Saturday, August 22, 2015

NAPO TO BABAG TALES LXXXIX: An Exploration Team Tryout

I JUST HAD A VISIT to the Babag Mountain Range yesterday, but, here I am again today, January 4, 2015, traipsing almost on the same route. I have no reservations about the idea of making this range as my playground. The mountain range IS my second home. I have no reason to go tramping elsewhere for Babag is big enough to satisfy my spirit of adventure and for training purposes.

Besides, I am on an urgent mission to select my team for Segment III of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project. Segment III will start on February 19 at Mantalongon, Barili and will end on February 22 at Mantalongon, Dalaguete. The route will pass by the mountain highlands between them. On the other hand, the Cebu Highlands Trail is the bigger scale. It will encompass eight parts – or segments – from north to south or reverse.

I offered only two slots for Segment III aside from mine being the project organizer and the team leader for that exploration. Five people of nine whom I invited came on this day at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. The other four automatically forfeits their right to be selected. Good. The lesser people, the better will I manage and instruct them and the faster will our pace be.

We leave Guadalupe at 07:00 for Napo by motorcycles. Once we cross the foot bridge, we engage on the trail immediately. It is not the Napo Trail but the full route of Manggapares Trail. It starts where the Sapangdaku Creek and Tagaytay Ridge meet. It is an old route which had been forgotten by the present leisure hikers after an easier route to Mount Babag had been discovered. I talk when I walk and I do that when I need to.

This is a trail which I could have walked in the early ‘90s but, through my persistence to discover places here, re-discovered it in January 2013. The path led us abruptly to elevated portions which needs some very brief rests from time to time. We took our real rest when we reach a tamarind tree to rehydrate. From there, it is all walk until we reach our first steel tower and we rest again.

I used the steel power pylons as landmarks everytime I walk Manggapares Trail and I would know which tower has side trails and which one has not. The walk continues on until after the fifth tower, where a path cut down to a low ridge but, midway, I shift to a very scant path that I called Liboron Trail. It is a short cut but it is very difficult when it is wet. The ground is very soft since it had been raining almost uninterruptedly for the past months brought on by storms.

My new 5.11 Tactical Series Shoes gets its real baptism of mud. I fight off gravity by changing steps as long as the shoe held its grip but, on a few occasions, I am unsuccessful and I have to start another strategy. My shoes are wet as well as my new Kailas hiker socks inside. Pressing on, we reach a saddle and it is another rest that is very well deserved after that nightmare of a trail.

Facing us is a low hill and we climb it. I point the grassy place where I saw a grass owl. I begin breaking off dead twigs that are not touching ground. Everybody do likewise, looking for dry kindling as we walk down into another saddle where bamboo poles blocked the path. We crawl below it and walk on towards a small house on the hill. A dog’s bark greeted us and I look for the owner, Julian Caburnay.

Found him walking behind us and he is glad to have company. I ask permission to use a part of his place to prepare our food. It is still 09:30 and, by God, we are very fast. Immediately, I retrieve my AJF Folding Trivet and gave the task of boiling water for coffee to one of the guys. I have to slice the pork meat, onions and pepper and crush the garlic.

Wet conditions kept the guys from starting separate fires immediately but, after two or three tries, they got success. Two other AFJ Folding Trivets appear and three fires are now burning underneath a big pot reserved for the milled corn, a small pot for coffee and another pot for the cooking oil which the sliced ingredients would be dumped upon soon. We have to feed the fire from time to time with thin pieces of firewood.

While doing that, Julian gave us ripe bananas, papayas and a sliced jackfruit. The fruits are organically grown and the banana is uncannily sweet. Then it rained. Good thing one of the guys has a tarp sheet and we were able to rig it up to cover our fireplace. At this juncture, Julian lent us his big laminated-nylon sheet and the cover provided us and our things from rain.

The food would be a very spicy pork adobao. I place basil leaves for garnishment. A guy produced a banana leaf and frayed it over the fire before resting it above a table. Then the steaming milled corn are spread over the leaf, then the pork adobao with its spicy sauce. After a prayer, the hungry bunch picked and eat to their heart’s content at 12:10. I reserved a portion for Julian which I gave after the “boodle fight”.

We leave the place cleaned and resume our training at 12:45, hiking over the rest of the trail to Babag Ridge. I use my open-carried AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife to slash at the thick vegetation that had been blocking the path. Notable among the vegetation were the devil’s coach whip (Local name: kanding-kanding) and the rattan vine (Local: uway). Both are harmful to the skin and would snag on fabric.

We pass by two hunters with “alcohol rifles” sneaking on some birds. Walking further on the path, it is blocked by falling debris caused by Typhoon Ruby and then by Typhoon Seniang and we have to go around it. Up ahead the path is blocked again by wooden fences which was not there the last time I passed by here in November 2014. We just climb over it and go on the other side.

We reach the Babag Ridge trail and it is squishy. All sort of debris are on the path, big ones blocking it while big rattan vines snag and make walking a delirious undertaking. I liked the way how the trail looked for it makes life miserable for those weekend Enduro bike riders. I have seen them only once but I could hear their presence on some occasion when the weather is right. Today they won’t dare.

We follow the path and I show them the old war-time campsite. I notice some fresh earth nearby had been disturbed, dug and moved. Treasure hunters! I have heard of a recent story of how some Japanese nationals and their local counterparts were able to locate a hoard of gold bars from there. Speculations are always ripe but greed only begets more greed which some people would capitalize on.

The guys gazed at the twin peaks across us, divided by the Bonbon River Valley. They asked me the name of the place. It is Barangay Pung-ol Sibugay, said I. I point at the peaks and that is how the village got its name. Mount Pung-ol is on the left and Mount Sibugay on the right. It is my self-appointed mission to inform people of the correct names of places and the origins behind its meanings.

The top of Mt. Pung-ol looked like it had been chopped and that is where it got its name. Mt. Sibugay got its name because it moves towards the sea away from Mt. Pung-ol. The frequent cracks on the Transcentral Highway fronting Ayala Heights is a testament to the peak’s migration. Most of the time, the latter is referred to by people as either “Mount Kan-irag” or “Sirao Peak”. Now they know better.

I show them how my trailsign looks. More knowledge about my ways equip the guys better how to navigate in woodlands and mountains. We follow a long path with a fence to the right of us which goes down and then up to a road. This road used to be a trail and this trail once trod on high ground – at the ridges – but it was fenced off by people who believed they have the right to own a piece of a mountain which actually is timberland and, therefore, owned by the government.

We rest and rehydrate on a bench before pursuing the route to Mount Babag. Along the way I see children making the most of a narrow strip of concrete and a few scraps of plastic. They were so happy sliding down that concrete on plastic. What gave me joy is that they were not “wired” to the electrical outlet, the Internet and Facebook. Simple joys from unstructured outdoor games are vital in the child’s development and of their creativity.

I look down at the path from where I stood. It is muddy and it looks like it is going to be slippery. At least, for this occasion, it does not look like a water slide yet. Slowly, I test my 5.11s on the middle of the but it is just too slippery. I changed to the sides and I got good progress but slipped when I turned to look back to see how the rest are doing. Blag!

Smiling to myself for my own boo-boo, I continue down on this long slippery but narrow descending trail. Not trusting to the change in texture of the ground, I walked on the green side, making use of the vegetation for balance. Some parts of the trail needs maintenance and widening since these are crumbling or are very threatening. I would rather take this route uphill than going downhill in rain.

Finally, after almost an hour of working our brains to solve the slippery ribbon of ground, we reach friendly territory - the Roble homestead. It is 14:45 and we are just too fast. We sat exhausted but undefeated. The candidates had been patient with the weather and the terrain and are now rewarded with water from young coconuts, a natural electrolyte. We leave after 30 minutes and continue on the last phase.

We cross Sapangdaku Creek and doubled our pace, sometimes trotting when the path is easy enough. We pass by the trailhead where we started in the morning and I am just amazed at our pace. We reach Napo at 16:00 with enough light for another round. That would be crazy but feasible. Anyway we ride on individual motorcycles-for-hire for Guadalupe. We found solace at the Bikeyard Cafe and rehydrate cold beer to our heart’s delight. All passed the selection. Round Two coming.

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Saturday, August 15, 2015


YOU MIGHT ALL WONDER why I always carry a small camouflaged pouch attached to the front of my Silangan Predator Z backpack? You might also wonder what is inside that? On first impression, it is an item used and issued to the military. Yes, it is. In fact, it is issued to individual soldiers belonging to the United States Army. If you think I am military, you are absolutely wrong.

I could not do about its appearance. Maybe I could alter its color later on but, no, as of this writing, no. Not today and the photographs attests to its military origin. Please be kind and be patient as I will digress of what really is this thing? I could assure you that there are absolutely no explosives stuffed inside. It is just a box that could save a life or lives. It is just an IFAK or the Individual First Aid Kit.

Now you can heave a sigh of relief. It is a first aid kit but not an ordinary one. It is really a trauma kit designed for bullet and shrapnel wounds that causes hemorrhaging and difficulty in breathing. Would it be applicable in my environment or on my outdoor sorties? Maybe yes or may be no but I would rather be optimistic that it does. You would never know. Would we?

It might as well that all the items inside are retained. You add a few things and it becomes an improved IFAK. Besides, the only thing that you hate is the appearance. Is it not? But you would disregard it when you begin to know the wonderful items found inside it if I start to disembowel the pouch. But let us start with the Pouch first.

According to The Prepper Journal, the IFAK Pouch alone costs around $9.99. But wait! Included is the IFAK Insert which is attached to the pouch by a coiled cord. It is a set then. The IFAK Insert have several elastic holders and is designed like an organizer with velcros to secure the items when folded. The pouch, on the other hand, has a flap which can be closed with a PVC clip lock and has a drain hole at the bottom. The IFAK can be attached as rugged kits to a MOLLE webbing.

The first item you will see once the IFAK Pouch is opened is the Combat Application Tourniquet or CAT and is priced in eBay, Amazon and other sites at $26.50, which is the most expensive item of the IFAK. It is produced by North American Rescue and features their Red Tip Technology. It is an efficient one-handed tourniquet operation with hook and loop closure for securing a wounded arm. This is a very important item set and a must-have in an IFAK.

The IFAK Insert, when unfolded, contains the original items like an Emergency Bandage Kit, a Compressed Gauze, an Adhesive Surgical Tape, a Robertazzi Nasopharyngeal Airway and Patient Examination Gloves. All are secured neatly in their places by elastic holders. The additions are inserted in empty elastic holders and lipped side-by-side with the aforementioned items.

The Emergency Bandage Kit is housed in a sealed sterilized pack and consists of a Trauma Wound Dressing and a 4-inch Hemorrhage Control Bandage. It already consolidates a Pressure Applicator, a Non-Adherent Pad, a Plastic Secondary Dressing, a Stop-and-Go Release Apparatus and a Closure Bar. It is made by First Care Products of Israel. Its price tag is pegged at $5.30 at Rescue Essentials. A very essential piece of emergency medical equipment.

The H&H PriMed Compressed Gauze is vacuum packed for easy storage but expands to cover large wound areas. The Compressed Gauze is a perfect companion to the Israeli Bandage so it could stop blood loss and save lives. It has a width of 4-1/2 inches of 6-ply cotton-fluff bandage roll which can be stretched at 4 yards. It is made in China and distributed by H&H Associates, Inc. of Virginia, USA. Available at Rescue Essentials at $2.40.

The Adhesive Surgical Tape is made by 3M. 3M Durapore is the gold standard in surgical tapes and it has a dimension of 2 inches and 10 yards. The silk-like clothe tape features strong adhesion for securing dressings or devices. Strong, highly adhesive and non-irritating, hypoallergenic Durapore silk surgical tape features maximum comfort and bilateral tearing for quick application without the need for scissors. Individually sold at $2.15 at Rescue Essentials.

The Robertazzi Nasopharyngeal Airway, manufactured by Rusch, is made of soft Ultrasil material that provides greater patient comfort than other rigid plastic nasal airways. It is sold at $3.25 per kit at Emergency Medical Products and does not contain latex. The airway tube is 9.3 mm (28 Fr) thick and has a length of 125 mm. It is very flexible for complete patient comfort, rounded tip allows for gentle insertion and the soft material avoids damage to nasal passageway.

There are four pieces of Patient Examination Gloves inside the standard IFAK. The gloves are of synthetic vinyl with polymer emulsion coating. Features a soft, stretch feel that provides comfort, total dexterity and added durability. Contains no natural rubber latex proteins or allergens. An individual glove has a thickness of 8.4 mm and 9.6 inches in length and all are in cream color.

The IFAK is designed primarily as a self-aid and a companion-aid and provides interventions of incurred wounds, serious or not. It increases individual survivability during exposure to a high-threat environment and is expandable to include other additions. The complete IFAK weighs one pound (2.2 kilos) and costs $265.00 per unit according to the Rapid Force Initiative.

Now, let us know the items I added.

  1. Trauma Shears. It is made by Salim1 of Pakistan. It can cut through clothing and other tough materials. It has yellow handles with stainless-steel cutters, weighs 40 grams and is priced $6.00 at Alibaba. One pair.
  2. Emergency Rescue Blanket. For securing patient against hypothermia. A strong foil-like material in golden color that has a dimension of 160 mm by 210 mm and is neatly folded inside a sealed plastic. Donated by Death Valley Magazine during a humanitarian mission in Cebu. One piece.
  3. Triangular Handkerchief. It is a cotton neckerchief commonly used by the Boy Scouts of the Philippines and is in a light blue color. For cravat bandage purposes, it can also be used as an arm sling or a splint strap. It is also neatly folded inside a sealed plastic. One piece.
  4. EyeMo Eye Cleansing Formula. One 7.5 ml bottle. Manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline in Tianjin, China. For eye irritations. Can be bought locally over the counter.
  5. BD Persist Skin Prep. Two pieces. Swab sticks containing 10 % povidone iodine and 70 % ethyl alcohol. Made by Becton Dickinson Infusion Therapy Systems Inc. of Utah, USA. A very good replacement to a bottle of betadine, especially when space is wanting.
  6. Mediplast Plastic Strips. Instant waterproofed adhesives to cover small wounds. Three pieces. An over-the-counter item.
  7. Bluecell Fastening Wrap Strap. Wraps anything smaller than a wrist with velcro. Would complement with bandaging and quite useful in securing scattered items with a quick wrap. Blue color. One piece.
  8. Identification Card. The edges can pry a tip of a surgical adhesive that a gloved fingernail cannot.

Am I competent to use this against an injured person? No I am not, if there are others who are, then I will just be an assistant. If none, then you will have to suffer. Just joking. The truth is, I have little knowledge in the treatment of injuries, sprains and fractured bones. If being trained by the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation in 1993 qualifies as “little knowledge”, it does make a difference when I am alone by myself or just you and me, is it not? Except for the RNA insert application, I can manage to treat injuries with these wonderful items.

And now you know what is inside my IFAK.

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Sunday, August 9, 2015


THE ROBLE FAMILY OWNS some goats with kids; cocks and hens with their chicks.  These creatures are ubiquitous when you visit their place.  Some of the goats belong to my friends and I had been invited to buy a goat or goats from them and leave it be so it would multiply.  Wow, I would like that very much.  It ensures me a supply of goat meat or an income.  Wouldn’t you?

But I have other things in mind.  I prefer other animals.  A cow is out of the question.  Too expensive.  How about pigs?  No way!  It is not environmentally-sound to raise it on a mountain.  If there is a legal trading of wildlife, I would have considered raising deer.  Or a crocodile.  Why not?  If it improves the economic standing of the Roble family as well as ensuring the survivability of these animals, why not at all?

Well, I have no choice but look around for something different.  How about turkeys?  Yes, turkeys.  I had not seen one in my visits to Napo and Kahugan.  I believe a turkey would survive and multiply in the environment within and around the Roble homestead.  The feathered creatures could have all the green things as fodder and that is a cheap option which would approximate those of raising a goat.  

Turkey meat is much saucier than chicken and command a higher price in the market.  It increases when demand for it are high during the holiday season, a thanksgiving day, a special occasion or even a fiesta celebration.  It would very much augment the income of the Roble family, ensures me meat if I need it or I could convert it to cash.  Why not turkeys?  Yeah, why not?

Good for me, I was able to source a young pair in early December near my workplace in Mandaue City and instantly paid for it.  I keep it in the care of the former owner for a few weeks and keep it fed by supplying it with poultry feeds.  I could have transferred it to the mountains immediately but my schedule was off.  In time, I got a down time on January 3, 2015.  I took a half day and spirit it away to my destination.

For this occasion, I used the motorcycle issued to me to transport the turkeys from office to home to the trailhead of Napo but run it with gas paid by me.  The juvenile turkeys were a male and a female and I place them inside a cardboard box with small holes all around.  I pass by a feed store and buy five kilos of poultry pellets which I stuff inside my Lifeguard USA rucksack.  When I reach Napo, I leave the motorcycle locked on the community center and start my hike at 13:30.

