Monday, January 16, 2012

BUSHCRAFT BUHISAN IX: Traditional Land Navigation

I LOOKED FORWARD TO the day when that “high-ground trail” that I discovered and half-explored last April 2011 would finally be settled for completion. I will share that ecstasy with seven others today, October 30, 2011, and it will be another trophy that Camp Red will relish and be worth hanging on at their “adventure wall”.

I am the guide and principal brain behind this activity. This will not only be an exploration of terra incognita but a venue, as well, to teach people about traditional land navigation and good trail sense, under my Grassroots Bushcraft teaching series which is promoted at the Warrior Pilgrimage blog.

The uncompleted Lensa Trail will be the “live” laboratory for this study and we will start from the south gate of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, climbing over the bare back of the dreaded “heartbreak ridge” by way of Bebut's Trail and then settle for a coffee break at a small community in Baksan before resuming to find “Camp Damazo” in dense jungle.

From there, I will bring them to “Creek Bravo” to prepare, cook and eat our lunch; before climbing up another range and reach “Tango Xray”; where there is a cross-roads of four trails leading north, east, west and south. In April, I found this place from the south direction and decide to take the eastern branch to cut distance between there and Guadalupe as it had been already late in the day.

I aim to take the north route today which, I know, will connect with the Pamutan-Baksan Road – the one I designated as “Tango Yankee”. The western branch would come later at my own pace and time and, perhaps, answer some of my thirst for more exploration.

Trailing behind me are Camp Red regulars Glenn Pestaño, Raymund Panganiban, Silver Cue, Jhurds Neo and Randell Savior (who will take care of the rear) plus two new participants who are out to satisfy their curiosity about bushcraft and survival: Faith Tannen and Justin Ianne. Glenn, Raymund and Randell are no strangers to “Camp Damazo” for they were here during the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp in June 11-12.

We leave Guadalupe at 7:30 AM and, true to its promise, the sun is uncompromising at “heartbreak ridge” and choked our muscles tight. Blood that supply oxygen among our body system and gives color to skin seemed to have abandoned almost on everyone's faces giving it a pale variant. Raymund, Faith, Ianne, Jhurds and Glenn have it.

I decide to allow the group to recover their bearings near a cairn and give them two reference points: the sun and Mount Babag. Traditional navigation rely mostly on the celestial bodies like the sun and the stars; shadow analysis; and the natural land formations like rivers, saddles and ridges, from where most routes are found. Mt. Babag, when seen through the compass at our location, always point north and cannot be missed.

A shadow kept following behind me and is uncompromising as well and it belonged to Silver. The same Silver, who learned the ropes of wilderness safety together with Raymund and Glenn at Mount Manunggal in August 23-25 under the aegis of Wil Davies. I throttle up the pace and down goes Glenn far far away behind, who raise both hands in utter surrender.

To counter this difficulty, I instructed him to go down to the primary evacuation area and motor to meet us instead at the second evacuation area in Baksan. The rest followed me and we reach our first resting place at exactly 9:00 PM. At this stretch, a hawk appeared circling the sky and that is a good omen. As promised, I give them the final briefing over coffee before proceeding again and be reunited with Glenn, who seems to be okay now after a long rest.

Lensa Trail start somewhere on the ridge where Freedom Trail pass. It is a hot day but we are in a man-made forest of teak trees. Sooner, we will go down the ridge and follow the route to a low hill that goes down into a low saddle and climb another hill and another much higher hill. From there, the trail goes down into a level ridge and ends in a cul-de-sac. A dead end.

Down that ridge is “Camp Damazo”. I explain to them how I was able to locate the campsite over a trail-less terrain that are steep all around. I showed them a gentle slope that goes down like a tongue into “Creek Alpha” and it is the only sane way to go down there. It is already more than four months since I passed by here and the route now is covered by thick vegetation and what tracks I and my party made then are now obliterated.

After several slips over loose soil, we take a short rest at “Camp Damazo”. The small camp is flat and even and the water hole have vanished. I remind everyone to watch where they piss for we are now inside the Buhisan Watershed Area. Across the campsite crossing the creek is a trail that goes over rolling terrain and where different varieties of tree grow.

This stretch of trail is excellent although many trees are cut indiscriminately by firewood gatherers. I recommend everyone to utilize any wood staff found as aid in hiking. We reach “Creek Bravo” after 30 minutes and, immediately, I announce to everyone that we will rest here and do our cooking. It is a reprieve then for everyone and a good excuse to enjoy a long rest.

