegetable soup and sautee dried fish on a single camp stove in the process leaving us with just a pint of water each for drinking water and we don't know yet of how far we will travel.

A moment later, kids from Buhisan arrive to take a bath at the pool. They were bringing along green bananas, firewood and a large cauldron. One of the boys start a fire from a stone hearth and boil the banana while the rest cavort on the pool. Lying on the ground are, I counted, fifty-six pieces of empty shells of edible tree snail which have been feasted on by people a day or two ago. A hunter with a scoped rifle passed by looking for his nephews. Passing by from the other direction were two men and five little boys carrying firewood balanced atop their heads.

We shared our meal to the bathing kids and we all eat lunch together vigorously. All the food were wiped out clean from the pots. Siesta time came and I recline on a huge rock as another party of much-older boys arrived. They were the hunter's nephews and they were already here since yesterday. So that answers the empty shells.

They spend weekends hunting fruit bats, wild roosters, tree snails, river crabs, pythons, monitor lizards and palm civets. They don't bring gears except old flashlights and a rifle. They source drinking water from a burrowed river bed steeping the water until it is clear and cook food with firewood and banana leaf. They are a different breed of bushcrafters and they are damn good and they are kindred.

Leaving the pool to the newcomers, we walk further upstream until we reach a confluence of two rivers. Which way to go? I gamble instead on the trail found in the middle aided by my compass which point north. I observed the route superb; forested with huge trees although we get ourselves entangled by pesky rattan palms. The path led to a high waterfall and we enjoy this rare moment in Buhisan standing on the granite headrock under which the water cascade down into ripples that contain a deep pool. From there, we follow the river until it found another branch and I choose to travel on the tamer of the two. Ten meters up ahead, a rooster flew from river bed to tree bursting in a flurry of wing beats and floating feathers.

More upstream walk made one guy tired and thirsty although water could be had by the mere picking. All the while I climb the steep riverbanks from time to time to observe of any traces of people activity. If there is or was, there surely would be a trail. For a good two kilometers there were none! Reaching another waterfall, I took time to take a picture but my Sony DSC-W220 camera slipped from my hand and fell into the river. Instantly, I jumped into water and retrieved my camera and removed right away the battery so it won't get shorted. For a long time, I have kept my shoes dry but, this time, I have to sacrifice comfort to save an electronic equipment.

Having enough of river trekking, I espied a rare grove of bamboo. Bamboo meant people. Bamboo provide housing materials or livelihood for people living nearby. True to my instinct, a trail is found, at last. (Good judgment!) It lead to higher ground and into a junction of clear paths that go west, north and east. I chose the east trail so I could cut distance between us and Guadalupe. From afar I could hear several wild roosters crowing.

The route goes down and up and joined another trail until it went down into a river and cross it and up again into a ridge then down again into another creek. The water here is so clear and so serene. From one end up to my farthest vision, water cascade down into a zigzag pattern on the rock and on another it dropped into a sheer precipice.

All the while I was looking for the remainder of the trail but it ended abruptly on the creek and that left me puzzled. Somehow I get to find a slight trace of a path above the waterfall only to find it gone fifty meters ahead and I'm not going back and take a chance to pass by that narrow path above the waterfall. It is SO scary!

Now I am left in a quandary of how to bring a partially invalid man up a safe refuge of a sparse copse of teak trees located a hundred meters above us. He is a stroke survivor and his movement is hampered by his left hand which could hold but difficult to unlock and a left foot that cause him clumsy spills. Above is loose loamy soil and below us is the precipice. We have a rope but, in between that copse and us, there is nothing to anchor at.

I change places with the lethargic guy instead and push his butt up, at the same time I have to keep myself from sliding down. The old guy broke a lot of small tree saplings caused by his vise grip-like left hand which could have been enough to give balance to me and the other guy.

Once, we reach the first sturdy tree, I waited for the healthier of the two to accompany the weaker one before I proceed on my own to tackle another tree and another, using each tree as a spring board to cut the gap from the other. I reach the top of the hill and take a rest sitting on a felled tree. I shared the last ounce of my water to the weak guy before proceeding to follow the ridgeline where I find a trail that brought me to the top of a much higher hill. At the peak I get to see the man-made forest of Baksan, of Mount Lanipao and of Starbucks Hill.

After a kilometer of following the teak-lined trail I found myself again on the ridgeline where Freedom Trail is found. I waited for both guys before deciding to go down one more time, this time, into a rough road. Followed the road down I found a small hut that sell cold soda drinks. I opted for a 750-ml bottle and drank half of it leaving the other half to my companions. Proceeding on, we reached the spillway of Sapangdaku River and walked the paved road back to Guadalupe. From Guadalupe we proceed to “Camp Red” and concluded our exploration with a post-activity discussion and rehydrate with one-liter bottles of strong beer where Jerome Tan joined later.

CONCLUSION:

THE DISCOVERY OF TRAILS on a high ground in the Buhisan Watershed Area is the best alternative to the usual walk of taking the streams as a primary route for weekend outdoors activity. This discovery of this hidden trail also opens up the possibility of bringing in of a larger party of people to the fabled forest, that is known by its older name as Lensa. On this premise, the trails that I have documented and those that I will soon establish here shall be now known as Lensa Trail.

Tribu Dumagsa have tasked me to lead them on a training climb before they embark on a difficult route to Mount Pulag come April 20, 2011. Lensa Trail would complement well with Freedom Trail and it is by these routes that I will bring Tribu Dumagsa climbers to develop their endurance and teach them traditional land navigation through thick jungle and river. Freedom Trail will start from Tisa and will pass by Kilat Spring then on to the fringes of Buhisan and Baksan. From there, a little part of Lensa Trail will be the final route where the participants will go.

Document done in OpenOffice 3.3 Writer
1A crossroads of seven trails. Locals call this as “ang puertahan”, which meant as the portal, the gate or the door in English.

4 comments:

lagalog said...

It's an interesting exploration trek you undertook. It's reassuring to know there are still people like you with this kind of regard to the environment.

PinoyApache said...

Responsibility starts with self. Thank you for visiting me again Oggie.

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