I needed to go out to the Philippines for a work trip, and being my 3rd trip, my friends asked what I'd like to do. I picked a hike, half-joking, and they came back with a different hike. Cool! Hiking in the Philippines, this will be sweet! Hot and humid, but sweet.
The trip was scheduled for the Sunday after I got in, with a 4:30 meet time. Oof, means I have to be up at 3:30 AM, but with jag lag in full force, it was probably the best day. My Worcester compatriot, Nate, was game, and I had figured it was about a 5.2 mile hike judging by a map I had found. So we piled into Clyne's car, with Moi, someone from the plant who hikes and who I hadn't met before, as guide. Lee and RS rounded out the group. I was told it was a 2 hour drive up, which considering it was only 60 km away, astonished me, but such things should not anymore. This is the Philippines, and traffic moves slowly everywhere.
Indeed it was just over 2 hours (we had to have a McDonald's breakfast feed, plus grab lunch from there), and after leaving the towns behind and climbing into the mountains, we arrived at the trailhead. I was very excited to have the opportunity to do this! There was a low overcast in the morning, so I was hoping for some clearing later on. We set out on the trail, reminding me much of New England with boulders and roots. The major difference (which we'd especially find out later) was the earth was more clay, so any muck wasn't deep.
The going was easy to begin with, and then we started going downhill. A lot. Uh oh, this might suck on the way back. Turns out we lost all the elevation we had just climbed. Regardless, I was thoroughly enjoying the different fauna, and was even surprised by how open the woods were here. I expected thick, impenetrable jungle. I suspect logging was a factor in this, however.
At one point, I went off into this open forest on a grassy slope to get a better picture, and didn't realize how uneven the ground was, and despite the grass being about the same height, I lost a foot and half on the ground and almost fell. I think I scared everyone with my antics. Just another day in the woods for me! There would be no end of surprises, from Clyne's keen eye finding a centipede, an interesting plant called the Shy Plant, which when touched, folds up (see video in the pictures). One big surprise was about a mile up from anything was a farm, and a little store. Cold drinks and food, as well as t-shirts. For P400 (about $9), I was happy to buy one from a girl who looked to be about 4 years old.
We moved along, and as I had a map plugged into my GPS, I could see steeps a-coming. We passed a fairly steady number of people who camped out up top, each greeting us with a very cheery “Good morning!” People are so nice here. Clyne pointed out bamboo and banana trees, too cool. Lee and I had moved ahead, and we came to a nice cool brook to wait.
I think the chalky appearance is from minerals leached out of the ground. This is a pretty pristine area. It was so great to be completely away from the city and the noise. It was warm, but not obsessively so. I was sweating a bit, and my cotton t-shirt wasn't helping there, since I didn't bother to bring my usual hiking shirts. It became clear Moi gets out a fair bit on hikes, and I wish I had had more chance to share some adventures.
Just like home, there were many laughs, and many silly moments. My kind of hikers!
Then came the steeps, along with the sun. Everything slowed way down. I had not been out in a while so I was no exception. And just like home, there were slabs to scramble up. Pretty neat. Finally I could see we were getting near the plateau, and then, we went down. Argh. I explained PUD's (pointless ups and downs) to Lee. He was amused.
After a little more climbing we popped out in an open area, with no lack of tents. The view exploded in front of me, and I was surprised that despite being in the tropics, how good visibility was.
A nice breeze was blowing to boot, making it pretty pleasant. I looked up and saw the true summit above me. Ummm, that looks pretty steep. I think I'd be fine skipping that.
We took pictures and I found out they had ice cold drinks brought up by someone. I think it cost me a whopping 60 cents for a Mountain Dew. Boy, did THAT taste good!
I started poking about to the far side in grasslands and herd paths. I then noticed the Parrot's Beak. Yoiks! I'm not climbing that!
I also noticed I was standing on the edge of a precipitous drop. And I HATE HATE HATE heights!
Back to the camp, and we ate, sadly seeing a bunch of very skinny dogs poking about. I made the mistake of petting one and I had a new friend. Strangely, she wouldn't eat a little leftover rice I had, but she liked the bread well enough. I wanted to take the sweet little thing home. We packed up, and started heading out in another direction. Where are we going? To the summit! Oh, ok. Nate stayed behind, having enough up for the day, and the climb wasn't nearly as bad as it looked down below. It was steep, but exhilarating as new views opened up.
We popped out at the summit, and I secretly coveted a new summit, in a new country. Much better views here. And then I saw it. The Beak.
I now knew there was no way in hell I was climbing this. The route was in the back, but it had to be steep, and I knew ropes were involved. That and the top was too small for my liking. Just seeing people near the edge sent my vertigo into a tailspin. We stayed for awhile and Lee, Clyne and Moi announced they were going up to the Beak. Errr, have fun, I'm a wimp! They climbed down to the col, and along the edge of a shelf before disappearing. RS and I waited patiently to see them, and I silently listened for any screams of help. I told RS I felt like their mother at this point, worrying so much. I soaked in the views in the meantime, looking every 30 seconds for some familiar figures on top. After maybe 30 minutes they showed up. Phew! And then Moi walked right to the edge, and I felt a sick feeling in my stomach. Yeah, I'm that sensitive. :) We did manage to yell to them for a jump shot, which they happily obliged.
I told RS I was heading down, I really couldn't take watching anymore, and I'd let Nate know what's up. Just as I went over the edge, someone kindly told me to be careful, and I smiled and said I would. Hell, I'm a seasoned hiker, I know what I'm doing, I said to myself. I then immediately had a small rock roll under me and I fell right on my ass. I laughed and said to them, “because that's what can happen!” It was a supremely funny moment.
Nate was in the shade (a good idea) and some other folks were gathering there. We had a nice conversation waiting for the others. Did I mention people are so nice here? Everyone regathered and we headed down. I was thinking how there wasn't any plants that looked painful here, so of course, I shortly went off into the woods to do my business and found a plant with a spike on it. Right into my hand. Ha ha ha. We went down, we went up, but the ups didn't seem too horrible as I thought they might have been. Lee and I once again went ahead and waited at a corner, only to find my pack and shoes covered with tiny red ants. Tiny red biting ants. Ow! Ow ow! I kept swatting trying to get rid of them only to find more. OWWW! How can such tiny things hurt so much!
We again got ahead and we all headed down a spur to a waterfall. I had no idea what to expect and it was quite a pleasant surprise.
The water was almost cold for a bonus, and most everyone went swimming. Having no spare clothes, I passed and instead bushwhacked to the top, having fun except for the vines I kept getting caught in. Once on top, I could see the trail on the other side of the water. More amusement!
After a nice stop, we headed out for good now, hearing the occasional thunder on the way down, but never coming in our direction. We got to the Subi-neer store and took another rest, getting some water from a nearby source. I was nervous and asked, “it is safe?” to which I think I hurt their feelings that they'd give me questionable water, replying it was from a spring. Sounds good to me, then! I then had to explain that in New Hampshire, we're cautious of stream water because you never know if there's a dead animal just upstream. I've never had giardia, but I hear it's not pleasant.
We hit the big uphill we had to go over and then it happened, and it happened fast. A little patter on the leaves, and within a minute a full-on downpour. Crap! I dug out my rain jacket, but it was pretty much too late. My shirt was wet, so all I was doing was preventing it from getting soaked while locking in the sweat and rain I already had on it. Wow, did it pour. The trail quickly became a stream, the product of the clay soil. It wasn't miserable, and we were still laughing and such, but my mind went to how I had no dry shorts, socks or shoes. I at least had a shirt in the car, but that was the least of my soppiness.
We trudged on, getting back to the trailhead and hiding under a building with a rice sack roof. Mostly very effective (and inexpensive!), except for a couple spots I kept finding myself standing in. The rest of the group came in as it was getting dark, and most went to change into dry clothes. How I envied them. :) More cold drinks and hanging out, and we finally made our way back towards Manila. Being a Sunday night, there was heavy traffic, so it was a long trip back. For me a long, wet trip. I had started thinking earlier in the hike about an ice cold shower when I got back, now all I wanted was a steaming hot one. But first we had to get by endless buses, jeepneys and trikes, when we could pass. Arriving back at the hotel, Nate and I said goodbye to our gracious hosts, and then we said goodnight to each other. A long and very hot shower and a monster burger from Jolibee rounded out my night.
I'll never forget this hike, and never be able to say thank you enough to my friends for doing this with me. Getting out in the woods to me is the way to see what a country is like. At a slow pace where if you see something, you stop and look. I've been lucky enough now to hike in Norway and Iceland, but hiking in the tropics was a completely different experience. I look forward to more adventures there!