Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Travel Tuesday: Conquer Mt. Pulag 2014 and Life Realizations

It all began during our second book club session. We were all supposed to do this Pulag adventure together. To cut the long explanation short, only I, Kimy and Tin made it; and I tagged along Boss Amo.
It was sort of a "remote" planning since we didn't even meet once before we climbed except that one time Luke and I attended the orientation. Come departure night, we found ourselves, the four of us, in a rush!! Kimy was stranded for a day in Siargao while Tin, Luke and I were hassled by the Friday traffic. Call time was 9PM, guess what we arrived 9:30PM. Kimy even arrived ahead of us all the way from Siargao! Good thing was that the organizers had an hour allowance as our bus departed at 10PM. Whew! And so off to Baguio we went.

Tripinas was our organizer. We needed one as we were all first timers and to spare us the burden of the what-nots of climbing a mountain. It was also through them that we rented gears like tents, headlamps, and sleeping bags. No budget allotted to buy these gears. We just wanted to try out Pulag out of a rather sore pocket. We paid roughly Php4000 inclusive of Manila-Pulag-Manila transfers, meals, environmental fees, tour guide, the gears mentioned -- less worries. I highly recommend Tripinas. Their guides are really friendly and accommodating. Also their meals were really really good! Lutong bahay na masarap. By the way the gears are non-negotiable, believe when they say that it's non-negotiable! In terms of clothing, make sure you have enough layers too. It could be really freezing up there!
From Baguio, it was a three-hour ride to the ranger station. We had some stopovers in between: first was for a heavy breakfast and second at the DENR of Benguet where we had one interesting orientation. After DENR it was another ride to the Ranger Station. In our case though, we had an additional one kilometer trek to the ranger station due to roads being constructed. 

At the ranger station, we assembled together with our local tour guide. It is also in the ranger station that I availed of a porter. I don't think in my condition then  that I'd be able to carry my own stuff so I decided to hire a porter to carry my stuff. I had four liters of bottled water with me and my clothes and food are another thing. I paid Php590 for 20kilos. Some of Luke's stuff were already included. Less tiresome for the both of us. Boss amo's reasoning is that he needed to unload some of his stuff as well so whenever something happens to me he could just maybe carry me instead. Hahaha! True enough. We are planning to definitely go back. When that time comes, I vowed to try carrying my stuff with me but I also plan to keep the weight at the possible minimum haha!
The photos above are some of the photos during the earliest part of the climb. Kaya pang mag-smile. Lower  left photo is credited to Tripinas, our group's shot before we officially started the climb. It was also fun being with this group. Somehow, out of place, 'cos they seem like they've been climbing mountains already unlike the four of us. Infairness to Luke and I, we've trekked Taal. But Taal talaga?? Haha!  I included the lower right photo of me and Luke who is SMILING!! It's worth a blog post!! 
The photos above are taken on the almost half-way of the climb to base camp, after an hour and a half or so. I can't intricately describe because from what I have experienced, I was not really prepared hahaha! Hingal ako! I needed to frequent my sit-and-have-my-normal-breathing-back-break and drink water. There were parts that the air was really thin. But despite these, the surroundings made me appreciate the hidden beauties of my country. There were parts that I only saw in movies, like those enchanted forest scenes, or those Jurassic Park scenes.
Almost almost there, Merie!!! At this point, I started feeling really terrible. My head was pounding, could be a sign of dehydration as what our guide told us but I deliberately opposed. Each step was a burden. I reached that point I almost questioned myself "bakit ko ba 'to ginagawa??! Para san ba 'to??' Hahaha!
But people!!! I/we were able to reach base camp!!! Right in time before the rain heavily poured out on us!! After three hours for Luke and I, we reached our tent haven!!! Hooray!! Grabe yung feeling ko non, it was pure relief!!! So I thought it was relief until I started vomiting. Everything I ate, I vomited. And I started to lose my energy. While Kimy, Tin and Luke were enjoying the seemingly enchanting surroundings, there I was inside the tent taking a nap. Such a loser. Hahaha!
I needed that nap to do those things in the above photos hahaha! The skies started to clear out after some minutes of pouring. Snaps here and there. But I still vomit in between. Grabe nakakainis yung feeling na yun. We strolled around a tad and took photos. Grabe ang ganda! Ang ganda ng Pulag! Ang ganda ng Pilipinas! Base camp pa lang yan!

During the night, we had some expectations of star-gazing but the rain is such a spoiler so we were left with nothing to do but to make chika inside the tent. Luke and I had the chance to catch up with each other. It was pure quality time. There was an hour wherein the skies were having tantrums, heavy downpour!! Water started getting inside our tents, so we had to be awake. And then there was an hour that it was freezing, I had to come to the rescue for Luke. It was charged to experience. 
These are the only photos captured before the second leg of the climb. We needed to assemble at 3:30 AM to start the climb and get to the peak before sunrise. Headlamps needed as obviously hindi uso streetlights sa boondocks! We had our m&m's ready. In Luke's little knapsack, there were Ruffles, biscuits and sweets and water to help us feed ourselves along the way.

We had hot drinks first before we started the trek to the summit. So we started the trek... About 20 steps away from the kubo where we had our hot drinks, ayun I feel like giving up. I felt the effect of all the vomits I had and the energy I lost. I again felt the headache I was feeling and I started to feel like vomiting again. :( It was such such a hard phase of that climb. I felt so sad thinking I won't be able to reach the peak. Luke was already asking me if we would still push through, I was not reacting at all because there was a battle in my mind to go back or to go forward. But I don't want to be selfish. I don't want Luke to not reach the peak. So while not reacting and answering his question, I still try to walk, to rest if I feel like I need it, to get up, to walk again. I already felt like the trail was endless!!! Until...

Luke to tour guide: Ate mga ganu pa katagal?
Ate tour guide: Wala pa tayo sa kalahati.

Oh c'mmon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Are you serious??!!! Again there was a battle in my mind. I was praying for strength and endurance... In one way, God has blessed Luke and I with a tour guide. There were at least seven batches who already got past us. I needed to rest every time. I'm not sure how Ate knew about us being left behind, but this Ate never left us. I believe she's an angel sent by God. She together with Luke kept on pushing me. It was then I made up my mind, no turning back.

And it was all worth it...
We didn't experience the sea of clouds like what most photos show. But it was still a wonderful humbling feeling. Seeing the sunrise at the peak of Luzon is something not all people can do and not all people will be able to accomplish in their lifetime. It was another manifestation of how almighty God is, of His majesty by merely looking at the beauty in front of me on top of just one of the mountains of the Philippines alone. It just reiterates how BIG our GOD is.
After the climb, Luke and I actually had some what should I call it... Assessment?? He had his assessment, I had mine and we had some thin line of misunderstanding. But I know it just made our bond stronger. I will always be thankful for this climb in ways more than one. I am also glad I did it with Luke and I would not think twice to doing it all over again with him. Dalhin pa natin sa ibang mga bundok.
Yes of course it needs a lot of photos!!! We enjoyed the grassland! Feeling Teletubbies! It's our first time and not a usual activity that we get to do. It was wonderful, breathtaking, amazing, lovely, insert all synonyms of wonderful here. We also had some videos taken which I posted HERE.

But then we needed to go back... It was a success...

Cliché as it may seem, relationships are like climbing a mountain. At first, like the honeymoon stage, you get excited, you get adventurous until you started feeling the hardships of a steep climb of a muddy slippery trail, there will be parts of the trail that you need to be in a single file, or might I say one needs to be alone in a relationship, but know that your partner is still right behind you. Once you overcome the hardships you'll eventually see the beauty of it, the success of reaching the peak -- you both come out stronger and better. You both realize that you are both capable of struggling and winning it. And then as you go down the mountain, there will be a lot of times that you get comfortable, get bored maybe, there will always be challenges still, but it's how you get to enjoy the trek, you could just walk and never mind each other after all the trail is more familiar now; but you could also always talk, still be adventurous, try a different trail, take photos, capture videos, have fun in so many ways. And then when you climb another mountain, you know better. It's just like life generally.

(Photo cr: Kimy, Tin, Luke, Tripinas Facebook photos)

Sharing with you our itinerary and feel free to comment for any questions I wish I could answer:

Itinerary may vary depending weather, road conditions, amount and pace of hikers . In case Ambangeg-Babadak road is not passable, the alternative road adds 2 hours jeepney ride to the following itinerary.

Departure Date: Friday 16 May
2100 Assembly at Chowking near Victory bus terminal, EDSA south bound, Cubao, Quezon City.
· Meet the dispatcher (Mr. Tee) and the tour director (Mr. Mike)
· Sign the waiver form
· Gear check
· Get your bus tickets

Day 1 :  Saturday, 17 May
0400 ETA Baguio City. Assembly at 7-11 and board assigned jeep going to Ranger Station.
0430 ETD Baguio City.
0530-0630 Breakfast stop, breakfast (at clients, account)
0930 ETA Ranger station jump-off
·        Get a porter (optional and on clients' account)
·        The tour director will introduce your guide and your hiking mates
1030 Start of trek
1330  ETA Camp 2, pitch/set-up tents for the night. Lunch.
1730  Dinner
Day 2: Sunday, 18 May
0300 Wake up call, hot drinks
0330 Start of ascent to summit
0500 ETA summit for sunrise
0630 ETD from summit to camp 2
0730 ETA Camp 2, breakfast, break camp
0930 Start of trek back to Ranger station
1130 ETA Ranger station, lunch (on clients' account)
·  If you have rented some gears, give it back to the tour director
1230 Board Jeep
1400-1430 Photostop at Ambuklao Dam
·  The tour director will give you your certificate of conquest
1700 ETA Baguio City
·  Free time, dinner (on client’s account)
2100 ETD Baguio to Cubao
Arrival Date: Monday, 19 May
0300 ETA Manila Cubao. End of tour.

Contact Tripinas:
Team TRIPinas
TRIPinas Travel and Tour Ventures

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