There are some things in life I never thought I'd get to try, but still I manage to cross the bridge and challenge myself.
Last March 17, together with my officemates and a friend, we trekked Mt. Makiling. It was the most tiring yet fulfilling day of my year so far. :)
Initially we were a team of 7 people. One by one dropped out with their own excuses. I know I wouldn't. Mt. Makiling has been calling me out to its rainforest for already a long time now.
I packed my reliable backpack, a pink Jansport with my lightweight foldable flats, one set of underwears, a small towel, a blouse, a pair of shorts, off lotion and a sunblock. I was still wondering what to wear, and what to prepare for my packed lunch.
I passed by the grocery to buy some white meat for my packed lunch and some power bars. I got myself a new pair of jogging gear from Converse. I was wondering whether I would look weird wearing all closed outfit.
We were also researching on the leeches and how to prevent them from coming in contact with the skin. At this point, it didn't scare me though.
As soon as I got home, I packed my bag (without my water and food). I prepared my marinade for my chicken so that I will just cook it when I wake up.
I slept a bit late the night earlier, so I managed to get only 4-4.5 hours of sleep. I woke up at around 4:10am to cook chicken, rice and button mushroom in oyster sauce for my baon and food for sharing :)
I arrived at the meeting place, 20 minutes later; but still managed to eat rice for breakfast when we met at Jollibee Rizal drive cor 32nd street.
Still, I was wondering why they were all just wearing short sleeved tops.
At 6:30am, we were on the road. While the rest slept, Erik and I were chatting throughout the entire travel to Los Banos. We arrived at UP LB at around 8:00am.
Short CR break and we were on the hike by 8:30am.
At first, the hike going to the foot was quite hard as I thought it was, but after getting my first wind, it became a lot easier. The breeze was cool, so it didn't matter that I wore a fully covered outfit. The path was covered with leaves, so the stony path seemed a bit slippery. And here, I thought it was already difficult.
We were walking constantly for 2hours when we finally got to Aguila Base and here we met Waldo the dog.
Waldo walked with us as far as he could. He would sometimes stop to allow us to catch his pace, but he essentially signals us whether we need to moved on from one spot or not.
11am-ish. We made a wrong turn. There was a sign we missed. We misunderstood that the sign was posted on the right trail, not the wrong one referred to. Prior to that, I heard a male voice whispering to me a phrase I couldn't understand. He said it twice. Probably some elemental trying to caution me. I didn't understand so we pushed forward.
The trail looked very off. There were big mossy boulders and taller leaves and more leeches! Though we were extremely careful, still an accident occurred... to me. While we were descending to retrace our steps, I was sliding down between boulders when the boulder on my left side collapsed and fell along my descent on my left side. It slapped my hips, then my knee and landed on my foot. Our guide, Erik panicked because it could've crushed my foot causing major injury or broken my hips or knee just the same. However, since, I strongly believe I was being protected, I was unharmed.
Instead of worrying about the boulder, I screamed because the boulder itself was swarming with leeches and I managed to push it off my foot and became more concerned with the leeches. You could say adrenalin saved me, but its more like fear of something else made me do it! :D
By noon-ish, we were fighting off leeches. Damn these leeches, you just don't know where they come from! They cling to your clothes and try to penetrate it as much as they can. When the cloth and their teeth reaches your skin, they take a bite. Its easier to get them off if they cling to you this way because you can just flick them away with your hands. However easy it is to describe, its still unimaginable to experience. Its gruesome when its the big ones that get to you. They move ultra fast following a caterpillar movement, so its twice or thrice as hard to flick them off. Sometimes too, when you're unfortunate enough, they will even cling to your hand/fingers :S
During these times, I realized, I now earned a fear of leeches. As for my case, I was unfortunate because my shoes had breathing holes on them, and at some point, when I felt some pain at the side of my foot, I had to ask a companion for a leech check. We found three inside my left shoe, and two of which were sucking blood from outside my socks! grrrrrr.. This is one of the few moments that were really hard for me to reconcile. Seeing a big leech moving around from the bottom of the inside of my shoe... a leech sucking blood from my foot.. sigh. It was a good thing though that the right foot didn't suffer any of these mishaps. :)
Moving on, every step was really harder than the last. Aside from the fact that we were now tired and our legs are wobbling, we were hungry and the ascent was more difficult because of the mud. Sometimes, the climb takes twice my height so it was impossible for me to carry on without needing help. We had to cling to rocks, to shrubs, tree trunks and even stones just to get by the ascent.
Even if I didn't want to, I found myself impatient to meet the final ascent. We were waiting for the rope climb, which we dreaded at the start. When we finally saw the rope, there were two sets of climb via the rope. Although the rope has been prepared by other fellow hikers (and had knots on them already), it was all covered in mud and not much of a foot-hold was available. The benefit here is that, for women with lesser body mass, it was easier to project your body and use it to ascend; compared with men of heavier composure.
Finally when we started hearing voices nearby, I knew we were near the peak. I imagined it to be a vast open air area with a wonderful view... but it was anti climatic.
We emerged the peak feeling like we've invaded some private discussion group held out in this rarely visited location. The hikers were stretched out in the area relaxing their legs. Some were sleeping (and farting) while others were just eating. I looked around and found no beautiful view. There was a tree where you can cling to and take a peek at the beautiful view outside. But I didn't take my chances.
1:30pm, we had our first real stop over. we unpacked our bags and lunches and shared our food and experiences. briefly we got to rest and drink more liquid. I also had myself inspected for leeches from inside the body (in case some managed to go past the covers).
2pm, we were again on the move for the descent. This was really what I feared the most. With wobbly legs, and weak knees, I wasn't so sure I would have a walk-in-the-park experience. It took us 5 hours to reach the peak since we had a wrong turn, and frequent stops because of the leeches. Now, we have to be on the move before it got too dark.
The descent was quite fast, and frankly, all the beautiful views you would experience as you unfold the path you just ascended. It was harder to descend, and I preferred to dirty my pants from leaning backwards for every step down. My legs were really painful and the angle of every descent made it harder to accomplish easily with a heavy bag behind me.
Though the climb down was faster, the sunlight was also fading fast. The mud stayed soft mud and really made us look very dirty and muddy. Shoes, clothes, bags all covered in mud. Even my wounds from the boulder accident were covered in mud! Natural remedy! :P
We didn't stop until we were extremely exhausted because I have been seeing many elementals both with glaring curiosity and with malicious intents. I didn't want them to be attracted with the group so I urged everyone to keep moving and don't stop until we reach the CBD (central business district) area.
It was a long walk. I must have seen different looking entities along the way and was just careful enough not to frighten the group. I even heard a distinct male voice say "Hi" to me from nowhere and I pretended not to hear. Going down, I also earned a blister at the back of the sole for both my feet. I had to slow down and eventually stop to put a plaster on it (thanks Aby for the band aid)
When we got to the first CBD, we stopped over. It was almost dark. It was a good thing that we found a jeepney and we rented it to give us a ride back to the start of the hike trail. We paid the jeepney a thousand bucks and divided amongst ourselves. It saved us from the trouble of hiking back in pitch darkness. Though I had some torch light on my two phones, I knew it wouldn't last very long and not too well for everyone at least.
What I feared was proven to be correct as soon as we were riding down the mountain. From all sides, I saw peering eyes and glaring stares. There were many moving shadows of elementals and entities. It would have been horrifying if we were just walking down that road in all that darkness.
To distract myself, I tinkered with my phone. Finally when we were almost out of the mountain itself, I saw a very tall old lady with ash gray hair looking forward at the foot of the mountain. She was wearing a not-so-white dress and looked very very strict. She didn't look at me, but I knew she was Makiling and she was seeing us out safely from her mountain.
To climb the mountain
I must have fancied I heard songs of welcome and enchanting invitation to climb Makiling. Even as I step foot in Los Banos with the intent of climbing Makiling, there were welcome choirs.
To climb the mountain was difficult as hell. But I reckon its just like life. The first thought of living is daunting. Your first step is challenging, the first wind is gratifying. The first slip is horrifying, the first bite (from leeches) were nerve shattering. But its an initiation to move further on with what you want.
How you trek is also how you live life. You worry about the dangers, and you never stop by to take pictures. You try to be strong because you don't want to fail. But life is an experience, its not just an outcome of a single or compounded effort. If you stop by to smell the roses often, you lose your trail and your timeline; and if you don't stop by, you miss life.
I realized as well, that ascending is just as hard (or maybe half as hard) as descending. You make your way to your goal, you experience something (be it good or bad), and you will still have to brace yourself because you will soon descend (or improve) from it. I realized, you only trade one thing for something. When we were too tired looking forward to the rope for the vertical ascent, we got distracted by leeches. 30 more minutes further and we forgot how tired we really were.
Sometimes, not all bad things happen just because they do. They are distractions to provide you awareness to spots you were initially blind to.
At peak, though it was anti climatic, we met some fellow hikers and had a good laugh and took a group shot too! Makiling has rewarded us with the pains and morals of life + some friends too!
wear closed jogging clothes similar to what I wore, preferrably light colored to distinguish leeches easily
make sure to clip your nails before the hike
bring enough water for 10-12 hours but nothing more than that. also bring gatorade (or similar drinks)
bring a plastic for your trash. don't leave your trash at the peak!
bring power bars (4-6 pieces)
wear a sturdy rubber shoes (no breather holes) :P
you won't need shades nor sunblock
bring off lotion!
pack a protein heavy lunch (meat, not carbs)
pack your bag covered in plastic pouches
don't forget to take pictures