“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
I felt a sense of excitement as the weeks drew nearer to the date that we were to climb Mt. Ugo. It would be, after all, my very first mountain-climbing experience. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, yet I was positive that it wouldn’t be that difficult.
That was until I came across the e-mail sent by Trail Adventours, the organizers of the climb. “Long walk, steep climb, longer walk, and steep descent” were words that reverberate in my mind, and I couldn’t help but doubt my decision to join. I felt a wave of panic knowing that I haven’t prepared well for this, that though I had been exercising over the past weeks, I wasn’t in my best shape. Oh well, it might be too late for worrying.
So on Friday night, my officemates slash lunch buddies slash friends and I found ourselves in Victory Liner station in Pasay. At past ten o’clock in the evening, we were on our way to Nueva Vizcaya. We would be doing a traverse climb, starting in Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya and ending in Itogon, Benguet.
About five hours after we departed Manila, we arrived in Aritao. A few minutes later, we began riding the jeepney that would bring us to Kayapa. It was 45 minutes of cold air pressing against your skin, while your eyes bask in the beauty of the sunrise and breathtaking views of the mountains and rice paddies.
We were in Kayapa, the jump-off point of the climb. From where I stood, I could see the barangay hall, the police station and the market in one turn around. The small, quaint town resembled much of the Banaue town proper I saw as a young teenager.
After breakfast, we were off to the mountains. The trail started with a paved road, with a gentle slope that seemed to warm us up for the climb. It turned out to be a short warm-up, and soon after we were on the actual slopes. There were steps, which I found a bit funny because it was less challenging than anticipated, yet about fifteen minutes into climb, I was panting.
It was those initial moments that I doubted myself whether I could make it through our two-day adventure. I didn’t know whether I could push myself farther along the trail, yet when our group started trekking again after a few minutes of break, I knew I had no choice but to finish.
About an hour or so after our start, it began to rain. I was worried that our trail would become slippery, and sure I was right. We were already on the part where there were no more steps, nor railings that could provide us support. Yet, thanks to Kuya Alex, our local guide, we were given sticks that aided our ascent. Soaked both in rain and our sweat, we ascended the steep slope covered in pine trees, and continued this for about three hours. That’s the beauty of having your friends around — you could always exchange stories to make you forget how steep the slope is. (Though most of the time, you couldn’t overlook how tough the trail is. Haha :))
I knew I was tired, but I couldn’t eat. I had no appetite, which was a very rare instance. 😛 We stayed about an hour in our humble shed, and then continued our trek. This was the part where I started loving the trail.
I am a walker, and the trail after lunch was almost flat, akin to just walking around the city. Sure, there were slopes here and there, yet they weren’t as difficult as the initial ones. Cows followed you at some point — it was pretty funny when they were scared of you at some instances. The roads were wide at first, then began to narrow when we were by the cliff. Soon, we found ourselves surrounded by mountains covered in pine trees, and the trail cutting through the mountain was as visible as a scar on someone’s skin. When Ryan, the sweeper, pointed where we were to stay at night, I was happy. I knew there was no way I’m going to give up along the way. I took it easy from here onward, taking my time to shoot photos along the way.
It was four in the afternoon when we reached Domolpos Village, where we were to stay overnight. We laid our sleeping bags on the floor of the classroom (thank God for the structure to keep us warm), and chit-chatted until the sun began to set. The kids at Domolpos were shy, I remembered how I felt as a kid when a stranger tried talking to me, yet they were all charming. I felt a tinge of sadness knowing that we forgot to bring their school supplies. Oh well…
After dinner, some went to sleep and the others went out for star-gazing. I tried to sleep, yet a chorus of snoring prevented me from having a deep slumber. I went outside, and saw a very clear sky. Unfortunately, I only know Orion, and the rest of the constellations were left to imagination. We retired early to bed, as we were to get up early the following day.
More on my Mt. Ugo adventure next time. Happy travels!