I STILL POSSESS A MINDSET as if I have a day job and waited for a weekend before I engage in a joust with the outdoors. I tried to think it over and over and I laugh at myself for taking change so slowly. In fact, I have left that job on the last day of 2015. I seem to be busy on weekdays doing nothing and, yes, wired to an electrical outlet. It is indeed strange for someone who found the great outdoors home!
I got guests for this coming weekend and I need to prepare a campsite deep in the hidden jungles of the Babag Mountain Range today, November 10, 2016, a Thursday. Yes, today is a weekday but I do not have the same enthusiasm I showed for a weekend. I need to pressure myself to move out of my comfort zone and, when I did, the sun was already high and warm. It is always like that.
Like now. It is already 10:20 when I arrive at the trailhead coming from Guadalupe by motorcycle. The good thing is that when I am in my environment everything changes so quickly as if I am a different person. I am instantly transported into a weekend mood. My mind shifts from conventional to native idiosyncrasies. The smell and sounds of the forest changes me.
I follow a path down to Lensa Trail. The vegetation all around me is very healthy except on a wide patch of Burmese teak forest where every tree is healthy and the rest are not. You could not even hear the buzz of a bee. People come here to gather firewood. Indeed, this wood is good for furniture. It is impervious to termites and is prized by wood carvers and demand a good price. I see a baby serpent slithering away.
The trail goes down and, after walking just a few meters, I espy a slender arm of bamboo, much thicker than the bagakay variety and those crawling ones called bokawe. I did not saw it before and it grew on a dry ravine where all indigenous species thrive. I approach it. There is running water on the small ravine and the bamboo is of the butong variety. It is healthy and seems to have not been touched yet by humans.
I am elated at this discovery for I would have another source of bamboo in this mixture of man-made forests and naturally-thriving jungle, which is really rare. I reach Creek Alpha and I follow it downstream. It has running water and it flows briskly where there are cascades. Here birds make its presence felt. A Brahminy kite (Local name: banog) called overhead thrice while a yellow sunbird (tamsi) fleeted by infront of me.
I see fresh footprints of three individuals, a few hours old, and it came from downstream. One is deep for a small person – a woman’s – and it could have carried something heavy, firewood perhaps. I always love this moment, trying to unravel a tale, a puzzle, by the mere study of trail signs like footprints and what humans leave behind. You should try this and it would be good to develop your creativity.
I left the stream and I am onto dry ground. The first trace of human activity here other than footprints meet me. They were harvesting leaves of young fishtail palms. The leaves are used as decorations of flower bouquets. They were also cutting long leaf stalks of wild ginger called galangal and used this as a mat to sit on when they were working on the fishtail palm leaves.
I go down a path to check on the state of the campground of the old Camp Damazo. I used this place the last time in January. I did not bring people here after that so it could recover. It had recovered very well and so is ripe again to host a camp. This would where I would bring my guests this Saturday. Everything is okay except that I have to forage and stash firewood and old and green bamboo poles as well. Then I would need to find a good place for the latrine.
I begin my work on the firewood first. I do not need big pieces of wood. What I would need are just dead branches that have fell where it has still dry twigs and leaves on it. I found many on Lensa Trail and drag the best ones to as near as possible to the campsite and place it above ground. It is humid here and I would know it would rain starting this day onwards.
At Camp Damazo, I walk a few meters downstream where there is a tree that had fallen across the stream. There is a path on the left leading to a cleared ground. Around it are good places to answer the call of nature. I marked the clearing with a shred of yellow plastic tied to a young tree and another shred of white plastic tied to another young tree to mark the path to there.
When I was finished with the latrine and the firewood, I proceed to Creek Bravo where I could see the state of health of my prized water bamboos. It is a warm day and I have to walk easy. I do not have had breakfast nor a slurp of warm coffee. I do have bread inside my Lifeguard USA rucksack but I reserved that for a simple lunch. I would boil water when I get to Creek Bravo.
I arrive at the next stream and I immediately study the foliage of the bamboos. This is a rare spot of the jungle where there are groves of bamboo. About seven of them. Almost all of these have not recovered well from a destructive human activity of three years ago. Only two groves are healthy and are producing poles of normal growth and width.
I would not cut one today and I would reserve that for Sunday – the second day of this weekend’s camp – and searched instead for a dry pole. Usually, I stashed leftover poles above the ground when I cut one that is too long and I found one, a leftover of the Bonifacio Day Bushcraft Camp in November 2015. It is not perfect but it would do during a firecraft session. I cut a small branch with roots on it so I would introduce bamboo in Creek Alpha.
I go down the hill with the pieces of dry bamboo and the young branch and walked upstream where there is another smaller stream that branched into Creek Bravo. On this watery junction I will boil water for coffee. I retrieve my Swiss Army emergency stove and make it ready for a fire. From nearby dry twigs and from tinder scratched from the old bamboo, a fire begins inside the chamber of the stove. Water I get from the smaller stream and start boiling.
After almost an hour of tinkering with the simple gadget, I have my coffee break and my bread. It is wonderful to just sit still and enjoy warm coffee in a very humid jungle alone. How many people would do this on a weekend, let alone a weekday? None that I know of. In silence, I have peace. Water cascading on rocks is like music to the ears. The clouds becomes dark and wisps of moisture fall down but it did not last long. Sky starts to clear and a raptor just crossed overhead while ground pigeons scamper to safety.