It is a very warm early afternoon but I am pressed to deliver the quarry to that house on the hill.  I am sure it would bring forth smiles from the Roble children - Manwel, Juliet and Josel.  It is also a chance to test further my newly-acquired 5.11 Tactical Series Shoes on this trail which I had trodden for so many times.  The box, at first, was light, but, after a half hour of walking, it is now heavy.  I changed hands but it only brought brief respite.

I rest underneath a mango tree – a landmark and a rest stop of my earlier visits here until I slowly increased stamina – and wondered why I gasped for air?  Another half hour and I would arrive at Lower Kahugan Spring.  I did, but I begin to suspect my stamina.  Am I overexerting myself?  Why did I not arrange Manwel or his father, Fele, earlier to meet me on this day?  The answer to that is not in my disposition at that time.  Well, I am fond of braggadocio, so eat that.

I stared at the ascending Kahugan Trail, so bright in the early afternoon sun.  Could I make it to the top of the hill?  I hope I could.  I have done that with much harder loads before and, besides, I am not racing with a raincloud.  The sky seemed to have cooperated.  Rain would have soaked me and would disintegrate the cardboard box.  The breach would give space for my turkeys to flee.  Thank God it is warm!

Slowly and steadily, I stalk the higher elevations, tottering on some moments, but, my 5.11 shoes held still.  I did not experience a “one-step-forward-two-steps-backward-slide” syndrome that you would get on slippery ground with a heavy load.  Hehehe...I had chosen well.  These tactical shoes turned the tables over those awfully-expensive leisure shoes.  What a big difference!  

I reach a lone tamarind tree and I am already used up.  It is still a long uphill battle.  My arms are weary holding the box.  I need to summon my reserves.  I bend forward and close my eyes.  I inhaled deep through the nose and expelled my breathe through the mouth.  I repeat this many times.  It is easier to breathe that way since your upper body do not stiffen as you would when standing erect.  The needed oxygen for the body are abundant and it freshens me.

I made good progress when I was jolted by the presence of dark clouds.  A few raindrops fell.  Now I got stressed a bit but, after evaluating the place where I am, in a few minutes I would be at my destination.  Putting one foot forward over the other mechanically had brought me, at last, to the Roble homestead.  I approach the nearest bench and place all my cargoes down.  Sitting had never been better.

Looking up, I see Tonia counting her papaya fruits laid on a table.  Manwel and Juliet are helping their mother.  Fele and Josel are nowhere.  Nevertheless, I have live turkeys for them.  I explained to Manwel and Tonia how to care for the turkeys.  I removed the turkey pair from the box and give their long-sought freedom.  Freedom of the hills, I mean.  Instantly the creatures pecked and picked happily on moss, grass and anything living-green.

After I had surrendered to them my 5-kilo poultry pellets, I gave the 50-peso worth of bread to the children.  I examine their house and I see roofs missing.  The house is tilting towards the hillside and would have tumbled down where it not for the ropes that was tied to the Java plum tree (Local name: duhat, lomboy).  Typhoon Seniang did not spare their house this time.  It had already been battered by Typhoon Yolanda and Typhoon Ruby.

I am saddened at the state of the house and saw their half-wet things partly covered by tarpaulin.  They were sleeping the whole time on a small makeshift shelter close to the ground – all five of them.  They were already deprived of electricity long ago that had given them joy and now a home.  Some people would have to know of their state of living and I took pictures of their house.  I will help mobilize people to a donation drive or anything that may improve their living condition.

It was good timing that I came today.  The turkeys I brought would help them out when it starts to hatch and multiply but that would be at a far future.  For the meantime, I leave a sum of money to help them out for a while until the cavalry will start to arrive.  I have crossed seas to deliver relief but I had overlooked my backyard.  Shame on me.  I promised Fele and Tonia that I will do something.

Since it is already 16:00 and the rain is almost here, I leave for the lowlands.  I pass by a lone hiker and he will be shocked at the sight of the Roble home, that is, if he has a heart.  I have no more load and I travel fast.  After crossing the creek, I test the new pair of shoes by running on trails.  I run on short bursts uphill and long winding treads downhill.  My abdomen begins to feel funny as the looseness of flesh and fat begins to get stretched.

