Monday, August 11, 2014

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LXX: Manggapares Trail

WE LEAVE GUADALUPE for Napo at 06:30. Today – December 29 – is the last Sunday of 2013. This is not a planned trip but the occasion to do this, as time permitted, goad me to rally certain people at the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild to walk with me to the Babag Mountain Range. Thus came Jhurds, Dominic, Justine and Faith to break that cycle of indulgence on good food brought on by the holiday season.

I carried two liters of water for this, as well as my soot-covered cook sets. As always, the AJF Gahum knife will take its place, hanging proudly by my side, and my William Rodgers bushcraft knife, silently protruding about by my backpack. We need to walk early because it will be a long hike and the warmth of the rest of the day will torment us. I believe that the wide-brimmed digital ACU camo hat that Lester Padriga had given me will be handy. I consumed just one piece of bread and a glass of water. I have experimented this simple meal many times and have forged a trust on this.

Before we reach the Lower Kahugan Spring, we break off the main trail by taking on another one. This trail was mentioned some years ago by Fele Roble as “mangapar”, a shortened version of “pares nga mangga”, in reference to two big mango trees that mark another branch of the route which is on the spine of Tagaytay Ridge itself. For easy reference, I name the route as Manggapares Trail. I had previously hiked this path downhill in January (NBT 57: The Last Wild Place) and uphill in March (NBT 59: Reunion with an Old Trail) and it will be my third time here.

The connecting route to Manggapares Trail pass by brushland and mango trees for some four hundred meters before reaching the first of a series of newly-finished power pylons. The steel tower stand tall as I gape from below and it promises you some views that you had not seen from the other parts of the Babag Range. This could be the beginning of Manggapares Trail but I am just amazed at how some people construct this behemoth for several months in the middle of nowhere and then abandon it.

I walk on the trail and come upon another one with big holes all around. As I was resting, I saw the branch of another trail that may or may not lead to either Napo or Lanipao. My adrenaline rose to another level upon seeing the prospect of exploring a trail that had long been abandoned and unused for some time. It is a path worth exploring in the future. Very well, I push onward the ascending ridge and pass by another tower.

We take a rest at a wide ground, cleared of vegetation with pieces of charcoal all around. I see a grove of sand bamboo (Local name: bagakay) and another grove of spiny bamboo (Local: kagingkingon). This would have been a perfect place for a campsite except that there is no water source nearby. I may need a dry pole of sand bamboo since it is effective as a weapon because, I know, we will be passing soon through thick jungle. I do not want to be surprised by something lurking beneath vegetation. My right thumb bled when I touched a sharp part of the bamboo as I was cutting it.

We reach an unfinished tower where the rough road ended or begun, depending on which way you came from. The road had not been used for some time and vegetation begins to claim it. A small backhoe is abandoned, left to the elements and to “cannibals”. I see a missing alternator and a starter from the engine’s compartment. A small cement mixer is also left behind by the construction workers with the carburetor from its small engine missing.

I am just wondering why they left behind the fifth tower unfinished. Gaping big holes show each where the foundations for its posts are constructed. We leave this and another tower loom overhead and another one on top of a hill and that is it. From hereon, we will not trudge anymore on a path with steel pylons in between. It is now 10:00 and I am hoping we will reach our resting point at 11:00.

Across me is Mount Liboron. I passed by a trail a half hour ago but I take chance instead to go around the peak on a path that I discovered in March. I just hope that the vegetation had not claimed back the scant trail I created there. I cross a barbed wire fence and look for this route. It is gone and I mistakenly follow a scant path downhill which led to more thick jungle. I do not want myself to go easy on the temptations of a downhill path only to discover that you are trapped in a boulder-filled watercourse where all nasty creatures forage, a possible haunt of a Philippine king cobra (Local: banakon).

I go back up to where I started to find another route when Justine got hit by cramps. We rest for a while before proceeding to higher ground and rest again when we are there. When I think that the ground where I am at is in line with a saddle, which I believe lies somewhere below us, I start the downhill search for a path. It is slow painstaking progress, the big AJF Gahum knife doing its work slashing vines and branches then sheathing it back when I move a few meters and the process is repeated over and over until I see open ground. In between are rocks whose ground underneath showed signs of burrowing. Perhaps, by monitor lizards or by snakes.

We walk down and reach the saddle and we take rest there. It is 11:35. In ten minutes we will be at our rest stop to prepare our meal but we were so exhausted that we need to boil water for coffee to get back our energy. When we have done that, we proceed and reach our midway destination at 12:00 (we are an hour late), which is actually a garden with two tiny houses owned by Julio Caburnay. Julio had been so kind to accommodate me on two occasions in the past that I believed he will do so again which he does.

I start the cooking of rice on butane fuel and resume to slice the eggplants, purple taro, gumbos and spring onions then work on the jute leaves and Malabar nightshades. Dominic proceed to slice eggplants, sponge gourd, red squash and bitter gourds as well as doing the cooking. Faith and Justine alternately watch over the second pot of rice which is cooked on another stove and fry beef jerky provided by Jhurds, who play music on his Samsung Galaxy to entertain us.

Dominic is able to finish the cooking of mixed vegetable soup and eggplant adobo. I take two refills of the mixed vegetables and rice and the rest did so. We were so filled up with the tasty food that Dom had cooked but, even that, there were a lot of leftovers and we gave it away to Julio and his family. Aside that, I also leave three-fourths kilo of uncooked rice to them before proceeding on our journey. It is already 14:30 and too few hours for the day. We may have to sacrifice rest time though with full tummies towards Babag Ridge.

Cooking for people outdoors with few ingredients in an uncomfortable location can give you a lot of pressure but Dom had overcome this challenge after a little coaching. Someday he may learn that skill and there are too few good cooks who could dish out tasty food outdoors. I know that a lot of outdoorsmen prefer to eat the easy way like pre-cooked food or heating the contents of canned goods or doing the cooking itself but with MSG and other artificial preservatives. Camp cooking with less is not for everybody. It is confined to people with the proper frame of mind.

Cramps caught Justine again and we rested within a forested part of the route. In a few minutes we will switch to the old Babag Trail. This trail is now forgotten by weekend hikers and is unknown, except by me and, perhaps, by off-road motorcyclists, as what Julio told me when I first met him. Nevertheless, I found the trail in excellent condition winding along the spine of Babag Ridge. It is thickly vegetated that you could barely see some parts of Sapangdaku Valley and Metro Cebu on the east and the wide Bonbon Valley on the west.

I follow the trail until I switch on to another one that goes into a meadow and along fenced properties which take a long detour going a long way down and a long way up. Long ago, I used to walk straight from Buhisan to Upper Busay without these hindrances. Property owners begin to seal off their lots when people bring their racing motorcycles on the trail, according to a local. So far, I have not encountered them in the past and on the three occasions that I came back here. Maybe in the future but I hope it never come.

Ultimately, we reach the shoulder of Mount Babag where the trailhead going down to Sapangdaku Creek starts but Jhurds is craving for cold soda drinks and we postpone our downhill hike by walking instead towards a small store along the ridge 350 meters away. We follow the road until we reach it at 15:45 and everyone made themselves comfortable with cold bottles of softdrink while I rehydrate myself with a cold bottle of beer.

When we had rested enough, we leave at 16:30 for Mt. Babag and then down the loose and steep trail towards the Roble homestead. I am wearing my newer Columbia Coremic Ridge 2 hiking shoes and it has superb traction where it raise my confidence but, at the same time, would expose me to risks. The sane side of me preside and I go slow even when my feet are suffering from pressure of being confined in shoes that has a very small space allowance. It is really painful but I grit my teeth to absorb the soreness.

It is a blessing then to take a rest after that tiresome hike and I bless the day I made the Roble homestead as a resting area. I rehydrate from their stock of water which the family prepared for thirsty hikers. On request, they could produce young coconuts and open this for you to savor the sweet juice. Since it is almost dusk – 17:10 – we tarry just a bit and accept the offer of ripe bananas. I donate a small amount of money for their upkeep and proceed on the last half of the downhill trek in semi-darkness.

When I reach the creek, I retrieve my LED torch to light my way. I am drained physically and mentally and cannot afford to use my natural night vision perfectly as I had when I get a good rest. At least, in darkness, I am on familiar terrain. The train of lights that follow ensure that all is well with my trail mates. We pass by where we started in the morning and everyone are quite awed by the route that we took. For them it is another epic journey but, for me, it is just “another day at the office”.

We arrive at Napo under the soft glow of sodium lights. It is 18:30. We took a lot of rest time, injury time and an hour of trail blazing. I am short of my expectations which I based on my previous trip on the same route (NBT 59: Reunion with an Old Trail) but I am wiser this time. Maybe I will do another repeat of this alone.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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