Saturday, April 25, 2015
WE KEEP THIS ACTIVITY a hush-hush so we contacted just a few individuals. Jhurds Neo, Dominik Sepe, Ernie Salomon, Boy Olmedo and a rough cut, Mark Lepon, came today, September 7, 2014, at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. When we had secured the ingredients for our noontime meal, we left Guadalupe at 07:00, taking the route to “heartbreak ridge”.
It is a warm early morning and I begin to feel the heat by the time I hit Bebut’s Trail. My legs begins to work as my lungs suck in air as the terrain inclined. It is a cloudless day but I do not discount rain. It would probably come late in the day or early evening. I walk in a hastened pace, a pace that is forced upon me by the bareness of the ridge. A slight breeze gave me slight comfort but I need shade which you could indulge only behind this long hill which could be reached at the top.
By the time I reach a steel tower, I just stop to take a selfie and then go on my way to the top. I reach the tunnel vent and I looked behind and saw Boy walking past the tower. The rest are struggling behind him. Yonder me are bushes and farms and a few stunted trees. Beyond that are tall trees and thick vegetation. I reach the periphery of a farm and there is shade. I take my first drink of water but I inadvertently swallowed it instead of taking a small sip.
I waited for the rest near an abandoned hut and noted the minutes. I saw a wild basil plant (Local: sangig) and I cut off a branch, intending to add this as another ingredient for our meal. Boy arrived three minutes after me and he is winded. The group of Jhurds, Ernie, Dominik and Mark arrived seven minutes later. I see Jhurds and Mark suffering from the exertion of walking up the ridge. That is why I call it “heartbreak” because it had broke the hearts of many individuals.
I have led people here and I could count seven people giving up without mentioning their names. Likewise, another five were on the verge of collapse but have recovered to reach the top and finished the journey. As I was recollecting that, I sharpened a short stick with my AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife and throw it like a knife to a trunk of a banana at a distance of three meters but I missed the target. The stick pierced instead a papaya leaf behind the banana.
We proceed with our journey. Tree cover is good and I relish at the shade and the sounds of different birds. Soon we will reach the Portal. I notice many trail signs which I gave close attention to by stooping to get different angles of view or to touch the texture of leaves and stones. I would have explained my actions should one behind me asked what I was doing but all were only concerned of their own dispositions, unable to go beyond what they perceived.
Moments like these are the best time to learn nature. You just have to shed off your conventional nature learned in university classrooms and corporate environments and become entwined with Mother Earth. You have to change your mindset so you could adapt quickly and understand more about mountains, trees, wildlife, birds, streams, even the thread of ants that cross the trail. All of this tell their own story.
I reach a high point on a trail and take rest near a grove of spiny bamboos (kagingkingon). I noticed that the trail had recently been given a good “makeup”. It is widened. The grass and brush on both sides had been sheared but this is a route that only few people use and nothing special. There is, however, a scheduled foot race that will use this route. Not a good idea. We proceed on after foraging sand bamboo poles (bagakay) left by a local on the ground. I think I may need this to where we are going.
We did reach the Portal but we only pass it and continue on to another trail which goes on toward the road at Baksan. The promise of rest only tempt me to drink more water than I should normally take. I broke my simple rule on water discipline a while ago and now I am beginning to feel the backlash. The concrete road had recently been cleared of debris and soil brought by excessive rain the past few days. We will only follow this road for a few meters before burying ourselves again into the forest.
I gladly transfer into another trail, dipping into a forest of Burmese teak where Lensa Trail treads. The trail had been parted wide by great volumes of water during heavy rains. The path took us to high ground and veered right to another path that follow a low ridge which goes to a saddle and onto another ridge which steadily climb up a hill, which I tagged as Boy T’s Hell. We take a short rest while I take another swig from my bottle. From there we follow a path blocked by several fallen trees until I found my trail sign.
I have created a path here for the 2013 edition of the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp and this path had stayed. The vegetation changed as we go down a stream which I named as Creek Alpha, for want of a name. The air is humid but cool. The stream is brisk and full. I step on stones so I would not leave footprints on sand and on the banks. Dominik saw animal droppings on sand and, instantly, I recognize those as belonging to a Malayan palm civet (maral).
We move on from the stream into the rest of the trail. I thought I heard the sound of flapping wings associated with birds being surprised but it stopped abruptly instead, the rest of its sound, like that of a long burst of its flight, totally missing. How strange? Then I heard something falling on the ground. Might be a broken branch. The first sound is heard again and, a moment, a thing falling. Slingshots!
People with slingshots on higher ground, unseen from view, had been shooting at an unknown target among trees, the trajectory of their pebbles arching down towards me and my companions. I shout at them of our presence and it stopped. A dog barked. We hurriedly left the place and wind into a lot of bending paths with lush vegetation. A lot of recent trail signs are left by locals and by a canine.
We reach the second stream, which I named as Creek Bravo. This stream seldom has running water but today it is singing its heart out because it is full. Jhurds had been asking for coffee but I suggest we have it at Camp Damazo instead, where we will also have our lunch later. It is now 09:40. Camp Damazo hosted the PIBC 2011, 2012 and 2013 here except this year to give way to the coffee seedlings planted there. We will go there today because the place is special.
We climbed up a low ridge where there is a beautiful path. I saw a mummified human dropping, a month old, smacking right on the middle of a big dried leaf as I ascend on the last few meters. The absence of flies indicate that it had exhausted all its organic odor unless you deliberately step on it. Everyone gave it a wide berth but rattan tendrils abound here. It grabs your shirt, bag and skin just like it did to my Silangan hike pants.
I drank water again and I notice the bottle beginning to go light and noisy when shaken. I could not believe it that I “waste” a lot of water. I see a lot of debris and felled branches but I am only interested with dry firewood, which I would forage up ahead. Most of the coffee seedlings planted are not healthy despite being maintained by a group of farmers. I believed the ground is just too dense and too rocky with a fully-grown forest to compete with ground water and sunlight.
I reach Camp Damazo with an armful of firewood and I see the middle of the fire ring planted now with a single young coffee. The place is shrouded with a vapor-like mist or could it be a remnant of a very early morning smoke? I just cannot give up this place for it is a perfect campsite with water sources not far away. Thinking of water, I drank generously my diminishing supply knowing I could have my bottle refilled later. I sat exhausted on a root of a Moluccan ironwood tree (ipil) waiting for the rest.
Boy came first, then Jhurds with another armful of firewood and then Ernie, Dom and Mark. All open-carried a knife except Boy. The knives are then used to break and split firewood. Ernie used his Mora knife to slice vegetables and meat as he begins to work on our meal. Two AJF Trivets are set up to stabilize pots above a fledgling flame. I retrieved my foraged basil leaf and gave the leaves to Ernie while I plant the stalk on a spot where water would accumulate should it rain.
Within the camp is a debris shelter which is less than a day old. It is made of zingiber stalks and leaves, which are abundant in the Buhisan Watershed Area. The inside is spacious and can accommodate three sitting people. Hot coffee are now distributed. Coffee, oh coffee. It always tastes good in the outdoors, even on a hot day, especially for someone who is thirsty and tired.
Jhurds had always been generous when it comes to food. Today, he brought raw blood clams (litob) and marinated pork. Ernie knows how to cook the clams in his own special way while Dominik will take care of the pork. A second fire is started by Dom where an iron grille is placed above it. Mark and Boy helped Ernie with the vegetables as I begin to search the camp for a spot to make a boar trap.
Laying a trap is without purpose if you cannot lure prey into it. A few good reasons why a boar will approach a place near where your trap is, are food, water or the opportunity to find a mate. Absence of all will make your trap useless unless you drive a boar to flight. When it runs it always follow a path of least resistance, like a trail, and would use the slope to hasten its escape. Man smell will prevent a boar from approaching your lure or it may stimulate its flight.
The trap should make it appear that it follows the trail, then diverted to a different path by blocking it with a very gentle arc of obstacles towards the hole. The boar, when stressed by pursuers, would follow that diverted route and into the trap. I have seen a perfect place (and the route) where a boar would be lured to run. This will start from Creek Charlie, follow the trail to Camp Damazo, then diverted downhill to a narrow ridge. Side trails should be blocked. Water of the stream and some wild yams (bulot) could provide impetus why a boar should follow your plan.
Unfortunately, the small ridge I choose does not allow me to create a hole large enough to accommodate a boar for the ground is dense and rocky. Although I have bamboo stakes, leaves, twigs and things nature could provide to make a boar trap, I do not have modern tools to make such a hole on a hard-packed ground. And I do not have the luxury of time. Making a boar trap is labor intensive and can be done in two to five days! I may have to make an alternative instead. Why not make a deadfall?
I go back to the campsite. Jhurds is squeezing the juice out of a grated coconut and would be mixed with a vegetable soup that Ernie is starting to finish. Dom had done with the first side of the pork and now had just flipped the other side facing the embers. I went past them, going to the rest of the camp. As I was walking, I noticed a flat ground below the trail I am on. I looked for a path and found it near a debris shelter that we found earlier.
Slowly, I tread among bushes, palms, zingibers and thick vines and come upon an almost flat ground. There is an abandoned makeshift shelter where there is a stock of firewood, a plastic gallon of water and empty flat bottles. The awning is made of abaca leaves, now frayed, supported by sticks laid horizontally that are propped by forked wood dug on the ground. This piece of flat ground could support five shelters but it is best with hammocks.
Walking back, I saw another bigger ground blocked from view by thick vines and zingibers. I have ascertained that it could accommodate seven shelters and more with hammocks. I begun to entertain in my mind that Camp Damazo could again host more PIBCs in the future. Besides that, this one is hidden from view if local people pass by because it is very secluded. Perhaps also, this one is nearer to Creek Charlie.
I return to the campfire and I see the pot of rice being cooked. Jhurds and Mark volunteered to fill our empty bottles with water to a natural spring. I decide to look for a tree that might had been cut by a local. I found one on a steep terrain just below the trail that we had passed more than an hour ago. I go down to pull the dead tree but it is heavy. I decide to separate the lower trunk by chopping it from the rest. I dragged it to the trail and it would do as a deadfall, it being about four feet long.
Exhausted, I go back to the group to drink water. Fortunately, my bottle is full as it was filled at a natural spring by Jhurds and Mark. Dominik had already sliced into bite sizes the last of the grilled pork. The rice is transferred to an abaca leaf to make it easy for all to reach and take refills. Lunch begins. I fished the blood clam first and ate it, then I take a refill of rice and poured the mixed-vegetable soup into it and eat contentedly. Another refill of rice, I paired it with grilled pork. It was another feast for Camp Red.
After I had eaten lunch, I immediately go back to the place where I left the trunk. Jhurds and Mark came with me to observe and, later, to help me set up the deadfall. I carried a coil of nylon rope and a plastic bag of cords. I make a notch on one end of the trunk so rope would not slip when I tie and suspend it high while Mark lent another length of nylon rope to reach the high branches.
The deadfall is placed above the trail and would swing towards an intended target once it is released by a system of spring mechanisms and triggering devices initiated by the target. The trigger cord is placed on the trail where it would be accurately stepped on by the right foot. I demonstrated its efficacy upon a wooden dummy and the deadfall barreled it away, scattering it six feet from where it was placed.
Sharpened wooden stakes buried on the trunk would make it more deadly. Not only that, the action of the swinging trunk would also open up many possibilities like activating peripheral “offensive” systems which would chuck several targets after the first one. It was very tempting to set this all up but, again, I do not have the luxury of time. I decide we go back to the campsite since it is almost 16:00. After disposing our garbage and packing up our things, we put out the fire thoroughly and leave.
We pass by the natural spring and two streams before climbing out of the jungle towards Baksan Road. Ernie suggested that we take the road instead going to the spillway at Sapangdaku. It was a tiring walk although it was downhill but a concrete pavement is never kind to the feet. We arrive exhausted at 18:00 at Guadalupe where Jhurds and Boy left immediately. As predicted, rain fell that early evening and I have to wait out the storm with bottles of cold beer that Boy Toledo had provided free for me, Dominik, Ernie and Mark.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer