Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hiking - Mt. Maculot

On February 6th, I went on a hike to Mt. Maculot, which is found in Cuenca, Batangas. Although I was required to go through the hike, being a school activity, I had nonetheless looked forward to doing it because of my recent lack in physical activity. I figured a day-long hike would be a workout my body could use and an experience I'd be able to appreciate.

An early morning (4am) and a quick ride to the meet-up point at Ortigas, then we were off on a 1.5-hour trip to Batangas. I'd heard that the last trip with the boys had been a sardine fest, but that we'd gotten 2 buses this time to prevent that. Unfortunately one of the buses broke down 2/3rds of the way there, so we still ended up being crammed up for awhile, but I didn't mind it that much.

When we got off from the bus, we took a 15 minute walk into the baranggay to sign up at some checkpoint, probably 1-2km away from the main road. This would be where we'd gradually transition from the paved roads of the baranggay proper to broken, old cement roads and finally to well-trodden dirt paths that led up the mountain. The initial leg went by pretty quickly, and I barely even noticed that we'd gone through the dirt-road sections when we got to the narrow trail that was the beginning of the actual hike proper.

It was amusing at first, being concerned of slipping off the side of the mountain since the trail was around 3 feet wide at the most and past the trodden dirt path to one side, the grass only extended about another 1.5 foot or so before dropping steeply down. Minor complications included goats covered in seeds and burrs, which freaked out some of the other guys, much to my amusement.

The trail moved past some interesting spots, such as a dry 'waterfall' area, and a series of stop sites where locals sold halo-halo and buko juice to hikers. The trail gradually grew narrower and steeper as we went along, and I began to take more breaks the closer we got to the top. By the time we were going along the last section of the trail which was probably under 20m from the camping summit, I was so worn out and exhausted that at some points I'd just seat myself on large rocks that were on the trait itself.

I realized that I really shouldn't have slacked off on doing exercise, especially running and swimming, because at this point the double whammy of slightly thinner air and being out of shape had kicked me hard. I wasn't quite blacking out, but I was definitely feeling the pounding tightness in my head and the exhaustion to the point of nearly puking. I'd down some mouthfuls of water to help keep myself hydrated, and made sure that I'd keep it nice and down.

The minutes dragged on as I lurched up the last parts of the trail to the top, going in short bursts of a few meters, then resting. Each time I closed my eyes to rest, I'd tell myself that this was a unique experience that I was meant to go through and overcome. When I finally hit the summit I was so tired that I just plopped myself down on the ground right at the front of the camp area. It took me at least a full 5-min, focused breather before I could bring myself to join the rest of my group. Within a few more minutes though, I was up and walking, and taking a good look at the view around.

Lunch I have to say, was both amusing and delicious. The cheap siomai and shark's fin in a semi-fail steaming attempt was pretty good.

After lunch was over, me and the others were directed to head off towards the second area. Our coach and most of the team made our way towards the other summit and took a look at the path which allowed us to climb to the other peak. It would take a short but steep descent to a meter wide trail which dropped off way down on each side, then another steep climb up that was almost vertical at some points. I figured that it would be a total waste not to head up to the 2nd peak, even if the path looked daunting, and off we went.

The view from the second peak was just amazing and the cool, brisk wind that swept constantly over it was enervating and refreshing.

The trek down was a lot easier than up, although prone to more scrapes and bruises since the main difficulty was controlling one's descent. I suffered quite a few scratches as I'd latch onto stones and branches to prevent myself from careening headlong down the mountainside. At one point I recalled having to grab onto a tree trunk, resulting in some rather painful but superficial scrapes along my arms. I found it funny that my feet were a bit shaky and trembling towards the later parts, probably due to sheer tiredness.

A lot of my classmates were pretty much trying to go down as fast as they could, as if they couldn't wait to get off the mountain and go home. I didn't blame them, as I wanted to get home to shower and rest myself as well. It was only during the trip back that I noticed the length of the broken-cemented road we'd traveled earlier.

We left the hiking site at around 4pm, this time with a 2nd and fully operational bus with us. Stretching out and crashing to sleep, I was pretty much fading in and out of sleep on the trip back. We arrived back at Manila at around close to 7pm.

Hiking to me is definitely one of the most exhausting things I've done, but I can't deny that even if it does put me out of commission for up to 2-3 days after, they're generally experiences that I hardly can forget.