Monday, October 10, 2011

NAPO TO BABAG TALES XLIV: Palm Sunday Bushcraft

TODAY IS PALM SUNDAY, April 17, 2011.  After fasting for a week, I think I need to do a light bush hike into the foothills of the Babag Mountain Range, Sapangdaku, Cebu City, where the Roble homestead is located.  Not only that, I will polish off my bushcraft and survival skills and today is a perfect opportunity.

I will not need my cooking gears and my camp stove and I leave it intentionally behind.  I will not be with my usual company.  I need to be alone.  I need to commune with nature and to be with the mountain folks whom I can connect with very easily.  Bushcraft is most perfect when you are alone.  

I arrive at the Our Lady of Guadalupe de Cebu Parish at 7:00 PM and I witness the blessing of the palms by the priest.  There is an ongoing religious program.  I passed by a procession of parishioners in old Jewish garbs coming from San Nicolas and they are now converging at the church grounds.

After that, I decide to eat a light breakfast to see me through to my destination.  It is a long way there:  almost three kilometers of uphill road and maybe about four kilometers of ever-increasing elevation to that knoll where there is an ancient tamarind tree.  I buy my usual fifty-peso worth of bread for Manwel, Juliet and Josel.

It is hot, of course, for this is the middle of summer in the tropics.  I walk my usual pace.  My old Coleman boots are still around and it may disintegrate soon, but not today.  It may still be liveable with my feet.  My 35-liter Baikal pack is heavy with five used books but I don't mind.  This cargo will make some children smile.  
I arrive at Napo in about 45 minutes and greet the locals politely.  I did not tarry long and I cross the Sapangdaku River.  The stream is still running with water unlike last year where it was dry.  Oh, this is good.  Blame that to the constant rains in March.

I meet some local folks along the trail carrying vegetables for the market and I give the path to them.  Trail courtesy is very essential in your outdoor pursuits and people remember that.  It's a good passport for unimpeded access into your playground.

I arrive at Lower Kahugan Springs and she is still gushing drinkable water without let-up.  This time, I drink water and filled my bottle.  I give all the books to a 10-year old girl and her two small brothers, as well as half of the bread.  I stay here for about 10 minutes before proceeding again.

I did not follow the usual route where it will pass by a flower farm.  At 8:00 AM it will be hot there and it is almost nine.  I take the Kahugan Trail instead which is a much easier route and shaded although rather long.  I hear from below the splash of water from the Busay Lut-od Waterfalls but I will not go down there.

I take a switchback to the Roble homestead and arrive there at 9:30 AM.  I sit on the cool bamboo benches underneath a Java plum tree to recover my breathe.  Little Josel badger me with my hidden stash of bread and I ultimately surrender it to him after a little chit-chat.  Manwel is sweating and just came from their little corn farm uphill.

I need to have a bamboo pole and Manwel showed me where to get one. I choose two segments and cut it from the rest with my local Bowie knife. Remove the branches and knobs with my sharp tomahawk. Lay the pole on the bench and start to work opening both segments with either Bowie and 'hawk.

When it was done, I decide to gather dry firewood from dead branches. Manwel found a dry stump of a Mexican lilac tree and I help him carry it up. Wood at the bottom of a tree where the roots meet stump make good fire and so heat efficient although this will take a lot of hard work. I need not worry. I have my sharp hatchet to do that task and a pair of good working hands.

Sweats on my brow, I finish this manly work in about thirty minutes and go on conducting my preparations for my noontime meal. With the firewood, I am able to start a fire with a single matchstick. Dry tinder and a hot day make this possible.

When the fire got going, I balance the bamboo pole above it and place water on the one where it is heated by the flame. The moment I see wisps of steam coming out between lid and pot, I gently pour milled corn into the chamber and stir it with my wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, Manwel offered me three star apple fruits (sp. Chrysophillium cainito) which I eat with relish. While waiting for my cooking, I decide to kill time by working the unfinished wooden spoon which I started last March 13 on this same spot. I bring pieces of broken glass for this occasion so I could scrape off the unwanted thickness.

I pour a little water on the now almost-cooked milled corn for moisture and remove this from the fire, changing positions with an empty chamber which I need to cook with instant noodles. The heat coming from this chamber will transfer to the one where milled corn is found and it will cook on its own heat. I revive the fire and pour water on the empty pot and waited for steam to come out.

Again, I resume my work on the almost-finished spoon. I decide to video myself cooking instant noodles in a bamboo. Open the lid and drop chunks of dry noodles into the steaming water and stir it with my spoon. I leave the noodles to simmer for a few minutes and resume my work. Manwel and Juliet decide to roast cobs of corn beside the embers and I'm eating it as well.

Once again, I return to the cooking and add flavoring ingredients and stir it before after which I scatter the fire away. When I think that the whole cooking is ready, I remove the contents and transfer it to plastic plates which Manwel's mother provided me with. Not only that, she also give me a delicious-looking purple taro soup.

Just when I am about to take my lunch, six guys arrive and they were sweating very hard. They belong to an outdoor group called ZETS or the Zubu Eco-Touring Society. They started at ten from Napo and it's not the best time to do climbing unless you are on training. Anyway, the cool benches made by Fele are very welcome to tired travellers.

They have with them sandwiches, burgers and salad for meals. Not a good idea eating packed meals while doing rigorous exercise like hiking and climbing under the relentless rays of the sun. Even I with crude implements, deserves a good steaming lunch. The outdoors do not deny me that chance to enjoy my meals in a special way. Eating food fresh from the fire is a luxury, you know.

I request Fele and Manwel to provide six young coconuts for the newcomers. They may need more electrolytes to to see them through to Mount Babag. Father and son came back a few minutes later and bring with them six green coconuts which they opened at the tops so the visitors could drink its natural juice.

At 1:00 PM, the ZETS guys leave for the ridge road by way of the Babag East Ridge Pass. I stayed for a couple of hours more and had a good siesta. After that blissful nap underneath the Java plum tree and bamboo, I decide to pack up and go downhill.

Fele's wife, Tonia, give me a plastic bag full of root crops, vegetables and jackfruit. I accepted these and I know my wife will be happy when I arrive home. I rearrange all so it could fit inside my backpack. What cannot be stowed inside, I carry with either hand.

Once I reach Napo, I continue on my walking for Guadalupe. The cargo I'm carrying is very heavy but, I need not worry for it is all downhill. When I got home, I see my wife smiling.

Document done in Libre Office 3 Writer

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