Monday, April 13, 2015

COMPLEAT BUSHCRAFT XVII: Prospecting a Campsite

I AM PUSHING FOR the transfer and the holding of the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp for 2015 in another place and I am eyeing the Municipality of Lilo-an. This town is located 22 kilometers north of Cebu City and is known for its rosquillos biscuit, a lighthouse in Bagacay Point and the whirlpools of Catarman, from which Lilo-an is named after.

Travelling north, your senses are accustomed only to the tame but narrow strips of plain which the Hagnaya Road traverses. Inland is different, especially into its hilly barrios, where the rugged landscape prevent the development of a reliable public transportation on those almost-forgotten roads less travelled. I need to see what secrets lie there and try to get the answers that I had been seeking.

Today, August 10, 2014, I am with my fellow outdoorsmen of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. By the time I arrive at the meeting place on AS Fortuna Street, Mandaue City, Jhurds Neo, Glenn Pestaño, Eli Bryn Tambiga, Justin Abella, Faith Tannen, Nyor Pino and Mark Lepon are already there. We immediately commute to Lilo-an where Christopher Maru meet us at Titay’s Lilo-an Rosquillos.

Inside a gated compound, Aljew Frasco is waiting and smiling. Beside him is a Frost River rucksack with the black rubber grip of a Sycko 911 knife protruding from the inside pocket. Between him and us is a stainless-steel ewer of hot steaming coffee flavored from the guts of a palm civet, freshly brewed, a prime item for immediate taking. Coffee like this make the most feral creature behave like a kindergarten kid. Sweet!

We leave the town center into the interior of Lilo-an. All ten of us, plus four local guys, ride on a maroon Toyota 2003 double cab pickup, driven by Aljew. We follow a thin ribbon of concrete until an unpaved stretch begins to unravel for the rest of the way. Four-wheeled traffic is a rarity in these parts with occasional motorcycles. It is a warm Sunday morning and everyone are excited of the prospect of an exploration.

We finally reach the jump-off point somewhere in the hinterlands of Kanagahan. There is a chapel and a grassroots volleyball court, some houses and a few ceiba trees. Aljew parked the Toyota and we hefted all our bags onto our backs. Faith, Jhurds and me brought our Silangan Predator trizip bags. I open carry an AJF Gahum knife, Aljew with his Sykco 911, Jhurds with a Spyderco Forester bolo and Nyor his Seseblades NCO knife.

We walk the rest of the road that wind above a peak, which Eli read from his GPS at 237 meters, and down into a saddle where a path turn left. One of the locals who are with us, Titing, lead the way into private land. It is steep, the topsoil dry and loose. We pass by mango trees down ravines and into a patch of healthy corn, from which we wind among our way following a narrow path and finally going down into a stream.

The stream – Mantalogo Creek – is at the base of Mount Laniguid, Liloan’s highest peak at around 500 MASL. Titing cross the stream and showed me a shallow water well on the lowest shoulder of the mountain. Titing says that he dug the well over forty years ago. It is supplied by a seep which Titing says had not been affected by drought or by typhoon. It is the source of drinking water for families living near the stream. Amazing!

I drink the water after gasping hard from that very short but very fast climb. I have not yet fully recovered from that motorcycle crash thirteen days ago and my breathing is stiff and painful caused by a slipped cartilage on my left chest. I should have taken it easy and slow knowing that I am nursing an injury. The water is good but I have reservations about it since it is not covered. Anyway, we could improve about its quality later on.

We go back to the stream and Titing led Aljew and all the rest upstream. Mantalogo Creek is clogged up by huge boulders. Running water led to clear pools and stagnant ones, which usually are choked with thick algae, indicating indiscriminate use of fungicide and other chemicals which usually are sprayed on mango trees. I did not see a high water line which normally shows after a flood. As I walk, I scan the river bank for a hint of a good campsite.

I found one as I was walking on a wide sandy area. It is not wide but it is level and long. It could accommodate, at the most, ten tents placed in one row and another three tents on the second row. Buri palms and mango trees are ideal anchor points for hammock shelters. I am quite satisfied of this discovery and I confer with Aljew about this. Well, it would help very much if we could determine the owner of the lot so we could have a permission to use this during the next PIBC.

We walk a little upstream and halt under a very shady mango tree. We stop. This would be a perfect place to rest from the heat of the late morning and a good place to prepare our meal and to talk. Immediately we forage dry firewood and a fire is beginning to take shape. Fabricated pot stands designed by Aljew are being distributed to each of us. I call this the AJF Trivet in reference to the owner.

It is just a simple construction of two flat iron bars – bent at three right angles – and fastened by a thumb screw. When used, the bent bars would act as “legs” and would support a cook pot or a frying pan. The legs are six inches high and gives enough space between ground and the bottom of a pot for firewood to burn. When storing, you just have to cool it down and fold it. It weighs about 150 grams.

Christopher cook the mixed vegetable soup and boiled water for coffee while I take care of the rice on the fire irons. Veteran pots, blackened and dented, are used. We had ditched the immaculate ones long ago. Nyor and Jhurds watch over the pork meat being grilled over glowing coals. Justin, Faith, Glenn and Mark make themselves comfortable under the shade. Aljew is doing a sightseeing with the local guides upstream.

When Aljew came back, we start our meal in “boodle-fight” fashion. The rice are spread over banana leaves while the grilled pork are chopped in bite sizes. The vegetable soup is confined to the pot and everyone is encouraged to pick as many food as he could. Fourteen of us line the edges of the banana leaves but it is best to spot your own place farther from the crowd.

After the meal, I asked Aljew and Jhurds to go with me to take a survey of that possible campsite that we passed by hours ago. The area is covered by grasses and stones littered the ground. Cleaning and levelling it would be done weeks before the PIBC and it is best to stay here overnight to get the feel of the place. The wide sandy riverbank below the proposed campsite would be perfect for the lecture site since it is shaded and there are a lot of rocks which you could use as seats.

But the most valuable assets which lead me to choose a good bushcraft campsite is its proximity to water sources and bamboos. I have seen separate sources for drinking and for washing on the stream. Rain and flood would up the ante of adventure for the participants if ever it would contaminate the stream. On the other hand, the Philippines is bamboo country and it is that which makes us develop different methods for survival.

It is now 14:30 and we have decided to leave the stream and go back to where we came from. Titing lead us to another path, which is a better one. It follows a small stream and it passes by a small waterfall. We cross the stream where there is a saddle and hike up a beaten trail until we reach the dirt road. We pass by communities and the afternoon was very warm that we stop by a small store that sells cold soda drinks.

People here are engaged in manufacturing of bamboo skewers. Their blades are so sharp and they are so adept at using it, regardless if it is a small cutter or a long bolo. I begin to admire of the system they used in the manufacture of skewers. I collect the bamboo shavings because these are good fire kindling and it would be good to add these to my fire kit.

From Kanagahan, we proceed to a secluded farm in San Vicente and spend the rest of the afternoon there preparing our dinner. While doing nothing, the guys start a blade porn and opened up another round of good conversations amidst the presence of very cold bottles of beer which made the talks more enticing and the guts craving for food. Christopher delivered a really spicy hot chicken cooked with a kilo of chili pepper. True. With that, the cold beer came in very handy.

Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer

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