a journal on hiking and traveling around the Philippines

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Crazy Doable Adventures

A few days ago, I Tweeted, "Great adventures are often those that were thought to be impossible and ridiculous. :)". 

I was reminiscing happy memories of all the times I pursued a crazy idea and had the time of my life. For this post however, I won't blabber solely about my escapades. I've included the inspiring feats of old friends and acquaintances who stayed committed to their passion and with planning and sane precautions,  was able to fulfill a dream off their bucket list. 

1. Family RTW Trip 
Last year, a travel addict friend from college started touring the world with her adorable toddler and hubby. They've been to Australia,  Africa, around Asia and uh, wherever,  I lost tracked already.  :P

If you're wondering how they can afford it, all I can say is that they both work hard and their jobs give them the freedom to work from any place that has internet connection.  

Follow their adventures at Pinay Travel Junkie, follow her on Twitter - @nomadwifey or subscribe to her Facebook Page.

Photo Courtesy of Gay Emami. Thanks Gayonce!
2.  Timbak-Akiki-Ambangeg- Weekend Hike 
One of the many Filipino hikers I admire is Adonis Loren (Lagataw) who is known in the mountaineering circle for his extreme mountain hikes. I just met him in person this year and was delighted with how humble and personable he is.  

Among Lagataw's adventures which have inspired me is his weekend hike to Timbak-Akiki-Ambangeg. 

Timbak is Luzon's 3rd highest peak at 2,717 MASL  while Pulag is Luzon's highest at 2,922 MASL.  Mt. Timbak is normally hiked in a day while a traverse in Mt. Pulag from Akiki to Ambangeg is usually done within 3 days. He managed to cut two days off! :) Amazing!

Check out his post at Lagataw.

3. Establish the Philippines' First Kayak  Trail 
In 2009,  Buzzy Budlong, along with Singaporean adventurer, Everest summiteer Khoo Swee Chiow successfully established the Philippines' first kayak trail starting from Saranggani to Pagudpud, passing by 50 provinces in a span of 88 days! FHM Article here.

Buzzy paddling in Bohol
Buzzy remains committed to his love for paddling through his business, Paddles and Laddles. If you want to kayak with him, just  message him on FacebookI suggest trying out the Fireflies Kayaking for a surreal experience along Abatan River's mangroves. :) 

Here's a post of a friend on his Fireflies Kayaking experience : Running Pinoy

 4. Tapulao Day Hike 
Mt. Tapulao is Zambales' highest peak. The trail normally takes a mentally excruciating 7-hour hike to its campsite. It will pass through a painfully rocky long and winding road, that's slightly inclined. The trail is merciless, exposed to the sun with not much view for the first 4-5 hours. Then another hour to get to the peak which is through a mossy forest.  

In 2008, a day hike in Mt. Tapulao was a ridiculous idea. So when a friend suggested we do  a day hike, because he had plans to go biking the following day, I told him he's crazy and it was impossible. He was unnerved and so I thought, what the heck? I wanted to come back and enjoy this mountain anyway. Several days after that talk, we attempted a day hike. We started at 3:30 AM, got to the summit by lunch time and by 6:00 PM, we had gone back to the Barangay hall where we started our hike. 

We got back to Manila at past 1:00 AM and we could barely get down the bus due to ailing knees. Needless to say, my friends cancelled their biking trip the following day. :p 

Updated itinerary of a Tapulao day hike can be found at Pinoy Mountaineer.


5.  Mt. Apo Day Hike 
My friend Jules works with an NGO and she gets sent off to Mindanao all the time. While the free flights and side trips are fun, she's constantly on the move and always pressed for time. Despite her busy schedule, she fights hard to squeeze some time for her passion - sky running (running in a trail with a minimum altitude of 2,000 meters).  

Mt. Apo, the Philippine's highest peak is at 2,956 MASL and is one of the few mountains in the Philippines where sky running is possible. When she came up with the idea of a day trip to Mt. Apo, it was met with objections coming from the people around her because a regular hike from the base to  the summit and back takes 2-3 days. There is a trail  known as the PNOC/Executive trail where a day hike is highly possible, but it would take weeks to secure a permit and she did not have enough time to process it because of her rigorous work schedule. 

Given that she was taking a regular trail, no one was willing to guide her, and some of the people she  approached for help were hesitant, but she stuck with the plan and eventually found a local who was willing to take her up the mountain.  Finally, on August 14, 2011,  she started her ascent from Lake Agco, reached the peak of Mt. Apo and got down the same day. 
Photo from : Trail Running Mistress (thanks Jules!) 
Read about her Apo Day hike at Running Mistress or better yet, join her on Facebook - Trail Running Mistress.

Everywhere, I often hear or read about people who are able to fulfill even bigger dreams. I figured, everyone's created equal and if only we can commit and put in the same level of focus as these people have,  then these dreams  are just realities waiting to happen. :) Happy dreaming! 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mountain Wish List


I'm enjoying a quiet, lazy weekend and  I'm in a dreamy mood.

Delightful thoughts of mountains while I'm in the comforts of home are floating in my head.

I'm in love with these giant green mounds scattered around the world. I dream of being able to tramp everywhere on my hiking shoes and discover views so beautiful, it will knock off my senses. 

While I am yet to get into that state where I can afford to hike anywhere at any time, I am sharing with you a list of mountains I want to visit within the next two years.

The basis of my picks were purely out of, uhm I don't know.I want to hike these mountains just because, no complex reason, no memories I want to forget, no broken heart or whatever. I climb mountains because it makes me happy.

1. Mt. Hibok-Hibok - an active volcano located in Camiguin. I first visited Camiguin in 2008 and the foot of Mt. Hibok-Hibok was one of the last stops of the agonizing motorbike tour I availed.  Something about the misty atmosphere around the mountain drew me to it and I spent a few minutes just staring at it until the sun went down. I must go back here and experience its trails.  (Blog about the Trail Running Mistress's Day Hike adventure here)

Photo Credit : Jules, www.trailrunningmistress.blogspot.com)

2. Mt. Apo - the Philippines'  highest mountain is an imposing wonder of nature at 2,956 Meters Above Sea Level. It's main entry point is through Davao City, one of the safest places in the entire Philippines and where one can find Blugre Cafe that serve durian coffee. (Read about my friend's day hike in Mt. Apo here.)

Photo Credit : Jules, www.runningmistress.blogspot.com

3. Dulang-Dulang & Kitanglad  Traverse - The Philippines' second highest peak can be found in Bukidnon, an adventurer's haven.  I am particularly attracted to the various trees at Mt. Dulang-Dulang's  summit.

Photo Credit : Benjamin Maputi, race director for Kitanglad Rugged Mountain Race. You can also contact him for guideship. Just PM him on Facebook.)

4. Mt. Mayon -  I've only seen it from afar while on a backpacking trip in Bicol and was mesmerized with how it looked like a perfect triangle in the heart of Tabaco, Albay.

I wasn't interested in going here, I was  ignorant about its trails and  assumed  it was devoid of trees until I saw an acquaintance's summit photo when they trekked  Mt. Mayon. It showed a trail with a thick foliage, a vast swamp and boulders at the summit.

Photo Credit : My good friend Connie

5. Sri Pada/Adam's Peak -  Sri Lanka's sacred mountain at a height of 2,243 MASL. The summit of Adam's Peak features a depression on the ground that resembles a footprint. Buddhist's believe it's Buddha's, Hindus think it's Shiva's  while  Muslims think it's Adam's.The regular trail is through stone steps which is flocked by  thousands during the Pilgrimage season from December to May. It features several trails  of varying levels of difficulty. 

                                              Video sourced from YouTube
                                                
Last on my list has been in my mountain wish list for the longest time.

6. Mt. Halcon, Oriental Mindoro -  Based on what I've read from Pinoy Mountaineer, Mt. Halcon was closed in 2006 by its local officials and the DENR and has not opened since. Boo hoo.It's one of the few mountains in the Philippines that has been classified with a degree of difficulty  of 9/9 (9 being the most difficult). Naturally, I am intrigued. :)

Photo Credit : Gideon of PinoyMountaineer.com
How about you? Where do you plan to go next? :)


Friday, May 18, 2012

Sunrise at the Akiki Trail


I woke up inside my tent at past 4:00 AM, shivering from the wind blowing from everywhere at the saddle campsite of Mt. Pulag. I groaned when I realized I overslept.  A couple of my companions were already up and preparing for their hike to the summit while I had to pack in the dark and start my hike down a different trail so I can catch the 11:00 AM bus back to Baguio.

The Akiki trail is dubbed by local mountaineers as the "Killer Trail" to Luzon's highest peak. Majority of its terrain is very steep which knocks your breath away while some are slippery due to the scattered pine needles that fell on the ground.

Despite its reputation, many are still enamored to take this challenging trail as it presents a different perspective of the mountain with its mossy forest and imposing views of its neighboring mountains.

Though I was very much excited and determined  to set foot at the Akiki Trail, I was terrified to get out of the tent and battle the cold which was the lowest temperature I've ever experienced. It's a painful type of cold that penetrates your bones and reduces you  to a little kid, clamoring for  mom's warm, comforting hug. 

I put on two jackets on top of my shirt, covered my head with its two hoods and brazed myself for the freezing winds as I unzipped the door of the tent.

@#%!!!!

It was cold!


I pulled out all my stuff from the tent and packed as quickly as I could. I overheard my friends talking and I could not grab a hold of my social skills to join in the excited chatter as most of us in the group were here for the first time.  I ignored them and focused on shoving everything inside my backpack.


Soriano, my guide had just arrived and I apologized for being late.


I finished packing in record time, put on my gloves and bid goodbye to my friends. It was still dark and the wind pounded against my skin mercilessly. It was tough to breathe.


Finally, we started descending and my lungs no longer had to gasp for air.  I began to enjoy the hike, even if it was just me and Soriano treading the trails.

