Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NAPO TO BABAG TALES #50: An Advance Party of One

IT IS THREE DAYS before the Fruit Seeds for October.  I am going to the Babag Mountain Range today, January 29, 2012 as advance party.  I am bringing sixty small plastic pots and an undetermined number of seeds of johey oak fruit (marang) for the tree nursery which I am going to establish at the Roble homestead.

The Fruit Seeds for October is a seed-collection campaign instigated by me.

I am alone and I want to spend quality time in the mountains.  I bring a kilo of pork meat; a kilo of rice; another kilo of milled corn, which I intend to share with the Roble family; along with spices, soy sauce, cooking oil and vinegar.  I need also to talk to Fele Roble for this project and the location of the nursery.

Already in my Baikal backpack is my Kovea cook pot, Peak1 spoon-fork-knife set, my Vietnam-era mess kit, Bulin camp stove, my 500-ml. stainless-steel cup, Sony camera, Mantrack machete, my tomahawk, a three-piece honing stone set, a Sheffield 12-in-1 tool, an unfinished rosewood axe shaft and other items that describe very well of what really is a bushman.  

I’m packing it full and added another kilo, complements of a liter of water which I collected in my Nalgene bottle at Lower Kahugan Spring.  I may have to treat this hike as a training session with all the weight I carried.  I woke up late and I am able to start my hike only at 9:00 AM.  I ditch breakfast and have to train my stomach as well how to climb a mountain range with an empty stomach.  Anyway, food could be had at noon which is just a few hours away.

I need to be fit before I will embark on my projected north-to-south coast-to-coast walk passing at the most rugged terrain of Cebu which is in its middlemost spine.  I have already done Segment One and Segment Two is about to be pursued in March and it will be a long long drag of 3 to 4 days of hiking and climbing.

The Babag Mountain Range is foggy at the tops today and that is a good indicator that summer is finally coming in the tropics.  It suggests that the day will be hot and it is indeed hot.  I wear my boonie hat for this occasion, a white t-shirt and my North Korea-made long bush pants.  The last item fished out from a second-hand store.

A local in Napo told me that some hikers are already ahead of me on the trail more than an hour ago.  I have to guess how many are they and how many are male and how many are female.  This would give accent to my solo walk and to keep me grounded to bushcraft; I decide to rejuvenate my tracking skills which I only use during explorations.  The hard part is that I have to read the tracks on a hard beaten trail where many people use.

I see smudges, but I cannot tell what caused those and who it belonged to.  Perhaps by the locals.  I do not know but I could only guess.  I see boot prints and I can tell some that it is days old and other recent ones that are many hours old.  I see some dog prints.  That, I am pretty sure.  I need fresh tracks and, maybe, I will find it in places where water is near.  I am not disappointed and I found one.

Found holes of shoe lugs embed deep on wet ground and is quite fresh yet, as seen from the edges.  Some of the soil adhere to the soles and drop on spots found between holes.  It belonged to a male hiker and wears size 10 shoe.  Why a male?  Because the owner is heavy and it has long strides.

On another spot, I see the signs of another companion.  The hiker is light of build than the first one and it may be that of a female based on my second-guessing that it is a size 8 shoe.  Up ahead where water had made the ground muddy, I see another footprint.  It may be that of a male and wears a size 9 shoe and has longer strides than the second individual.

I think I may have found another faint but fresh shoe track but it had been trampled over by others on a spot where it is narrow and I could not clearly study the print well.  May be male.  By now, wet spots will be few once I cross the stream at Lower Kahugan.  I surmise three to four people are taking the Kahugan Trail judging that there are no more fresh prints going to Busan except the old shoeprint of Boy Toledo who came here Saturday.

I found three empty bottles of a local rum and insecticides half buried in the mud that hardened.  I find this very dangerous and I remove the bottles lest it would cause an accident.  It is my way of doing community work; of trail maintenance.  It is also my advocacy: picking up empty bottles and broken glasses and keep it out from causing harm.

I talk with a farmer tending her hilly flower farm and it’s a good interlude to break my rhythm and recover my breathing.  I see two hikers below gasping and wheezing under the brunt of the severe heat.  Above me is an exposed ridge which I will tackle later.  I climb it and I feel my legs getting tight and I know the feeling; the tell-tale signs of muscle cramps. 

Since the time when I got in custody of a company-owned motorcycle, my daily walks to my workplace and back have been put to rest for four months now.  My lack of walking have taken its toll on my legs and the muscles have not performed like the way it used to.  I guess I have to put the bike in the garage and start walking again come Monday.

I arrive at a high knoll that is home to the Roble family.  The shade from a tamarind tree and a Java plum tree is most welcome.  Welcome still are the cool bamboo benches underneath them and I am rabidly thirsty.  Not yet; I may need coffee first to pep me up.  I unload my things to prepare coffee but one item is obviously missing:  the butane fuel!

No problem.  Fele boil water for me on his earthen hearth.  Coffee tastes heavenly when you are deprived of food and water on a long hot journey on foot.  I ask him if he ever seen a group of hikers passing this way.  There were five of them, he says: one female and four male.  Darn.  I miss one.  It’s alright.  At least, I am 80-percent right.  Nobody knows or do this skill anymore and I am glad my late grandfather taught this to me when I was a small boy and it remained embedded in me. 

First, I need Fele to prepare a meal for lunch.  Second, I need to have a look-see of the young trees that I help plant last March 13, 2011.  One cacao, two jackfruit, one canistel, two rambutan, one guava and one looking-glass tree survived.  Eight out of fifteen.  Not a bad one considering that it is exposed to domesticated animals.  The uppermost plants have vanished and some of it were still there during my last visit in December 11, 2011. 

Third, I document the surviving plants for a quick inventory while I prepare the small plastic pots and seeds for the next generation of plants.  Fourth, I move about and look for a nice kind of soil to fill up the pots and I found it below a mango tree below the hill.  I just use a 3-foot bamboo stick to dig the ground and a piece of green coconut husk to scoop the dirt into the pots.  I filled up 31 pots when lunch was called to.

After the meal, I need to practice a little skill with a native gadget.  One of the things that I carry is a bamboo blowgun and two bamboo darts.  These have been given to me by my stepdaughter on her travel to Malaysia.  I tried a blowgun long ago with a papaya-leaf tube and a needle with cigarette-filter flights as dart.  A papaya trunk became an instant target.  Sorry there tree huggers.

A little while, a group of six hikers with two toddlers arrive to take a rest and enjoy the cool shade.  Then eight people of a different group arrive some fifteen minutes later to converge at the benches.  I continue filling up the remaining pots and water these to make it moist before I bury 60 seeds into it.

I give the main place to the newcomers while I decide to take a rest on a bench that is beginning to disintegrate.  The sun begins to move and the shadows move on the opposite side exposing me partly to heat from the sun.  I busy myself to kill boredom by working on the axe shaft.  The broken glasses make only a little progress scraping the thickness of the rosewood and I abandon it.  The wood is too hard and I may need a wood file, I think.

I transfer my attention on a piece of Mexican lilac wood fashioning it into the shape of a spoon with my tomahawk.  I have chopped away large chunks of undesired wood and was in the process of shaving away thickness when the steel head slipped from the wood and slit a half-inch cut on my wrist. 

I discard the work and look for something to stop the bleeding.  I found guava leaf buds and crush it to a ball to extract a juice to smear it on my wound but I am unable to produce it with my one good hand so I chew the buds to let my teeth do the work.  When I am assured that the bitter juices have been produced, I apply it as a poultice, the juice stinging the opened skin.

By now, it is time to go as it is 3:45 PM.  The first group have left two hours ago while the last group come along with me and I lead them to a trail that goes to the Busay Lut-od Waterfalls and leave them once they have settled at the bottom.  It seems that they still have an unfinished bottle of rum and I don’t want none of it and leave them behind.

I arrive at Summer Kyla and rehydrate myself with two big bottles of cold Red Horse.  In a little while, Boy Toledo and Ernie Salomon joined me and two more bottles were added.  I miss dinner and I am tipsy and sleepy.  Good thing Boy T brought me to my place in his car and isn’t that a good thing?  Thanks Boy T.

Document done in Libre Office 3.3

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