Sunday, December 5, 2010

Kwentong Kaladkarin #06: Tales from Tarak Ridge

Da Where: Mt. Mariveles (Tarak Ridge), Brgy. Alas-asin, Mariveles, Bataan, Philippines
Da When: Nov. 27-28, 2010
Da Who: me, Vin, Archie, Joey, Isabel, Doie, Dhoobie, Gboi and the Jamboree Mountaineers and United Trekkers
Da Trivia: My first climb-for-a-cause and my 2nd akyatniversary climb. Can you believe it? Two years of this crazy pastime/passion!
Da Quotes for the Day: "Papaya River na ba to?" in every stream and trickling mini-falls we reach; "Mahangin ba sa labas?" at camp; "Di makatarungan ang tarik na to!" during the cardiac trail assault

"Sigurado ka? (Are you sure?)" was the initial reaction I get from the folks I dared mention to that I'd be on another climb just this past weekend after some bad-ass physical activity the other weekend in Sagada. Marvin also blurted out the same thing when I said it's going to be at Tarak Ridge in Mariveles, Bataan. Indeed I was crazy, Tarak Ridge is classified as a major climb after all. And we haven't clocked in much conditioning for the past months.

But damn yes, I was sure.

Rewind to 3 weeks ago, sir Joey casually threw out an invite for a climb for a cause organized by Jamboree Mountaineeers and United Trekkers. I jumped in at the chance for three reasons:
  1. I've never been to Bataan and I wanted to throw Tarak in to my 'new-mountain-climbed-list' since all of my climbs this year were repeat climbs.
  2. A huge chunk of the registration fee will be used to make the Christmas wishes of native kids of Brgy. Alas-asin come true.
  3. I have yet to do my anniversary climb (I hit my 2 years of being one with nature October of this year).
So barely recovering from muscle pain after Sagada and surviving from a 3hour sleep/day work week - I silently threw out a prayer to Him to give us enough strength to manage this feat. We all met up at Genesis Liner terminal at EDSA Cubao on Saturday morning at 0300h and waited for the rest of the group to show up.

The boxes of goodies and toys finally arrived! @ Genesis Terminal, EDSA Cubao
Pretty soon, we got on the bus, settled in and mostly slept the almost-4hour trip. Next thing we know, the bus came to a full stop and the rest started piling out. Dragging my bag along, I alighted and felt the cold breeze only a Bataan December morning can bring. After a little discussion, it was decided that we'd be carrying the boxes to the place where the kids will be assembled. Good thing the carton box I picked up wasn't the canned goods or I'd be dead. It was about another kilometer from the main highway, and a rough road too.

Yes, mini-boulders were strewn on the rough road we had to navigate to get to the place where the kids were all waiting for their gifts!

When we got there, we were met with toothy smiles from the kids. They all looked eager and so energetic. I, on the other hand, felt sleepy and tired. Haha!

For the next 3 hours, the kids were entertained with storytelling, face painting and tattoo and lined up to receive their Christmas wishes.

All so serious - listening to a story about a fairy and her friends.

Vin handing out school bags

Kiddos lining up for their gifts and enjoying the bubbles

All smiles and all sleepy. LOL! :D

The festivities eventually died down as the kids (and their parents) left one by one, all grinning and shyly saying their 'thank you's". We had our lunch of rice, pork adobo and salted eggs before making last minute packing and starting on our trek at around 1200h.

The sun was high in the sky but the wind was relentless as it was blowing hard enough to make me shift on my foot. I had to put my weight down not to get toppled over. And that wind ferocity even doubled when we hit camp but I'm saving that for later.

We passed through fairly easy trails with high grass and trees for shade, stopping only for photo ops in between. After about 30 minutes, we finally reached Nanay Cording's house, which is the official jumpoff for the climb. They had a bamboo wall set up where different mountaineering groups can put up their tarps and logos. Guess whose tarp we found? VEAT's! ;D

Us and the rest who've conquered Tarak before us. :)

Archie and Vin effin up the VEAT tarp. Hahaha! :D

We only rested for a bit before trudging along. We were looking at about 3 hours trekking to reach Papaya River. The trail was rolling, alternated from upward slopes to scraggy paths, requiring some help with a rope to get through slippery boulders. There were also the occasional fallen logs you either have to sit over or limbo-rock under to cross.

Reaching Papaya River was pure bliss. Since it's been raining a bit for the past weeks, the mini-falls was a sight to behold. We rested for a bit and stocked up on trail food.

Enjoying the cool, lush surroundings of Papaya river during a pitstop. Pagod na ko! :D

We regrouped and continued on the dreaded part of the trek. This is the final 3 hour assault to the peak and is dubbed as the 'cardiac trail'. And the moniker is so well deserved when we found ourselves grunting with sheer effort to climb up with full packs. We hit 45-60 degrees trails and had to depend on tree trunks and jutted roots as hand and foot holds. As Doie put it (this being his first climb), it beats setting the treadmill on advanced pace at the gym. I bet! :D

It was already dusk when we reached the campsite at around 1900h. Funny thing was, we bought a lot of booze for the socials but Vin and I ended up doing one-on-one shots as everyone fell asleep right away from exhaustion after pitching the tents. It also didn't help that the winds were howling like crazy, buffeting our tent vestibule with gusts probably reaching 120mph. Joey had to re-peg our tent at least a couple times because they've been uprooted. I remember waking up groggy looking up at the stars and the moon because our tent cover was already untied and flapping in the wind. Before Vin and I dropped off, we were able to eat rice and fried Spam with salted eggs, onions and tomatoes. My hunger won over my weary bones. :)

We woke up at around 0600h the next morning and was greeted with foggy surroundings but was given the most fantastic view of the Bataan Bay and a hazy outline of Corregidor Island just off the coast of Mariveles. After a quick brekast of noodles and coffee, we started packing and took some photos.

Holding my wieght down so as not to topple over the ravine. Haha! The hazy, tadpole-shaped island of Corregidor is right behind me.
Yes, it was that windy! Our shirts get lifted off. Haha!

I had to hold on to Vin so I won't be carried off by the strong winds.

Shielding ourselves from the extra-strong gusts of wind.

Posterity photo for Team Joey before descending. LOL! :D

We started the trek down with runny noses from the cold and the wind. You can just imagine the added difficulty of that problem. Haha! But then, going down is still better than going up so we were able to find time to take photos during the breaks.

Lookin' up during a rest stop.

Sa gitna ng mga talahib. :D

Enjoying my jelly break. Yum!
During our stop at Papaya River for lunch, the boys went for a dip in the mini-falls. I, for one, had enough of cold water after my Sagada weekend so I declined.

Joey and Vin sharing a laugh.

Sir Joey's vegetarian carbonara. Tsalap! :D

The boys enjoying the ice-cold water.

Gboi giving in to his primal instincts. Haha!

After eating, we started cleaning up and pack to continue the last leg of our descent. We reached Nanay Cording's place at around 1500h and stopped for a tall glass of buko (coconut juice) before moving along. We needed to hike back to the main highway for another 30mins or so and find the advance team so we can freshen up and wait for the chartered bus to take us back to Manila.

Vin posing for a souvenir shot at the Tarak marker.

Of course I had to do the same. ;D

We finally reached Alas-asin Barangay Hall at 1530h and went looking for a place to take a shower. Even if the water was freezing, it was one of the best baths I ever had. Haha! It felt sooo good to be clean and nice-smelling. :D

After ordering some beer from a roadside small eatery and buying some fried chicken skin, we all gathered and swapped stories until it turned dusk and waited for the bus to come get us. The next 4hours on the road whizzed by like 4 minutes.

I was aching all over when I got home but I've gotten so much more  in return. The kids' smiles, the camarederie, the breathtaking view on top of Tarak Ridge and the experience was all worth it. I'm not exactly sure I'd be raring to go back to Tarak anytime soon but we'll see.

I might just get the incredulous 'Are you sure?!' questions again before you know it. ;D

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