Wednesday, June 6, 2012
NEED TO GO OUT to the wilderness of Buhisan and Baksan today, April 22, 2012. Camp Red needs also to exercise their domain of bushcraft and survival by going on a foraging hike and doing a campsite location and development. Got new guys with me, as well as old reliables Silver Cue and Jhurds Neo.
Need to teach the new bushmen traditional land navigation today. I am going to re-visit my jungle wonderland and I am going to take Dominikus Sepe, Glenn Abapo and Mr. Bogs in there. My first target would be the place called The Portal. It had rained hard during dawn and it made the ground wet. Such downpour in summer are rare and it makes my foraging of dry fire tinder rarer still. So collecting dry things are out of the question.
We start from the south gate of Guadalupe church at 7:10 AM. I could feel the draining heat of the sun at this early hour of the day at Heartbreak Ridge. I could only imagine what the others might have felt at this deceptive stretch. It is a gentle slope of 30-degrees or more yet devoid of any vegetation. In summer, it is brown like cocoa and dotted with black patches of burnt out grass.
We walk over the highest hump of this serpentine-looking range of hills scarred by a high-end housing project on the east that do more bad than good to the lowland residents of Cebu City. Beyond that ugly earth-moving activity and unseen from the urban areas are lush vegetation that provide food and livelihood to the poor mountain folks and thick stands of timber that is home to birds and other living creatures.
This private-capital urban-development project is dangerously close to the Buhisan Watershed Area and, someday in less than twenty years, I believe that more developments will intrude into lands classified as timberland and where my only jungle wonderland in the city is found. Along the route, I stop by to pick up leaves and buds from wild basil that I may need later to season our noontime meal.
Once I reach the enclave of trees, I could feel my energy returning. My steaming body gets cooled and the silence is so soothing to the spirit even when it is pierced by the constant chirping of birds. I follow the path that I called Bebut’s Trail. The star apple tree I photographed intentionally burned at its lower trunk by an unknown firewood gatherer sometime in May 2010 to hasten its death have finally succumbed. The limbs were now missing and only the dry trunk remained and will soon be firewood.
Up ahead, some person cut two big branches of an ancient tamarind tree. Nearby is a charcoal pit where all the missing branches are found and charred black. Summer heat always put a strain on farms and produce and complicates a farmer’s livelihood where, most likely, he is bound to cut trees to feed his family. I pass by a Spanish plum tree and a copse of breadfruit trees and all are left untouched.
I reach The Portal at 8:30 AM. This is a hub of seven trails and I let everyone take rest and drink their water. After a short briefing, I follow the rest of Bebut’s Trail. It is over a year since the last time I passed by this path. I believe the previous year have deposited a lot of rainwater as the greens have not wilted yet as this is in the middle of summer although this season is one of the hottest I have felt.
My long absence from this part of the trail have taken a toll on me as I miss the branch of the path that I usually take. I make a detour when I notice I followed a different route and retrace myself back. I looked for the stunted palm tree on the left that marked the branch but it had grown long stems which I failed to notice. When I do found the true path I estimate I have already wasted about ten minutes of reconnoitering and of doubling back and forth. It would have been longer if I have a larger party with me.
The day turns hot and I’m sweating hard as well; my mind working full-time to analyze, guess and second-guess this trail that have become elusive to my eyes and feet. I am tired and I miss again the route when I pass by an unfamiliar landmark and I have to stop and recover my wits. I have heard of a sinkhole in Baksan but I have not seen it until I became stupid.
I found the sinkhole and it is dangerously so close along the path. It has a squarish hole of about five feet by five feet and is quite deep that I could not clearly see the bottom for fear of falling into it. I see plastic and rubbish snagged among exposed roots of trees that found its way into the sinkhole’s mouth. I shiver at the thought of someone walking this part of the path in the dark.
I take another trail hoping to make a circle and I assumed it did when I reach another route crossing mine. I follow this trail until persistence brought me to the second Portal at 9:20 AM but I just lost fifteen minutes. Found deep in the forest, it is another hub of six trails marked by three boulders. The presence of a tamarind tree gives me assurance that it is a path that forest residents regularly use when they go to Buhisan to forage and hunt. We use the shade and the good ground clearing to rest and rehydrate.
I found the trail behind the boulders and start to follow it when I encountered another snag. The route seems to have been obscured now by thick vegetation and I go back again to where I came from so I could study the reference points and recollect hard. I lost another ten minutes here trying to discern the route and I found it passing by a decaying and stunted giant ipil tree and amongst spotted-leaf agave plants.
The grade of the path ascends onto a saddle and then follow the contours of the mountain range, crossing several ravines, and it climb again into another saddle and I stop to recover my breathing. Infront of me is Starbucks Hill. I will climb it and make my coffee there. This hill is sort of a fable among those whom have not gone with me on my sorties here and all of my companions will, finally, have the chance to scale her.
Thick vegetation choked the lower ramparts but I go around it and squeeze myself in between small clearings which I assume is a trail. My judgment got better of me as I reach the crown and I am rewarded with a cool breeze. Starbucks Hill is in the middle of a natural wind channel as it is in between Mount Lanipao and Baksan Hills. Behind Starbucks is a ridge that goes straight into Lanipao.
I follow that ridge so I could make coffee at the “coffee bar” - a small clearing underneath a huge tamarind tree. Since vegetation have obscured so much of the trail, I , again, failed to follow the true path. I am tired of making circles and retracing my route until I pass by a knife-edged ridge and this is most scary. I just leave it at that - following the wrong way - until I stop at a very small valley at 11:30 AM.
Below the shade of a teak tree, we claim a spot for rest. I am thirsty but I control myself to drink indiscriminately as I need the rest of my water for cooking and washing. I am just bringing one liter of water and I have only consumed less than a tenth of that in four hours of laborious hiking. I am the best in the field when talking about water discipline and I intend to keep it that way no matter how tempting.
I boil water for coffee first to pep up our sagging stamina. I intend to drink stronger coffee before proceeding with the business of preparing our meal for lunch. Silver helped me with the preparation of the mixed vegetables while I concentrated on the milled corn. Meanwhile, Mr. Bogs produce some commercial pre-cooked food in pouches which we heated.
It is a respectable meal, and hot, and everyone take several servings of milled corn and the viands. After the meal, we rest a few minutes more to nurse back our strength which is more than enough. This small valley leads to a dry watercourse which goes down into heavy jungle and, probably, a stream. Lack of breeze make this place oven hot.
We leave at 1:30 PM. I follow a faint trail into a knoll. Behind the knoll, the path becomes just a smudge on the ground that goes into an almost-impenetrable vegetation. The footprints are devoid of thread-like patterns describing that the man, whomever he may be, is wearing rubber flip-flops. It follows a steep hill until I see a lot of footprints everywhere going in circles.
I follow a path that trod into difficult terrain and I am getting confused until Silver gets my attention when he saw animal snares just above of the very place where the footprints are going in circles. I see four animal snares and, between them, are barriers. The snare maker intends to catch his prey by channeling it into the snares.
Two meters away are two holes on the ground whose mouths showed signs of use. What’s inside of those holes could either be the home of monitor lizards, pythons, forest rodents or palm civets. I pass by slowly across the snares, taking careful steps not to disturb the triggers or the limb spring.
There is another faint path going up and it connects to a discernible trail. I need to gain height and I follow the ascending route into a hill where a slight break from the forest offered me a view to observe landmarks or the very form of the land contours. Onward is more of high ground which might lead me back to Baksan but I noticed a branch of a trail which I just passed by a few minutes back that goes down into something familiar or some kind of terrain with similar vegetation.
I gambled on this trail and it lead to a stream which I crossed and re-crossed and landed on Camp Damazo, the site of last year’s Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp (PIBC). After a delay of two hours, I begin to start my search for another camp site for this year’s PIBC. The day is late and I may have to discard campsite development and stocking of firewood.
Crossing another stream, I follow Lensa Trail uphill and found my new Camp Damazo. The place is thick with straight-growing trees offering good camp ground in between these. This is the best site and very far from any riparian area and is abundant of firewood and tinder. I am elated to have come across this place after seeing old remains of fire on the ground on two sites. Further up ahead is a spring that may supply the drinking needs of PIBC participants.
After trekking for an hour, we reach the edge of the Baksan Forest Reserve. There is a road going up to Pamutan or going down to Sapangdaku but I prefer to follow across the trail to Lanipao Rainforest Resort. This is mango country and I could see all the mango trees blossoming with flowers. I spotted also star apple trees bearing fruits but they were too high and with great effort we were able to bring down one fruit which is very sweet.
Going down further and further, we reach the resort. There are many guests and we continue on a road to a store beside a dirt volleyball court. The owner sells cold soda drinks but I prefer beer. After finishing three big bottles of that, we push on for Napo and reach it at about 4:30 PM. We take a ride on motorcycles-for-hire for Guadalupe and transfer to Red Hours where our post-activity discussions were set in motion.
The day is complete with the location of the new Camp Damazo and I may need to explore further the areas around the site. I will need to develop the periphery of the camp like the location of the latrines and the campfire area and stock it of firewood and water. The concrete preparation of PIBC MMXII goes on full steam with this activity.
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