Saturday, August 28, 2010

Kwentong Kaladkarin # 03: Back in Batulao's Arms

Da Where: Mt. Batulao in Nasugbu, Batangas

Da When: July 31-August 1, 2010
Da Who: me, Vin, Archie, Jac, Germaine, Ferdie and Mico

Da Trivia: May nataga ng Gran Matador sa climb na to. Guess who? hahaha!
Da Word/s for the Day: "Ate", the Business Tycoon (I still can't stop laughing whenever I think about this. LOL!)

Mt. Batulao holds a special spot in my heart. This mountain is my first climb with Vin back in October 2008. My second climb was with VEAT, and the third was my first anniversary climb. This past weekend, I was with an awesome group of people, familiar and new. And I knew I was in for another rockin' good climb.

I have been wishing for a good-weather weekend ever since my birthday so I'd get to climb again but it wasn't granted for the longest time. So when Vin said that he and his team from work confirmed the climb, I just resigned to the fact that I will experience another wet climb; which I hate, after almost freezing to death in Mt. Cristobal.

Saturday found me running late on the supposed-10:00am MNL call time in ExportBank Plaza. After hailing a cab and getting to the Genesis Terminal in Pasay Rotonda, settling in the bus is a great comfort. I just love long road trips. :)

The foggy roads that greeted us in Tagaytay were not very welcoming. It could mean rain in the trails or in the mountain peaks, and possibly some low to zero visibility during the trek. I was already expecting the worst, bringing a poncho and waterproofed all gears. But Mother Nature had something else in store for us that day. :)

The rain that greeted us at Tagaytay

Getting off at Evercrest Golf Resort, we stopped by Aling Maring’s and bought other essentials we have missed. That includes Gran Matador. Haha! I again met Erwin, the 9-year-old kid Vin and I got to guide us on my first climb there. He rescued me back then when I was giving up on my pack's weight already. He's about 11 years old now and still remembers me by my full first name, Ate Camela. Haha! Cute.

After some repacking, we hit the pavement on our way to the jump-off. The verdant greens and refreshing smell of the rain enveloped us as we walked for about 20 minutes. We could have hired a tricycle to get us there faster but we wanted to use the walk as warm-up before we hit the slopes.

We knew we were almost near the barangay elementary school which is the official jump-off to the climb coz the roads started to veer from cemented road to a stretch of muddy path. Everyone struggled to trudge uphill because inches of mud were already caking our shoes. Only careful balancing and choosing to step on drier areas of the trail kept us from falling flat on our faces. Everybody sighed in relief when we reached Mini-Stop, the first buko stop and enjoyed our fresh, delicious coconut drinks while attempting to scrape off the mud stuck on our shoes. It was a futile attempt because once we continued trekking; we got even more mud stuck to our shoes! Haha! :D

"Hello mud!", says my Merell shoes :D

Things improved when we hit the rolling terrains. The ground here is a little drier and packed and we’re able to get better footing already. We got more and more excited with each peak we reach, aiming for Camp 7 where we will pitch camp for the night. We met a couple more groups in the trails, enjoying the light drizzle since Batulao is sparse of trees that can offer shade during high noon when the sun is merciless. Mico, a naturally friendly person, even posed for a picture for one of the groups we met. Hahaha!

We arrived triumphant at Camp 7 with everyone still in high spirits because we made it in time to catch one of the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever seen in Batulao. Memoir snapshots are of course, in order. :)

The most gorgeous sunset I have seen in Batulao, to date.

Mico, the Sun Goddess
 I’d say one of the best parts of the climb is always the mealtimes. I have come to appreciate all the food considered ordinary or even unappetizing when you are in the lowlands. Our dinner this time was no different. We had the simplest of meals – canned spicy tuna, boiled eggplant with alamang, sliced salted eggs with tomatoes and onions and mounds of rice. Yet we ate like it was the best meal we’ve had for years. :D

Sliced salted eggs, tomatoes and onions. Perfetto!
The dark started to cloak the camp and the chilly winds were blowing. Archie lighted the camp light and Marvin prepared iced tea in the 1-liter water bottles we brought up. That only means one thing – socials! *grin

Gathering around the camp light, stories were shared and good times were made as shots of Gran Matador, iced tea and Red Horse Beer were passed around. I couldn’t remember much of it, which proves how wasted I was. All I know is that everybody had fun, even our camp neighbors, who seemed to have their own parties as well. Hahaha! I’d let the photos speak for itself. *wink*

Jac's multi-purpose camera tripod - also holds the the camp light and phone for party music.

Group pic! Senglot na! :D
After a night of several ounces of alcohol in me, I could not count on myself to wake up at sunrise. Too bad I missed it; it was equally dazzling as the sunset we witnessed the day before. After a quick breakfast of hot beef noodles courtesy of Germaine and Ferdz, Vin led the way to the summit of Mt. Batulao. 

I have been there only once in my past three climbs and I’m quite excited to see the view from the top again. It will be a first for Jac, Mico and Ferdz, which made the one-hour assault exciting.

About 15 minutes from the peak, you will have to walk/crawl on a knife-edge trail several meters long. This is the exciting part of the trek up as it requires presence of mind and focus so you won’t freeze when you see the sheer drops on each side. 

I, for one have been trying to conquer my acrophobia, and experiencing this for the second time didn’t make it any easier. Gripping on the rocks for dear life, I slowly inched my way to the other side. While my bare hands rubbed sore on the jagged rock, it brings back a realization of how life is so short. That any moment, a strong gust of wind can topple me off and send me falling down the ravine. And then it makes you thank the Guy Upstairs for always protecting you from harm, on top of the mountain or otherwise.

Reaching the peak was significant. Mico had some troubles in the trail. It was very hot, not even a whisper of breeze was to be had to cool us off. But it was well worth it. A small makeshift tent was constructed at the peak, with Ate selling invigorating bottles of chilled Mountain Dew. It was for PhP25.00 (!) but every peso was worth it. :)

At about 811 MASL, the peak afforded us a 360-degree view of Cavite, Batangas, the neighboring mountains (hello Makiling, Talamitam and Pico de Loro!) and the seas off Batangas pier. Just acres of green and blue as far as the eye can see is one of the best sights your eyes can ever lay on.

"Magkaribal", the Batulao version
Batulao's Next Top Models

Our descend back to the campsite felt lighter and shorter, maybe because we were still exhilarated from reaching the summit. Archie already prepared our brunch of danggit and dried pusit with rice and we settled in like pack of hungry wolves. Hahaha! We improvised a fly sheet to protect us from the sun as it was perfectly cloudless skies above us.

My least favorite part of a climb is breaking camp but as they say, all good things always come to an end. We cleaned up all traces of us being there. It’s very important to practice the LNT principle (Leave No Trace). Leave nothing but footprints; take nothing but pictures; kill nothing but time.

Going down was relatively easier than our way up. The thoughts of a good bath and some steaming bulalo kept us going. ;P After bidding goodbye to Aling Maring for accommodating us, we took the jeep to Mendez, Cavite. As tradition, we’re dropping by Merben’s for some good ol’ bulalo and fried bangus. Galit-galit muna in the first few minutes after the food was served. Hahaha! :D

The bus ride back to Manila means back to reality. Our aching muscles and sunburned skins were painful yet fun reminders of the good times we had from this climb. I look forward to seeing you in other mountain trails again, guys.

And maybe, just maybe, Ate will be there at the summit, offering a cold bottle of Mountain Dew and another view of the high heavens and miles of rich, green earth to greet our weary eyes. ;D

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