Thursday, August 1, 2013
I HAVE BEEN INVITED several times by Chad Bacolod of the Enthusiasts of Cebu Outdoors or ECO to try and visit Mount Naopa in Naga, Cebu but programmed commitments have not been so kind and accommodating with my weekend schedules. I have tried many times to engage on it but backed out on the same occasions at the ninth hour, ruefully, perverting my promises into wishful thoughts.
Chad, ever persistent and unswerving, tagged my present participation and cooperation into an inescapable corner where, after fits of dilly-dallying, I finally lurched forward in slow motion. Yes, finally, I did put on a credible semblance of seriousness to come to Naopa on the evening of April 27, 2013 this, after punching out my DTR card at 5:01 PM and speed-warped myself home for a quick shower and an equally quick supper.
I have never been to the campsite of Mt. Naopa, let alone along its environs, but it would be quite a challenge indeed to find it in the dark. Alone. Let us see but the full moon is just a day old and will be very cooperative according to the calendar. Good timing of schedule there, Chad.
I rode a Multicab aka “public utility midget” bound for Naga at Citilink and tried to squeeze my bulk into the seat and tiptoe my feet to give space to passing passengers dragging themselves in and out of this abnormally small vehicle converted into a jitney. It is always torture for me when I rode in one and I could get no comfort from it. It is just that I have a schedule to pull off and so forced to ride this sardine can!
I disembark at Tungkop, Minglanilla at 7:40 PM and how I am glad to stretch again my body whole. I arranged for a motorcycle to ferry me to the trailhead beside a chapel in Cogon. I do not know the place and I place all my trust to the driver to bring me there pronto! Over a serpentine road full of ascents and potholes, the motorcycle ran in spurts and sometimes middle chassis kissed ground. Not once but thrice. Ouch!
It was a ride full of whispered prayers as the bends would skid the wheels sideways inches away from deep chasms while the engine pumped hard negotiating a steep gradient white smoke trailing us. What made it worse is that only a few lights illuminate the way as the motorcycle’s scant headlight parted a small path in darkness offering me slight consolation.
When the motorcycle stopped at a chapel, I assume this marks the spot but it is dark. Good thing for me is that I still have a dozen cellphone loads to make a dozen text messages and a good signal with four bars guaranteed. The moon had not risen yet so I make use of my new Rui Xing Police LED Torch. At an alleged 1500 lumen, this made in China ripoff can give off a bright light indeed and that is when I saw the path.
When I reached a crossroad of trails under a mango tree, I took the leftmost and follow this for all I care without using my flashlight. I saw bright lights on a ridge and signalled them with my torch. Lights blinked and messages exchanged: I am on the right path. Okay.
I scanned the vegetation for edible tree snails but I am unsuccessful with my night hunt and so I turned off the torch and walked with my night vision. After a while, the bright moon showed up smiling. The details of the terrain are much clearer now and I begin to chose a route towards the ridge.
I am sweating now and I gasped for air in a hot summer night as the steep trail begin to challenge my balance and footing. I pass by a small community and people do not notice me. Not even a dog. It is better that way. It would have been different if I was walking with a light on.
Another steep trail and I meet Chad and another guy. It is good and reassuring to see them. Cannot deny Chad of his bragging rights now. Whoa, good to go, Chad! PinoyApache is here!
Two more guys met me along the trail and their headlights bobbed in darkness while I prefer to use my night vision over their unbelief at my refusal to use a torch. I reach the campsite and there were a lot of campers and an array of tents fixed in a long row. I believed, a small party have already begun and I picked up a full gallon of a not-so-fresh coconut wine minus its bubbly splendor.
I chose my spot well away from the main camp. I will not be needing overhead cover but will sleep out instead on cheap tarpaulin splayed on the ground. I see familiar faces like Eli Bryn, Kulas, Marü, Aideen and Maria Iza and I also get to know “friends” in Facebook like Neil, Yuri, Harold, Sien and Ed and an array of new acquaintances.
Meanwhile, some of the campers came over and gave me company. Happy conversations flowed as the native wine made its presence felt. I show them how to make fire with firesteel and kapok tuft. It was almost 2:00 AM when the vibrant company shifted place and abandoned me to chase sleep.
I woke up at 5:30 AM the next day, April 28, and a long line had already started up the path to the summit of Naopa. After answering my call of nature, I followed suit. According to Chad, Mt. Naopa is 1,736 feet above sea level and is higher than the much popular Magduk Peak. At the summit, the sun is glowing in its golden splendor a little over the horizon, a perfect recipe for a camera shot.
We must have been twelve or fourteen people pressed on a small space of the peak and, after a group shoot, I decide to descend the tricky trail to give them more elbow room. Slowly, I work myself down the shoulder and into the saddle.
In a few minutes from now, people will start dismantling their tents. I don’t have to dismantle anything and that is the advantage of light backpacking. While people were doing that, JR Serviano of Silangan Outdoor Equipment arrived alone. He was sweating but the early morning hike did him a lot of good.
Silangan manufactures good quality standalone tents at very affordable prices. I have seen their Rev 20 models and they were up to par with imported ones, if not, better. The first time I saw these tents were during the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp in 2012.
But the best test that the Rev 20 got which I witnessed was during a survival skills training I have done for the Mountain Climbers Alliance of the Philippines at Mount Balagbag in Rizal. The occupant of the tent (Maximus Tercerus) remained dry and comfortable while the rest suffered in wet and cold conditions brought on by three days and two nights of September rain.
Anyway, JR tested his new product – a pair of hiking shorts. Borne of superior design, I don’t think this pair of shorts is good only for a certain activity. This short pants is superb for ALL activities like mountain biking, rock climbing, kayaking, trail running, even malling with family. For the price of one, you can use this anywhere and it does not have a name yet. How I wish JR would make this as the Trailhawk model.
After a group photo session on an exposed ridge, we make a beeline for an oasis of coconut trees and lots of shade. The land caretaker brought down a number of coconuts of which natural liquid we drank and white meat we ate. We paid for those and climbed back over a saddle and down into the valley.
Motorcycles-for-hire whisked us all away to the highway and I bade farewell to Chad and his ECO partners. A KMK Bus arrived and I board it along with Eli Bryn, Kulas and those who make Cebu City their home. I alighted at MJ Cuenco Avenue and I make my way home at 10:45 AM where the wife prepared a broth of beef.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer