Sunday, November 1, 2015
I HAVE TO FIND MY INDIAN-style camp today, March 22, 2015, which I failed to locate seven days ago. I would use the same route as was the last time but, this time, I will cross Creek Charlie and walk that steep trail that I have noticed many months ago. This time also, I have to be early so I could cover more ground and not compromise my health by eating a late lunch.
After procuring the food ingredients for my meal at Guadalupe, I proceed to the trailhead at Baksan. I go down to the reclining mango tree and prepare the Chipaway Cutlery fighting bowie knife that I aim to carry openly for today. I also brought an Albay-made native blade (Local name: ginunting) with its wooden sheath as a back-up tool should I need it for hard chopping work.
A Mora Companion knife is safely slipped inside the pivot place of the right shoulder strap of my backpack while a Victorinox SAK Trailmaster is inside the bag’s front pocket. I get ready my Canon IXUS 145 camera and my Cherry Mobile U2 phone, then I sent off text messages to Jhurds and Ernie about my solo hike. The sky is partly cloudy but it is warm. I place my meshed shawl on my neck should I use it to cover my head if I am exposed to the sun. Once again, I pick up a short stick which I could use as a tool or a weapon.
It is 08:00 when I begin my walk. I found the new route that I had chosen and explored last week very favorable compared to the old route of interconnecting ridges. My water bottle is full compared to the last time and it gave me confidence. It is getting warm as clouds begins to disperse. The teak forest does not help me a bit as it is now almost bald of leaves. The path led to a dry stream called Creek Alpha.
I stop where another dry stream join and see drops of liquid on a stone. It is sticky. It comes from a high part of a live tree. I put a finger on my tongue and it is sweet. Another overflowing honeycomb but there is no hive. This is a different colony of stingless bee (kiyot). I found one last week near Camp Damazo and I am quite surprised that nobody had harvested these.
I see a path beside the dry stream and I might as well explore this since I have the luxury of time. This path goes on a small saddle to another foothill. My right foot snagged on a root and I dive forward landing on the right side of my body. Fortunately for me, the trail is full of dry mahogany leaves and it cushioned my fall. I stood up and continue. I notice my right small finger acting queerly.
I cross a dry gully and walk among tall mahogany trees whose foliage are now enveloped by leaves of crawling bamboos (bokawe). I find this place remote with a small clearing to set up a tepee but I see a debris shelter used by a hunter and, coupled by lack of a water source, I decide that this is not the place I am looking for. This is the first of the many places I am exploring and I have a full day to find that perfect place.
I go back to Creek Alpha and walk downstream. I pass by the slow seeps occurring on the dry stream and studied it for some time and quite convinced that the source is not near here. It could be from the other side of the mountain. I walk on and visit my old campsite which I yielded to the holding of the first Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp in 2011. People had spent a night here recently. They had a dry camp. Were they had dug a hole, they could have water.
They had used big chunks of wood for their campfire. I never taught people Western-style camping. I always taught the conscientious use of forest resources, including firewood. I do not like bonfires because it is unnecessary. I see the flattened vegetation caused by tents – which is okay - and I see a tree trunk chopped so a rope of a hammock would not slide down – not a good idea.
I leave the camp and Creek Alpha for the next destination – Camp Damazo. The dead teak leaves which had carpeted the trail last week had disintegrated, caused by several pairs of hiking shoes passing by here. I am walking comfortably now without those “popcorn” sounds. After the teak comes dry mahogany leaves. The leaves had either frayed or crumbled and I do not feel like “floating” today.
I arrive at another dry streambed called Creek Bravo. It would be good to explore the part of the creek up ahead. I notice small spurts of running water and pools of clear ones when I walked a considerable distance. I had also observed a smaller branch of a creek contain much water than the bigger one. Nevertheless, I explored the farthest reach of Creek Bravo until I could get no further. Besides that, I have no appetite to use a stream, even how dry, as a route.
Creek Bravo would have been an ideal location for a campsite since it could provide me adequate water but its banks are just too steep. I go back to where I came from and start exploring the small stream that joined Creek Bravo. Somebody had cooked something here and that somebody had dug two water holes. Aside that, this somebody had placed a zingiber leaf underneath a rock and water flowed on it like a trough. It is just less than a day old.
I walk on upstream over several clear pools of water and I discover (and assume) that this small unnamed stream is the source of those slow seeps occurring at Creek Alpha! The streambed is easy to walk although it steep gently and I begin to like it here. I could go on walking up to its source which I believe could just be up ahead. I look for level areas along its banks but all are steep.
I see something unnatural. In the middle of a dry part of the creek is a clump of feathers. That somebody had caught a live wild fowl and dressed it here. There is no sign of blood, so the fowl must had been caught with a snare or it could be brought here. What caught me by surprise is the fowl was very fat judging by the texture of its feathers. I collect nine feathers and carefully stow it.
I go back to the bigger stream and decide to prepare my lunch. It is now 10:20 and, besides that, I had not taken anything solid since the time I woke up. I will make my fire over the ones that I have found somebody cooking. I collect dry firewood. I have no problem with dry wood since it is totally very warm for the past four weeks. I choose twigs and small branches and break it into short pieces.
I brought with me my AJF Folding Trivet, place a pot above it and I start to boil water. I need to enjoy coffee first before I start my cooking. Milled corn came next and then I start to slice pork meat, onions, garlic and green pepper with my Morakniv over my extra-thin PVC chopping board. When the milled corn got cooked, I place the second pot with oil over the fire.
I scatter crushed garlic first until it begins to go brown then I drop sliced onions. Next comes the chopped green pepper. Finally, the meat. I stir it all briskly, reduce the flame, and return the lid. After about five minutes, I stir it again before I pour soy sauce. Feed the fire with more wood and start to relax. After another 10 minutes, I take a peek at my pork. It looks perfectly cooked and it smells spicy. Now, I am hungry.
At exactly 12:00, I eat lunch. In silence, I enjoyed the meal. It is very spicy without any artificial flavourings. It is cooked with the right frame of my mind. I eat all the pork adobao but I am not able to eat the rest of the milled corn. I leave the rest instead on top of a big stone which is exposed to the sun. The oil from the adobao, I pour over the milled corn. It would make a nice meal to this forest’s wildlife.
I start packing my things and continue on at 13:00, going up to Camp Damazo. The honey I discovered last week is still oozing in slow motion from its perch to the ground and nobody had disturbed it as well as the Asiatic bitter yam (kobong) that I dug also last week. Eventually, I reach Camp Damazo but I walk past it towards Creek Charlie. Plants always attract me and I take it seriously by taking pictures of that which I need to learn or to teach people.
I have always seen this strangely-shaped tree which looked like either a giraffe or a brontosaurus but have not dared to come close and shoot it. Was it fear of the unknown or is it just that I would not want people know of its existence? Both. I may be a modern savage but I believe in the spirit world that I always give it a sense of respect. Today, I felt something that this whole forest had accepted me so I go near the tree and take pictures.
Having done that, I go down the stream and study the banks for any human or animal activity. I found none so I watch the water cascade down slowly on rocks coming from upstream. I see a long pole of bamboo arching down to the other bank which I have not noticed in my previous visits. A smile crossed my face in the discovery of another rare bamboo grove. The forest is slowly revealing its secrets to me and I take it as a sign that the search for my camp would not take long.
Across me is a trail which I had noticed for sometime but lacked the time to explore it. I am not in a hurry. Perhaps, it would be wise if I lay down first on a rock big enough to fit me and close my eyes to rest for a while. The stream is very humid, the early afternoon sun drains me of my strength. I would summon my energy back first and, when I am ready, I would continue my search for that elusive camp which I plan to make as a sweat lodge. Just a little while.
By 14:00, I am up and begin engaging the path that lead up to a steep mountain. This is a seldom-used trail and I use my tracking skills to follow the scant path which goes up a ground which has a steep gully that is 20 feet deep. The path crosses to a part where it is not deep enough and continue on precipitously to the other side. It is a dangerous choice of a trail but I soon sense that there is no better way to cross over the other side except through here although walking here sends you shivers.
I climb up and the trail vanishes before a conglomeration of naturally-felled trees and debris caused by recent typhoons. I veer left over easier slopes and face another sheer slope. I catch a glimpse of level ground, which is quite rare in a place where I am now. I scan the place all around. Trees are everywhere but not on the place where I stood at a radius of five meters! A rare pocket of open ground in a forest and the only piece of level ground on a rugged mountain slope.
The forest had been kind in giving me this place as a gift for my future sweat lodge. Somehow, I cannot explain how it had known my heart, my mind and my purpose. The place is a place of power. It faces east where the sun rises. Across me is a distant mountain and, behind it, is a small mountain range. With so much dead wood near here, I could make either a teepee or a hogan. I am quite happy at this discovery.
I make more explorations and I discovered two more bamboo groves, one of which had not shown signs of human activity. There are a lot of bamboo poles that I could use in the construction of a shelter. There are also a lot of wild edible plants that I could cook but I could introduce vegetables and fruiting trees here in the future. The place is awesome but very remote and quite hidden.
After I had finished my business here, I returned to the path I took. Before leaving, I left a mark on a tree and a trailsign on another tree. It is necessary since what looks familiar today would look strange in a different season. I go down Creek Charlie then up towards Camp Damazo but veer left instead to the exit route. I reach the road but cross over to a trail that leads to Lanipao.
I will be back for sure. I believe it would be after the Philippine Independence Bushcraft Camp or later.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3 Writer