Wednesday, April 1, 2015

BUSHCRAFT BUHISAN XXVII: “Riders” of the Storm

THERE IS ANOTHER WEATHER disturbance named “Henry”. It is not a hindrance to me on my outdoor sojourns. It may be a nuisance to others but it would never ever be a reason to postpone an outdoors activity just because it caused one a not-so-perfect day. A wet disposition, a cold atmosphere or a muddy trail are the least of my concerns. I just focus on the totality of the journey and bad weather can only lend a color to it. Nothing bad.

It had been raining since last night and this morning of July 20, 2014 is a bit cold. I will have to “ride” out the storm then. I am leading five others cheerily up “heartbreak ridge”. Rainclouds are a blessing up here on this exposed ridge of Banawa Hills whose features imitate the back of a giant lizard if you see it from Mandaue. The power pylon now sports a signage with a smiling skull which seemed to relish at the word “DANGER”.

Behind me are Jhurds Neo, Jingaling Campomanes, Nelson Orozco, Ernie Salomon and Nyor Pino. The bottom of the ridge where there used to be a cairn are now behind us and so is the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish which we had left at 07:15. We got past the tower and the World War II tunnel vent and met three perspiring youths with firewood on their shoulders going to where we came from.

We are now among farms of cassava, lemon grass, horse radish, corn and sweet potato but the hard packed trail cant downward and I take it slow as it is slippery. Ripe fruits from a Chinese laurel tree (Local name: bugnay) provide us something to relish. Old fruit trees populate the path but it is not the season for mangoes, tamarinds, star apples, breadfruits and Spanish plums. Met a man carrying a sack of avocados on his head. The route goes into different saddles until we reach the place called “the Portal”.

It is 08:30 and I need to reach our destination, which is Camp Damazo, before 11:00 but, infront of me, is the old trail that lead to it. Ernie insists on using it. It is long, difficult, gloomy, wild and it is a trail that I had last walked in 2012. Sounds foolish when I had already been using a shorter route. Well, I do not have to switch to “Plan B”. We take a muddy detour for Baksan Road. All of us are wet and I am happy to see that no one is wearing a rain coat.

Rain coats, for me, are for school children, for higher altitudes and for corporate people. Bushmen do not wear such, not in a tropical jungle, and they improve their resistance by adapting to the elements of nature. Exposure to rain and cold prime up my senses and I do not want it in another way. If you want comfort, then do not go out of your house on a rainy day. Watch TV on your warm sofa and drink hot milk.

We go down the trailhead where it led to a dry stream then go up a ridge. We are now at the teak forests of Baksan. I follow another ridge going down a low saddle and then into another ridge that climb up a hill which I liked to call as “Boy T’s Hell”. Ernie takes a dig at Boy Toledo, who is not present, as he recalled the latter’s dark skin turning white after climbing this low hill from another very difficult route. Very amusing story since I was there and it is worth telling. With a laugh!

We cut straight branches from teak trees so we could use it as walking sticks. This type of teak planted here is not an indigenous species but originally are from Burma and are not very receptive with birds and insects. It is a boon instead of a blessing. It does not make the soil fertile and does not like to share space with native tree species. Even with that, we carefully choose which branches to cut that would result to an even healthier tree.

We go down the hill and I looked for my trail sign. Found it and I see the route I took last July 5. I was alone then engaging on “Survival Day”. Three teak trees growing in between, I used as springboards to aid people during descent, after which it cross two small gullies and weave in and among low trees and shrubs until you reach a trail beside a stream which I designate as Creek Alpha for want of a name. Vegetation are now wilder here with different varieties of indigenous plants and trees.

I cross the stream and I see a single footprint on the sand. It belonged to a small man. Beside it is a paw print of a dog. It is a couple of hours old. I am now on the other side of the stream bank and I follow a path. I go down a branch of the trail which lead to the same stream. I need to check on the old location of Camp Damazo. I see a deep imprint of a paw, most probably of that same dog. I do not see traces of the man. Perhaps it is a dog trained to hunt. Dogs like that move a lot without waiting for a signal from its master.

The old campsite is just a small tongue of even ground between the confluence of two small streams. It could accommodate about five tents but during the first Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp of 2011, it was filled with nine tents housing fourteen participants, which Ernie and Boy T were part of. Water source then came from water holes dug beside the stream.

I do not like crowded campsites, that is why I transferred Camp Damazo to a better but safer location and that is where I am going to now. We leave the old campsite and go back our way but I change direction. The ground and foliage are so moist that we found it hard to look for dry dead leaves. I found dead branches with dead leaves hanging onto it. I select dried ones and we fill up a small plastic bag.

I follow the trail as it wind along the contours of the terrain and I see the same footprints. The hunter placed overturned rattan leaves on the ground. It is purposely done that way so he could find his way back and the lighter shade of the leaf’s underside could be seen better in dim-light conditions. It reflects light better when probed with a LED torch. The man used his head well or it could be that he learned it from others.

Blocking the path before me are two slender branches of a teak tree bent towards the other side. I thought it at first as a spring mechanism for a snare but I do not think so. Teak wood are not stiff and would easily bend but does not snap back when released. I looked closely and I see no cords but he placed crawling ferns over it. A debris shelter! So he must have waited for a prey and, that means, he is armed with a hunting rifle. So that is why his footprints have deep imprints?

I looked all around to guess where would he aimed his rifle sight? Surely it would be high on a tree but which tree? I see traces of somebody sliding down a steep hillside. So he must have hit his prey, probably a jungle fowl. No fool would go down that steep ground where I stood at without something to gain from. As I see all these series of events reading the tracks, I expound it to my companions, including a trail sign commonly used by “other people”.

We reach the second stream which I named as Creek Bravo. Somebody just harvested three bamboo sprouts (dabong) here where it is peeled on the creek bed. It came from the groves of water bamboo (botong) located just above us. There is no visible water on the stream but there is one underneath. Growing and clinging on a mossy stone are two young plants with glossy leaves which I suspect to be Philippine ginseng. Strangely unbelievable but I based on the peculiar design of the leaf edges but I could be wrong.

Nevertheless, we have to go. It is now 09:25 and the sky starts to open up with a slight sunshine touching the tips of leaves on the highest elevations. The path is muddy but all behind me knows how to deal with it. The Leave No Trace teaches people to “walk single file even if it is muddy”. We do not do that because we always think, we improvise and we adjust well to a situation. Common sense is much better than following a foreign ideology that had been ruthlessly made a rule by corporate outdoor clubs instead of as a guide.

I saw many muddy paths turned into “water slides” when people without real-world skills follow that dictum and gave locals a hard time to travel from their farms to the market and back and also for the children from their homes to their schools and back. That is really careless and downright aloof without regard and respect for the locals living on the mountains just because you want to portray yourself as a champion of the environment. Remember, they had been content of their lives for years until you came one day and made it miserable.

Anyway, we follow the path ascend to a ridge. In a short while we would be at Camp Damazo. My wet Silangan Greyman pants snagged on a rattan tendril and I slowly remove it. Steadily, we hike uphill and come upon a reddish cuckoo dove (tubaon) foraging on the ground. The small dove had not noticed our coming until we are near and it flew. We collect firewood as we walk until I see the “gate” of Camp Damazo. PIBC products - Ernie, Jhurds and Nelson, had learned well and all used their wits.

Dry firewood are hard to find, especially during rainy days, and it is rather difficult for people without basic survival know-how. I taught people how and why everytime I convene the PIBC or you may study my trail habits and be attentive when I am on a day hike. I am very generous when it comes to sharing knowledge and I always explain when I think there is an importance or I may find you very interested in what I do.

This campsite had been found and chosen during PIBC 2012 and revisited in PIBC 2013. Outdoorsmen from Luzon came here to learn bushcraft and survival on those two occasions and this place had produced the finest products yet of the PIBC. When coffee seedlings were planted here, I decide to respect the locals who nurtured these and transferred the 2014 edition in Sibonga. Besides, the campsite had widened during brush clearing by locals for their coffee seedlings.

As I meticulously break off dry twigs in pencil-lead sizes, pencil sizes and thumb sizes, Jhurds chopped small branches with his Spyderco Forester bolo. Nelson and Nyor make a “bird’s nest” of dry tinder and kindling. With a spark from a ferro rod, the tinder emit smoke and Nelson blow it to life. I placed my smallest twigs over it as the smoke thickened. Fingers of flame sprouted and it blazed more when bigger twigs are placed over it. Ernie automatically work on the food ingredients while I produce blackened pots.

We boil water for coffee first for hot coffee gives you heat, quenches thirst, makes you think better and unload a lot of tales. Nelson provide a small fire placed on a different location. Its purpose is just to provide thick smoke so mosquitoes and ants do not torment us. A pot hang suspended from a tripod and over a fire. In it is a kilo of rice. We will be having another “feast”, especially with Ernie around. Cooking on a dayhike is a trademark activity of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild.

We do this because we do not hurry. Haste creates waste of quality time and energy and exposes you to accidents. Quality time is learning new ideas and knowledge from people and learning to appreciate nature better. Ernie cook a mixed-vegetable soup and blood clam (litob). Jhurds provide entertainment. Jingaling takes care preparing raw cucumber in vinegar while local sausage (chorizo) is grilled over coals. We eat lunch at 13:30 under a very breezy condition.

We leave after storing back our things to our backpacks. Oh, yes, I carried the Silangan Predator Z today and so is Jhurds with his Predator Alpha. We reach Baksan Road at 15:15 but we continue on to Lanipao and take refreshments. We proceed to Napo where we end our walk by riding motorcycles-for-hire for Guadalupe. We did not tarry long and we all decide to omit the post-event discussions as everyone are exhausted.

Although doing an outdoors activity during bad weather is not advisable, but you would have to do it sometimes. You have to prepare yourself physically and psychologically by training in a real-world situation because the really bad ones are those that hit you where you least expected it. “Murphy’s Law” is a demanding adversary which nobody had gained advantage of yet. But a prepared mind knows how.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer


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