Linggo, Disyembre 4, 2011
Mountain-/Beachineering at Mt. Nagsasa & Cove
November 26: Our Saturday started off at the Victory Liner bus terminal in Caloocan, waiting for the other members of LUMOT* to arrive from their respective day jobs. Most of us just got off from our weekly grind--bringing backpacks to work, changing from office uniforms, and having quick dinners. By 12AM, after load distribution (dividing camping gear/food stuff among ourselves), all 13 of us piled into the first trip to Olongapo (P200 per head). Two and a half hours later, we were at the bus terminal in Subic, Zambales in the middle of the night. We hired a jeepney (P80 each) to bring us to the jump-off point at Sitio San Martin. For safety reasons, we had to register at the local police station and barangay hall. I don't know what the speed limit was in Brgy. Cawag, but our jeepney was moving at a funeral pace. I understand the place is hilly, with roads going up and down, but the driver seemed to have forgotten that there's a third pedal other than the clutch and brake. Later, we found out that the jerk didn't really know where the jump-off was and we were going in circles trying to look for the road's end. Good thing a tricycle driver saved our asses and we followed him to the jump-off site. Two and a half hours later, we finally hit the unpaved road and found ourselves at the tribal chieftain's doorsteps (Kap. Perla I think). We hired two of her Aeta guides (five hikers is to one, at P300 per guide), Old Man "Andy" and "Peter" the Deer Hunter (yup, usas and baboy-ramos still roam the area--at P300 a kilo). It also appeared we weren't the only ones who got lost, as there were other vehicles loaded with kasambundoks lining up even after 4AM--the ideal time of day to start the trek.
It was almost 6AM when we began walking. Our "fun climb" kicked off on level ground, going thru a path of reddish dirt/dry mud and big stones, bordered by dust-covered bushes of different heights (sometimes taller than us). After an hour, the trail started to slope downwards as the vegetation grew lesser in variety, mostly cogon grass. I was assigned at the tail end of the pack and was one of the designated "sweepers". At about half past eight, we were more than halfway up Mt. Nagsasa and enjoying the greenery of the nearby Cawag mountains--Balingkilat, Cinco Picos and Dayungan I think. Nagsasa is considered a minor climb, with 3/9 in the difficulty scale, a trail class of 1-2, and 450 MASL (meters above sea level). It was also getting cooler, a light drizzle here and there, and you could literally hear the wind blow--like someone playing bowling. We'd stop once in a while to catch our breaths and recharge under the overcast sky, considering some of us were newbies/oldies (but goodies). Another thing on catching one's breath, it was by fate that I had to do it more often than the others 'cuz I'm lagging behind Old Man Andy, whose vocabulary obviously didn't include the verb "bathe". Come to think of it, for once I'm free from the stink of civilization and consumer culture: deodorant, perfume, hand sanitizer, mouthwash, lotion, shampoo, hair conditioner, soap. But not all, 'cuz every now and then, I had to pick up some litter left by unmindful campingers (not us of course) who didn't abide by the basic LNT (leave no trace) rule.
By 9AM, we were at the narrow ridge near the summit where only one person could walk at a time. One false move or lose your balance and you'd find yourself plummeting/rolling down the steep slope like the Balrog/Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings. Owing to my heavy backpack and the wind blowing against my side (coupled with fear of heights), I had to grab on to the grass and do a semi-4WD (four-wheel drive, climbing on all-fours using hands and feet) to achieve vertical position until I reached the "saddle". Heaving a sigh of relief, I was greeted by the scenic view of Nagsasa Cove--blue waters, white beach and all--and discovered the origin of the expression, "very near yet so far". If sorting spreadshit, err, sheet data in ascending order is giving you a problem in Excel, wait 'til you get to the descending part. Basagan ng tuhod, as they say. Wearing only my trusty old sandals over leg warmers and toe socks ('cuz it's a fun climb right? operative word is "fun"), the descent somehow took its toll on my knees and rearranged my ankles. Remind me to bring along mid-cut hiking shoes next time! Anyway, once we got back to level ground, the traction got better and the vegetation too, save for heaven above. What was once cool and cloudy, gave way to clear blue skies and the midday sun--which explains why it's best to start very early at 0400H.
An hour and a half into the downward trek, we found ourselves cooling off and sticking our faces in crystalline waters, drinking gallons from an ever-flowing stream. Ah, the grandeur of nature--no bottled mineral water or energy drink can beat. There were supposed to be around four river/stream crossings on the trail I think, but thanks to climate change and the dry spell, we were greeted by rocks instead. By 11AM, stones and soil gave way as sand crunched beneath my feet. Twenty minutes later, my heart rate finally slowed down as my nostrils took in the warm breeze of the beach. Welcome to Nagsasa Cove. We unpacked our gear, pitched tents, and cooked. If you thought camping food had to rhyme with canned goods, we beg to differ. For the next two meals, we had sinigang na sugpo/baboy, kaldereta, pinakbet, pansit, liempo, atbp., along with the staple instant noodles and cold cuts.
Unlike the neighboring Anawangin Cove, Nagsasa has a smaller (and calmer) shoreline which is deeply cut, so there are no worries of big waves hitting the beach. Other than a few tribal huts/outhouses (P100 per person) and three comfort rooms with running (mountain) water via rubber hose, human structure and electricity are virtually non-existent, so we had to use our headlamps while eating supper. With the exception of some flies during the next morning, we didn't encounter any untoward insect either, not even mosquitoes. Later in the afternoon, our motley crew took to the beach like an alcoholic to gin--splashing about in the cold, clear, dikya-free seawater--and goofed around on the off-white sand until the last light drained. There's also a fresh water cove nearby and a hidden falls somewhere, but we were tired playing Indiana Jones. After dinner by battery light--complete with background (cell phone) music, we got a bonfire started and roasted hotdogs, kikiam and marshmallows--downing them all with our poison of choice: Emperador Light. By 11PM, lights were out.
November 27: Everything looked soft and out of kilter on Sunday morning, thanks to a slight hangover. Nothing a hot can of black coffee, pritong tuyo, sinangag, and yesterday's leftovers can't handle. One last dip after breakfast and we were all packed and ready to go, all our trash placed neatly in a black plastic bag. By 11AM, Max the Boatman fetched us (P300 per pax) and ferried us off. After an hour of riding the rolling waves (think roller coaster ride without wheels), we reached Pundaquit by 12 noon, took a tricycle (P30 per passenger) to the town proper, and were off to Manila an hour later.
November 28: "I Don't Like Mondays" was playing in my head but I couldn't remember the other lyrics. I owe the Boomtown Rats some fan mail and I walk with a slight limp--Alaxan anyone? I was back to the pig-fattening pen that is my office cubicle and I wasn't even late. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go to the pantry for brewed coffee.
*League of Unified Mountaineers (Outdoorsmen - unofficial 'cuz sexist) and Trekkers