Friday, October 5, 2012

TRAVEL - Wet, Muddy and Nice...My 2nd Mt. Batulao Adventure

INFO: This was a blog I posted August 2008 in my multiply account...thought of sharing it also here before Mutliply totally dissolves together with my old blogs ;)

It was another day at the office for me.  2 months from my attempt of Mt. Hood, here I am again at the great outdoors but taking on a different challenge.  I wish I could say it’s another “ice” escapade but that won’t happen again till (crossing my fingers) next year.

This time it’s something us Filipinos can better relate to…a wet and muddy trail. 

Gail, Raquel, Chuck, Richie and Tin (front and center)
A day heading to this adventure, question in everyone’s mind was whether to proceed or not.  It’s been raining crazy as hell and shows no sign of slowing down.  In addition to the bad weather, I just remembered that I left our tent at the office...and the worst one of them all, I was not able to get my ritual haircut!  And if all of these wasn't enough, I had to report to work following day for a seminar. 

But being the hardheaded adventure seeker that we are, rain or shine…or even a written warning from our HR…we go!

Such was not the case with the others though.  From a group of supposedly 16 climbers, only 6 brave souls stuck it out. The “hard core” team of myself, Tin and Chuck, “recreational” Raqs, “newbie” Gail, and our “guide” Richie.  6 others backed out morning of the climb while the usual absentees lived up to their reputations (I won’t mention that it’s Ken and Betchay).  Mau (my pioneer Columbia sales staff turned Operations Assistant) and Bobe in the meantime had to work that Saturday.

But despite the huge attendance setback, the 6 of us were all determined to make this climb something to remember.  And boy did we get our share of memories.

The day started with a miscommunication between me and Gail, whom I was supposed to meet in the bus station beside MRT Edsa station.  With such an address description I knew there would be trouble.  And there sure was one as she was waiting for me a hundred meters away in another bus station.  Not to mention both stations have a Jollibee, which was our point of reference, beside it!

As usual Raqs and Tin were late from our original meet up time of 8am.  They arrived together with Chuck around 830am and by 9am we all boarded the bus (whose liner I still don’t know by now) going to Tagaytay.  At this time the rain has already stopped so you could imagine the sigh of relief for each of us.

Getting ready...Gail checking out Chuck's legs
We arrived at the Evercrest entrance around 1130 and stopped over one of the karinderyas to have lunch and do our last minute packing.  I had some nilagang baka to wake up my nerves and a pack of squared suman to give me the energy I would need for the climb.  A bottle of sparking “Sparkle” soda topped off my meal.  All this for about P55!

By 1245 in the afternoon, with everything packed and our stomachs full, we proceeded to take on the Mt. Batulao challenge.  As it was high noon, we took a tricycle (yes it’s not “hard core” like but who said you have to be one to enjoy the outdoors?) to the jump-off which surprisingly only cost us P10 each.  It turned out that this fare will only take us 1/3rd of the way.

To go all the way to the jump-off, we were asked for a fare of P100 per tricycle as the remaining route is all rough road that only a Land Rover or Land Cruiser will love.  While we are all open to walk the trail (which would probably take us 30-45 mins), “recreational” Raqs opted to ride it out.  Being the team player we all are, we obliged to her request.  Personally, I would have just walked not because of the challenge of it, but the damn tricycle was so cramped I had to literally crouch to fit in…with my heavy pack in front of me!

After 15 mins of tricycle off-roading, some splashes of mud and an aching back, we arrived at the jump-off.  Richie arranged a horse to carry our packs but Tintin got so engrossed with it that she decided to ride it out instead.  What she didn’t realize was riding one would present more of a challenge.  An hour and a half later she decided to walk on her 2 size 4 shoes instead.

2nd stop over...Tin wanted to be left here
The rest of us proceeded to take the “clean” route starting with a narrow concrete road then passing by houses with dogs barking and snarling their hearts out.  15 mins later there we were zig zagging and doing leg acrobats as we maneuver ourselves along the wet and muddy trail.  Almost everyone managed to stay clean (on a certain respect) except for “newbie” Gail whose sparkling white gum-soled rubber shoes dug deep into the muddy trail and turned to chocolate brown.  You got to hand it to her for still smiling at her predicament while all of us laugh at her…and welcoming her first baptismal ordeal of the outdoors.

30 mins into our muddy hike we stopped by the 2nd stopover to have some fresh buko and for Tintin, shop for some “upo” sized pipinos.  Everyone was taking their sweet time when I ordered everyone to proceed as rain clouds are already starting to form...not to mention mosquitoes are making a picnic out of my legs.  With heavy hearts, they obliged to my order (they love and hate me for being like this).

The muddy trail now turned to a narrow trail with waist to shoulder level “cogons” which was a welcome sight.  That is if you are fully covered as these leaves can leave small scratches on your arms and legs.  I had to endure some slight irritation and scratches though as dumb enough, I converted my pants to shorts during our last stop.

15 mins later we arrived at the last rest stop where you can see in full view the peak of Mt. Batulao and the “Guiting-Guiting” like hills that surround it.  A group of climbers were there as well preparing their lunch.  Our jaws dropped and our tongues drooled upon seeing their “inihaw” na baboy.  We resisted the temptation when they offered us some as our stomachs are still full and we want to make room for dinner.

Guiting-Guiting like hills of Mt. Batulao
Rain started to fall when we started our hike again and this is the time that I usually ask myself why am I enduring all this when I could just be home watching TV.  But I look at the picturesque landscape, myself drenched in rain, my co-climbers clawing their way through the steep hills, and I got my answer.  With a big smile on my face I proceeded and I presumed everyone had the same mindset as we were all smiles scaling the steep hills and narrow bends going to the campsite. 

A new route was actually set-up 7 months ago leading to the opposite face of the Mt. Batulao peak.  Having already taken the old one, we proceeded with this new route as it was said to be “less” muddy and much more easier.  I have to agree with the former but the latter I have to disagree.  Going to the new campsite were just gradual up and down slopes with established trails.  Going to the peak was another story.

By 1530 we arrived in the new campsite.  It was still raining albeit not that strong so we decided to set up our tents.  It turned out to be a good idea as a downpour came in minutes after.  Unfortunately for the girls, they were unsuccessful pitching their tent as it is so complicated to set-up.  They had to wait for the rain to stop before they were able to continue.

It proved to be a long wait as the rain didn’t slow down until about 1730.  By 1830 the rain stopped and we immediately started to cook dinner.  Which was my time to shine, as I was the designated cook for the trip.

Chilling out after a nice dinner
My menu started with Raquel’s favorite “hot and sour” soup (thanks to Knorr) to warm our cold bodies.   For the main entrĂ©e, it was my own specialty “Italiano Sea Pasta ala Gearguru”.  It was served with Parmessan Batard cut into perfection (when I was the one cutting…Tintin made it into bread crumbs or croutons when it was her cutting).  For desert, it was choco-flavored wafers coated in premium and energy providing chocolate (Milo Bar) and chocolate flavored flakes with sugar (Koko Krunch).  To complete the whole desert experience, it was Chuck’s specialty sweetened hot tea (Lipton w/ Brown Sugar packs stolen in a Starbucks restaurant).

With our stomachs getting a good filling, we decided to turn the lights off around 2100. Despite not being able to sleep the whole night, we still a good rest as the weather was really calm and it was neither cold nor hot inside the tent.  But just about the time me and Chuck are getting a good sleep, we were woken up prematurely by Tintin (with no reason at all) around 530am.  Chuck was really close to throwing Tintin off the cliff but good thing I talked some sense to him.  Instead, I got out of the tent, did a little stretching, and then threw Tintin off the cliff myself (nah just joking…I did consider this for a few seconds though).

View from the highest point of our camp
As I was already awaken, I started preparing breakfast.  The menu is not as special as the one we had for dinner but all meals were still cooked to perfection (sauted sardines for Chuck, fried chicken meat loaf and sauteed corned beef for the rest).  It’s a good thing there’s an ample water source in Mt. Batulao (P30 for a gallon) so you can cook and make a mess to your heart’s content.  It also helps that you have someone to take care of the dishes (reason why we always invite Raquel to climb with us).

By 830am with everyone finished breaking camp, we decided to make an assault to the summit...well make that the highest point of the new route.  As mentioned before, the supposedly easier route turned out to be much harder and further than the old one.  Judging by the deep sighs and breathes of those we pass by who made the summit, you can easily judge what the route was like.  This dampened the will of my co-climbers to proceed.  

But with similar views from the peak, it was fulfilling enough for the team to cut short their ascent.  Some may consider this a negative way to approach hiking but for me, summit or not, the most important thing being out there is to have fun and an appreciation of the outdoors.  Which is all that we did.  

Another purpose of an umbrella
After a few, sorry I forgot I’m with Raqs and Tintin so make that “a lot” of photo opps, we proceeded with our descent.  The weather this time was scorching hot but still not enough to keep the trail dry. Again it was a challenge of not slipping or digging your foot through the muddy trail.  Gail still struggled as the outsole of her shoes peeled off the day before...and I paid for it as well as I was the one assisting her.

With muddy shoes and mud tracks on our pants, we made it back to the P10 jump-off.  As the sun is already at its peak; Raqs, Gail and Richie opted to take the tricycle back to the karinderya wherein we will have lunch and freshen up.  Myself, Chuck and Tintin (who had no option but to oblige to our demand) decided to walk all the way.  That walk turned out to be the highlight of our trip as while doing our action photo opps, I ripped the bottom of my “Puerto Galera” tie-dye pants.  This delighted Tintin as it was her way of getting back at me for dragging her to walk with us. 

It was one of those moments wherein everyone was just laughing our hearts out and enjoying the moment.  At around 1430, with everyone freshened up, we rode the bus bound for the bus station beside MRT Edsa station whose name I still do not know.  Heavy rains greeted us when we reached Roxas Boulevard but after what we just went through in Mt. Batulao, we just smiled at each other for another adventure ahead of us. 


Backpacking in the rain…
  • raining or not always stuff your gears in a big plastic bag...transparent bags ideally
  • have another big plastic bag ready so you can cover your pack if the rain is falling non-stop and there's no shelter to protect your stuff
  • if you will stash your tent in your backpack, make sure it is easy to access and will not require taking out the other stuff inside your pack...ideally you put it in the bottom compartment or place it vertically
  • before setting up your tent, make sure you have a tent floor (tarp, coated nylon, etc) to protect the base of your tent
  • for the OC ones, like me and Chuck, it helps having another layer to lay inside your tent…nylon tafetta, like those used in umbrellas are your best option

In buying a tent…
  • most critical feature of a tent, in addition to the quality of materials used, is the ease of set-up
  •  you can have the most stable and good looking tent at camp but when you cannot set it up with ease, it just depict the money you paid for it...ask our girls 
  • canopies using clips can be set up easier and faster while those using sleeves are known to be much stable…with the design innovations right now the latter is starting to lose it’s edge…so go for the clip ones
  • practice how to set it up multiple times before you use it outdoors

Gong home with a damp tent…
  • air dry your tent and canopy upon getting home…you can either hang it or set it up
  • if you have a really dirty tent, set it up then clean it with a wet sponge (a little dash of soap powder will help and won’t affect much the coating) then hose it off
  • never pack your tent when damp…yes it is a hassle doing all of the above but to make your investment worth it, you have to take care of it

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