Monday, May 1, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Day 1 (Liloan Point to Monteverde)

I WALK FROM MY HOME in downtown Cebu City to the Cebu South Bus Terminal at 03:00 of January 17, 2017.  Today is the start of the test Thruhike of the Cebu Highlands Trail or the CHT.  I do not know what would come out of the Thruhike starting from this lonely hike in the wee hours of an unfolding day.  My backpack is heavy but I am used with heavier loads before and I do not know how I would fare in a Thruhike since this is a different thing than just climbing a peak.  This is an exercise of epic proportions.

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Yesterday morning, the Cebu Provincial Government, thru Mr. Boboi Costas and the Cebu Provincial Tourism Office, hosted a press conference and send-off for me and Jonathaniel Apurado at the Museo Sugbu.  Going there to witness this were JR Servano of Silangan Outdoor Equipment, Randy Salazar of Philippine Adventure Consultants, Gian Carlo Jubela and Sheila Mei Abellana of Adrenaline Romance, Jhurds and Zette Neo with son Jacob, and Justin Apurado of the Camp Red Bushcraft and Survival Guild.

That was a cheerful moment even if it was raining hard compared to the grim outlook that my mind is harboring right now on the empty streets.  I arrived at the terminal after 45 minutes and I waited for Jon, munching on bread paired with instant coffee.  Jon came in time at 04:00 and we boarded a Ceres Bus bound for Liloan, Santander.  I forced myself to sleep while in the bus but I could not.  My restive mind refused to be subdued and so I lost some precious hours of sleep which I surrendered after waking up more than two hours ago.

It is 07:25 when we dropped off the bus.  I am on stable ground looking across a beach and faraway Negros Oriental.  Above the far shoreline, the Cuernos de Negros Range is still shrouded in mist.  This is it.  Liloan Point.  Kilometer Zero.  Strewn on the beach are pebbles, debris and dead seashells.  I picked a piece of a small clam and placed it inside what space left in my bag.  Jon did likewise with the other half of another clam.  The rituals of the first moments of a long journey took us many minutes to observe.  Haste I want but haste could wait.  I would have that later to make amends to my itinerary.  Meanwhile, I sent a text message to the Santander Police Station, informing them of our presence and our hiking activity.

I focused my concentration on the paved road and the hike machine begun the first of its thousand steps.  From sea level to a grade of just three meters, I felt the effort of my muscles carry the weight of me and bag as the walking took us to a corner of the national highway.  A small eatery beckoned me and Jon for a meal and we took a light breakfast of fish soup and rice.  The meal was sufficient but we supplemented it with tablets of Enervon multivitamins and a natural Guarana extract from Herbalife.  I do not know how these would affect on our performance but that remains to be seen. 

I filled my two empty bottles half full.  If I filled it full, I would be carrying another two kilos of weight.  I took a peep at my schedule.  Noonbreak at Talisay, Samboan.  Campsite at Camburoy, Samboan.  Is this real?  I do not know but let me see if I could better these places with first day adrenaline.  The mild weather played well into my hike though but there is a Low Pressure Area spotted off the coasts of Surigao del Norte and it is approaching land.  Somewhere along the way rain had to be encountered.

Why did I choose January?  Okay, the Thruhike is programmed for 27 days and this journey would end in the middle of February.  In Cebu, January and February are the coldest months of the year when the amihan – the northeast monsoon – bring in the coolness of winter from Japan, China and Siberia into the equator.  It becomes colder still when spring starts to thaw the ice.  I am walking north and I will be facing the wind and the sun slightly at my back because of winter solstice.  I am using nature for my benefit.  Now you know.

I heaved the backpack and it creaked on the shoulder straps.  I let go a breath of air and cinched all the ladder locks tightly.  Jon and I are wearing new pairs of Jack Wolfskin trail shoes donated by Niño Paul Beriales and newly-minted CHT jerseys designed and provided for by Silangan Outdoor Equipment.  Darn it, we looked good!  My outfitter, also provided me a new pair of grey hiking pants which material is the same as that of my old pair.  I am in 7th Heaven in my appearance and nice-looking appearance translates into high morale and better performance.  That said, I will grow wings on my heels.  Bring it on!

We were here last September and it was easy to find the trail we used although the last time was downhill.  The ground is wet but not muddy.  It had rained for a week except yesterday and the day before that.  The traction is good except when you step on something hard and unwieldy.  We covered higher ground quickly as if we are men possessed.  We connect to a dirt road and the boundary marker that is known as Talisay, Samboan would not be far.  Time is 10:20 and too early for a noonbreak.

I am packing a GPS transmitter provided by Galileo Satellite Control System-Philippines.  It is about 300 grams and is powered by three lithium AA batteries.  It should be placed without obstacles overhead and so I have it attached above my 40-liter backpack with a piece of cord.  I have to untie two knots when I need something from inside my bag which were often and retie it back.  The GPS would track our hike and would be automatically recorded digitally in a cloud environment.  Aside that, we each were equipped by Versa Cebu with their Versa Duo VHF 2-way radios along with extra batteries and chargers.

