As we started our hike down a rough road, we were welcomed with genuine smiles from the residents of Barangay Karahume in Rizal. A few meters farther, we ran into a crowd, comprising of members of the Dumagat tribe who traveled to receive supplies provided by a government official. They gave out curious, friendly looks to which I returned a jovial greeting. With me was a new acquaintance, a fellow hiker who has explored several trails within Mt. Balagbag. I was informed that we were doing a traverse and I was ecstatic - as always.
From the road side, we descended to a river trail that led to Ocho-Ocho Falls, where we had to climb five small falls. We bumped into another group - one of which was a fellow blogger - Dermin of The Quixotic World.
I had already ascended about 15 feet of the fourth fall. On the last but toughest portion, my nerves started to get the best of me. Water was flowing everywhere and being acrophobic, I felt anxious about the altitude. I hang on to a rock, unsure what to do. I had no firm grip on anything. "I'm going to fall." I thought to myself.
Since my rock climbing accident two years ago where I incurred 7 stitches and unable to walk properly for two weeks, I've been fearful of climbing on boulders - specifically wet ones or anything that recreates the environment where I fell.
I called out to my companion and told her I was having difficulty making my way up. I know she couldn't do anything about it. I had to figure it out on my own and forced myself to think straight. I even called out to God (yes, I was really, really scared!). Finally, I found something to hang on to and while holding my breath, pushed myself upwards. I made it! I was happy but my energy was drained. During our lunch stop, I consumed a lot of food to make up for the lost calories I burned trying to get myself together. Haha!
The rest of the trail, though quite hot on the first hour, was quite manageable. We reached the summit in about two hours, minus lunch time. There, we feasted on the views of nearby mountains and the Sierra Madre Mountain Range (another dream hike!).
We went down using the Rotary Trail which had thicker foliage. It was already dark when we finally reached Barangay Karahume where we rented a tricycle that took us back to the main highway.
This challenging and rewarding hike up Mt. Balagbag was a fitting way to say goodbye to 2011. Here's to more adventures for 2012! :)
Extreme precautions must be carried out when climbing waterfalls. Protective equipment such as helmet and ropes is recommended. Also, please check the weather and don't push through your trip in case of heavy rains. (For weather updates, I visit the PAGASA website and Accuweather.)
Two good sources are available online: