Day two started with a nosebleed, not for me but everyone else, which is what Filipinos joke about when they speak too much English, reminding me to up my game with the language learning. Staggering out of the tent into the pleasantly cool morning air, it was hard to reconcile it with last night’s fog. This morning was composed of a beautiful blue sky and as ever, accompanied by lovely views. We were all glad it hadn’t stay foggy until we left. Before leaving we met the Barangay Captain who came to see that all was well with us. This position as well as I understand it, is pretty much the leader of the area in charge of getting things done and liaising with local government. The Barangay is the smallest administrative area so I suppose village leader would be an accurate, if inelegant way of putting it.
Gazing at the landscape it is hard not to be overawed by the raw power of the earth, geologically in evidence all around. It is terrifying to contemplate the raw forces that could carve out such gashes in the Earth, the power of glaciers, volcanoes and other such forces really are harrowing in the contemplation.
And so to the travel, the morning was lovely, hot, a few too many mosquitoes but there was a gorgeous pool to sit in after a pleasant, unhurried walk. The refreshingly cool water collecting in a natural bath tube encouraged us to all to strip down and cleanse ourselves. After such an unexpected surprise, we refilled at the last water source for a while and made our way to yet another bridge this one a lot higher but thanks to photo opportunities, everyone went across one at a time.
It was then that the struggle s started. It was up, up, and more up from the rice terraces, coming to a gradient that just went up and on for such a time. After many stops on the slope, we made it to a school where we had lunch in the grounds. It seems children run up and down these incline to the school every day, we on the other hand, dropped down and imbibe as much water as possible.
Afterwards, we found sand dunes that gave the impression we were on Mars especially thanks to the fog which had descended again. I could almost have believed it were it not for a Ranger stood on a hill, watching us impassively, replete with machete. It was now that my adventure went downhill both literally and the other one. Staggering down very steep rock and dirt paths holding onto a fence was surprisingly easy and there was no view to distract the mind to how far one could fall; then it started to rain.
That is the reason for the lack of photos so excuse me as I go into describing mode to tell the rest of my tale.
Slippery, mossy, leafy rocks are no one’s friend at the best of times and especially now as the hand rails had petered out a bit leaving us precariously shuffling down each step in a queue resembling what looked like miserable, wet monks. It was well at thins point that we couldn’t see the bottom of the mountain. We eventually came to a clearing and could walk normally, although the rain kept coming. It was a relief until heading down the now slick paths of mud and rock which now were getting treacherous from use by the rest of the hikers (we were towards the back, which was a change from our usual forward position). At some point my glasses had gotten rained on despite the best efforts of a hood and cap, and with nothing dry, my lack of depth perception led me to fall over quite a lot.
Falling into people isn’t good for anybody so as the rain lessened, I was bizarrely given one of those hiking sticks to help me keep my balance. It it didn’t help and the pressure on my legs, coupled with mistrusting my own eyes and the stick led me to have a sit down. The rain stopped, I steamed, and was happy to wait for Crissy and Jurish (our organiser) to catch up with me. With the three of us shuffling down together, my confidence shot and legs not working properly, they had to listen to me babble on about random topics as I do when I have had enough. So the North Sea was a popular topic for some reason as I did my staccato zombie walk, no half measures here. It took about five hours to descend the entire mountain (no half measures here) and it was amazing to be down. Walking up was easier after the gruelling descent but for the rest of the night I struggled to keep a normal gait.
I did get a round of applause for coming in late (or maybe just for not being totally covered in mud, or even just making it that day, if at all), and thanks to kindness of the locals we had been allowed to pitch out tents in the school as the rain had wreaked havoc on the camp field. Ironically, there was a water shortage so we had to ask if we could have a shower and one lovely family was happy to and then tried to refuse our payment for it but we won thanks, partly to how pathetic we looked.
Finally, filled with (very) strong gin and good food, we had some great bonding and a good laugh before heading to our tents to rest the legs for our final day. Our tent was watched over by a protective doggie, called Bulljack whom we had said hello to earlier on and had followed and adopted us. I like to think he was a spirit guide. Going to sleep with rain coming down once again, I tried to put thoughts of tomorrow’s possible hardships out of my mind. It was hard the next day but not because of the rain, quite the opposite in fact.