Friday, July 21, 2017

THE THRUHIKE JOURNAL: Day 14 (Mount Manunggal to Ginatilan)

SPIDERS ARE EVERYWHERE AND I have to rise up earlier than usual. Jonathaniel Apurado have been searching for these in the half-light when night gave in to morning. The comfort and warmth that the Therm-a-Rest provided me during my sleep was unbelievable. I know because I was here without one and I was deprived of sleep that time. Thank you Michael Schwarz. Anyhow, the Therm-a-Rest would not protect me from the bite of a hairy wolf spider. Today is February 1, 2017.

I do not have a fear of spiders like most people I know even though I have experienced its painful bite. I just drowned a black one on the sink today. I shake my shoes and clothes before wearing it. You can not be too sure. I retrieve a Blend 45 Barako sachet and disemboweled its contents on my secondary pot lid which I used as a cup, then I poured hot water. Ah, coffee, in the interim before breakfast on a cold morning is most welcome. Jon is busy cooking rice and the Knorr soup. Soon we would have a meal.

The blisters on my toes are getting better. The much roomy Hi-Tec Lima shoes may have to do with that. Just a year ago, this pair was provided by the Lavilles Family of Australia for my adventures. They simply enjoyed what I do and it makes them connect to the old country. Even so, the wear and tear of my weekend activities and the exploration hikes of the last three segments of the Cebu Highlands Trail last year have taken its toll on the shoes when the adhesive material that gripped the rubber sole with the upper nubuck leather gave away. I simply have it sewn by a cobbler.

The new Lorpen hiking socks may also have contributed to the healing. Four pairs were provided by Viajero Outdoor Center of Cagayan de Oro City at a special price where it is divided between Jon and me at two pairs each. It is thick and gave comfort to my injured feet. These same pairs were used during the southern leg of the Cebu Highlands Trail. I have worn my first pair since Day Twelve and today would be its last day.

At 08:45, we start our journey for Day Fourteen. Yesterday and the day before that were eye openers of how difficult the northern leg would be. Two physical obstacles removed from the Thruhike. Today, I would face another obstacle. It would not be the difficult terrain. It would be people. During my Segment IV Exploration Hike in October 2015, I and Jon’s son, Justin, were subjected to interrogation in one of the villages here, by their officials who were under the influence of alcoholic drinks.

We were denied sleep in their village hall when we requested that, we were able to find ways and so finished our exploration. Today, I hope, they would not be tipsy when we meet again. This part of Balamban, beyond the tourist circuits of Mt. Manunggal, Mt. Mauyog and Gaas, are places where a stranger is bound to suspicion. People here have bad memories of experimenting in a foreign ideology many years ago. Although times have changed, the memories are painful.

This part of Balamban has a lot of wide open spaces, very scenic, and it would be a waste if it should be off-limits to tourism. The populace could gain from local and foreign tourists visiting their local attractions. There are many here starting from the hole on the hill at Sunog, Balamban where there is a trail beyond. We were about to take the trail when somebody familiar took our attention. She was the woman last night who awoke from sleep and told us the trail to Mt. Manunggal.

Her name is Belen Corbo. She has a farm planted with ginger somewhere along this trail we are about to take. She would be harvesting some of it and she is waiting for her husband. Jon gave her a small pack of Titay’s Liloan Rosquillos after she said that she had not taken breakfast yet. There had been an attempt to make this trail a road but, nature claimed it back. Landslides caused by rains make it impassable to motorcycles. Even foot traffic have a hard time.

The soil is red and loamy clay. It is soft and stores water. Running water on its surface have scarred it. Try paving it and you waste money. This cannot be tamed easily. A dog followed us as we follow this beautiful trail into forests. Sometimes it overtook us when it smells something unusual up ahead. The trail wove like a ribbon among hills and cross small streams with running water. Traces of animal droppings, tamed and wild, compete my attention. You can spot a dog easily because it has plastic.

The weather is mild with a bit of sunshine alternating with passing clouds. The terrain is rolling and the dog seemed to like our company although we did not gave it something to eat. I simply discourage that. It is not unkindness to dogs, I just do not like dogs change their eating habits. It should be with the ones who regularly feed them and not with strangers. Anyway, walking with a dog who is not afraid of other humans is reassuring enough. Like building up a phony feeling that you are from here.

I do not know the names of these places while walking this trail for there simply are no locals to ask. I just presume that this high peak is Mt. Matun-og for it is very imposing and gives an impression that it is in league with Mt. Manunggal. Beyond this mountain is a scenery that you would not see anywhere else in Cebu. Right before you is a vast land with endless mountains to the north as far as the eye could see. Unlike other mountaintops, you would not see any semblance of the sea from here.

Across me, sitting squarely on a small mountain range, is the village of Matun-og, Balamban. I would not be going there. The trail became an unpaved road starting from where I stood to inhale the majesty of the vast scene. We take a short rest here, just to regain strength by rehydrating and then munch on my trail food of mixed nuts, marshmallows, coated chocolates and raisins. We will be going to Cabasiangan, Balamban. It would be more empty spaces. God simply forgot to put people here.

The dog, if I leave it at its whim, would be a long way from its master. We need to part from each other. Forcefully if that need be. It ignored me many times everytime I shooed it away. It pretended to run away but, when you are not looking, it sneaks silently until you notice its presence again. With a good-sized pebble thrown at 20 meters, I hit its rib and it ran away yapping. We proceed on our journey. I look back and the dog is wiser now. It had simply lost its appetite.

The unpaved road is not the same one that I walked last time. It had lost its right to be called one. The rains have made this unusable. I do not see a motorcycle for many hours now. The landscape is so silent save for the sounds made by our shoes and our breathing. Movement is limited only to grazing animals and tall grasses dancing before the breeze. The road wove in and warped, most of the time, with a deep furrow on the middle.

The hills have markers on top indicating that this vast place is part of the Central Cebu Protected Landscape. It is reserved as timberland but I see no timber. Some of it are farmed but a lot of it are just open spaces, meadows and bald hills. However, in deep valleys, trees have choked these forbidding spaces. I see a few houses but, most of it are abandoned by their occupants who, I believe, would be toiling on the fields or, if they be children, inside classrooms.

I have to thank the very cooperative skies for it gave us good weather. Remember this is open country without forest cover. We arrive at a crossroad where there is a store. It is 12:00 already and just about perfect to spend noonbreak. The village official who interrogated me more than a year ago is here. He is not drunk this time. There is gambling right under his nose. One is the card while the other is the coin-toss. It seems he maintains a small racket.

Me and Jon just rest under a tractor shed, eating our meal of Fitbar, crackers and the trail mix paired with cold Mirinda. We are now in Cabasiangan. This rough road will lead us to it. The other end of the road will lead to Lusaran, Cebu City. We just spend thirty minutes here, for the itinerary says that we would have to camp at Ginatilan, Balamban. We just want to be there before dusk sets in. We need to be there during official government hours. This is a different place and you need to play safe.

The last two days found us sleeping without the benefit of calling on village officials. This time we would. I will make it sure that we would, at the earliest time possible. Noon times are moments when you see nobody, except a few. But I noticed old people resting under the shades of Mexican lilac trees. They were four of them, two old couples. They were smiling not because they were happy. They were smiling because they find us odd walking with big burdens upon our backs at the unholiest of hours. Why are we walking? They would ask. Gave them our honest answers as we stayed for a few seconds with them.

Pushing on, we overtook a group of more senior citizens. We found out on this one group that they would be receiving a government stipend allotted for older people aged 60 and above. Somebody from the municipal government would be coming over to distribute cash for them at the village hall of Cabasiangan. We arrive there and the village head is calling in a session. The one who interrogated me last time introduced me to their chairman.

There is a bulge of rainclouds coming from the direction of the coastline and it is beginning to threaten the good mood of the day. I hope those senior citizens would get here in time before the belly of the clouds open up. On our part, we did not stay long. We proceed to another unpaved road that goes up a mountain. The moments before the rain comes, are moments that are quite so welcome. A gush of cold wind turns the air around us instantly cold and then the single drops of water spaced far among each other came.

I brought out the rain fly to shield my High Sierra Titan bag while Jon unleashed his own rain fly, his poncho and his magic umbrella. The Trailhawk who disdains wearing a raincoat meets the dry Saint. The rain with all its might and volume for that day washes away my smell and my optimism. Although I have complete trust of the quick-drying qualities of my Silangan hike pants and CHT jersey, the bottom of where rainwater spills down is where I most worry of. I am talking about my shoes and socks and the blisters that are still tender.

Slowly, I climb up a mountain which seems to have no end until I reach a public school. We are now in the village of Ginatilan and, further down the path, would be the village hall. We arrive there at 14:30 to the beat of the Sinulog that was performed by a group of schoolchildren practicing for a town festival. I introduced myself to the village chairman, Hon. Eva Villamor. I asked her if we could spend a night in their village and I went into the matter of explaining the CHT and the Thruhike. I seem to favor the old village hall down the place where the road end by the banks of the Lusaran River.

I immediately got her approval and a glass pitcher of cold water. I am wet. The weather is cool but I am thirsty. The presence of cold water in this far land during a Thruhike is a rare opportunity that do not come often. Thank you very much. When we got our fill, we continue on our journey down a paved road to the former seat of Ginatilan, which is found at the very bottom of the mountain that we just climbed an hour ago.

We arrived there and a place was arranged by the villagers for our use as billet area. It is a community storage house. There is a bamboo cot but we prefer to sleep on the concrete floor close to the four-foot concrete walls that would partly shield us from wind chill. Curious children began to arrive and see Jon cooking. They marvelled at the small alcohol burners. Jon taught them knife safety to entertain them.

When the kids transfer their attention to me as I tinker with my Lenovo A7000 smart phone, I decided to entertain them with videos that entertained very well my grandson. I propped the phone on my plastic food containers and the show commenced. For a full 20 minutes, their attention were glued to the nursery rhymes until the battery ran out. Thankfully, there is an electric outlet to charge our depleted batteries.

The village is silent after supper and lights are turned off from each house. Cold begins to creep in through the iron grills which is part of the wall. As the night wore on, rats starts its business of survival by foraging on the stocks of corn kept in an inner room. We already expected that and we have secured our food far from their reach. I thanked Providence for steering us away from trouble for this day. This northern leg is harder and there will be more obstacles to encounter as we travel northward.

Distance Walked: 15.14 kilometers
Elevation Gained: 955 meters and a low of 156 meters

Document done in LibreOffice 5.2 Writer

Some photos courtesy of Jonathaniel Apurado

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