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

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