I ran and walked until I arrive in Napo.  I cranked the motorcycle on and proceed to Guadalupe.  At the Bikeyard Cafe, I rehydrated myself with two small bottles of San Miguel Pale Pilsen.  The turkeys will be taken cared of and the Roble family will get their house back soon!  God bless them!

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Saturday, August 1, 2015


TROPICAL STORM SENIANG IS approaching but I liked the way it is behaving.  It is moving too slow.  I can go on among the mountains unperturbed today, December 30, 2014.  In fact, my enthusiasm led me to rise up early and be the first at the assembly area, as it had always been, on the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish.  The sky is still in semi-darkness at 05:47 and the cold wind stung as I sat alone on the makeshift bleacher.

The activity is a Year-Ender Hike, the last activity of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild for 2014.  It is just a dayhike but it demands stamina and patience owing to the challenge brought on by a wet ground caused by rains for the last two days.  This morning, the sky is dark and cloudy and rain is ominous.  It is windy.  A good sign that the weather will be fair.  There are two options for the route depending on the number of people.

By and by, Nyor Pino – a resident of the island city of Lapulapu - arrive after ten minutes.  He has discipline and commitment and arrived almost an hour before the next person – Jhurds Neo – a Cebu City resident.  Then all came, just a few minutes of each other:  Jonathan, Justin and and Jon Daniel Apurado; Boy Olmedo; Aljew Frasco and Christopher Maru with guest Bona Canga; Mark Lepon with guests Rommel and Nelson.  Last to come is Dominic Sepe.  We are fourteen in all and I will choose Option B of the route. 

We left Guadalupe at 07:30 after procuring ingredients for our noontime meal.  We will tackle first Heartbreak Ridge but there will be no heartbreak tales today since the weather played into our wishes.  I take the lead and deliberately make my pace slow to accommodate the newcomers and the slow starters.  For the same reason, it is best to take it slow since there will be slippery parts.  

This activity is a preparation of sort for my scheduled training which I imposed upon myself starting next week next year (January 4, 2015), which is also in preparation for the Segment 3 of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project.  Part of my preparations today is to test my newly-purchased 5.11 Tactical Series Shoes.  The wet ground with its slippery spots would be an interesting challenge for the new pair, which actually were provided for by a sponsor.

Anyway, I also see Bona wearing a new pair of purple Merrell hiking shoes.  She would also get to test it on the proving grounds of the Buhisan Watershed Area.  Yes, the Buhisan is a good training ground, especially at its wildest parts and along its many small streams.  It is there where shoes gets its real baptism by water.  The stream banks also make you think where to place a foot and then use another muscle group that you would not do while walking on plain terrain. 

I keep looking back to Bona since the time I started to ascend the terrible heartbreaking piece of hill as it would be her first real hike.  Although she had one last week during a charity event on the other side of the Babag Mountain Range, it was nothing compared to this.  When we got past the tower and resting above a tunnel vent, I am quietly relieved that she had hurdled the first step.  Uphills are hard but going down a trail on wet ground is different.  That would be her second test.

After we had overcome the hill, the trail goes gently downhill.  Polished limestones are, by my previous experience, do not work well on some type of rubber.  I found the 5.11 shoes doing very good here.  I even deliberately stepped on exposed coconut roots which had previously left me staggering on another pair.  I could not hide my amusement but, altogether, kept it to myself.  I hide the smile when I look back to see how the good lady is doing with her Merrell.

The terrain goes into a man-made forest of fruit trees with wild shrubs growing in between.  I reach the Portal and I wait of the others.  Ringing around me like wheel spokes are seven trails, three of these are getting wilder and wilder as the uninterrupted rains after a 2010 drought had given the vegetation some good reason to live on.  Aside that, my visits to these trails are now few and far between.  

Since we are more than ten, 14 to be exact, I will take Option B.  That is Lensa Trail and it cuts around higher ground so the chances of walking on the streams of the watershed is out of the question.  However, there is a hindrance to that.  I have to make sure that I will not overlook the marker – a young fish-tail palm.  Failing that, it would lead me to a false trail going down to Banica Creek which I am doing now.  Option A wins!

I had created a path through this thick jungle last March but it got overwhelmed by the same jungle.  As I had done the last time, I begin slashing the spiny plants that are blocking the path with the AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife.  Behind me is the creator of the knife and I could feel his satisfaction and approval.  He had loaned me this knife for testing in the real world and it is with me ever since.  The Gahum is the prototype of his succeeding creations but it is the only one of its kind.

There is no landmark to keep track of but there is an unseen stream beyond.  The arc of my slashes are short confined only to the harmful ones and, even as I am doing these, I get snagged by those that I had overlooked.  The ground is soft and steep but we hold on to trunks or branches and, sometimes, rattan vines if we have no other options.  I get some scratches on my arms and my t-shirt begins to look like a miniature battlefield.

The sound of the stream is getting nearer and nearer and my frown begins to lose its intensity.  I touched base at Banica Creek and come to gaze at a big rock which I had seen during my first visit here in 2009 and which appearance gave me an inspiration to seriously shift to bushcraft.  It is on a confluence of two small streams and still retained that primeval look, the only difference this time, is the streams are now full of water.

We walk carefully downstream.  Our eyes cast on the polished stones and mossy rocks.  We left a lot of shoe prints on the sand and on moss.  That is why I do not want to bring a lot of people on the streams for this reason but, what can I do, I missed the trail sign!  And there are many other reasons aside that like wayward bullets from hunters, sudden floods, accidents and personal necessities.  

It is gloomy walking on small streams since the banks are narrow and covered by trees and gloomier still when when you pass by a marshy area with trees reaching high at two different tiers.  Once everyone sees that wide-open catchment basin, they let sighs of relief.  Some are tired now and craving for something hot like coffee.  Not here but upstream.  At a place where two streams meet.

We set up our AJF Folding Trivets and prepared our cooking fires on a flat rock located just a little downstream of the merging of the two streams.  Just perfect.  We have brought two kilos of pork meat and we intend to grill it over coals.  The trivets would support the pots for coffee and rice.  The coffee came first and we savored the liquid. 

I take time to explore a trail that I have eyed for some time.  Vegetation is thick and the trail begins to disappear but I follow the gist of the terrain and come upon an abandoned camp used by poachers.  It is small but it is flat and could accommodate a single tent and four hammock shelters.  The faint trail move up to higher ground and I see an even better campsite.  I noted these places for it is perfect for a “Survival Day” activity.

When I returned, two pots of rice were ultimately cooked and fresh fern tops were blanched and mixed in to a spiced vinegar concoction and becomes the grilled pork’s companion in a late lunch by the riverside.  Everybody enjoyed a full-sized slice each of grilled pork and an almost bottomless serving of rice.  Finally, the food gets decimated without a whimper. 

I washed my black-bottomed pots the traditional way with rough sand and free-running water on the stream.  We clean the place but we leave the ashes.  Believe it or not, there are birds who find ashes a very favorite ingredient for their grooming.  Drops of rain begins to fall now, turning what had been a gregarious setting into a gloomy state again.

I take a trail found on a headland and the rest followed.  We weave among mahogany trees and pesky rattan palms.  The path near the waterfall is deteriorating and it is not a good path right now since the side facing the waterfall is very steep.  Everyone walk very carefully until we reach the stream bed.  I look back how Bonna fared and she managed it without difficulty.  Good God, she is a gutsy lady!

We follow Lensa Creek and I see the twin logs which marks Creek Alpha.  We walk past it and proceed upstream and reach Creek Bravo.  Sunlight peep from the clouds and it restored my confidence.  Probably, it would have the same effect on the rest.  I follow Creek Bravo and switch to a trail that ascend to Camp Damazo.  It is a moderate ascent but it is a good path.  We rest when we arrive at the old camp.

After a group pose before cameras, we resume our homeward trek.  After crossing a small creek, the route gets a bit steeper and longer.  When we got past that we cross another small creek and the path winds up to a road.  We cross the road and walk down a path going to the community of Lanipao and gets our thirst quenched with cold soda drinks.  The remaining kilometers can now be walked on a paved road and it goes to Napo where we found motorcycles to ride.

I had assessed that the 5.11 shoes I acquired are good enough on terrain I choose which posed a difficulty provided by jungle and streams.  It is kind of easy on wet limestone but some polished stones and moss-coated boulders are places which need to be stepped less.  It is ready for the big adventures ahead.  The Merrell which Bona recently bought is, according to her, are comfortable and had given her good footing on the same places where I had walked.  

Photos courtesy of Mark Lepon
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer