a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Getting Started with Backpacking

I’m done packing for Busuanga! It’s pretty unusual that I got it done the night before I leave. I usually finish a few minutes before I get out of the house . It’s because I don’t enjoy packing and I usually wait at the last minute to stuff everything in my bag.

Some more good news…my left leg feels so much better. The stitches starting to feel itchy so I guess that means it’s starting to heal. I really hope I can climb Mt. Darala on Monday although I'm still pretty uncertain about it. The doctor has advised me to refrain from walking extensively for 10 days. My 10th day is this coming Tuesday. I can’t wait!

Anyway, I would like to share with you how I can afford to travel.

Honestly, I have a lot of financial responsibilities, can’t say I’m well-off really. I’m just good at allocating resources and reshuffling my funds.

It all started with a dream. About two years ago, I stumbled on a traveler’s blog – Ivan Henares. Back then, I read his adventures with a mixture of amusement and envy. I told myself I wanted to travel as extensively as he does.

A few months later, things started falling into place. I encountered Cebu Pacific. It’s a local budget airline that frequently has seat sales. The lowest fare I was able to purchase to this date was 56.02 pesos for a roundtrip airfare to Tacloban in Leyte. We booked it last December 2008 in one of Cebu Pac’s seat sale. That was the net amount. No kidding!

When it regards to spending money during travels, I scrimp a lot on transportation. I do a lot of walking, skip meals, share transportation with strangers, hitch a ride, sleep in airports - whatever I can do to cut the cost. Sometimes, I would bring cereals and my favorite biscuit sticks called Atori (available in Hi-Top Supermarket along Quezon Avenue). The Atori works like magic. At less than 24 pesos, it can fill you up like a full meal would. That’s how I survived in Kuala Lumpur. I do enjoy eating out but I usually eat at cheap food joints.

It also helps to always keep a positive outlook and faith in God. There had been several instances where there was a typhoon on the day of my flight but the trip still pushed through. Last May, when we went to Romblon, we got stranded in the Batangas pier for about 14 hours but the weather improved and we were able to make it to the summit of Mt. Guiting-Guiting. Then there was also this instance when we were in Ivatan, Batanes – the last jeepney had already left towards Basco and we were left with no choice but to spend a night there. The problem was, there was no lodging in Ivana at that time. It was nearing 7pm and we were still wandering around town. We got approached by a nice elderly lady while walking in the street and she offered us a room for the night.

It will not always be easy but the most important thing is that if you want to travel, you have to commit to it and be brave in facing adversities. Sometimes, I’d get broke and just stay home for several weekends. Sometimes I would be so tired from work or some personal issues would surface. Though I do break down, my mind and soul has a firm hold on the fact that I will be able to go to amazing places. That with the Lord, I have the strength to face anything.
Happy traveling!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hiking in Bukit Timah

Weeks before my trip, I typed these keywords in Google – “Mountains in Singapore”. The results led me to Bukit Timah – a hill measuring 163.63 meters or 537 feet which is the highest point in the entire Singapore. I smirked at its  size but at least it’s higher than the highest hill in Chocolate Hills which is just 120 meters. I did a virtual tour in the internet and was instantly attracted to it. It looks like a nice park with hiking trails. I quickly sent an instant message to my friend and begged (actually, more like, ordered) for them to take me to Bukit Timah.

The sun was hiding when we went down at the Upper Bukit Timah Road via a public bus. With me were four of my other friends, one of them was Norman who used to do a lot of hiking back in the Philippines. Prior to my arrival in Singapore, I told him I wanted to visit this hill and judging from the way he laughed, I knew he thought the same thing as I did – this was going to be a no sweat hike. However, I did packed an extra shirt before we set off– a used shirt from the previous day. I figured I probably won’t need it anyway.

Fernan took the lead in navigating our way towards the entrance of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and while trying to find the main entrance, we spotted two other hikers coming down the road, obviously just came out of the reserve and they looked like they had a tough time. Their faces were red and their hair, disheveled.

I gulped and glanced at Norman. It did not seem like a no sweat hike at all.

We walked for about a few more meters and by the time we reached the entrance, we were already hot and sweaty because it was a bit humid.

We immediately saw the reception hall and felt glad because they don’t charge you any entrance fees. How nice! For a while, we got a little confused as where to go but we saw a big map mounted on a wooden board near the reception and we just chose the path leading to the quarry which was on a separate trail from the summit. We figured we’d do the summit after that. We thought, we can manage to trek some more since 163.63 meters does not sound very challenging. After having our pictures taken at the huge boulder, we set off to a cemented path and I gulped. Lurking from a distance was a very, very, very steep cemented road.


After walking for a few seconds, everyone was sweating profusely . To think I almost didn’t bring any extra shirt for changing. Thank God that we had bought drinks from this vendo machine we saw along the way before we crossed the road to the park . I only got 330ML of flavored water and panicked, I didn’t think it would be enough.

Though the road we walked on was modern, both sides were filled with different species of trees. The notable ones were marked with signs to identify them.

We also saw some monkeys playing on the trees. After about 30 minutes of walking on the paved road, we hit a dead end. No view of the quarry, just a tiresome site of the modern world. There was a big structure of some sort where we were supposed to see the quarry. Disappointed, we then back tracked and set off for the summit trail. We broke off from the cemented path after climbing a few more stairs. After emitting several gallons of sweat, we finally reached the summit and took pictures. There wasn’t much to see in there, just a nice big boulder and some more interesting trees. I gulped down the flavored water I bought and felt dismayed for not bringing more. I then remembered that I only brought a used shirt and I wasn’t looking forward into wearing it as I had already worn it previously for about 10 hours or so.


After going down the summit, we saw another board with a map and we decided to search for the place where we can see a view of the quarry. This is where the trail got more interesting as we now hiked inside the forest. The trails are clean and easy to spot so you’d have to be extremely foolish to get lost in there. The terrain, wasn’t so difficult, but no so easy either. I was feeling excited to see something new but then my unfit muscles were beginning to complain. I seriously began craving for a nice decent meal after our hike.


We were a little disappointed when we reached the quarry view. It was severely obstructed by trees so the naughty part in us went a little off trail, nearer to the cliffs to take pictures. After risking our safety, we went back to the trail. An hour of steep trails after, we finally got to the main entrance.


We capped of the day with dinner near the Raffle’s train station where we met with two other former colleagues. It’s a huge food court – similar to the outdoor food court in Market Market. I felt so bloated after gorging on a generous serving of pineapple fried rice with shrimps. We did a lot of walking after dinner, ending up at Singapore's most distinctive landmark, the Merlion, where my friends mercilessly took pictures of me with it. :P 

Travel Notes:
Location: 177 Hindhede Drive Singapore 589333
Opening Hours : 8.30 am - 6.30 pm (daily)
Admission : Free
Approximate Touring Time: 3 hours
Telephone Number : (65) 6468 5736

How to Get to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
:


By Bus
SBS service 170. TIBs services 67, 75, 171, 173, 184, 852 and 961.
Alight along Upper Bukit Timah Road, opposite Bukit Timah Shopping Centre and Beauty World Centre, or along Jalan Anak Bukit, opposite Courts furniture store, and walk to the end of Hindhede Drive.

By Car
Travelling from the city, follow the direction of Upper Bukit Timah Road towards Woodlands, make a u-turn just after the Courts furniture store and turn left into Hindhede Drive. Limited parking is available at the foothill of the reserve. To minimise our impact to the reserve, especially on weekends, you may like to take the public transport instead.

Information Sources:
http://www.visitsingapore.com/publish/stbportal/en/home/what_to_see/parks___nature_reserves/bukit_timah_nature.html

http://www.nparks.gov.sg/cms/index.php?option=com_visitorsguide&task=naturereserves&id=46&Itemid=75

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Rock Climbing Mishap in Rizal

I’m physically in a lot of pain. My upper left calf was stitched this morning, my back feels sore and my right knee feels strained because I had been walking with most of the force on just one leg because of my wound. The anesthesia has worn off and it’s quite hard for me to move. I feel happy though. I’m still alive and my right leg is still functional. :P

Here's what happened...

At past 9am yesterday, me and three other friends from our office outdoor group met with Marc Gana, a contact from Multiply. He had organized a Rock Climbing 101 clinic in Wawa, in the municipality of Rodriguez (formely known as Montalban), province of Rizal. I have long been curious about Wawa Dam and the Montalban Gorge which was near the rock climbing site so I really wanted to go. I saw pictures of the place months ago, also through Multiply and the amusing mountains and river streams had stirred my curiosity.
We were joined by two new acquaintances – Luke and Imee. 

We boarded an airconditioned public FX (45 pesos) at the terminal near Jollibee in Araneta Center Cubao at a little before 11am. Supposedly, we were supposed to go down near Avilon Zoo in Rodriguez (still known by its old name – Montalban) and board another jeepney but the driver had agreed to drop us straight to Wawa for an additional 100 pesos for the whole group.

The travel time from Cubao to Wawa took about 90 minutes. At the jump-off, we made a short stop to purchase food and taho. There are several eateries and stores there where you can buy stuff. Less than 10 minutes from the jump-off was a view of the Montalban Gorge – one of the main reasons why I wanted to go here. I marveled at the mountains like a little girl. It was how I imagined it would look like. As usual, I kept saying my usual, “Wow!” and “Whoa” as we made our way down this hanging bridge. It was an amazing  sight. We passed a community and hiked for another 20 minutes towards the rock climbing site.



Sir Marc began with a short lecture about the gears that we were going to use for the climb. We learned about the different types of rope – like the static, kern rope and dynamic. For our climb, we used the dynamic rope which is elastic. He also introduced us to harnesses, carabiners, belay device and the chalk bag. He also explained how to care for the carabiners and the rope. Though these devices were not new to most of us, the prospect of using these for an actual rock climbing thrilled us.





After the lecture, Luke went ahead first, then Rhovee. Both had difficulty at the crux – which is a rock climber's term for the most difficult part of the boulder. When you’re down there and looking up at the climber, you’d think it was easy. Rhovee took almost an hour to scale a 50-meter rock while Luke took about 45 minutes. Rhovee’s like one of the strongest ones in our group.


Falling!
I was the third one to go and when I set off, mild precipitation began falling from the sky. The first few meters were not so bad. It was hard but manageable. By the time I reached the crux part, I began to feel tired and the rain poured much harder. What a welcome treat for me. Wah! I had already climbed about 40 meters and was almost at the marker. I was having difficulty because I wasn’t that agile and my upper body isn’t that strong. My flabs were also working against me. Mother nature seemed to be playing a trick on me as I was already soaked to the bone and I was having difficulty seeing because the rain got to my eyes. I felt a little scared because it felt really high. I tried to ignore it and focused. I was already having trouble clinging to the rocks and questioned myself for the nth time why I often put myself in such difficult situations where I could just be sitting in a couch somewhere, laughing with friends.

For several seconds, I couldn’t move from where I was. My muscles felt tired and I was trying to find little rocks to grip. I  refused to give up and clung to the rocks with all my might. I had been hanging on to a rock for several seconds (felt like hours!), straining my arms when my hands slipped. Everything happened so quickly, I just remembered screaming and swinging to the other side of the boulder. I hit a jagged part which didn’t hurt that much but when I glanced at my left leg, I saw a lot of blood gushing down. At first I thought it was just a small wound. Upon closer inspection, I realized that my skin was torn off and I could see some white stuff oozing  out.

I was both amused and mortified at the same time. I only felt faint for a few seconds and then my presence of mind took over. I have never seen far beyond the outermost layer of my skin so this one was new to me. I rested for several seconds at the branch of this comforting tree and yelled to everyone that I was okay.  It didn’t take more than a few seconds for me to decide to go down because there was just too much blood. I left a blood trail as I rappelled down the boulder. 

It was a great thing that both Mils and JZ brought their first aid kit and that one of the participants – Imee was a registered nurse. She and Rhovee helped clean my cut and wrapped it with gauze. I sat on the mud for the entire duration of the rock climbing activity. It was still fun though as I was in the company of great friends and great new acquaintances. Everyone was thoughtful and kept asking me if I was okay. I just took some pictures from where I was sitting and waited patiently until everyone finished their turn. 


Casualty #2 - hit the same rock I did

We finished at around 6:00PM and hiking down from the site proved to be a challenge for me as I could only use one leg for walking. We had to go down another boulder and a muddy path. I just walked barefoot as I usually do when my slippers don’t have enough traction.

We washed up at a local’s place and we got back to Cubao at around 11:00pm. We had dinner near Gateway – Blackbeard’s Seafood Island (commonly known as just Seafood Island). We ordered this boodle feast which satisfied our screaming from hunger tummies. We finished past 12am and JZ accompanied me to the ER to get my stitches at a nearby hospital. The staff at the hospital joked that I had brand new legs.  I incurred a total of 7 stitches that night and I was just too grateful they were able to close it.


Travel Notes:
  • Multiply Site of our Climbing instructor : http://www.ganamarc.multiply.com/ - he’s also a freelance team building facilitator. You can just drop by his site and contact him. He also organizes adventure trips.
  • The municipality of Rodriguez is the new name for Montalban (though Montalban is still frequently used by locals)
  • According to Marc, the rock climbing site is about 10 minutes away from the picturesque Wawa Dam
How to Get to Wawa Dam Coming from EDSA Cubao:
1. Board an FX (45 pesos) at the terminal – walking distance from Jollibee (you can see this from EDSA-Araneta Cubao Station Northbound)
2. Alight near Avilon Zoo and board a jeep bound for the Municipality of Montalban/Rodriguez. This jeepney ride will take about 20 minutes based from what read in another blog.

You can also check these other sites for more information on Wawa:
http://yoyostribe.blogspot.com/2006/05/wawa-dam-montalban-rizal.html
http://www.vistapinas.com/article/wawa-dam-and-the-montalban-gorge





Sunday, August 9, 2009

Urban Adventure : Jurong Gardens, Singapore


It was a Monday morning in Singapore and the friends I stayed with had to go to work. I was scheduled to fly back to Kuala Lumpur at around 9 PM that day so  I decided to explore the city on my own. 

With plenty of time to waste, no concrete plans and dwindling cash, I decided to travel to the farthest terminal from the MRT, Joo Koon (East West Line) – about an hour or less away from where I was. Before I hopped on the train, I chatted with a nice, elderly lady at the station and asked for a park in Joo Koon. She informed me that there are no parks where I was headed but there’s a very nice one near the Chinese Garden station – a station away from Joo Koon. 

Also referred to as the Chinese Garden, Jurong Gardens features Chinese imperial style of architecture and landscaping. Sculptures of lion, which according to Chinese beliefs represents power, guard the entrance to the garden. As I made my way around the pathways around the park, I felt very relaxed. It was quiet and there were very few people around, mostly tourists.  I roamed and walked on boardwalks cloaked by trees and spent a few minutes on a bench comforted by the breeze. 



After resting, I went out to get some refreshments and headed back to the city via train to catch my flight back to KL. Though my backpack was 7 kilos heavy, it was a joy roaming around Jurong Gardens - especially since it wasn't really planned.  

Travel Notes:
For the train Schedule, map and routes in Singapore, visit their website at :
http://www.smrt.com.sg/trains/network_map.asp


How to Get to Jurong Gardens (also known as Chinese Garden):The east entrance of Jurong Gardens is located next to the Chinese Garden MRT station. Make sure you ride the East West Line of the MRT bound for Joo Koon which is the last stop. After exiting the train station, you will see a stone pathway and a red bridge which leads to the entrance of the park. You can just walk going there - about 5-10 minutes away from the station.

Admission to the Main Garden is FREE but there are other attractions within the park which charge a fee of 2-5 Singapore Dollars/adult.


More information About Jurong Gardens : 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Garden,_Singapore
http://www.singaporevr.com/vrs/chinese_gardens/

Friday, August 7, 2009

Stay Wide Awake This August 10 and Get Great Deals from Air Asia

I got an email from Air Asia this afternoon regarding their Big Sale which they claim is even better than their previous FREE SEATS sale. OMG!

I'm so excited. Opps... which reminds me, I need to save money. Oh well, I'm just going to check what's up. I just hope I can manage to stay awake because it is during these hours that I am sleeping soundly.

At exactly 12:00 AM of August 10, Air Asia will have their BIG SALE. So make sure you log on to :

http://www.airasia.com/site/ph/en/home.jsp

View my previous post about Air Asia Here.

From the Philippines, Air Asia has flights originating from Clark to either Kuala Lumpur or Kota Kinabalu. Both KL and Kota Kinabalu are excellent jump-offs to other countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and more! :) I've flown with them six times and the experience has been great so far. Just keep in mind that this is a budget airline so don't expect much like free snacks or a huge area to stretch your legs. Their staff are nice though and attentive to your needs. At one flight, the pilot even managed to spit out a joke which caught me off-guard that I couldn't help but laugh.

HAPPY TRAVELING!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Passage for Adventurers

This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible and I strive to live by it. This is what I try keep in my heart when I go on an adventure. It works all the time. I also learned of letting the Lord take charge when I am unable to do anything else about a situation. I was actually in trouble a while ago, but I sought help from the Good Man Above, very quickly, while trying to control my nerves and I beautifully got out of the mess which is the primary reason why I'm posting this.
"Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me."

Psalm 23:4

Monday, August 3, 2009

I want....

I want to go to a place so beautiful, it will blow my mind away.

I want to stare at a view and cry.

I want to look at it and wonder how such a place could exist.

I want more of life.

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