Saturday, September 7, 2013


ONCE AGAIN, I FIND myself hiking alone. Moments like these are now few and I love to take advantage of that when it comes knocking. Solo walks along mountain trails is a good therapy for someone who has a stressful day job and a hangover of last night’s waltz with bottles. It is my way of removing the kinks, just a bit short of reformatting myself whole.

I don’t feel boredom because, instead of concentrating all my thoughts in a running conversation with another, my mind focuses on reading the lay of the land – the finer details – which always escape the attention of a conventional hiker. Besides that, silence is beautiful.

I am a lefty and what does not work with the mainstream is quite perfect for me. Just a plain maverick but not eccentric and mad. Rallying myself to come up with this idea right after the heels of a few hours of sleep, is quite daunting. And annoying too if you could stand to leave the alarm screaming every ten minutes.

I finally surrendered the bed at 8:00 AM of May 19, 2013 for the business of more human functions. On the table lay a bowl of braised pork which my wife left for me and I help myself to two servings. After a good filling, I take shower, snatch the backpack and the helmet and work my way to a back street where my motorcycle is parked and proceed to Guadalupe.

Last night I have good company with friends and acquaintances at the Handuraw Events Cafe and it was cool. This morning’s heat is different and it is reality but I am ready for it. The fever that had came to strangle me two Sundays ago have passed away. I come for revenge and the rain of previous days have softened summer. This is some good weather.

I park the motorcycle at Guadalupe. I buy fresh taro sprouts, gumbos and eggplants from the roadside market beside the Catholic church which I will prepare later as my noontime meal. I also procure a half kilo of milled corn and two packets of instant coffee. I am confident with my health, with my camp stove and my liter of water to see me through the day.

The third Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp, which I am organizing, is fast approaching and I need to assess the campsite but I only have two hours before 12:00 noon. I fast-track myself to the trailhead by hopping on a motorcycle-for-hire and skirted away “heartbreak ridge”. Good riddance!

Down I go into the now-verdant surroundings where, two weeks ago, was an almost virtual wasteland. The teak forest have sprouted its leaves, the ground is moist, more birds now sing, underbrush and grasses have reclaimed their spots and the sun is not that tormenting anymore. What a wonderful day to behold and sight the distant hills as living greens took over of what used to be dull brown.

I pick up a still wet piece of branch that had recently been cut and abandoned by a wood gatherer and work on it with my William Rodgers bushcraft knife. I need this piece of wood as my staff, especially when I do the downhill stretches. My knees are not what it used to be and, besides, I could use the staff as a weapon. Just in case.

As I top off on “Boy T’s Hell”, I am rewarded with an exhilarating view. However, I do not come to make a poem out of beautiful views but, rather, I come to find a much better route to a stream where the old Camp Damazo is located. Two earlier routes I established are quite difficult for unprepared individuals and so I need to establish another much friendly one.

I am not pressured and I take time to study a piece of terrain. I walk from here to there and there to there and back, sniffing the air, tilting the head to catch the faintest of sound, crouching to seek other angles of view, studying shadows. I hear running water from below, catch a scent of smoke and then I see a good slope. It is not easy but, at least, it is much near to a narrow gully and, from there, more gentle inclines.

I espy a trail but I might be wrong. I walk further on and I am on a very beautiful trail beside a stream. I follow it north and south and it is a mere fifty meters long, the rest of it are claimed by the stream. Locals, it seem, use the stream as a route. I see a familiar rock face where water run in angles and I am not far from the old campsite, which is located downstream. The stream is not dry anymore unlike last May 5.

A familiar X on a tree trunk point me the right path and I pass the former camp from above. Lensa Trail is very peaceful and blooming with green leaves and I see some upland marsh palms along the route as well as many Indian rhododendron shrubs. The route curved bringing me from one stream into another where groves of water bamboo are found.

I need mature bamboos for the bushcraft camp in June and there are many strewn above a short cliff abandoned by firewood gatherers. I climb it up and select dry ones. I work on it with my knife in tandem with the folding saw of my Victorinox SAK. With that effort, I collected three poles and bound it with green vines that I foraged beside the stream.

I prop my staff on a forked branch as my hands would now be concentrating on the carrying of the three bound poles on my shoulder. I leave the stream and climb up an ascending ridge. The trail is good except where rattan palms abound. My shirt and my skin gets snagged passing on one and I take a detour when a whole of another block my path.

I reach a hill with rocks all around. It could serve its purpose as a latrine but it is too far from the new site of Camp Damazo. I may have to find another one uphill and I found it as I move on. This one is wide and about twenty meters from the “gate” of the campsite with a lot of “private rocky options”.

The campsite is now very wide; thanks to our last year’s occupancy and a failed tree planting activity months after that. It used to be thick with underbrush and with a lot of debris. I gurgle and swallow a little liquid and another. I need rest and I have to make coffee. I get my camp stove and my isobutane tank from my backpack and install it. With a stainless steel cup, I pour water and prepare to boil. Then I turn on my MP3 and play Tubular Bells III by Mike Oldfield.

The stove did not work so I turn hard the can but it got separated instead and impossible to use now. While staring at the unboiled cup of water, I notice black ants begin to appear and mosquitoes begin to swarm. Ah, a human body emits carbon dioxide and these insects are attracted by it. Got to move out of here quick.

I stand up and get my packet of coffee, opened it and pour the contents into the lukewarm water and stir it a hundred times until it is dissolved. I enjoy my funny-looking coffee to the tune of Tubular Bells and walk in circles with mosquitoes trailing me. Lunch is out of the question and I get a glimpse of survival by continuing on with my hike without lunch. Very good stove!

I may have to forego of the meal and my body could afford that. No big deal. I am used to it. It’s just a temporary inconvenience and I could not help it but reward myself in new “discoveries” when my body adjust to the situation. When I see a crossroad of four trails, I am tempted to explore the western route. Not today. I am not prepared. Maybe August.

I pass by a natural spring and water trickle slow. This will be the source of drinking water during the PIBC. It is cleaned of debris and a wooden trough channel water above the ground. I do not need the water as I still have a half full in my Nalgene. I am not in a hurry. The amount of sweat are less and rehydration is not that crucial.

I cross a stream and up into a very steep path. This time I am sweating but I don’t think I need water. I could have that luxury later in the day. I climb and I reach a level ground and pause to catch my breath. I just love the silence. I passed and counted three hornet’s nests. I have plans to get their honey just like the Aetas did during my recent visit to their village in Bataan for a week.

I reach a rise and I could hear motorcycles passing. I am now closing in to a road. As I reach it, I pause again to inhale deep. I only need to cross this road and all my exertions would come to a slow gear. Across me is a meandering downhill trail to Lanipao. No need to touch my bottle. Maybe later. The battle now is easy.

As I touch my foot on the concrete parking area of the Lanipao Springs Rainforest Resort, I retrieve my bottle and say “Hi” to the owner. Two small swallows are all I need. After that, I make a brief conversation with the owner. I need to reserve a cottage for my party on June 12 and, that done, I resume to a store down the road. I also need to reserve cold refreshments.

After reaching Napo from Lanipao, I swig on my last ounces of water and ride a motorcycle-for-hire back to Guadalupe. I get on my own motorcycle and proceed to EZ Mart to meet Ernie Salomon. I need him to fix my stove and to have a small chat with cold bottles of beer to cheer up the conversations. I have done my mission and Camp Damazo is ready for PIBC MMXIII.

Document done LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

No comments: