Monday, March 23, 2015

Hiking : Munga Peak, Camarines Norte

Mahabang Buhangin Beach
It was still dark when I opened my eyes. Had it not been for the disruptive snoring coming from the tent beside ours, which was loud enough to drown the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, I wouldn't have gotten up so quickly. :P 

I prepped for a short hike up Munga Peak.  We were told it's about an hour from our camp. Unlike the usual hikes I do, getting ready was refreshingly simple. I was on slippers,  a cap and in my pocket were several pieces of Mentos which is also what I bring as emergency food for long hikes because it's light and easily fits in the bag. I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade which I bought before we traveled to the island and in a few minutes, I was all set. :)
Area near our camp

Mahabang Buhangin beach where we set camp is in Tinaga island, a popular camping ground for travelers visiting Calaguas,  a group of 17 islands and islets in Camarines Norte in the Bicol region.  

After breakfast, me and several other friends - Kate, Ron, Ian, Ice and Tina went to the shore and joined the rest of the people from our tour group. The start of the hike was a little challenging as we were walking on powder-like sand. It was a great leg work-out though. :)
Trail starts at the beach! (Photo from Ice Clemente)
We headed toward the right side (facing the water) of the island and in about 15 minutes, we arrived at the registration area. As I had been seeing mostly water since the previous day, I felt excited when I saw that the trail head has lots of trees. 
Making our way up the hill. Photo from Ice Clemente
It was moderately steep but very manageable. It wasn't slippery and our rubber slippers held on. 
Group shot before we entered the main trail. Behind us is the registration hut.  (Photo from Ice Clemente)
In just a few minutes, we arrived at a view deck. From here, we could see practically the entire shoreline of Mahabang Buhangin. Although I've already seen some photos online, it still felt awesome to see it in front of me.  

We headed at the left side of the trail where grasses were a little too tall for me and Tina as we're both under 5 feet tall :P. 



This area gave us a different vantage, a view of nearby islands.  There wasn't any cover to protect us from the sun but it was very windy. 
Balagbag Island in front of us
This peak has a flat grassy area and it felt nice to just sit down, feel the wind and stare at the view, despite the sun's rays gleefully radiating down on us. 

After taking souvenir shots, we headed down to clean up and prepare for the trip back to Vinzons Port. 

Here's a travel video of our trip made by my friend Ian. :) Happy viewing. It's a bit long though but it sums up what we did the entire weekend. :P 


Hiking Details :
This was a trip with 9 other colleagues. Since we wanted a hassle-free vacation,  we availed the services of Northlink Tour, a Daet-based tour provider which was recommended by my former manager who hails from Daet, Camarines Norte's capital. I paid 2,200 for the package which included 4 meals and boat ride from Vinzons Port and back. (Transportation from Manila not included). Since the hike was not part of the package, we paid additional 40 Pesos each which included the registration fee and payment to guides. 

A DIY trip to Calaguas Group of islands can also be done. Please check out the links below for some very helpful information : 
KirkAnatomy - How to get to Calaguas
Lakwatsero - Calaguas Islands

Note : I am aware of the concerns raised by fellow travelers regarding the island's commercialization but during our  trip (and I can only speak of what I experienced during our trip), camping ground was clean and I did not see any garbages along the shore and although there were plenty of people, the noise was minimal. I do hope people visiting this place continue to respect the island and the people who live there.  

As for Northlink Tour's services, I am very happy with how they handled the trip. They gave us an orientation on what to expect in the island and even gave us a short lecture about Calaguas to help us appreciate the place more. Everyone had enough food, the staff regularly checked on us and they were all very cordial and professional. :) You can get in touch with them on Facebook - Northlink Tour.




Friday, March 6, 2015

Product Test : A Hiker’s Must Have - BSI Medicated Spray


I enjoy long hikes. Some take 5 hours to complete while the longer and more challenging routes take about 12 hours or more. To ensure I have enough endurance for these hikes, I swim at least 1.5K KM, two-three times a week, alternating it with some light runs. As such, muscle pain is something that I have to deal with frequently. I often feel some aches on the shoulders, back and the calves from all the training and hikes – and  oh especially the hikes! :P   While this type of involved soreness eventually heals in a day or two, I’m happy to discover a partner (albeit no romantic inklings:P) that takes away the discomfort instantly so I can easily return to my routine or jump into another adventure.

After a 1.5KM swim last Sunday, my first after a month of rest post sickness, my shoulders and upper back felt pretty sore. What was supposed to be just a normal workout felt like a feat. :P . I didn’t have time to get a massage and so I went to the office the next day with aching muscles. Throughout the day, I stretched several times at my desk hoping to relieve myself of the pain but it didn’t really work.  

Fortunately, a package of BSI medicated spray was waiting for me when I got home. It’s a non-aerosol topical pain reliever approved by the Philippine FDA as a home remedy drug. I excitedly sprayed it on my back and was amused at how easy it got to the hard to reach parts such as the mid upper back. I felt comfort in less than a minute. There was a cool sensation and some little sting on the parts where I sprayed too much (so do take note of that when you use it).The smell is minty and not as strong as other topical pain relievers I’ve used. I actually like the smell. :) 


BSI Medicated spray is exactly what I needed! Handy, lightweight, easy to apply and fits easily in my backpack!  At 388 Pesos for a 64 ML bottle that’ll probably last for months, it’s a good deal. I can hold off the massage for now and redirect the money to my hiking funds, yay!

Aside from being a pain reliever, it also aids in reducing muscle swelling such as sprain and cramps which some hikers experience.  It’s convenient to use even while on the trail because you don’t have to clean your hands before applying it. You just need to spray it on the affected part, no need massage it over!  Another one of its salient attributes is it contains all-natural ingredients so it’s safe to use as often as needed.  It’s truly an excellent addition to my first aid kit but I’m hoping I don’t have to use it for a sprain :P.

BSI Medicated Spray has been in the Philippine market for over 5 years and its target users include athletes, senior citizens, office workers, housewives, OFWs who suffer muscular pain.

Where to Buy : Mercury Drug Store, Rose Pharmacy, and South Star Drug
Price : 388 Pesos (64ml)

This spray was also tested by fellow bloggers who are into running and triathlon. Just click on the link to read about their experience using BSI Medicated Spray :

BSI MEDICATED SPRAY is distributed by New Smart Formulae Trading Corp, a pharmaceutical distributor of high quality products in the Philippines.  

Disclaimer : This is a sponsored post. I accept collaborations for products that I’ve tried, liked and are relevant to travel, adventure and sports. :) 


Naga Series : Waterfalls Trekking at Engkanto Falls

My young, happy and oh so carefree friends stripping down to enjoy the cold water
After rappelling at Nalalata falls the previous day (blog here), we traveled 45 minutes from Naga city to Libmanan in Camarines Sur for the afternoon’s adventure, a trek to Engkanto Falls. 

At the jump-off in Barangay Bical, we met with  Mr. Roderick  Fabor, head of Libmanan Tourism, and other friendly folks from the local tourism.  After exchanging pleasantries, we commenced trekking and soon found ourselves on a scenic but muddy trail.

The landscape was so bucolic - rice fields on our right and coconut trees everywhere. 
We had to cross this wooden bamboo bridge to get to the other side of the trail 
Engkanto Falls is a series of 20 cascades, with a height of 1 meter or less. Its name, a Filipino word that refers to supernatural beings that guard the environment, are believed to dwell in the area - adding excitement to exploring a less known destination in Camarines Sur. 

After about 15 minutes, a section of the falls emerged.  We were told we would be trekking on the falls instead of around it. I knew from experience that the portion of the boulder where water passes is usually safe to walk on because the current makes the surface less slippery but, hearing the roar of the water was still intimidating. I dismissed any thought of slipping and focused on enjoying the trek. It was such a thrilling experience! :)


Muddy trail with branches everywhere 
Some areas were a little challenging because you need to use both hands. It was especially tricky for my other companions who carried SLR's (Travel tip : bring a dry bag or a waterproof bag so you don't have to worry about your gears or better yet, get a waterproof camera and phone :)). 

Our short trek terminated at a picturesque  part of the falls. We were told that there's a cave about an hour  from where we were but it was nearing sunset so we decided to head down. 
One of the wider cascades of Engkanto Falls
It had been an exciting trek capped off with a cool swim and some fitting snacks - freshly picked coconut and 3N’s toasted siopao. This bread which has diced pork fillings is one of Naga’s famous snacks. 

Check out blogger friend, Estan’s post about Engkanto Falls. 

How to fulfill this adventure? Get in touch with Libmanan on Facebook 

Travel Tips :
Recommended footwear - although my companions who wore rubber slippers managed the trek just fine, it would be safer to wear a footwear that dries easily and preferably with straps so you can wear it while swimming as the water is  shallow on most parts and there's plenty of small sharp rocks. 

Bring : snacks, dry bag for wet clothes
*There's a changing area at the jump-off. 


Engkanto Falls 
Barangay Bical,
Libmanan, Camarines Sur, Bicol Region
Philippines

Related Posts : 
Waterfalls Hiking in Pili, Camarines Sur

Note : 
This trek was a collaboration with NagaX, Naga's tourism arm and the local government unit of Libmanan. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Naga Series : Rappelling at Nalalata Falls

After a belly-busting buffet breakfast at The Avenue Plaza Hotel in Naga, we traveled 1.5 hours on a private jeep to Bula in Camarines Sur to try rappelling. Being acrophobic, I was not exactly keen on putting on a harness and be suspended from a high place but, as I just had a good breakfast, the day was instantly awesome. I was also excited for the hike going to the falls. The vibrant greenery of the Bicol region impresses me and I feel instantly refreshed whenever I'm around nature. 
Nalalata Falls
A short and easy 15 minute hike took  us to a basin of Nalalata Falls, a clear inviting shade of turquoise.  I wanted to wade in the water right away.  It's a beautiful place for a picnic and a swim, albeit the lack of amenities which I actually prefer. For me, nature is best enjoyed as is or if developments must be done, there should be minimal impact to the environment. 
Bamboo bridge connecting a small river to the picnic area
After Sir Jojo Villareal of Kaddlagan Outdoors gave us a quick orientation on gears and various rappelling positions, the rest of his team assisted us in putting on our gears. Once we're fully equipped, we set off for another 10 minute hike towards the top of the falls. 
Some of the short tricky sections towards the rappelling area
Our jump-off is at 50 feet high and I tried my best to ignore the feeling of dread that always comes to me whenever I'm too far off the ground. I know it's quite ironic that I have a fear of heights given my penchant for hiking mountain trails but over the years of exposing myself to different peaks, I've learn to embrace this phobia rather than stay away from the views I love so much. :)

We took turns going down from the falls. It felt nerve wrecking at the start, facing the waterfalls as you go down but then you get the hang of it and enjoy the rest of the way which only takes about 10 minutes or maybe even less. I didn't have to wait that long for my turn. There were other positions that were more challenging than the usual, such as the Australian which involves facing the water.  
Sir Bong of NagaX doing it Australian style
Here's a video of blogger friend, Darwin (TrackingTreasure). 



All geared up. Group shot from Kara of Travel Up
L-R : With fellow bloggers, Estan (Langyaw.com), Me, Kara (Traveling-Up.com), Chino (JuanderfulPinoy.com) & Darwin (TrackingTreasure.net)


After rappelling, I enjoyed a cool dip at the base of the falls while my other companions rappelled two more times trying out other rappelling techniques. 
Nalalata Falls
Brgy. Lubgan, Bula, Camarines Sur
To book this adventure, get in touch with Kaddlagan Outdoor Shop & Services, a Naga-based outdoor company. You can join a group if you're going solo. Rates vary per number of people in a group. They also organize other waterfalls and hiking adventures  (try Mt. Isarog). 

How to get to Naga City : 
There are several bus companies traveling to Naga from Araneta Bus Terminal (map here) in Cubao, Quezon City (Fare is around 750 Pesos above, depending on bus line/seat type). There are morning and evening schedules, usually at 8-9:30AM and then 4PM-9:30PM. Travel time is 8-10 hours.  I took the 8:30 PM Philtranco bus from Pasay (Fare is aroun 850 Pesos) Contact Number : +(63) 2 851-8078/79. A faster option is to take a plane from Manila via Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific.

Tips :
What to wear - expect to get wet. Wear durable clothing -  one that won't slip off of you easily. :P As for footwear, although you can just wear rubber slippers, it is more advisable to wear something with straps so it won't get carried off by the water's current easily. I wore  Keen Venice H2 sandals which is highly recommended for this type of adventure. (Available in R.O.X.) It has excellent traction and has toe protector to prevent stubbed toes (eeks!). 

What to bring - plastic or dry bag for wet clothes, clothes for changing, trash bags, snacks and water

This trip was a collaboration with Naga Tourism. Thank you sir Alec, Bong, Wyne, Rustom & Paolo.


Related Posts :

Do check out Kara's account of our adventure on her blog - Rappelling Down a Waterfall in CamSur





Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Hiking : Mt. Pulag in a Day (Akiki-Ambangeg Trail)

We were pleasantly surprised with a full view of a rainbow as we ascended the pine tree forest of the Akiki Trail! :) 
On my 3rd visit to Mt. Pulag, I reunited with hiker friends, Gid of Pinoy Mountaineer, Jenny, Vinci and Koi. :) Our route was via the Akiki-Ambangeg , a 16 Kilometer trail that is estimated to take around 8 hours on a steady pace, short breaks and with smaller packs. The Akiki is known to be notoriously steep while Ambangeg trail with its rolling terrain, is commonly taken by hikers who want to take an easier approach to its summit. 
In one of our short breaks, we sat down to admire some of the mountains of the Cordilleras 
The usual itinerary for this route is 3D 2N as most are keen on witnessing the  sea clouds at the summit during sunrise. Our group on the other hand opted for a day hike. Personally, I find extended day hikes (hikes exceeding 5 hours) enjoyable because you can focus on the scenery without lugging a heavy pack on your back and have more time for side trips once you get down. 

Although hiring porters in Mt. Pulag is easy, I don’t feel comfortable getting one. While others would argue that it’s one of the ways to help locals earn livelihood, I feel that they should be hired for their expertise on the trail and not to carry other people’s load.  
Here's what I brought for the trip. For lunch, I brought two Energy gels. 
We convened at Victory Liner terminal in Baguio at 3:00 AM on a hired jeepney. With almost all sections of the road fixed, we arrived at the Akiki jump-off in Kabayan in 3hours. What used to be a bumpy and dusty road has transformed completely and the jeep cruised on a smooth wider road. I barely recognized it from my trip 2 years ago. 

After enjoying a quick roadside breakfast of tilapia, kangkong, rice and brewed coffee courtesy of Ma’am Gina, we set off to climb the steep cement stairs to the registration area. It was a pain to the lungs; I breathe obscenely and we're not even on the main trail yet!
Road side breakfast at the Akiki jump-off
Group shot at Eddet River. Photo taken by Koi Grey. (L-R) Me, Jenny, Vinci & Gideon
We started our hike at 7:07 AM. The section before Eddet River, a beautiful raging river where some groups camp, was a nice warm-up for the long hike. The terrain was even and how I wished it was the same the entire way. :P  We passed a section with sunflowers growing on both sides and for a while, I forgot how grueling the next few hours would be. 

After the river came the challenging sections which went on until we arrived at the summit. It’s not technical, just a very long steep trail with some pine needles scattered on the ground which made it slippery. 
After a sharp ascent at the pine forest, we took a short break for snacks
After less than two hours of trekking, we arrived at the area dubbed as Marlboro country. A hilly area with plants and pine trees, it is  reminiscent of the views from an old  Marlboro commercial. It is the second campsite and has  a water source and a stable hut for guides. 

Next came my favorite part, the mossy forest. Although it is less steep than the Pine trees section, I was still breathless on most parts. I could tell my lungs have not fully recovered from my 4 week battle with chicken pox last month. 
Mossy forest. If only it wasn't so cold, I would have taken a few minutes to just marvel at the moss that grew on trees
At this point, my companions were around 20-30 minutes ahead of me but the trail was easy to spot so I didn't mind the solitude. It also enabled me to take photos of trees, although I couldn't take as much as I wanted because it started drizzling and stopping for a break made the cold unbearable. 

Lunch was a convenient pack of Stinger energy gel which I was able to consume while trekking. I first learned about energy gels from a trail runner friend and it can fuel you for 10 KM of trail at least. It's also very lightweight and takes very little space in your pack. It costs 75 Pesos a gel which is almost the same price as buying a meal from a fastfood. 

Emerging from the mossy forest, I was welcomed by chilly winds and light drizzle, making my trek to the saddle camp, very cold. I ran into another cheery group and it felt nice to see their warm smiles as I began to feel miserably cold. After a few more steps, I stopped and marveled at some beautiful wildflowers along the trail. 

After another half-hour, I rejoined my friends under a hut for guides at the saddle campsite. We snacked and rested before making our way to the summit. At this point, I felt really tired so I just took one slow step at a time. In 20 minutes, I finally reached the summit. 
At the summit. Photo from Gideon Lasco.
Although there were no views - just stronger winds and cooler temperature - it felt great to finally reach the summit. It meant that trail would be much easier from this point on and I'm closer to getting some warm food inside my revolting tummy. Trail down is 7KM long, not exactly a  breeze but at least, it's a rolling trail - no more heart racing assaults! :) 

By 3:37 PM, we were back to the Babadak Ranger station, the jump-off for those starting at the Ambangeg trail and although we were drenched and feeling very cold, we were all in high spirits. After 8.5 hours in the trail, we were officially done and we feasted on hot Milo and bread from a sari-sari store. 
The entire group. Photo taken after we completed the hike. (L-R) Gideon, Me, Jenny, Vinci & Koi 
We were picked up by our hired jeep across the station. Afterwards, we traveled 30 minutes to Ma'am Gina's place where we washed up and ate our first dinner. 
And then we had desserts at Hill Station in Baguio. 
Then a second dinner at Zola along Session road. :P (They serve good omelettes here) 
A happy feat deserves several happy feasts. :P 

Travel Information : 
Primary jump-off from Manila to Mt. Pulag is Baguio City.
Bus from Manila to Baguio - check Victory Liner for schedules (bus fare : 450 Pesos, one way). Other bus companies with trips to Baguio are Genesis and Dagupan Bus lines.

Accommodation in Baguio City - We checked in at Hotel 45 Extension  the night before our hike. We got a private fan room for 3 with t&b  for 1,400 Pesos (off season rate, booked December 14, 2014).
Hotel 45 Extension  
Extension Hotel Contact
Tel. Phone:+63 (74) 442-3460
Mobile No: +63 0917-588-2759
Email: hotel45new@gmail.com
Rates
*Note that this is different from Hotel 45 Main which is the first branch  and is located along Session Road. Stayed in both, I prefer the extension because it has newer facilities and still near Session road. 

Hiking Information :
When planning a hike to Mt. Pulag, advance coordination must be done through Ma'am Mereng, the DENR-Park Superintendent - +63 09196315402
Guide Fee (mandatory) - 1,800 Pesos/group of 8 (traverse, our guide's name is Oswald)
Registration Fee - 200 Pesos/head (paid at Akiki Registration Area)
Jeepney - 8,500 Pesos (good for 18 persons, coordinated thru Ma'am Gina Epe, +63 09198169234 / 09999916008).

*For a hassle-free hike, book with Trail Adventours. Visit their site for schedules.

For  a 3D 2N itinerary,check out Pinoy Mountaineer. Gideon's account of our hike is also up on his blog under Hiking Matters #441.








Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hiking : Mt. Makiling (UPLB Trail)


Photo taken near the trailhead
After almost 4 weeks of staying indoors due to chicken pox, I returned to one of my favorite mountains, Mt. Makiling in Los Banos, Laguna. Although the trail is known to have lots of leeches (or limatiks as we locals call it), its rainforest is so beautiful - countless enormous trees with branches shrouding the sky, big ferns along the trail, endemic flowers at Peak 2, truly a plant lover's happy place. :) 

I knew I wouldn't be as strong as I was before getting sick since I hardly moved in weeks but it was a familiar trail (and one that I sorely missed!) with a 16 KM long course, out and back that takes 4-5 hours to complete. I figured I'd be okay if I took it easy. 
A customary shot with my favorite tree found along the trail - before we got into the denser section of the forest
We started hiking at 12:45 noon. It rained on the 1st hour  and the limatiks relentlessly sprung towards almost every part of my body, which I fought off by spraying alcohol. 

We weren't even halfway when I started feeling breathless and dizzy. I certainly did not expect my endurance to be that bad  because I actually felt able enough as we started but it was an assumption that almost made me lose consciousness. I survived by taking slow careful steps  and stopped when I was breathless.  

We reached peak 2 in two hours and it took another two hours to return to the jump-off where we bathe and removed the rest of the limatiks that hid inside our clothes. 
Tanny at Peak 2. Medinilla pendula (fuschia flowers) at the background
Still, I consider this a happy hike because well - I was able to hike and inhale generous amounts of fresh mountain air!  :) It was actually a good assessment of how much I need to train to get back into shape so I can do several more long hikes before the year ends. And honestly, with my fitness level down, I found this much more challenging than our Kitanglad-Dulang-Dulang traverse (blog here).  I felt so excited when we finally got down, like it was my first time in a mountain trail. 

Travel Notes & Expenses : 
How to Get to UP Los Banos 
Coming from EDSA (South bound side), just board any bus with a signage, "Alabang" . 
All Alabang buses stop at South Station. Fare is 45 Pesos (aircon bus). From South Station, take a  bus going to Sta. Cruz and ask for the bus conductor to let you off near UPLB campus. Fare from South Station Alabang to Los Banos is 64 PHP with a travel time of 2 hours. It's so much longer going back due to heavy traffic at Calamba. 

Jeep from Los Banos to UPLB College of Forestry - 8.50 PHP (Note that not all jeeps pass by College of Forestry so better ask the driver before boarding if they're driving by that route. 

Registration/hiker - 10 PHP (You will need to leave an ID). 
Jeep from UPLB to Centro Mall - 8.50 PHP (this is where we ate dinner)
Centro Mall to Calamba - 22 PHP
Calamba to Alabang - 50 PHP something

A well constructed itinerary & list of expenses can be found at Pinoy Mountaineer.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Globe Telecom's Data Roaming Flat Rate

Hello wandering subscribers of Globe!  (and if you're not a subscriber and have cherished chums who are, please feel free to forward this :) )

Globe's unlimited data roaming flat rate of P599/day is now available in over 70 countries worldwide! 


This offer is convenient when traveling overseas and you find yourself in dire need of internet access. Let's say, you need to view an online map or a navigation app to make your way around a place, you're scouting for a hotel and restaurant to try or need to send an important email. The service also comes with an excellent complement -  free travel insurance! :) 

What Plans are covered by this service?
All Globe Postpaid Plans. It is currently not available for Globe Prepaid, Load Tipid Plans and Load Allowance Plans.

How to Use?  
No need to register, just switch on your data roaming and you'll be locked on to Globe's partner carrier in your destination. You will receive a notification upon first data usage to signify the beginning of the 24 hour duration. You will also receive another notification 3 hours before the end of the Flat Rate validity. Lastly, you will receive a final notification that your 24 hours of validity has ended.

And just to repeat myself... :P 
Subscribers on the unlimited data roaming service will also receive free 
TravelCare insurance which provides up to P200,000 worth of protection from travel inconveniences for up to 30 days!   

To see all destinations covered visit Globe Data Roaming site.
*FAQs can be found at the lower right side of the page.

For assistance on other roaming concerns,dial *143# or call the Globe Roaming Hotline +6327301212 toll-free even while roaming abroad.

Globe also offers a bunch of call and text plans if you're traveling abroad. To know more about their Postpaid Roaming offers, visit this link.

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