The sun started to rise on my right, revealing the numerous peaks that surrounded us.  I could see clouds floating like fluffy pillows over the horizon. I could not help but stop and gawk at the amazing sight.   





From where I stood, I could see a huge crowd  that had engulfed the summit.

I smiled with gratitude  that I was able to enjoy the sunrise in peace which is exactly how I want each day to begin - quiet and with a beautiful view.


For a full account of my first time visit to Mt. Pulag and some travel information on how to get here, please visit this link.


Friday, May 11, 2012

A Lazy Adventure on a Lazy Weekend

I woke up at 2AM to take a quick bath, still a bit hung-over from a get-together with friends the previous night. I was meeting Gay, a college friend for an early breakfast before her quick beach escape to Puerto Galera. She had just returned to the Philippines for a short break from her round the world gallivanting with her hubby and adorable toddler so we thought we'd catch up a bit - at 4AM! :P 

Up until the time I woke up, I kept on changing my mind where I'd be that weekend. I was stressed from work and had tons of backlogs to clear. As I put on my shirt, I felt a sudden inexplicable longing to be in the mountains and the whim was just too strong to ignore. Before I fully comprehended what was happening, I was already on my hiking shoes and ready to breeze out the door. 

After laughing the morning away with Gaye and her beach buddy Monette, we parted ways and I began my last minute journey to this place I can consider my second home, Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, Batangas. I stopped counting the number of times I've hiked this mountain but every visit is as enjoyable as my first - which I can't actually recall when. :P 

I started hiking before 9AM. Then the stress of the week got to me and I felt lazy. I told myself I'll just hike until I felt like stopping. As I followed the trail through the thick foliage, my eyes wandered on the trees that had interesting branches - some were thick, others twisted and some appeared to be romancing other trees - their branches entwined  to the next tree.


I consciously chose a wrong turn. It's a path that has piqued my curiosity for quite some time. I met a local who was chopping some wood and asked where it led. He told me it's a trail used by locals to get to their farmlands. I decided to check it out. What the heck. It's not like I had an appointment that day. 

The trail is narrow and leads to several other trails. I made sure I remembered my way back. Here, foliage is thicker and I felt I had the mountain to myself. The normal trail that leads to the campsite of Maculot is swarmed with hikers on a weekend and you'll hardly feel alone on the trail. It's always fun to meet other people who shares the same passion but for this particular weekend, I didn't not feel like meeting new people. I just wanted to be left alone. 

I spent some time in the woods, just taking photos of trees and enjoying the solitude which I rarely have when I'm in the city. I went back to the regular trail, hiked a bit and before I reached the campsite, I decided to go down. I got the solitude I wanted and it was time for another adventure. :P 

To the town of Taal! 

Taal is a 45-minute jeepney ride from Cuenca, Batangas. It is famous for its heritage houses and the biggest Catholic church in Asia - St. Martin de Tours Basilica. 


I only spent two hours walking aimlessly around this town before I decided to go back home. The  sweltering heat of the sun was just overbearing! 


Travel information is available at their tourism website. You can also check out this walking guide from Eazy Traveler.



Itinerary for Mt. Maculot can be found at Pinoy Mountaineer.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Inspire : Adventure & Travel Videos

When I was a kid, I  had an obsessive habit of keeping tabs of all the Betamax tapes I've watched.  It was handwritten on several pages  of bond paper - back to back.  My memory was quite sharp then and I remembered everything!  Now I misplace my keys most of the time.  :P

I've stopped this eccentric habit more than a decade ago, but my penchant for watching videos - music, raw videos, whatever I fancy has remained the same. How can it fade away when we now have You Tube, Vimeo and  faster internet connection which makes sharing and watching videos easier? But you know what, sometimes, I do miss  the thrill of waiting for the computer to connect to the internet via dial-up.  Haha! 

Here's some of my favorites.  I've limited the list to those related to adventure and travel. :)  Hope you get inspired by these. Happy viewing!


1. Robin Esrock's - This is Life 
Robin's an adventurer, travel writer, TV producer and international TV personality. He's a co-host of the travel show Word Travels) and  owner of the travel blog Modern Gonzo. This video sums up on how he got into co-producing his own t.v. series and all the amazing stuff he has done while on the job. 
Official Website here.



2. Volcano Boarding at Nicaragua -  an entertaining 7-minute video of an all-ladies adventure in Cerro Negro, an active volcano in Nicaragua.  Hmm, maybe I should finally try sand boarding in Ilocos Norte or find a mountain where I can do it. Ooh, btw, I found the FB page of Lead Movement, the group who popularized sand boarding in the Philippines. 

The girl at 6:36 reminds me of how dirty I can get  (yeah, literally!) when I travel. :P


3. Music Video - Return to Innocence by Enigma - This video reminds me of unforgettable past adventures of body surfing in Cagayan Valley, hiking beside the cornfields of Bukidnon to get to the Benedictine Monastery and wandering around the  breathtaking  landscapes of Batanes. Ah, good times! :) 


Don't forget to share your fave videos at the comments section! :) Would love to check out other vids.  




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