I assign the cooking of milled corn to Randell and Raymund, while I do the cooking of pork adobao and mixed-vegetable stew. I dig first a water hole beside the creek for washing purposes before I commence with the food preparation. To enhance my cooking, I bought several green peppers from the roadside market in Guadalupe for this purpose and, likewise, plucked a lot of basil leaves along the trail.

Sadly, I don't use monosodium glutamate in my cooking nor have I the inclination to use those instant “fry mix” into my food ingredients for I know it is just MSG in another package. I would rely instead on balance of taste by natural means with salt and vinegar; and aroma which both pepper and basil could provide.

Silver produce a can of red kidney beans and, just the same, I mix these over both viands, enhancing further my cooking. When the milled corn is about to be completely cooked, I place green gumbos above it and let it be “steamed” by heat coming from the milled corn.

After the meal, we did not tarry long to enjoy our allotted siesta time. I decide that we proceed to our next destination which is “Tango Xray”. Time is precious and I do not know how far “Tango Yankee” is from “Tango Xray”, but I do know that the former intersects the road. I found my trail sign that point to the correct direction to “Tango Xray”. I follow down the trail into a saddle and, this time, we begin ascending steadily.

My pace is very slow so Raymund, Jhurds, Glenn, Faith and Justine would not be inconvenienced. I trust the stamina of both Silver and Randell and both could help me out in pacing with the rest. This is real forest and it is so silent except for the whistle of breeze among leaves and the sentry croaks of a single gecko.

Along the way, I explain to them the circumstances surrounding every abandoned camp used by forest people and why some things are left and for what purpose. I remind them to ration their drinking water as there is no water source from here to “Tango Xray”, much more so on that unknown stretch of territory towards “Tango Yankee”.

I reach “Tango Xray”, at last, and tell them the story of how I was able to discover this place by analyzing the terrain and vegetation and how I was able to reach safety by aid of a compass. I was able to ascertain my location by finding the general direction and extricate my companions from a difficult situation. Anyway, I show to the present group the trails that goes east, west, north, south and the unexplored path that I will share with them today.
The route goes down into a small creek which, I presume, is the same tributary that lead to “Creek Bravo”. There is a jumble of vegetation, now frayed, on the ground beside a huge tree before I reach the creek and I could see a tell-tale sign of somebody 3-4 days ago lying in wait for something edible. Obviously, a hunter would use such camouflage to hide himself from his prey which would manifest itself among the foliage of that tall tree. Perhaps, the prey is a wild rooster.

After crossing the mountain stream, the route goes up abruptly a steep terrain. It had been like that for about 250-300 meters until I notice a series of small water runoffs cross the trail. Up ahead, I see a good-sized spring with a split-bamboo guide used by locals to channel water above the ground. It is a blessing then for our water-depleted party to replenish their drinking water supply. This discovery of a water source would very much help in bringing people here.

The route settled down into an even terrain and I could detect that we are now walking along a saddle where another hiding place by a hunter is found beside a tree. We pass through a “green hole” and cross a lively creek that would, ostensibly, link to “Creek Alpha”. A very huge trunk of a burnt-out dead tree block part of the way after crossing the waterway.

By now, the vegetation seems to be a lot tamer and less dense and I believe we are now approaching “Tango Yankee” which is now very incontrovertible when I hear the distant roar of passing motorcycles. At exactly 2:30 PM, the last of my party reach the road and I am at a loss of how to utilize the rest of our free time for either exercise and enjoyment.

Right across us is a wide path that I always notice for several times when I come down from Pamutan and, maybe, it could answer the question that I am asking myself now: how to make use of our free time? Okay, I will try that route and everyone agreed to try it also. This trail goes down and down until it reach the Lanipao Rainforest Resort. So, I hit two birds with one stone today and I couldn't believe this stroke of fortune.

We end our activity at 4:00 PM and we decide to relish and release our adrenaline at Summer Kyla in V. Rama Street. Everyone are so buoyed up by what they achieved today and resort to old Cebu trivia games amidst rounds of cold Red Horse beer and slices of pizza. The chemistry of this new Camp Red people are beginning to jell well and I am simply elated by this prospect because...

...Camp Red is very capable now in how to effectively range and explore the oft-ignored local mountains that still hide unknown territories and nooks without having to visit well-known places and amassing expensive budgets. Camp Red delights to promote the Babag Mountain Range as the better mountain range for true-blue Cebuanos and local tourists.

Document done in Libre Office 3
Some pictures of last collage courtesy of Raymund Panganiban

No comments: