Fuck this trail. Fuck Akiki. Fuck my life. And fuck the creators of Slender Man.
It was still dark as we continued our trail at 4am. There were more rocks than usual, bushes, fir trees of some sort, and various types of vegetation. We used flashlights and for some reason the whole setting feels like a scene from a B-grade horror movie. I've went ahead of my family and the rest of the group were way ahead of me, their flashlights like dots in the distance. I was alone, technically. I stopped from time to time to catch my breath and look at the full moon. Some of the bushes and plants formed shadows that my overactive imagination mistook as Slender Man. The novelty of the pine forest has worn off and I just wanted to get through the day in one piece.
I'm not a morning person so what got me going through the trail was a mental list of things that piss me off: Justin Bieber, spambots, the patriarchy, and don't get me started on Philippine politics.
I sat on a boulder covered with grass and looked up at the twilight. The mountain seemed asleep, covered with a thick blanket of clouds. Morning was beginning to break the darkness, though it was still a bit dim. I turned off my flashlight and carried on.
|Still alive and kicking!|
Photo by Paul Louie Serrano
There was a resting spot along the way where I joined the other and waited for my mom and brothers to catch up. Our porters caught up with us pretty quickly even when the load they're carrying is twice or thrice heavier than ours. The maximum weight they're allowed to carry is 20 kgs (44lbs). They're a cheerful lot with the stamina of dwarves and the dexterity of hobbits. They probably know the trails like the back of their hands. They could effortlessly go around the mountain if they weren't carrying so much load on their backs.
We continued on our trail through the pine forest. Pine needles. Rocks. Cow dung. Tree roots. Breathe. Pine needles. More rocks and tree roots. Pine cones. Breathe. Water break. Louie started to play music with his phone, a playlist of old and modern genres. His music is not spared from Taylor Swift. I don't know if him playing music is more for his benefit than ours. It was surreal to imagine that if I slip and fall downhill, it is to the soundtrack of Taylor singing "I'm only me when I'm with yoooouuu."
|And the journey continues!|
A moment later, he starts confessing stuff like "I was the one who ate the bag of Lays when you were gone!"
The pine forest would've been completely delightful if it weren't for the totally scorched parts of it. Rangers speculated wildfire but judging by the wide scale it had affected and the fact that some of the trees were chopped or obviously hollowed out to weaken their base, Louie suspected something more deliberate. T'is a sad reality when man takes for granted the gift of nature.
"Not bad for a first trip." My brother said.
After what seemed like ages, we finally arrived at camp site where we stopped to have our breakfast. There was a clothesline where we hung our sweaters and jackets. The thing about hiking in cold weather is that you're actually sweating up a storm. I've learned that I can sweat through three layers of clothing, it's almost ridiculous. The typical reaction when you sweat is to remove your jacket or sweater. Except it's too cold to do that or your sweat will feel like icicles. How do you catch-22.
I suddenly miss the summer heat that warrants you can take off nearly everything and no one will judge you.
Photo by Paul Louie Serrano
The journey continues through the mossy forest of Mt. Pulag. When we crossed the threshold, I sort of expected a house made of candy to appear somewhere. It's the stuff of fairy tales and Ghibli movies, I tell you. Princess Mononoke comes to mind. For others, it's Totoro.
Almost everything is covered in moss. There are parts of the trail that actually smell heavenly- like a sweet, floral scent that just lingers and I'm not sure tree or flower the smell is coming from. It adds a touch of magic to the experience. If I'm lucky, I might end up in Narnia. Or the Shire.
|Threshold to the mossy forest.|
It's difficult to hike the trail while trying to drink in the scenery at the same time (trust me, I've tried). I strongly recommend that you just stop where you are- just don't move- and look around. And focus on the trail when you get moving. Because you might step on mossy forest residents.
Like this little guy.
|Ahoy there, fellow traveller.|
Holy shit did I accidently end up in The Hunger Games Arena oh God oh God
Beep. Beep beep.
This small, pudgy brown and white bird lands on branch nearby and is the source of the sound. His fellow flock echoes the same sound throughout the forest and then they fly away.
|The little things.|
We came to another resting spot where the last water source for the trail was located. We were advised to refill everything and our porters filled the gallon containers they carried for us. Temperature was quickly falling that I had to wear my winter gloves. Really wanted to remove my jacket because my shirt was drenched in sweat (something I didn't know was possible in such climate) but couldn't.
My pit stains are the size of Texas and I'm wearing winter gloves. I suddenly have so much more respect for Bear Grylls. And Frodo.
|Adventure adventure pag may time.|
We eventually came upon the grasslands.
When I hear the word grasslands, I'm thinking like pampas grass swaying gently to a summer breeze. But not at the Akiki trail, apparently. The Dude must have knees made of steel because he's the one often ahead of the group.
When my brothers caught up with me, I had to stop myself from doubling in laughter when my younger brother quipped: "I will fuck this mountain in the ass."
To be continued.
|Cold and bleak grasslands. Still going up.|