Saturday, September 1, 2012
FOR THE BENEFIT OF those that have not had the privilege to join the cross-country multi-day hike that I led on the dates March 22 to 25, 2012, I have organized a shorter activity which details the route of that first day. This is from Lutopan, Toledo City to Tubod, San Fernando passing by Lamac, Pinamungahan which, I estimate, would be at least 18 to 22 kilometers long.
I have scheduled this activity on June 24, 2012 and this is a day hike. I may have to add though the route which will start from Tubod to Panadtaran, also in San Fernando, where the national highway is located, but doing so, we may have to walk a long way which, I reckon, will take two to 2.5 hours. This would, at least, expose the hikers to the scenes, the heat, the fatigue and the anguish that the first passers have experienced.
Going with me are Jhurds Neo, Edwina Marie Intud, Eli Bryn Tambiga, Dominikus Sepe, Glenn Abapo and Mr. Bogs – all of Camp Red. Also coming is second-timer Silver Cave. We meet at 6:00 AM inside the Cebu South Bus Terminal and transfer to Lutopan via a slow-running bus with which place we reach at 8:05 AM. We enter Bunga, also in Toledo City and walk the road to Lamac which we reach at 9:45 AM.
We rest at Lamac while I occupy myself of procuring the ingredients for our lunch later in the day. Lamac has a mountain resort but I decide we not visit it today for lack of time and so we continue on our walk at 10:00 AM. It is a hot day and there are too few shades until I decide that we take rest at Sibago at 11:00 AM near where there is a water source and prepare our meal.
I think 400 grams of chicken can be accommodated to eight people, so I chop the chicken into many bite pieces as possible while Edwina and Glenn help me with slicing the eggplants, squash, tomatoes and onions. Meanwhile, Doms, Eli and Mr. Bogs do the honors of cooking the milled corn. Jhurds, on the other hand, recon the area for any cold refreshment that may be found and discovered instead pure coconut wine.
After the meal, the native wine became the center of our social time. A local provided us green coconuts to give us added electrolytes which we may need during the assault phase towards the Pinamungahan-San Fernando boundary and the rest of the journey. We leave Sibago at 2:15 PM, too late for my own comfort knowing that we are already an hour behind schedule when we started this trek in the morning. The day is very hot and our resolve would be tested.
We reach the top of the knoll and shaved some minutes off and that is good. We were in light backpacking mode compared to the first time when we were packing heavy loads. That time I was carrying a Habagat Venado II which has a capacity of 80+ liters but, today, I am bringing a Sandugo Khumbu good for 50 liters. I carry less than that inside and I am testing the backpack for the first time as well as my new Mammut SDT hike pants and Nautilus bike shorts.
After, a short rest, I lead the party to the old “carabao highway” that pass on a series of ridges to Tubod. This meter-wide path have been dug by countless generations of swamp buffalo hooves and travois. As I am following it, recent ruts caused by the wooden sled are engraved on each side of the path. My pace is relentless knowing that we are now in a covered route and that it is not that hot anymore.
We finally reach Tubod at 4:10 PM and I am quite elated that we have shaved off some 50 minutes from our deficit of one hour but we did not stop and proceed down an unpaved road going to the national highway. We found a store and refresh ourselves with cold drinks that its sugar we may need up ahead on the road. Sooner we may encounter paved roads and that would put a strain into our feet soles, which have already suffered from walking a long distance under the mercy of the hot sun.
A tipsy local answered our query of how distant is Tubod from the highway: Two hours if they locals were to walk but three or more hours to those who are not from here. I don’t know if he is exaggerating or not but that remains to be seen. At exactly 4:30 PM, we leave Tubod and cross a spillway where, it is now all uphill walk.
It is not easy for me now since my right thigh is suffering from a severe pain which I did not show to others for I fear it might cause them concern. I could not freely raise my right foot high during a climb over every rise and it gives me great discomfort. I begin to assess of what caused those and I suspect that either I am quite overweight or I forgot to stretch my muscles before this hike. I suspect both!
It gives me so much consternation and disbelief that reaching the lowland I will have to tackle a series of road rises whose pavements are so uneven, broken or disintegrating causing footing and balance a nasty affair on an unending rhythm. You have to make sure you do not step on those pebbles else it press onto your already tenderized soles. Besides that, you have to watch out for those revving motorcycles whose drivers honk all the time to clear their way.
Darkness overtake us on the road and the hazards coming from motorcycles trebled especially after the wake of a speeding four-wheeled vehicle raise up a storm of dust that hampers visibility. Pain underfoot, meanwhile, doubled when discernment of surface feature is almost obliterated. There are no street lighting and what light there are come from a few houses which have electricity and from vehicles which are very fleeting.
Good for my party they have used their LED lights. I prefer to use my night vision even if I know I have a torch with me. That increases my difficulty in my walk but I have gained great insight as my mind work on the study of the disadvantages of walking in the dark. Basically, when I am walking I am at peace with myself and my thoughts are clear.
Reaching Tabiangon, there are now few rises and the road starts to gradually steer towards the lowlands and that increases pressure on the feet. Pebbles and uneven surface are my constant worry. Tiptoeing is out of the question and it boils down of how well you know of yourself and what organic mechanisms you are to use to kill pain. I turn off pain by switching off the nerve that signal this to the brain. Easy.
For an hour the road is like a white serpent winding slowly down and down until the bright lights of the Grand Cement Corp. is visible at a far distance and that raise our hopes. Minute by minute, the distance is cut down by inches, by yards and then by kilometers. Edwina struggled but she put on a brave front and so were Jhurds and Mr. Bogs.
I am the last to reach the highway at Panadtaran at 8:05 PM. Everyone have walked the distance of nearly 45 kilometers without complaint. Everyone were quite fatigued but they retained their poise and true grit. The rest have not done this longest walk yet in their lives and they have cause to celebrate over this achievement. Hungry stomach and thirsty throats have not dampened their spirit nor the threat of rain which have missed us by a half-hour over the route which we just have traversed before Tubod.
Passing buses for Cebu City are overcrowded and that made waiting a longer interlude until one God-sent empty public utility jitney made a U-turn infront of us and began calling for passengers. We took the hint and how I am glad to sit and relax again. The rain have missed San Fernando by a hair and, as the jitney moved, we feel it when we reach Naga City. The jitney reach the end of its route at Talisay City but we transfer to a downtown-going jitney and I drop off at the bus terminal where my motorcycle is parked.
The air is cold and I am soaked by rain as I go on my way home. It is 10:00 PM and I think I need a good dinner which I have in the form of hot shrimp soup and braised pork. Meals fit for a hungry explorer.
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