Friday, October 21, 2016

MAN-SIZED HIKE XX: Cambubho to Caurasan

THE SMOKY HAZE OF INDONESIA’S forest fires in October 2015 had denied my Exploration Team the completion of Segment IV of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT which is from Mount Manunggal, Balamban to Caurasan, Carmen. The haze had proved to be a tough obstacle in our quest and it had sapped away our strength, our stamina and our determination to achieve our goal, due to extreme heat, but we had already walked as far as Cambubho, in Danao City and used up our remaining strength instead to find refuge in Danasan.

That time, I promised to walk the remaining stretch of Segment IV on another day. By that feat alone, my Team had already accomplished 59 percent or a total of 212+ kilometers of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT and I scheduled this unfinished stretch of Segment IV for 2016. We will now be passing the dreaded mountain ranges of Cebu's Midnorth Area and this would be one of the hardest stretch of the eight segments allotted to the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT.

The CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT is a personal undertaking that have had its beginnings from my passion of hiking and camping among mountains. I realized that the island of Cebu can be walked along its most rugged spine from north to south or reverse. It only takes a steely determination and navigational savvy to achieve this to offset what I lacked in funds and sponsors. Later on, people began to appreciate how this project will benefit Cebu and its people. Patterned after the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail of the USA, it will be an attraction soon for foreign and local tourists when completed.

The Exploration Team that I organized is not at its peak for this remaining stretch of Segment IV and I have only Jonathaniel Apurado to accompany me. We will be on a wide stretch of country where, many years ago – and still is – considered too dangerous for mainstream outdoor activities. We do not have the benefit of a guide nor of a local who may well act as liaison. This would be exploration at its best, travelling by traditional means, aided only by a compass and by printed versions of small maps from a website.

I am pressuring myself to end the exploration phase of this ambitious project in 2016 and make the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL available to the public by 2017. I have done this almost singlehandedly and I am determined to finish this to the end even if I am left with rags to wear. What you do not know is that I will leave a legacy of dots in a box – a template – so others who will follow after me would refine the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL as a first-class long trail that would attract international backpackers and encourage local ones to enjoy their own mountains.

Today, January 29, 2016, is the day where Segment IV will be completed. I and Jonathan had prepared well our stamina, including the basic items that the Team need. This Team, to include reserves Justin Apurado and Jovahn Ybañez, is better prepared and organized than the previous ones I had led so there would be no more waste of time. The sacrifices and preparations during our training had worked so well during Segment III and Segment V where the Team had shaved a day each from its original schedules.

I will lead again my Team into places where many mainstream outdoors people have not been into before. There is more to Cebu and adventure can be most enjoyed here horizontally instead of vertical ascents. This is a three-day hike that will start from Cambubho, Danao City and, hopefully, would end, at last, at Caurasan, Carmen. I will follow a hypothetical route that will surely pass into places between Danao City and Carmen and, probably, might stray into Asturias or Tuburan.

Failing to set up my alarm for 04:30, I was roused from my sleep by Jonathaniel who called me up at 05:00. By 06:30 I am at the highway fronting the North Atrium, in Mandaue City. Jonathaniel and I board a public utility jitney for Danao City where we arrive at 07:20 to take breakfast near the terminal. From there, we hire two motorcycles to take us up to the village of Cambubho, the same place where we terminated Segment IV on October 24, 2015.

As in every organized explorations, there is the Base Support Team. It will monitor our progress and will give weather updates to us and then informs the outdoors community in Facebook. We will miss the services of Chad Bacolod, a fine communicator from Ham Radio Cebu, who is temporarily based in Iloilo City. Another crew, Jhurds Neo, of the Camp Red and Bushcraft and Survival Guild, will be alternate on communications and would be mobilized when in emergencies.

We are proudly wearing the team uniform jerseys provided for by Silangan with the name of the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT emblazoned on the front. Silangan Outdoor Equipment is my official outfitter since I endorse their products through my Warrior Pilgrimage Blog and in fora where the outdoors community interact. I am wearing their Greyman Hiking Pants and are bringing also their blue-colored side pouch and their second generation hammock. Likewise, I will be using a new pair of Hi-Tec Lima hike shoes that the Lavilles Family of Australia had provided me.

Aside that, the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT is officially sanctioned by the Cebu Provincial Government as a legitimate outdoor activity that would help them identify places where adventure tourism would be developed on the once-remote mountain areas of the island. This, after my meeting with the Honorable Grecilda Sanchez, board member representing the Third District, and Ms. Mary Grace Paulino, the provincial tourism officer.

The following are the narrative of events in chronological order that tell the whole picture of SEGMENT IV-B, CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT:

DAY 1 – January 29, 2016

  • Leave North Atrium, Mandaue City at 06:30 by jitney bound for Danao City.
  • Arrive at the Danao City Terminal at 07:20.
  • Leave Danao City proper for the village of Cambubho at 07:40 after breakfast.
  • Arrive at Cambubho National High School at 08:35.
  • Start of first day hike. Leave school premises at 08:45 for the village of Bayabas, Danao City by paved road. Pace: Moderate to fast. Weather: Sunny but cool.
  • Retrace route back to Cambubho and proceed on to the village of Lawaan, Danao City. Change of original plan.
  • Arrive at a road corner which led to the villages of Santican and Pili, both of Danao City, at 09:50.
  • Arrive at a crossroad of one going to Santican and another for Pili at 10:00. Choose the one going to Pili instead. Pace: Slow to moderate. Weather: Sunny and warm.
  • Stop at 11:45 for noon break at the village of Pili. Boiled water for coffee and seaweed soup.
  • Resume hike at 13:00 and retrace route back to the trailhead going to Mount Mago. Pace: Slow. Weather: Sunny and warm.
  • Arrive at the concrete marker of Mt. Mago at 15:00 and stop to rest and rehydrate.
  • Resume walk at 15:10 for the village of Bangkito, Tuburan. Pace: Moderate to fast. Weather: Sunny and warm.
  • Arrive at the village center of Bangkito at 16:30. Make courtesy call to village officials and ask permission to spend night at their multi-purpose building.
  • Dinner at 19:10. Food were rice, seaweed soup and grilled mixture of sliced chorizo Bilbao, potatoes, carrots, vegetable pears and onions. Weather: Cool. Taps at 20:30.

DAY 2 – January 30, 2016

  • Wake-up at 06:00. Coffee then breakfast. Food are rice and mung bean soup. Breakfast at 07:00.
  • Start of second day hike. Leave Bangkito at 08:45 for the market of Taguini. Pace: Slow. Weather: Sunny and warm.
  • Stop by community of Anahawan at 10:00 to rest and rehydrate.
  • Resume hike at 10:15. Pace: Slow. Weather: Sunny and very warm.
  • Cross boundary into the village of Caurasan. Arrive at the community of Taguini at 11:50 to rest and rehydrate. Stop for noon break at the market square.
  • Resume hike at 13:00 for the village of Caurasan. Pace: Slow to moderate. Weather: Sunny and very warm.
  • Arrive at the village of Caurasan at 14:10 and do a courtesy call to a village official.
  • Leave Caurasan for Carmen at 14:30 by motorcycles.
  • Arrive Carmen at 15:15.
  • Leave Carmen for Cebu City at 15:45 by public utility jitney.
  • Arrive Cebu City at 16:30.

The Team officially have logged 17.52 kilometers of walking from Point A to Point B, basing upon the auto computation of Wikiloc, a web-based application which can either be manipulated by uploading GPS waypoints or by manual tracing of the route by a mouse but, I believed, we had logged more than that. We have, for a few times, been forced to backtrack when we believed that we were going the wrong way. We have scaled Mount Mago and unintentionally strayed into Bangkito, Tuburan on the first day and reached Caurasan on the second.

We each carried an average of 14+ kilos although we are observing light backpacking. Food and our sleeping equipment had used up much of our cargo space. The places where we pass by are still abundant of water but, despite that, there is a need to carry at least two liters of water. Along the route are many clear mountain streams which the locals still use for domestic purposes. Even if we were hampered by difficult terrain, we were able to shave off a day from its original three days.

We carried our knives openly as against the common notion that most outdoors club do on their members not to carry one. I have a custom-made AJF Gahum heavy-duty knife hanging by my side while Jonathan carried a smaller Seseblade Nessmuk knife. Aside from that, I have also the William Rodgers bushcraft knife, a Buck Classic 112 folder and a Victorinox SAK Trailmaster with me inside my bag. These may be extra weight but these are very essential. I also carried my fire kit, my survival kit and a Cignus V85 VHF radio.

On the other hand, folks see our presence on all of the places we passed as very unusual. They have not encountered or have seen hikers, outdoorsmen and urbanites with backpacks before and they viewed us with constant suspicion until you break the ice by giving them a genuine smile and a greeting. Ultimately a conversation begins, explaining your purpose, and would make them see a bit but they cannot comprehend of why we walk when riding motorcycles are more convenient.

The completion of Segment IV is but one step closer to my objective. The next routes would be very hard as the other already-finished segments nor would it ensure favorable conditions. Definitely, the next segments will not be a walk in the park and would demand more navigation savvy from the Exploration Team, which that responsibility rests squarely on me, as had been tested by this Segment IV-B. The CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT from hereon goes on a high swing of difficulty but the Team accepts that challenge by adapting to what it demands.

I have learned so much from the different segment hikes with different teams. This present Team is so flexible and very much prepared for the physical challenges at hand that it had given me great assurance that we can deliver the CEBU HIGHLANDS TRAIL PROJECT true to its schedule. Me and my Team had explored, walked and achieved 62.5 percent of the Project or a total of 229.41 kilometers and I am quite elated about this. The next 37.5 percent would be very demanding also but I and the rest of the Team are undaunted.

Document done in LibreOffice 4.4 Writer

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