I’d like to believe this was my first official hike. I used to climb mountains when I was in high school yes but I didn’t have the perception of real ‘hike’ back then. September 29th Friday night of last year when we travelled from Manila to our destination in Puncan, Nueva Ecija. It was actually annoying for our service van arrived late in our meeting place to the extent that I already considered backing out. Good thing I have my childhood friend and my cousin with me. We entertained ourselves catching up with our stories of here and then while waiting. It was a bumpy ride going there thus, I barely had some sleep. I supposed everyone on that trip too. My cousin Ate Joy and I stayed awake and went on chatting until we finally reached our jump off point.
We got there thirty minutes past five in the morning (if I remembered it correctly). We were advised to use the toilet, change clothes (if we have to) and eat breakfast before we start moving. We had a short introduction too courtesy of the local guides. According to them, it is actually called Mt. 387 because it is in an area holding 387.9 hectares of the Talavera Watershed Forest Reserve. At the end of briefing, we were asked how we want to go back down, everyone chose the traverse trail except me. Yes I refused raising my hand for that. But my friend and my cousin were up for it so I just went along and approved of it eventually. The other option was slightly plane as the guide said so only that it is way farther and will took longer hours to descend. There is no easy way out and I was a little anxious about it.
Afterwards, we started ascending. As we go on uprising, only few minutes later I went through hard breathing already. Succumb to my laziness of having exercise regularly. Resulting of me being at the tail end amongst everyone else who were with us on this trail. Hardly noticing the path we were taking, not even recognizing the first view point neither, all I could think of was to carry on and get it over with.
I have only started acknowledging and appreciating the woodlands and forestry as we passed by when the track became moderate. Well, at least for me. It could have been the easiest for more steady climbers.
But apart from the scenic views, it is the purpose that comes with climbing that makes it worthwhile. And for our time, this time, it was the tree planting activity. Each hiker shall plant a seedling or two during rainy season in accordance to agreement between the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and locals for reforestation. However on dry season, one must bring a liter of water to help in sustaining the seedlings planted by previous climbers.
I was surprised and overwhelmed to know about these. Apparently, I wasn’t aware when the local guides were explaining all of these earlier. I just had to ask our guide again who generously and patiently expound it for me.
We then proceeded after planting. We had plenty of stops for photos first before we finally got into a turning point which is overlooking the popularly known Chocolate Hills of the North. Though it was green colored due to prevalent grass growth, it is still a beautiful panorama to witness.
Another view point right after a few steps is the Batong Amat Peace Park landmark. Here we spent more time to breath in and to absorb the beauty of nature.
At the summit facing down to where we began, I say hard work has at long last paid off. It is a moment of victory for me which I can always share but will never be stolen. The precious part was seeing that it is in our most unglamorous and hard times that we most appreciate life.
After an ample time of rest and some photo ops, we headed down and continued with our traverse to Aloha Falls. Here’s the part where I don’t want to elaborate nor I wanted to remember. As we resumed the steep and slippery road seemed endless. I don’t recall how many times I have asked our guide, “are we there yet?” and how many times he answered me with, “just a little more”. And then I would joke on him, “you are fooling us” but he would say, “no mam I am motivating you”.
Worst was my knees were shaking and its bending became voluntary. I’d feel like I already wanted to crawl or roll myself down just so I could be there quick. But it can’t be. So I had to motivate myself that this is temporary and soon will be over and that we’ll be approaching the Aloha Falls soon.
You couldn’t ever imagine how delighted we were at the very sight of the tall running water. It was also very refreshing to see. We were too shattered and exhausted to jump in through the cold water and bathe hence, after taking photos of it and with it, we hurried to our drop off point. Took a shower hastily, ate a little and headed back home.
The next day, Sunday, my legs hurt so bad and couldn’t get up from bed. Yet it was all worth it. For the record, I only agreed to do this because everything just seemed to be not working the way I wanted them, both work and personal matters. So I thought I should try doing new things. And I don’t regret it, this was such an exceptional breather. If someone invites me for a climb again? Let me think about it. Hahaha! Kidding aside, yes I might. Pardon me if I don’t have that much and not familiar with real climbers’ “terms”. It’s just a shame not blogging about this so I did it with how I experienced it and understood things my way.