Sunday, December 11, 2016

NAPO TO BABAG TALES CXIV: Country Good for Old Men

IT IS MILDLY WARM TODAY AND I HAVE so much time in my hands. Today is Friday, September 2, 2016, and I have a guest from Switzerland. We knew each other before when he dropped by last December 2015 to place a donation for a fund-raising gig of Christmas United IV held at The HeadquarterZ. He stayed for a few hours to know the wonderful guys running this outreach event and of the crazy people of this Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild.

The Swiss is also my benefactor and friend. He is married to a Cebuana and he lives here in Cebu City. He lets me know of his plans and, one time, he invited me and my wife for an overnight trip in Dumaguete City to have a look over of the property he had bought. Not only that, he gifted me a beautiful Victorinox Ranger Swiss Army Knife when he came back last July. Believe me, big SAKs do not just drop from the skies in this country and I am quite indebted to him.

He wanted to the see the backcountry of Metro Cebu and he wanted to test his own Ranger and a small Gerber fixed-blade knife. He wanted also to improve his stamina after recovering from a minor operation and he wanted to have a dirt-time of his own. We arrived at the same time at the parking lot of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish at 07:00 and proceed immediately to the back of the church where all journeys to the Babag Mountain Range began, begun and begin.

I am carrying light. A tan Lifeguard USA rucksack is all I need to bring to what few things I have like a spare t-shirt, a few bread, my Ranger, another Victorinox Trailmaster Swiss Army Knife, a William Rodgers bushcraft knife, a Mora Companion knife, a Cignus V85 radio, a Magellan GPS, a laminated nylon sheet, a Tingguian Tribe Sierra hammock and a full Nalgene bottle. My Swiss friend carried a sling bag with two liters of water, his own Ranger, the Gerber, his sandwich and more bread.

I am testing, for the first time, an old Magellan Blazer12 GPS unit. It had been donated to me by an outdoor friend along with a thick manual, sometime in late 2014, when I pleaded for sponsorship of any kind and form to equip an Exploration Team that I was planning to organize for the Cebu Highlands Trail Project which, at that time, was woefully lingering at Segment II. It had never been used and never would be in the exploration phase.

I tinkered with it last night, reading the manual, cleaning well the terminals, and made it work with new AA batteries. A date appeared on its screen: April 4, 1998. Wow! It had been that long since its last use. I cannot download nor upload its data. It is a second-generation GPS system. Even so, I set the Navigation mode for today’s test. I might use this when the Cebu Highlands Trail Project is done.

We arrive at Napo and follow the trail meandering above the now-brisk Sapangdaku Creek. I walk easy and slow and, as usual, do my own usual stuff talking about plants, recent occurrences and what to expect beyond. I am conditioning his mind so he could devise his own strategies to adapt to the situation at hand, the ones we called as the “economy of movement”, which the Swiss are good at.

We stop often under the shades when the sun is overbearing and walk the walk – the old men’s way – when we continue. We meet locals along the way and children going to school late, or early, depending on which subject. I am taking my friend to Camp Xi, which part I do not know yet. There are four campsites there, each different and isolated from each other by a stream or by a ridge.

I noticed something wrong. Weeds are hanging from a power cable line. Workers are re-attaching a cable today that had been deliberately cut by thieves early last year in the hope of stealing it. The cable lay in the ground for many months and are overgrown with weeds. When they brought it up, so were the weeds. That is the quality of work when no engineer is supervising and my Filipino brothers are good at it. Not our finest moment especially when the very efficient Swiss are around.

We arrive at Camp Xi at 09:45. My friend loved the place. It is an ideal campsite. Not here, my friend. Too open. We cross the stream and found a path going up on another campsite. It is hidden but the ground was used for farming. I checked an old lanzones tree if it is bearing fruit. It was but it is still green. We go down the stream and walk a few meters upstream then climb another path. Perfect.

The third campsite is good for activities not requiring observers. It is farther from the trail and covered by trees and bamboos growing beside the stream. I once conducted a wilderness survival training here for Army reservists last May. There are large mango trees that would gave shade and we found a spot to test the knives. I drag a dry bamboo pole that was left hanging on thorns after it was cut by a local many days ago.

I splay my laminated nylon sheet on the ground to place things and to sit on. I check the data of the GPS. Power went off. I tried to switch it on but it went blank after a few seconds. Batteries merrily drained away by the greedy unit. I was using the red-colored Eveready batteries and maybe it needs alkaline ones. I guess it has to sit long enough to gather dust before I could afford a set of rechargeable alkaline batteries.

My friend happily used his Ranger and his Gerber alternately on the bamboo pole. The tiny folding saw of the Ranger, which is by far longer than a Trailmaster, make cutting work fast. I tried mine and timed it on the endmost part of the pole where it is around 2-7/8 inches in diameter and about 5/16th of an inch thick. I was able to cut it three seconds less than the one I did with my Trailmaster. Without a doubt, SAK saw design and efficiency are the best when you talk of multi-tool set saws.

I leave him alone while he is toying with the Gerber. I set up the hammock on a nearby tree. After that, I go back to check on his current progress. It seems the Gerber is small enough to do a man’s work yet I believe it could handle well a kitchen job. The humidity is almost unbearable. I do not know my Swiss friend of how he is feeling now. I eat the first of my bread and paired it with water.

Turned the power knob of my Cignus V85 portable radio to monitor stations in the frequency of Ham Radio Cebu. I get lots of splats instead from another frequency used by a taxi company which enters accidentally all the time when you are communicating with another. I waited for it to die down before I press the PTT to check on stations. I do not get a reply. I just let the radio on, hopefully, a message might find my way.

It is now 11:30. I ask my friend how he is doing. He says he is fine. He was waiting for me of what my next plan is. It is too early to call it a day. I ask him again if he is okay for another short hike. A bit steep than before. No problem he says. So be it. I pack all my things back to my rucksack and keep the place tidy as if we were not here. We go down and cross the stream and climb up the main trail.

We arrive at Lower Kahugan Spring and I have to stop to refill my bottle. It is shady but it is empty of people. We resume our walk. I am planning of taking him to the Busay Lut-od Waterfalls. We meet people and children going to school along the trail, this time the children are early for their afternoon class. We rest when we could find shade and we do that many times because the trail is steep. It is necessary.

After about an hour or more of walking, I show him the first of the waterfalls in its grand splendor under a noon sun. I pause for a while to catch a glimpse of two big catfish I saw last March turning up its head at this same hour. They are probably washed downstream during heavy rains. “Can I swim?”, he asks. No problem. Taking off his bag, his shoes and his socks, he immerse himself in the cool water with his clothes on. He needs it badly. The heat stinks.

My friend seems to have recovered by the cool-down in the pool and he is smiling. We go up the path to the trail and go back to the Lower Kahugan Spring to rest for a short time. It is still 12:45 but we meet people and children coming from school. Big smiles for the little ones when my friend parted his untouched bread. In a matter of a half hour, we are now at Napo. A few seconds later, we were on motorcycles back to Guadalupe.

What better way to cool much further for the rest of the day are mugs of the coldest beer at my favorite watering hole. Ciao!

Document done LibreOffice 5.2 Writer


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