Sunday, August 21, 2016

MAN-SIZED HIKE XVIII: Lutopan to Guadalupe

THE FIRST HALF OF Segment I that I have begun for the Cebu Highlands Trail Project, which is from Lutopan, Toledo City to Guadalupe, Cebu City, would be totally unusable when the projected Mananga Dam would be constructed and operational in the near future. A big chunk of that route would be inundated under a man-made lake since it cross many times the Bonbon River and downstream to the Mananga River and I am planning to revise this route.

So today, January 3, 2016, would be a good time to make this plan a reality. Also, today would be the most perfect day to start my training in preparation for a lot of activities for Year 2016, especially for the last three segments of the Cebu Highlands Trail Project, which I aim to finish this year. I know that many people are following my progress for this particular exploration and it would make them happy if I am in the best of health so I could accomplish more.

My body system has gotten used to treating myself to a hike in the woods every Sunday and I missed three sessions last December due, in part, to a vacation to some place in Mindanao. I also have gotten fat, unable to resist the extravagantly-rich food that the Christmas season usually brought on the tables of many homes and corporate offices. I have gained weight and my body squirmed at the uncomforts it gave of even simple tasks that I usually found easy to accomplish with a leaner body.

When you are fatter than usual, you tend to get lazy. That was what happened when I shook off my pre-set alarm of 04:15 to snooze mode in favor of longer time on the bed which led me to wake up instead at 06:00, quite late already and I will have to suffer for that later. Besides, the wife does not like it at all for all the noise it created every five minutes!

I purposely deny myself of company for this day and I will be in solo flight. I am happy with a crowd and I am most happy if I am alone. You know me, I am unconventional. I am a realist and I do not subscribe of your idea of enjoying the outdoors. There is so much I could accomplish if I am by myself. If I get struck by lightning or by any other means in my wanderings on the mountains, then, so be it, I die a perfect death the outdoorsman's way. Fatalistic, is it not? Maybe. But, remember this, you could even die drowning in a bowl of steaming soup in the comforts of your home.

Anyway, I made it to Lutopan at 08:00 and I am now in the process of looking for a bakeshop to buy bread. I will be on survival hike. My fare would be bread and water. I am bringing my small Lifeguard USA rucksack with the survival kit and a Trangia alcohol burner set - coffee is lovely when outdoors. I have my blades also like the Victorinox SAK Trailmaster, a vintage deer-antler handled Fame knife and the Puffin Magnum spinoff in its handsome leather sheath which I will open carry later.

I start the hike at 08:15 passing by Cantabaco, Camp 8 and Camp 7 (Minglanilla) before taking rest at a store on the corner of Manipis Road and Sinsin-Cantipla Road. It is exactly 10:15, and I just hiked for two hours from Lutopan to here. I may take the opportunity of eating a light brunch instead as the weather is already warm. When I am done, I buy two sachets of brown Kopiko. At 10:30, I start off again. I will be at a cross road going to a place somewhere in Buot-Taup in 45 minutes.

I am testing a TNF trail-running shoes provided for by my sponsor based in the United States, Harold Butanas, as his contribution for the Cebu Highlands Trail Project. It is very light and fits like a glove. Insides are soft but tight for my toes. I would manage the uncomforts, if ever there would be, later on. Breaking this pair for the very first time in a long hike, much of it on unknown territory to me, is essential.

When I reach Odlom, I jog very slowly and very carefully, not to be tempted by gravity. I know that overexertion would take a toll on my physical condition and my stamina later on which I would need very badly since I am an in an exploration. It means that the chances of taking wrong routes and backtracking would be many. I am overweight and I do not want to bring stress to my lower body joints like the ankles, knees and the pelvic area.

The rugged road is now concrete and it goes downhill winding about along solitary houses, which are few and far between. It helped to my cause that the skies darkened and wisps of moisture fell. I reach the crossroad to a gamefowl farm at 11:30 and eat my first bread. It is a nice feeling to just sit again and enjoy the silence and be cooled by a passing breeze.

After rehydrating, I proceed to the bank of the Bonbon River, passing by the said farm. I am facing the southernmost edge of the Babag Mountain Range and I aim to find a route over the back of its ridge. It looks formidable because it is noontime and I am washed in the full warmth of the sun. I cross the wide stream on barefoot to look for that tempting route and go to a community to ask for directions.

I go back crossing again the same stream and return the TNF pair onto my bare feet. I walk a little and then I feel exhaustion at the extreme warmth of walking along the bare river bank that bounced sunlight. I found a shady spot where there are grass and take rest. I am thirsty. I take my sips carefully, not to be tempted by thirst. I decide to eat two pieces of bread and wash it with water to bloat it inside. By 12:30, I go to the direction of the village of Buot-Taup.

In the village is a hanging bridge, recently constructed, which would cross over the Bonbon River to the other side of the riverbank. There is a dirt road that is ascending. This place is called Samboryo. Why is it called that I may have to know later on? A few locals I asked, shudder at the thought of walking it. There are a few houses along this route and there is a Suzuki Scrum going carefully down the road.

The driver notices my open carried Puffin Magnum and asks me what I am doing here but the difficult road takes back his attention instead. If he was persistent, I would have asked him of the 25 sacks of charcoal on the back of his light pickup. I am on a lawful activity but the driver was not. I presume he is one of those village aldermen trying to exercise their authority over a lone wanderer. Such kind of men discourages local tourism. Ignorance and arrogance are the dumbest mix, don't you think?

The rugged road vanishes when I reach a small community. I refill my water bottle after asking directions. I take a trail that goes up and up. A group of five youths overtake me. They are going to Cabatbatan which I also am going. The old route of Segment I-A passes by Cabatbatan, right after crossing the rivers Bonbon and Mananga twenty-one times. In a post-Mananga Dam scenario that would be impossible. I follow them for as long as I am able and take rest at 13:40 when I could no longer bear it. One piece of bread again washed with water.

So I am onto the best option available when I discovered this route which I would officially name as the Samboryo Trail. I do not have to cross streams from now on except at the Bonbon River by bridge and the Bocawe Creek and Sapangdaku Creek, later on, also by bridge. That means, exposure to sudden flash floods would be removed. And no more wet shoes, socks and feet.

The trail has many branches and I have to be sure which. I used my tracking skills to follow the wake of the five youths. It is difficult as the surfaces are dry and hard packed. Almost always, a fresh dent would emerge from spots where it is partly wet. Besides, upturned pebbles gave me hints and some disturbed vegetation above the ankles kept me updated of their diminishing presence.

I come upon a spot near a farm where the trail vanish and I was already exhausted by the heat, by my weight and by the steep trail, now almost to the brink of becoming drowsy, which is not a good sign. It is 14:00. I may need coffee to pep me up so I could continue on my lone quest. Fighting against fatigue, I am able to set up my Trangia alcohol burner and make it work. The blue flame boils water in my stainless-steel cup quickly and I slurp my coffee like it is the last precious thing in this world.

Getting my act together after a 20-minute rest, I look for the rest of the trail and found that it traverses the middle of the farm. Going past it, takes some amount of strength considering I am utterly exhausted. The coffee and the brief rest gave only a fleeting optimism, my legendary strength seems to have caused little dent whatsoever on the mind partly playing it safe against my wishes.

Closing my eyes as I try to stabilize my breathing, I willed myself to carry myself to that high peak that has been imposing its existence on me as well as on locals. Now I know why they called this place Samboryo? The peak, of course. Mount Samboryo. I follow a path and then I come upon two forks. Which one? I remembered the local whom I conversed earlier along the route who said that once I reach the topmost it would all be easy to Cabatbatan. I choose the leftmost.

I am happy with my progress without anybody from behind me giving pressure or a paper that says where should I be on the dot. Just when I am about to reach the peak, I meet a local who was carrying a rolled rusty roofsheet. I was sitting at that time with my back towards him and who could not be happy at this opportunity? Immediately, I asked him if this was the path to Cabatbatan? No, he says, it is on the other branch. The trail I am on leads to Bocawe.

I am tempted on the prospect of going directly to Bocawe instead of passing by Cabatbatan first but my urge gets blunted when I learned from him that there is no store nor houses along the route. Well, why not take this path on another time where conditions are far more favorable to my liking? Why not indeed? So I follow the advice of the local and walk behind him back to where I was in the middle of regaining my composure.

Thanking the local, I proceed onto the right fork of the trail. There are no more ascents and I could see the Manipis Road on my right just across the chasm. Almost immediately, I could hear voice on a sound system announcing the progress of a basketball game. I look down on my left and I see a deep valley where there is a community. That must be Cabatbatan, I am sure. I slowly follow the steep path down, taking my time as I did when I climbed up to here.

I reach Cabatbatan (and the ongoing basketball game) at 15:30 but I need to pass time to a store that sells cold refreshments to me and my party for so many times in the past. The location of the store had been crucial to the old route since it afforded us something like you would like on a quest at the end of a rainbow. Its location on the new route is still very relevant if I were to choose since it can guarantee us cold refreshments all the time and the old lady there even offers her dirty kitchen and firewood for use during cooking.

I sit down again and, this time, it would be longer because I am buying a big cold bottle of San Miguel Beer. When I got tipsy, I simply munch one bread and it is gone. Had a long chat with the store owner and she happily welcomed recently one group of hikers on their way to Camp 4, Talisay City a few times. No wonder I get so many readers on this blog. They liked to share in the joys of the places that I wrote about. It is like a quest for them too.

I continue on at 16:20 after paying for my beer and saying goodbye to the old lady. I would be walking again on paved concrete. I cross the Bocawe Creek by bridge. This would be the last half of the journey. The endless rises of the road would sap your hopes should you wish to hurry. It is better to take your time since it is now almost dusk and cooler. I reach Bocawe at 17:15 and stop at a store for cold refreshment.

I have to tackle one last stretch of endless rises and, after that, rolling terrain towards Pamutan Junction which I reach at 18:15. By the way, I also carried my Cignus V85 radio and I shoot message over the frequency of Ham Radio Cebu but I got no reply. Checked my Cherry U2 phone but no message either. It would all be downhill from here and I choose to hike on the road without a light. The only time I use a light is when I signal a few motorcycles using the same road.

My plan was to go direct to Guadalupe by trail from Baksan but I am miserable tonight. My toes are in pain. Blisters are starting to develop the insides between toes. My knees ached while my right thigh starts to feel the tell-tale sign of a fledgling cramp. All these pain are but a part of a realm of nerves that the mind is gracious to accept and process. All you need to do is flip a switch and it becomes bearable. So I remained on the road.

Finally, at 19:30, I reach the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. Limping to find privacy in the crowded parking lot, I find one at the new but still unopened convent. I sat and do nothing but close my eyes and whisper a prayer of thanks. I could not believe I am here. I count the time I started since morning up to here and it totalled 11 hours and 15 minutes and this was an exploration where I waste time taking wrong routes and retracing paths to start again. Opened my phone and I got a message this time.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.4 Writer

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