Thursday, May 16, 2013
I NEED TO KEEP FIT before I will embark Segment III of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project come May. There is a new route within the Babag Mountain Range which I have discovered last January and would be adequate to fulfill as a training ground and I may have to do some exploring to reach a ridge which was denied to me that time.
So, on March 17, 2013, I went to Guadalupe Church to wait for Ernie Salomon and a couple of guys for this but only Ernie is present and, later, Mr. Bogs. Eli Bryn Tambiga appeared with five others. They were supposed to climb Mount Babag but Eli Bryn thinks he could bring satisfaction to his group by joining us.
After securing our food provisions, we leave for Napo at 8:10 AM. We cross Sapangdaku Creek and walk the trail towards the trailhead for this new route. Last time, I descend from Bocawe but, this time, I will do the reverse under the heat of summer. This trail goes up to Tagaytay which is a long ridge. A beautiful trail is found on its back but, sadly, a dirt road has been opened to accommodate heavy equipment for a series of power pylons under construction.
I do not know the physical condition of Eli Bryn’s guests, especially the three women, but I am consoled, by the fact, that all are registered nurses volunteering with the local chapter of the Philippine National Red Cross. My main concern is drinking water for the group and there is no water source here except at the place of Julio Caburnay three kilometers away with which place we will prepare, cook and eat our lunch.
I go slow when one of the nurses almost fainted. I need to use available shades in between as resting places. The length of stay would depend on the distance between shaded areas. The ridge is not populated and there are no houses but there are mango, jackfruit, soursop, pomelo, tamarind and lime trees. A lot of these bear ripe fruit but we only take lime and a couple of pomelo.
The sun deliver its brunt along the bare places where the dirt road start. A bulldozer is parked precariously along the edge of a big hole. Although it provide a little shade, I advise my people to stay away from it else ground underneath it had lost its integrity and might collapse due to weight. Rays of the sun bounced off the dirt road and the rests are longer.
We found an open shed for the absent construction workers and I decide we make coffee to pep up our sagging spirit. The cool bamboo flooring is a welcome respite and I come to know better the rest of the party. Two of them are recent participants of an international offroad triathlon in Liloan and that is why they have been unaffected. Nearby is Liboron Trail that I used last time but I remove that idea as it is quite dangerous for inexperienced hikers.
After the coffee break we need to overcome the last rise instead and see what is on the other side. We reach it in about five minutes and Eli Bryn take a reading from his altimeter at 600 meters. The dirt road wind its way down and join the Bocawe-Cabatbatan Road but following it meant that I have to say goodbye to an exploration. Across me is a high peak and looks formidable in the middle of the day. I heave a sigh of good relief in finding no trail going up. Good riddance!
I found a path at the right and it goes down, maybe, to that dangerous trail which does not endear well to me at this time. I may have to find another route that would go around this peak so I follow the edge of a small gully and I found a rarely used trail which is now covered with grass. It goes around the hill and out into a wide meadow. The path disappears but I can understand now the gist of the path’s direction as it goes straight into a barbed-wire fence.
I squeeze into and in between the loose strands of the fence and I am on the other side. Meanwhile, the others wait until I give them a signal to come over. The other side of the fence is thickly wooded with dense underbrush. My senses peak up to watch out for snakes and toxic plants. This is is what I loved most – to read signs among thick bushes and recover long-lost trails. I wind among vegetation and intentionally step on the trunk of a small stinging tree to keep it out of the way.
The ghost trail goes down into another meadow and another low hill stare across me. I saw a small saddle on the right and I walk towards it for I know saddles are natural passes. When I’m done, I see the part of Liboron Trail where it is not yet dangerous to tread and go the other way towards Julio’s place which we reach at 12:00 noon. Everyone needs a full drink of water, some shade, hot food and a good rest.
I softly retire after I have prepared and cooked milled corn. Ernie take over and dispatch all food ingredients under his multi-tool knife. Others help in the slicing of spices and vegetables as I just listen to their conversations not far away with closed eyes and unknowingly invite an unwelcome company of pesky black ants that make my nap a come-and-go affair.
A spoon is rapped on a cup signalling that food is cooked and ready for the taking. I glance at my watch and it is 1:45 PM so I look for my stainless steel cup and wooden spoon. Food cooked are chicken sinigang, garbanzo beans and “shrimp paste special”. Ernie prepared a dessert of raw cucumber and tomato. I prefer just chicken soup with two refills before adding milled corn for my third refill and some slices of cucumber.
Feeling rejuvenated, I need to leave for Babag Ridge in the quickest time possible as we have a few daylight hours left. Julio’s nephew give me directions to reach the ridge by an ascending trail. We leave at 2:30 PM and the heat of the day is not felt here as cool breeze from the sea are abundant at the higher level. I reach the edge of this trail and it connect to another, much older, trail on the top of the ridge itself. The altimeter said that we are now at 700 meters.
But there is something familiar with this trail. I try to reorient my memory with this trail and I begin to realize that this is the same trail that I used as a training ground in 1993 and 1994. I would start solo then from Buhisan with a fully weighted Habagat Venado II and walk the whole day toward Upper Busay. Later, I did trail running here. This is the same trail that I had been looking for a long time when I returned hiking in 2008 after I have stopped climbing mountains in the late ‘90s.
It is like a homecoming. A reunion. The trail have now become wild as was the last time I saw it. Vegetation have claimed the spaces and I have never seen rattan palm trunks as thick as a man’s arm growing here. Back then it was wider, wide enough for a mountain bike to pass but this is better this way. I would rather have shoe prints leaving mark on this ground than the rut of wheels.
I follow the trail to Mt. Babag and I see the familiar view on the other side of the mountain range that you don’t normally see approaching from Napo. I have a good vantage point of the wide Bonbon River Valley from here and, across, are Sinsin Ridge and the Central Cebu Mountain Range. Rising north of Bonbon are the twin peaks of Mount Pung-ol and Mount Sibugay, the latter being erroneously referred to as either “Sirao Peak” or “Mount Kang-irag”.
Too many fences along this ridge have disoriented me no end and leave me fatigued in mind and body, especially when finding a route. Because of these fences some parts of the original trail have vanished or were diverted and becomes unfamiliar to me. This is aggravated by, the fact, that there are no water sources here. We reach the shoulder of Mt. Babag at 4:00 PM and make no time for rest as our urge for water plunge us to reach the Upper Kahugan Spring.
When I reach the watering spot, the piping system had been dislodged and the spring water from the ground is exposed to foreign matter and so I skip it hoping to obtain drinking water at the Roble homestead instead. I meet six climbers along the East Ridge Pass and they are going to Babag Ridge until I reach the house at 4:45 PM. I wait for the others to come but it would be a while because the trail is bleached hot by the sun and the soil is loose making descent quite a trouble.
When all have arrived, we said goodbye to the Roble family and leave at 5:30 PM for Napo by way of Kahugan Trail. Nightfall overtake me at Lower Kahugan Spring and one of the female nurses is having trouble walking so I lend her my LED torch to aid her. I follow her until I reach Napo at almost 7:00 PM. I wait for the others and dispatch them all back to Guadalupe before I leave myself.
It was a perfect day of toiling and training to make myself fit. It was originally a solo affair but I decide to include all comers. All are safe, did not suffer injuries and are satisfied of being at places in a series of “firsts”. Lastly, I have finally found my old trail which I thought had been converted into another road. It still exists and is untamed. Now I know the mountain range much better now.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer