Saturday, June 1, 2013
IT HAD BEEN MORE than a year when I walked from Toledo City to Cebu City through a route that I had trail-blazed in 2011 and made permanent on succeeding hikes. I have hiked on this for four times with the last on February 12, 2012. This is part of Segment I of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project and have been adopted by the Camp Red Bushcraft & Survival Guild as one of the routes for their selection hikes for new members.
I remembered on my first effort two years ago. Five people were with me exploring this route. It was not easy. I have to do recon and double back and the river bed was like an oven as it is now. I have to read the lay of the terrain, analyze the shadows, observe unnatural movements and peak my senses to a high level for it was then an unfamiliar ground and I have to contend an unexpected peril: flash flood.
Today, March 24, 2013, I am on my fifth crossing and I am with Ernie Salomon, Jhurds Neo, Dominikus Sepe, JB Albano, Silver Cueva and nine other people. Other people I mean are those outside of Camp Red. One of the first-timers is Chad Bacolod who is also my fellow member of the Luzon-based Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines.
This is cross-country walk that traverse the middle of Cebu although, I must admit, that we have to ride motorcycles from Lutopan, Toledo City to Camp 7, Minglanilla to catch on lost time. You know, the bus leave the Cebu South Bus Terminal at 6:20 AM and travel very slow until it reach the corner going to Uling Road where, ultimately, it reach Lutopan at 7:45 AM. Then we have to eat breakfast there and buy food provisions for our noontime meal along the route. We leave Lutopan at around 8:40 AM.
We start at 8:50 AM from Camp 7 and walk up the Manipis Highway to the corner of Sinsin Road, now a part of Cebu City, and take another rest for those who have not snatched breakfast in Lutopan. Finally, at 9:15 AM, we finally concentrate on the hike and follow this ridge road going to Odlom. From there, the dirt road goes down into Buot-Taup, located along the banks of Bonbon River.
Along the way I meet two boys on a wooden cart pushed by another boy. They were all smiles despite the heat of the day. Another set of children played on the dirt, running and jumping over stacked hands. I was just like these children long ago doing what we do best with less. Sadly, unstructured outdoor games are replaced by those coming from an electrical outlet and it is not a healthy lifestyle.
I found the river receding a bit due to the onset of summer. At its widest, I cross it without the trouble of getting wet by stepping and balancing on stones. As I was doing it, it occur to me that my adroitness might cause accident on those who are behind me and I begin to worry that people might get hurt trying to imitate what I do, so I decide to wade on the streams and show them that it is alright to get a wet pair of feet.
Looking out for hidden craters were not difficult as was the last time when water was brisk and deep and we just walk around the holes but careful enough not to tread on the rims. I notice the river banks have been quarried and some parts of the river are starting to get wide by this illegal activities. Landslides occur and bamboo groves and trees are uprooted and fell to the banks and are decimated by residents for firewood.
By 11:30 AM, we reach the place where we are going to cook our noontime meal. Even with the advent of summer, we were afforded of a constant water source that spurt out of a green rubber hose. Everyone make themselves comfortable under the shade while me, Ernie, JB, Doms and Silver show the others how we Camp Red work our meals. We don’t settle for cold meals but make the best food even on a day hike. It might be time consuming for other outdoor clubs, but, nevertheless, our outdoor cooking skills are polished everytime we do this.
We leave our resting area at 1:30 PM bound for Camp 4, still treading the river. We reach a forked branch of the river and the Mananga River starts from here. Water quality on the river is not good anymore here as residents flush all their sewage along the banks. I am very careful not to wade on parts where it is in stagnant form and commence where water is flowing.
We pass by the mouth of Bocawe Creek and soon I will be at the trailhead to Cabatbatan. We arrive at Camp 4 at 3:00 PM and I get disoriented when I missed the landmark and then walk further downstream and I see a bridge. I have not noticed the huge acacia tree and assumed it is further ahead and that is where I really got lost.
It took me another twenty minutes to find the correct place and the tree had been intentionally cut by chainsaws, its remains made into charcoal. Danged cockroaches! Inutile Camp 4 village officials! The tree was just across their building and they never lifted a finger to protect. It was there last year and, perhaps, before I was born and it was a beautiful tree providing shade to travellers.
I look for another comfortable and shady place to remove water from my shoes and socks before taking that ascending and unrelenting trail to Cabatbatan. I wasted precious minutes to look for the now-absent tree since this is the halfway point and we have now a few day hours left. It is a long way off to Guadalupe and it will be dark when we get there.
Chad struggled up the trail but game enough to take breathing rests in between. I see Jhurds doing good as well as JB, Doms, Silver and Ernie while the rest take it in stride and adjusting their pace and carefully controlling their strides to avoid overworking their legs.
This is the crux of the route, an unending ascent of about three hundred meters length where, after that the route cross the upper part of the Bocawe Creek, a kilometer of rolling and slowly ascending trail going to Cabatbatan. Fortunately, there is a small store selling cold soda drinks and I hope the storekeeper is there else it is closed and it would be three kilometers to the next store.
The store is open and everyone gets to quench their thirst with two bottles each of soda drinks. I opt a cold big bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen and shared it with Ernie. We stayed a good twenty minutes before we walk again, this time, on a snaking road that rose everytime we reach a rise. We arrive at Bocawe at 5:15 PM as the sun is setting but it still a long way to our destination.
Jhurds is a revelation today: he is with the lead pack. The road goes higher and higher until it reach a part of Babag Ridge where the Pamutan Junction is located. It is a crossroads of four ways going to Bocawe (which we just came from), to Pamutan, to Buhisan and to Sapangdaku (which way we will go). It is now 6:00 PM.
We follow the descending road and it is a torture by the time we walked on concrete. All used their headlights or LED torch but, as usual, I rely on my night vision. Minutes ticked and soon this will be over. I would have loved to hike again over Bebut’s Trail in the dark but the route had been sealed at its nearest approach from the church. I now make a long detour to the Sapangdaku spillway which we reach at 7:45 PM.
Twenty-eight kilometers of rugged terrain under twelve hours of hike is not bad. All fourteen souls are safe. A bragging right for the newcomers yet it is still a challenging route for the repeaters, especially I, wrought down by age and aching bones. This has been the first route I took for this very ambitious project but it is worth visiting this time and time again even with a missing acacia tree.
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