Wednesday, July 15, 2015

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LXXXVI: Real-World Education

IN THE COURSE OF MY outdoor activities, it cannot be denied that people would ask and wish they could join me. I am very gracious when it comes to that but I cannot accommodate all since I find most of my weekend time focused on the development of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild. Another reason is that I am a bit choosy now of the kind of people I welcome.

I would be very happy to bring people to the seldom-known places that I frequent but, at the same time, I have second thoughts. The main cause for that is these people I bring are bound to abuse this privilege. I would always assume that everyone understood fully about the Leave No Trace principles, especially those that professed to be “mountaineers”, but, on the contrary, they use their “new discovery” as an opportunity to promote themselves and gain a profit from the very people they invite. The more people coming, the better the profit, is it not?


Wrong! The more people coming, the more you get to disturb these pristine places and the higher the chances of accidents. People would only follow LNT when somebody is watching and when there is a profit to gain they do not care. That is why I found LNT amusing and cumbersome since the very people who are supposed to promote it, even to the extent of quarrelling and threatening other people over it, are the ones who are likely bound to discard it.

LNT is taken advantaged of by the outdoors-gear industry and the people that thrive in it like travel agencies and income-driven individuals that they used the logo as part of their corporate symbol and a tool to gain profits. I do not follow LNT because I found it shameful to be associated with these people but I respect its intent and I believe it will give the uninitiated the proper knowledge and guidance when in the outdoors and on their everyday life.

Let me remind all that you cannot, and never could, impose LNT on everyone and that includes me. If you think it is a rule, suit yourself, for you are only exposing your ignorance and naivete. Do not worry. For the many times that I have been invited in a mainstream activity, I would always show courtesy to the crowd and blend in with the activity as if I know my LNT well. That is flexibility for you. I hope you have it also.

On the other hand, I would always inform people that had been fortunate enough to tag along with me about my methods else they might find it revolting. I do not want to give an impression that what I do is conventional and ordinary like everyone is doing. When you are with me, you will act like real outdoorsmen. You will appreciate silence and nature to the very core. You will learn a lot aside from doing all your “jump shots”.

That is what is happening today, November 30, 2014, when I answered a request by four guys who worked in a business process outsourcing company to join me. They name their informal group as Takoy Outdoor Club and one member looks familiar. He looks like my eldest son. Anyway, I demand that we should leave by 06:30, which we did. I place great emphasis on punctuality from hereon and I do not want somebody derailing my itinerary again.


We hit the trail once I gave them an on-site briefing at Napo. Our route is the “Rosary Loop” which consists of the Napo Main Trail, Manggapares Trail, Liboron Trail, Babag Ridge Trail and the East Ridge Pass. It had been raining for the past two days and two nights and the ground is wet and muddy. Today, it had not, although, I expect heavy rains caused by an approaching weather disturbance.

Running parallel to our activity is a patented dirt time by members of Camp Red. They will be passing the same Manggapares Trail later. However, they would start at 10:00. I found the trail undisturbed yet by footprints made by yuppies. The sky is gloomy with a high chance of precipitation. I inform everyone the proper name of the river below the trail. It is important that correct names of places be known to everyone so you would not look stupid by giving it another name in Facebook which a lot of people unintentionally do.

We reach the trailhead to Tagaytay Ridge at 07:10. I told everyone that we are too fast. We may suffer for that when the terrain becomes steep since we did not stretch our muscles prior to walking. It could be muscle cramps, overfatigue or loss of body heat. It is important that they know this. Now they understand why you have to control your pace. The path to Manggapares is thick with weeds and I regret I did not open carry my AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife yet.

It is 07:30 when we we arrive at the first steel pylon. I take the time of rest by retrieving the AJF Gahum from my Silangan Predator Z tri-zip sack. I talk about the history of this trail and how I re-discovered it. I could see the adrenaline of the four beginning to show for the reason that they had been yearning to explore for themselves of this place which they only heard as the “Six Towers Trail”. They are now on the threshold of it and they will not regret their luck today for they will see and learn more.

Going to the second tower, I show them an edible snail. This is a snail that lives on trees and it is abundant here. We push on down to a saddle, cleared some vegetation with the knife, and up again until we arrive at 07:50. The guys are exhausted but desiring for more. We did not tarry and proceed to the third one, which we reach at 08:00. Along the way, I showed them fruit trees which are free for picking like I did with a pomelo (Sp. Hystrix grandis). The view from up here is just too stunning for the four. They are now smiling.

They begin to appreciate the beautiful trail that lead to the fourth tower. We reach it at 08:15 and I inform them that we are now walking on a dirt road. They are confused since they only see a trail but, up ahead, they saw an abandoned payloader. They are now beginning to make sense in everything I talked about. The fifth pylon is easy to reach and we got underneath it at 08:25. They are now staring at the sixth.


I shift to another trail and the sixth power pylon faded from view. I am onto a path that is very difficult as it is very challenging which make passage of the sixth tower unnecessary. This is the Liboron Trail and it had returned to a condition when I first walked here. Rains caused the softening of the ground and my footing slip time and time again despite my effort not to ruin the path. It was for this reason that I insist that everybody should wear shoes.

I point to the place where I fell six meters and everyone are now very careful. After that very tiring walk, we rest at a saddle and enjoying the chance to drink water. I teach them water discipline since they swallow a lot of water. When we think it is alright to proceed, we shoulder our bags and walk up a hill. I tell them the story of my encounter with a grass owl as we pass by a field of cogon grass.

We go down into another saddle where bamboo poles fell during the recent typhoon called “Queenie” and blocked the path. I crawled underneath and the rest followed. A barbed-wire fence is another obstacle that we have to go over. Fortunately, a path had been cleared between it and another grove of spiny bamboo. I pass by between it but I advised the rest to watch out for the spines which might catch their eyes.

We walk on, crossing a small brook and climb another hill where the Caburnay homestead is located. Barking dogs greeted our arrival as Julian Caburnay welcomed me and my companions. I showed the guys the water source and I begin to boil water for coffee with a butane stove. Leaving that, I went out of the homestead to gather dry firewood and kindling. It is hard to find dry wood but I am able to bring back partly-moist small branches, old banana leaves and cloth-like coconut fibers called “guinit”.

I drink my share of the coffee. I found a cord from my bag and begin to make a tripod where the cook pot will be hanged over a fire. Once done, I cut a whole leaf from a giant taro and laid it on the wet ground. I break the small branches and arrange it over the leaf. With my William Rodgers Bushcraft knife, I shave some wood and made several feather sticks. I remove bark from the bigger wood and split it so it could air out moisture.

I crumple the guinit and the leaves into a tight bunch and rub it with my hands until it begins to break in small pieces as friction warmed it a bit. I place the kindling above the fire nest. I retrieve a black hair-like kindling from my fire kit and place it underneath the nest. I struck a single match and the material caught the flame and it spread rapidly. Thick smoke begins to show from the coconut-and-banana material as heat begins to wick it of moisture.

Everyone watched of how I prepared the fireplace in such a different way from what they had known; of the careful way of how I made the firewood and the kindling ready prior to the introduction of fire. When fingers of flame begins to consume the smaller wood, I place more twigs over it and I start to measure rice into a pot and then pour water. I hang the pot over the fire, adjusting the tripod so the bottom of the pot touches the fire. They watch and feed the fire while I get busy with the pork meat.


Julian gave us ripe bananas to munch on. It is organically grown and it is very sweet. Meanwhile, the guys look over the dragonfruit plant and the different ornamental plants that Julian had been growing here. The sky remained gloomy and it is our lucky day that it had not rained. When the rice got cooked, I hanged another pot over the fire. I pour cooking oil then saute crushed garlic and sliced onions. Later, I added sliced green pepper to the fray and finally the meat. I pour soy sauce and waited for it to boil.

As we were in the middle of the cooking, a lone hawk whistled. It circled above us. We continue our cooking when it disappeared from view. I let one of the guys improve the taste with just salt and then I add basil to enhance aroma. Now, time to enjoy that well-deserved meal served hot in a real boodle-fight location. The food was wiped out clean from the banana leaves and just a few morsels for the dog. However, I made it sure that Julian has a fair share, including uncooked rice and canned goods I brought specially for him.

Before saying goodbye to Julian, I show the guys how a basil herb looks like. Beside the basil, is a miniature guava tree with small fruits. They were just amazed at these discoveries and hoped to come back again. I brief them again of the remainder of our journey. We walk up to a ridge and the guys gets a good view of the wide landscape again. The trail now is thick with vegetation so I let the knife work – again.

Branches fell during the typhoon and it littered the trail as well. It is hard work but I love it. The knife cuts efficiently and, when there is nothing to cut, I return it to the sheath; then I start again and again until I reach the Babag Ridge Trail. I let them know that this is an old trail that I had used as training ground in the early ‘90s. It is a trail I lose track of when I laid low from climbing mountains and re-discovered it just more than a year ago.

They were all amazed at the wrist-thick rattan trunks that cross the trail. I also let them know that this trail is frequently used by off-road Enduro riders on weekends. Up ahead the trail would be fenced and we would make a long detour. Property owners had blocked access to motorcycles but these had not stopped. Some trees had fell, blocking the path, but we manage to go over it. I scan the upper part of the forest to see if there are hazards above.

We pass by the place where there is a cave. The path going there had been destroyed by the typhoon and we were not able to climb up to that higher ridge. So, I just told them that it was used by the Japanese as a defensive camp during World War II. We walk on and pass by a tunnel entrance that was blocked by logs. I told them that this is just one of many that the Japanese had constructed. I pointed to them the place that I referred to as the “last wild place”. I pick up a broken branch and remove Spanish moss. Future tinder.

We stop at a saddle and, there, the guys fell in love with the view of the Bonbon River Valley. This vantage do mesmerize a lot of people for it expands their adventurous spirits when gazing at the far wide-open spaces. One of them asked if I leave trailsigns. Good timing of question. I do not frequently leave signs unless it is for a last resort. I showed them my only trailsign on this whole route which, coincidentally, is located just a few meters away.

The route passed by along fences down into a dry brook and up into a different ridge, crossing it, down into a saddle and up to the Babag Ridge. Winded, we rest on a bench. A dirt road leads to the “tower area” where the highest peak- Mount Babag (752 meters) – is located. There is a trail going down - the East Ridge Pass - which lead to the Roble homestead, which we reach at 14:00. The guys are happy to get a respite from that downhill knee killer


After drinking green coconut water, the guys climbed the tree house and took rest there while I take time to talk with Fele and Tonia Roble. The children Manwel, Juliet and Josel are here too. They cook wild sweet potato for me and I munch on it. I will bring some for home and this is the kind that my wife loves best. We leave the Roble family at 15:00 for Sapangdaku Creek. We reach the stream and walk back to Napo. I notice six sets of shoe prints, to include a female, and it had already disintegrated due to contamination of other footprints made by locals.

We ride motorcycles-for-hire at Napo for Guadalupe. We transfer to the new watering hole, the Bikeyard Cafe. It is still 16:00. We had walked fast and one of my knees suffered. It is numb. But we are on safe ground now with plenty of cold bottles of beer on a bucket full of ice to curb dehydration. I just taught real-world education to these guys which they cannot find in LNT-laced activities.


Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer



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