Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How I Popped My Hiking Cherry (Part 3/3)

Grasslands.
Photo by Paul Louie Serrano

 "You know what gets me going?" My brother Kristoff said while we took a break at the edge of the grasslands. "What?" I asked. "That we can go home after this," he replied.

*******                                                   *******                               ******

Hiking Mt. Akiki trail is like marriage. When you look at the pictures, the sights are glorious, everyone's having a good time, the sunrise/sunsets look romantic. And then reality hits you when you've gone for two days without a proper shower and you're freezing your ass off while you wonder when you'll encounter a toilet that can actually flush. I'm thankful though that our group members are a cheerful, upbeat bunch.

"I'm negotiating with the trail," I told one of my brothers when I was slowing down.
 "I'm negotiating with my life," he snaps.

  Don't get me wrong. Nature's beauty doesn't exclusively lie in the comfort it provides, but also in its terrors and extremities. I can imagine my ancestors shaking their head and saying "look, there's a reason we built civilization!" 

We've reached the grasslands, which means we're getting relatively close to our campsite where we'd settle for the evening. But that doesn't mean the trail is any less challenging. Temperature has significantly dropped. The fog and the winds make the grasslands look like a desolate, lonely place. I'm one who's always preferred to be alone, so I trudged on the trail without much trouble. There aren't any cliffs but the trail was definitely narrow and more steep to the point you occasionally have to be on all fours to get anywhere.

My brothers. Dying. 
Several minutes through the grasslands, I thought of Frodo and Sam from Lord Of The Rings when they were going up to Mordor.

Empathy.

Like, four for you Samwise Gamgee for leaving the comforts of The Shire to follow Frodo Baggins all the way there and going as far to porter his bitch ass to the top.

  And of course, there's the porters who go through the trail like they're strolling through Luneta Park on a Sunday night. Such strength. Such skill. How do you even.


  The frustrating thing about the grasslands is when you've overcome a steep hill only to find that there's another hill to conquer. Rinse and repeat. At some point, you have to stop assuming you're near your destination just to avoid giving up and Akiki roll all the way down.

And suddenly, campsite.

Settled in.
Photo by Paul Louie Serrano

  We set up camp, had dinner (it was only 4pm), and just tried to relax even when the temperature was still dropping. It was so cold to the point that even the Baguio people were suiting up in their thermal wear. I tried to get some sleep but it was hard because our tents were close together and I can practically hear the conversation at the next tent. Not that I minded, but sleep tends to be the last thing on your mind when you're stifling laughter.

 The Barkada at the tent next to ours were watching movies in their tablets. After their movie session ("A Crazy Little Thing Called Love". The one with Mario Maurer in it, yeah I've watched it before), they offered to lend their tablet to anyone who wanted some movie entertainment before the night closes in. I don't know which guy in the group they were talking to. It sounded like he was checking the movie genres in it when he asked, "wala bang kayong horror?"

 "Di na ba horror 'yung dinaanan natin, Kuya?"




  We got up at 4am. No breakfast as we had to hurry to the peak which was 15 minutes away if we wanted to catch the famous Mt Pulag sunrise. My mind was foggy though the chill of the morning kept me up. The novelty of the whole hike hasn't completely worn off but if I had a choice, I would have a helicopter pick me up at the peak. The air was getting thinner that it almost hurt to breathe.

"ARE YOU GUYS READY FOR THE GRAND FINALE?? Kasi ayaw ko na." I announced. Laughter.

Almost there.
Photo by Paul Louie Serrano

    There were other groups already making their way to the summit. We joined them and already my legs felt like jelly. Curse those people having an easier time at Ambangeg trail. Curses! Unlike yesterday when we can take our time on the trail, we have to rush before the sun peaks.

 We arrived at the summit, where other tourists and hikers were already having their respective photo-ops. When I caught my breath, I joined my brothers who were appreciating the scenery. It was so cold that most of the batteries of our mobile devices just died right there. But the sunrise. You have to be there to just let it sink in and bask in its quiet glory.

Photo by Paul Louie Serrano

  Of course we also had our own photo-op as a group. The usual "pretend-you're-holding-the-sun-what-have-you" and our group shots. When the sun had gone up and we're all quite drunk in its beauty, we proceed to go downhill to the next campsite where we'd settle to have breakfast.

And of course, descending from the summit of Mt. Pulag may be easier, but it doesn't make it less tiring. It gets warmer though. On our way down, there was one tourist that tripped and sprained his ankle.

Fast forward to breakfast time. It was a relief to be near a water source and an outhouse. There were other campers having their breakfast and bonding with each other. We all shared what's left of our food and snacks. Poor Louie though. He wanted to boil water for our coffee so he set up his camping stove and butane gas. Before I knew it, there was a huge puff of fire that I stumbled back and there was smell of burnt hair in the air. We looked down to see that his butane gas cannister- completely on fire- had leaked.

 We then looked down to see that Louie's leg hairs were burnt. Completely shrunk, curled up and turned grey. He slapped it off and it fell off like ashes. For us, after everything we've been through for the past few days, it was hilarious. We agreed that butane gas fire should be considered a form of hair removal.

After breakfast.
Photo by Paul Louie Serrano


A few more hours of trekking Ambangeg trail to get to civilization followed. A lunch, a few pitstops later, we were dropped off near Victory Liner terminal.

First order of business for everyone when we got home was a nice long bath.

************************
EPILOGUE

"Where's our certificate for surviving Mt Pulag?" Kristoff asked me. "I think it's in the bedroom," I said, "why do you need it?"
"Is it an achievement we can put in our resume?"
"I don't...uhh...maybe?"

 Though it would be funny if an employer did hire you on those grounds. He'll leap out of his chair saying, "AKIKI TRAIL?? Fuck it.You're hired!!"


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