We walked very fast on the first few kilometers and we decide to rest at a community called Inadlayan else we would experience a burn out.  Local folks were amazed at our quest to hike to the tip of Northern Cebu but I was more amazed at the cooling effect of a cold Sparkle on my thirsty throat.  We are now at Bunlan, Santander.  There should be a trail up ahead which we had taken last time only it was kind of tricky since we were washed out in thick mist during a storm.  We have to remember.

We did remember but I slipped on my toes and I found myself going down on my knees.  It was the action of a swaying backpack, filled to the full at its expandable pouch, that caused me a slight mistake.  A rock punctured the fabric of the pants and caused a scratch on my right knee.  I peeked at the knee and it was bleeding slightly.  No time to nurse a pain.  I got up slowly and proceed upon the height that refused me a minute ago and stared at another familiar ridge.  This time we know where we are going and we have to take a noonbreak.

It is exactly 12:00 when we reach Cabutongan Elementary School.  We are still in Santander but midday is warm even though it is cloudy.  My lunch are six pieces of Park N Go bread, two pieces of Titay’s Liloan Rosquillos, three pieces of Tiger crackers, half of the Fitbar and a handful of mixed nuts, chocolate, raisins and marshmallows.  A single tablet of Guarana extract is added later.  I have enough supply of all and I would not worry for I have planned the Thruhike carefully as if I am in a war campaign with a supply team tasked to replenish our food and fuel at rendezvous points up ahead on the CHT. 

I checked my knee.  The blood had caked but Jon insists treating it with betadine.  No harm done except for a microscopic breach on the fabric.  An hour of rest had given us enough time to replenish lost energy to the 3+ hours of hiking with loads.  At 13:10, we pursued the place dictated by the schedule as our campsite.  We passed by Camburoy, Samboan and chatted with a group of local folks.  We took advantage of this by refilling our water bottles.  Upon the insistence of one, I plucked thirty pieces of Indonesian pepper which I plan to plant in my garden when I reach Cebu City on the eleventh day.  Sent a text message to the Samboan Police Station so they could explain to anyone calling their attention of our presence

The winding dirt road is abandoned save for a few passing motorcycles.  Everyone are indoors listening to a popular drama series on AM radio: Handumanan sa Usa ka Awit.  It is better we passed by unnoticed than be beholden to stay still for a few precious minutes trying to explain the unexplainable intricacies of hiking through Cebu as a matter of respect for the locals even though they cannot comprehend very well of the magnitude of what you are doing.  You got to be nice all the time.  Show your best smile and greet everyone.  Talk more and the more they talk.

I follow the rough road.  It is long, going uphill all of the time, winding and twisting and you would have to retrieve memory when it passes by on junctions.  It is eerily silent and there are no more houses when we cross over to somewhere in Monteverde, Samboan.  The place is one where we should have taken our noonbreak for next day’s walk but, here we are, taking it by storm.  I think we grew some kind of wings on our feet.  I guess, the first day jitters and the capsules of multivitamins and Guarana ingested hours ago would have something to do with that.

We each carried a bottle of Enervon Multivitamins containing 30 capsules, courtesy of our Swiss benefactor, Markus Immer, and another bottle of Herbalife Natural Raw Guarana, containing 60 capsules, courtesy of the couple Mark and Mirasol Lepon.  Although I believed that supplements could improve performance but I was not an eager fan of that because of cost but, today, provided free, I began to notice a slight difference.  Maybe it is too early for presumptions or maybe it was just adrenaline, which is normal during first days.  Maybe.

We walked by memory and came upon the most wonderful sight which I expected to reach before the onset of dusk: the concrete water tanks of Kalinawan.  We arrived at 16:30 with plenty of light to pitch our shelters and hammocks and, the most important of all, plenty of water.  The trail is on an exposed ridge which lacked large trees.  What it have are shrubs and young trees down a slope.  I found a group of sturdy shrubs just perfect to host two hammocks and thick enough to hold the weight of a man. 

Just when we were about to start claiming the spot for our shelters, strong winds coming from the east begun to play on my taffeta sheet making my work on a shelter rather tricky.  Jon took much longer righting his as he struggled against the wind carrying his much lighter laminated nylon sheet off its anchors.  Maybe the LPA have hit land.  While Jon was in that predicament, I started the cooking of rice for our supper.  I am carrying the very efficient Trangia burner which is fed with denatured alcohol.  For that matter, I carried a liter of fuel.  I relish the moment with a drink from my supply of Energy Joss which lessened my body thirst caused by extreme exertions.

When the rice got cooked, I boiled water for coffee.  Jon soon boiled water for the first of his supply of three spicy Korean noodles.  It began to rain and the wind stalled a bit.  We ate in silence in dim light given off by our headlamps.  Outside of our range of light it was silent and dark.  Both of us were tired and an early rest is most welcome.  The wind had increased its intensity and so were the rain.  It was cold but I was dry and warm, thanks to the Therm-a-Rest which fits perfectly inside my hammock.  I do not know about Jon but I can see he was really tired.  He carried a heavy load some of it superfluous like a folding seat and an umbrella.  Beats my selfie stick.

Distance Walked: 16.67 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 548 meters from a low of 0 meters

 

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

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