Sunday, July 9, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Day 13 (Biasong Creek to Mount Manunggal)

I HEARD A SLIGHT SHOWER when I woke up early. The noise of the jungle filled my senses into a primeval state. Moisture dropping on my overhead canopy taught me to lay still. This is Day Thirteen, January 31, 2017 and it is 05:30. In the half light, I noticed my rump already kissing the ground. My mind tried hard to wiggle out the rest of me from its comfort zone, which it did, at around 06:00 only. The stream changed its color but it had not risen.

I look around to answer the call of nature. The vegetation is lush, moist and untouched. But there is a path. I noticed wild taro and wild cassava. This used to be farmed by man. Yes, the path. It goes up into more wild jungle and the path turned out to be a pathway, no less, made by water. This is not the one that I hope to find. Anyway, I enjoyed this solitary interlude with nature with so much gratitude. The feeling is most cherished. I believe you will agree.

When I returned, Jonathaniel Apurado had already cooked rice. I tried again to catch signals from my Cherry Mobile U2 basic phone and from the Versa Duo VHF radio transceiver. None. I was dismayed by the new SD card that I am using as a storage for pictures for the northern leg. It got corrupted yesterday, damaging the pictures I took with my Canon IXUS 145 camera at the start of Day Twelve. I noticed the harm only after lunch and was forced to change it with the one that I used during the southern leg of the Thruhike. Just like on the southern leg, I carry an extra battery for the camera.

We got our breakfast of Knorr soup, rice and coffee. Popped in a capsule of Enervon Multivitamin and a Herbalife Natural Raw Guarana. These food supplements were provided for us by our sponsors, Markus Immer and the couple Mark and Mirasol Lepon, respectively. I noticed it improved my performance as the Thruhike went from south to north, especially on the last five days of the southern leg. Power and increased stamina put us to where our itinerary would want us to be, except at Day Seven, which immensity and length was under-appreciated by me during the planning stage, just like yesterday’s.

Today, I will find that elusive trail which would have brought us to higher ground yesterday and on that place indicated on the itinerary as Maraag Ridge, which is part of Sudlon II, Cebu City. We are now at the edge of Sudlon I, another upland village of Cebu City. I look around again as Jon went on his business of boiling water taken from the stream for our supply of drinking water. I see another path but, this time, it is made by man. The path is now claimed by jungle but I know how to track people, or what seems to be the traces of humans made months ago.

I go back to our bivouac site and anxiety take hold of me again. I traced that former path I did minutes ago to commune with nature once more, this time with more feelings. It is ecstasy! After that sweet moment, it is time to break camp. We leave at 08:20 and follow that ghost of a trail that I believe would ensure our success. It goes up over very thick jungle, that I have to slash from time to time with my Camp Red Limited Edition Balaraw. At times, the ground is slippery, at stretches where it is most steep.

Persistence lead me to a mango tree, a sure sign of human habitation. I was utterly exhausted. It was hard going, just to gain 150 meters. My Silangan hiking pants was a patchwork of sticking parts of ladyfinger ferns and a hundred detached threads. Up ahead is an open field and grazing cows. I now know where I am going. I passed by here two years ago. There would be a small farming community up there but we have to walk up a hill and a hundred meters more to get there. The day gets to go warm.

The first rest for the day happened at a place called Panas, a part of Sudlon I, at 09:10. I have befriended a homesteading family here while I was on an annual penitence hike in April 2015. I am most grateful for Yolando Ubong and his family for providing us drinkable water today and acknowledged that kindness by leaving behind a couple of our powdered juice drinks and small packs of Titay’s Liloan Rosquillos. Sourcing clean water here is difficult and you have to walk far. There is phone signal but it left me as quickly as it appeared.

Far across a wide and rugged valley is Maraag Ridge. I could not go there direct. It looks too difficult. But a scenery could be deceiving. You would get there in time if you have patience. I am now on more gentle terrain and I am following a trail that goes in a wide arc, a long circuit. This trail is not the same one I took a couple of years ago. I am only walking on this because I listened to Yolando. I am going southwest, farther from Maraag. I thought I saw a familiar landmark but I succumbed to adrenaline rush offered by exploring a new route.

Passing by part wilderness and part farms, I come into more tamed places and bigger farming communities. Music, of the genre popularized by Eddie Peregrina and Victor Wood and the like, took my attention as it blared from one house to another. Mountain communities, I noticed, starting from the southern leg up to here, share the same taste in music. It is only broken sometimes by recent danceable tunes like those unpalatable bodut music. The farther I go away from that, another fresh song of the same kind would welcome me.

I am now walking into the navel of Sudlon I. Our own revolutionaries fighting Spanish and American occupations, made these mountains their redoubt. Nearby is a colony of descendants of these revolutionaries. It has its own brand of Christianity, are vegetarians and eat their food uncooked. Although the day was warm, cool breeze came in abundance maybe because we are in the highlands of Sudlon Mountain Range. By 11:45, we found a small store offering food at a place called Gabi, in Sudlon II. We need real food, if ever we want to reach Mount Manunggal before dusk.

We took short naps while in the store, taking advantage of the one hour allotted for noonbreak. We really need that. Before leaving, I sulk myself to another bottle of cold Sparkle after swallowing a capsule of Guarana extract. I need these for more energy for I will be racing with time the rest of the day. Ahead of me are gentle rolling terrain, paved in concrete, and it would lead me to Maraag. It is 13:00, but the skies seem to have cooperated with us as it gave us a very mild weather. Then I increased the pace, forgetting sometimes that I am walking with Jon.

The Sudlon Mountain Range is found in the middle of Cebu. It links with the Cantipla Ridge of the mountains of Tabunan in the north and goes on its way through its southern ridge at Sinsin, the same place where we passed by on Day Ten. The road that we are walking now follows a gentle course on easy rolling terrain where it afford us breathtaking landscapes. We reach Maraag after an hour of walking and proceed without stopping to the entry point at Cantipla where we availed of rest at 14:15, with bananas and cold Sprite.

I have to forego of my original plan of hiking through a part of Tongkay, Toledo City on mountain trails and unpaved road instead of here due to time constraints. I would have proceeded to Mt. Manunggal through there, following the Lusaran River from above. I have to modify the itinerary again. It is a mockery on that piece of paper but who else knows of what I am doing except Jon. I consult him whenever there is a change of plan. I simply underestimated the distance and the difficulties of Day Twelve. I hope I would not make the same mistake in the future.

After 30 minutes, the race is on. We cross the Transcentral Highway on to the other side and found ourselves walking another paved road down to the village of Tabunan, Cebu City. It is a long downhill walk that took most of the afternoon among stretches of beautiful scenery and the monolith that is the Central Cebu Mountain Range. We arrive at the bosom of Tabunan at 16:15 and availed another rest time, but it would be very brief, since we do not have the luxury of time. Soon it would be dusk and I do not want to navigate uphill in the dark in a spent state.

We cross the Lusaran River at 16:30 into Balamban. Yes we are leaving Cebu City and I immediately sent a text message to the Balamban Police Station to inform them of our presence and our Thruhike. I got a reply and that is reassuring. Slowly, we followed the trail up to Mt. Manunggal. I have been walking here many times and I am familiar without any guidance until I come at the point where there are two trails. One goes up, one goes down. I consult my compass. One going up goes north while one going down goes northwest. I opt for the former. It is 18:00.


I noticed that it took me a long time to work my way out of the forest and I begun to retrace back to where the two trails converge. My logic seems to have favored the same trail I took once I noticed yellow ribbons tied to trees which are used to mark routes of adventure races that are always held in Mt. Manunggal during the death anniversary celebrations of a president who died in a plane crash here. We follow a trail of yellow until I saw no more and by that time we had already covered a great distance that going back was out of the question.

Meanwhile, I have contact with a team of policemen sent by their station to provide us security. I saw the headlights of their motorcycles and, by God, they are faraway or that we strayed so far from our destination. In darkness I have to assess our location and terrain when I come upon a prominent spot and used the policemen’s location as my reference point. Years of studying traditional navigation come in handy during the most trying times.

At 19:15, we come upon a small house where the dog’s barking shook the owner awake and it helped to our cause when a woman pointed to a trail, which I thought, in half-darkness, as just a path to an animal watering hole. It is slippery but once I am on to the other side I saw a clear path that goes up. The trees parted and it revealed a road, near a junction between the one going to Mt. Manunggal and the other to Sunog, Balamban.

The messages from the policemen came and they are waiting for us at the camping ground, near where the monument of President Ramon Magsaysay is located. We were utterly exhausted and disoriented that we do not have the time to socialize and so choose our bivouac area at 19:30, at the nearest place possible to where we are now. That place is the building belonging to the village of Magsaysay. Inside we have space to lay down as well as protection from the elements. We found more comfort here.

Immediately, we work on our alcohol burners and start the boiling of water for coffee and the cooking of rice. While that was going on, I helped myself to a pot lid, for want of a cup, of Extra Joss powdered energy drink. Just like on the southern leg, I left my metal cup, preferring to use a second pot lid to drink liquid from to compensate its weight. The Therm-a-Rest provided by the Thruhike patron Michael Schwarz would be tested again in cold weather here in Mt. Manunggal.

Dinner came at 20:30 but it is never too late. We cherished the warmth of the extra spicy noodles and warm rice. We have company here. They are migrant workers earning their keep while working on the abaca fibers and they sleep here. They are using the structure as a storage place to keep the fibers from getting wet. They earn extra income when we request them to fill our water bottles and collapsible containers. The policemen are sending another message but I declined their offer of company. We need rest. It was a hard day. Climbing two major mountain ranges in one day was never easy.

Distance Walked: 23.6 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 973 meters and a low of 320 meters

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer
Some photos courtesy of Jonathaniel Apurado


Henry said...

This is a real adventure and looks fun as well :-)

PinoyApache said...

It is sir.