Tuesday, January 1, 2013
I AM WITH SIX OTHER people going to Mount Manunggal, Balamban this day, October 27, 2012. There is a mountaineering event there but I don’t want to be part of that. My friends are not mountaineers and we are just passing through. We are with the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild.
I have a goal to seek and I am going to walk from Mt. Manunggal to Mount Babag in Cebu City with my party then go down to Napo and Guadalupe the following day. A distance of 28 to 30 kilometers of two days walk. It had never been done before but it is possible and quite achievable. This is the other half of Segment One of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project which the latter I aim to complete in 2015.
The Cebu Highlands Trail is a very ambitious project that I am undertaking on my own under my Warrior Pilgrimage blog. I will look for and establish routes in segments from north to south of Cebu Island and link these as one whole route that would be patterned after the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Rim Trail of the United States. Once done, Cebu would attract multi-day backpackers, thruhikers and segment walkers from all over the world.
The Mt. Manunggal to Guadalupe cross-country hike would complete Segment One which start (and was done four times) from Lutopan, Toledo City to Guadalupe. Segment Two had already been accomplished last March 2012 that brought me and my team from Lutopan to Campangga, Barili. Segment 1 would link with Segment 2 and would accumulate between 100 to 110 kilometers distance in six to seven days walk.
The Cebu Highlands Trail Project is in need of donations from kind-hearted donors and sponsors to outfit the expedition teams that I am organizing. The present expedition team for this traverse hike are Raymund Panganiban – photographer; Ernie Salomon – cook; Eli Bryn Tambiga – medic; and members James Cabajar, Nyor Pino and John Sevilla. Another member – Dominikus Sepe – will act as base support and would update the rest of Camp Red at Facebook through live SMS feeds.
We all meet at JY Square in Lahug in the early morning of October 27 and proceed to Mt. Manunggal at 6:45 AM through the Transcentral Highway on board a hired public jitney after procuring our ingredients for lunch. Going to Mt. Manunggal entail a huge budget for transportation back and forth. The motorcycle drivers bleed you dry when they think they could gain more from what you usually pay them. I will solve half of that predicament by walking back to Cebu City instead.
I am the organizer, expedition leader, guide, safety officer and navigator of this man-sized hike and I will make this as simple as possible. We arrive at Mt. Manunggal at 8:00 AM and leave the mountain thirty minutes later after giving last-minute briefing and instructions to my team. I found a mass of people on the mountain where an LNT signage is found. Quite interesting.
I lead and we go down the trail that goes to a saddle where the Transcentral Highway pass. That place is called Inalad. The weather is hot and humid and so perfect. That usually happens after a passing of a tropical typhoon. The ground is wet caused by high-altitude moisture but it does not bother our pace. We cross brooklets and open spaces; cleaves and ridges; and the Bangbang River.
John and Raymund suffered leg cramps. I administer emergency relief techniques to loosen the muscles. At this instance, I slow down my walk to allow John and Raymund to recover. Eli and James share a cacao fruit to all while I steal a ripe guava along a route. The rest of the team keep an eye on John and Raymund as I concentrate in understanding the details of the trail and the terrain.
I passed by this trail only once in March 2009 and this is a beautiful path; long and winding. I see a sign left by a monkey and yonder, beyond my sight, is a sound of a boar burrowing rootcrops. Wildlife still abound in the Central Cebu Mountain Range. There are a lot of them monkeys hidden from sight and you may catch one if you are persistent. Cebu’s last wild boar was reported caught in 2000 but I don’t believe that it was the last one. Overhead me, a hawk glide by and disappear as it cross my path into a hill.
We reach Inalad at 12:30 noon and we immediately unpack our food ingredients from our backpacks. I cook a kilo of milled corn on conventional camp stove while Ernie make himself busy slicing the pork meat and cooking it adobao-style. Side dish is raw cucumber mixed with tomatoes, all sliced and dipped in spiced vinegar. Nyor added dried fish fried in oil. We take our lunch at 2:00 PM.
It is 2:45 PM by the time we leave Inalad and I cross over the Transcentral Highway into the other side. Now, we’re on the territory of Toledo City. I follow a trail that vanish as soon as I begin to climb a knoll. A hundred meters below me is a stream and some 300 meters away is a dirt road that had just been opened and graded. Need to follow it so I go down to the stream and climb over a farm to reach it.
The road lead to Tongkay, a mountain hamlet nestled in a valley within mountain ranges all around. I did not explore further the place and, I think, the road ends in a cul-de-sac after reaching it at 4:00 PM. We cross a river and climb up a steep trail to an unnamed high mountain. I name it Mount Tongkay and it could be above 750 meters above sea level.
It is almost dusk and I am still nowhere of my objective which is the halfway point on Sinsin Ridge. We lost a lot of time to rests and it is pointless to go on at dusk in unfamiliar territory. We set up camp instead on a good piece of flat ground that is very vegetated. It is a very good campsite, not exposed to the elements yet it could catch warm air as it rise up from the valley floor.
Four tents were set up while three use tarpaulin shelters. Of this three, Raymund and Nyor hitch their hammocks underneath while I chose to sleep on the ground. Mine is an Apexus tarp given to me by Pastor Reynold Boringot during the MCAP Bushcraft Camp at Mt. Balagbag in Rodriguez, Rizal early this month. It is the first time that I am using this and I will give a product review of this camping gear later.
We ration our water to focus only on cooking and drinking. We have brought some Indian rhododendron leaves from Mt. Manunggal and we used this to wipe clean the insides of our cooking pots and spoons from grease. We cook a half-kilo of milled corn, a soup of mixed vegetables and pork adobao. The hot food is reassuring and it gives back our depleted strength and provide us body warmth.
I sleep early as I was tired of doing a lot of reconnoitering during the daylight hours. The moon is full and it is bright. At around 2:00 AM, it started to rain and I wake up and listen to the night sounds. I hear a roosting wild cock being disturbed by something. Later, I hear a creature making a slight sound as it pass by near my shelter. By now, the warm air had been displaced by rain and I find myself trying hard to sleep back. I wait for light.
I did sleep and got startled to find the sky showing traces of light. I decide to explore the bushes around the camp. The early hours of morning are the best time to commune with nature. I remember grandpa teaching me the ways of the forest when I was small and it is wonderful to be still and listen to the birds and unseen creatures thanking the Creator.
We break camp at 8:00 AM after a dry breakfast. The trail of yesterday which went missing is still missing today. But this is what I love best, reading terrain by traditional means. The early morning sun is a blessing and I follow where the path ended and guessed the route where it would likely pass or go. I was not disappointed and caught it again on a wide ridge where there is a treeline.
I decide we stay for a quick moment so the rest could recover their breathing while I could test the folding saw of my Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. This black tactical-looking SAK was given to me by Jay Z Jorge during the same MCAP Bushcraft Camp in Luzon. I have owned SAKs before but it never stayed more than a week in my hands. But this one is different. I begin to love it. I cut a half-dry guava branch so easily and I now have a slingshot fork!
Time to climb up the ridge where the peak is found and reach it at 8:45 AM. I found a sinkhole at the top of Mt. Tongkay and it looks like a small volcano minus the sulfur fumes. The mountain is linked to Sinsin Ridge by another ridge which passes by Mt. Marag. Marag is much higher and I decide to evade the peak by following a downward trail which led to a small community which the locals called Itwe.
The boys are happy to replenish their dwindling supply of drinking water provided by a cool spring below. After a brief rest, we follow a moderately rolling path amidst farms and reach the Sinsin-Cantipla Road at 9:45 AM, which is actually our halfway point. Yesterday’s cramps that hounded the expedition crew and late starts cost us precious time and denied us to camp on this place last night.
Anyway, the guys love to see a road and some small stores selling cold soda drinks. Going north would be Cantipla and the Transcentral Highway and south would be Sudlon II, Sudlon I, Sinsin and Manipis Road. I choose the south way to Sudlon II and I believe there is a road there that goes to Bonbon. I have not been to Sudlon II but I have been to Bonbon some years back and I hope to fill the blank spaces in between.
At 11:00 AM, I see a barrio eatery. At the back of it are two locals butchering a pig. I insist that we stay at the place and take advantage of that by ordering a kilo of pork. We will cook our meal there on an open fire. We could also procure milled corn and cook it on the same fire pit. I reward myself by taking off my shoes and socks and dry it. After an hour we partake of lunch.
We resume our journey at 12:35 noon. I have found the road to Bonbon and I follow it winding down among hills into a wide valley. It is very hot and concrete pavement is unkind to the feet. I now begin to feel the tell-tale sign of a muscle cramp on my upper thigh. Keeping a tight ration of water on myself, I decide to take good swallows of it and some quick rests too, to overcome the nagging pain.
I reach Bonbon at 3:30 PM and waited for the others at the bridge. We will cross this bridge all at the same time. I avail myself of cold soda drink when the others arrive and drown out their thirst with it. We cross Bonbon River and follow the road upward to the Transcentral Highway. We reach the road at 5:15 PM but leave it at once for Babag Ridge.
Dusk have overtaken me as I climb on the darkened road for the ridge that have blocked my view of Metro Cebu and the sea. I reach Babag Ridge at 6:30 PM and I go to a store that had been my watering hole in past hikes and, immediately, we prepare our last meal with whatever we have carried. I opt to drink a bottle of cold beer while the rest sipped noodles bought from this store.
The moon wax its full shine and I believe I don’t need my flashlight to walk the trail down to Napo. I will use my night vision instead as I leave the ridge at 8:00 PM. Others follow with their headlights but I leave them a distance away so my eyesight, now accustomed to the dark, will not be irritated by all those shifting shadows caused by the lights of their moving heads.
I pass by the Roble homestead at 9:30 PM and I decide we take another brief rest here. Manwel, my young friend, is having a fever and so is his sister, Juliet. Eli and Raymund provide analgesic tablets to keep them in good health. After that, we continue on through the rest of the night and finally reach Napo at 11:11 PM.
This route had never been taken by a group of present-day recreation hikers. This may have been a regular path in the past of several groups of people when the Transcentral Highway have not yet been constructed like upland dwellers who take their farm produce to Carbon Market; by local Katipuneros during the last years of the Spanish regime and the early years of American colonization; by guerillas of the Cebu Area Command during World War II; and, perhaps, by members of a local liberation front.
Segment One is thus completed but the real route will be determined and finalized by this writer upon after a Trail Assessment Report. When we all reach Guadalupe, I personally congratulated each and every one for their achievement. They have all been very patient with my unrelenting pace and very persistent to reach and finish our objective. All told of the great deprivation and pain they have during the trek yet they were made of stern stuff that only a badass could accomplish.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer
Some photos courtesy of Raymund Panganiban