Monday, December 19, 2011


I don't call myself a mountaineer. I call myself an advocate, an adventurer, a nature-lover. I have been to several mountains in the past, but they were all freelance climbs. All the same, they were amazing experiences. Just last Saturday, I was able to add Tarak to the list of mountains I've been to.

Since we're all set-- bags packed the night before, breakfast already taken at the nearby Jollibee branch, and we're already wearing our hiking attire-- straight off from a graveyard shift, I, along with seven colleagues, headed to the station in Pasay. What a luck that I was able to take a time off from my busy schedule, I badly needed this. We took a bus to Bataan (267php) and alighted when we reached Alas-Asin in a little less than 3 hours. We registered at the Barangay Hall, paid the fee of 30 pesos(added 10 pesos for washroom use) and went on our way towards the mountain.

We followed the dirt road until we reached Nanay's hut. We registered on her logbook, asked some instructions and went our way. Instead of asking for a fee, Nanay and Tatay only accept donations that are given wholeheartedly--we decided to give ours upon descent.

The trail was easy to follow, although there was a great deal of mud in some areas because of the rain. The elevation was just right and allowed enough time for our body to adjust with it. We sometimes stopped to rest, to drink water, and to wait for those who were walking far behind. There were several steep parts where we needed to be extra careful; these areas included wet and mossy bed of rocks, and slippery and muddy high areas. It was past 5 in the afternoon when we reached Papaya River and we decided to rest for a while as we wait for those who were still somewhere behind. When we were about to start the trek towards the campsite from the River, we realized that we didn't know where the trail starts. It was already dark and we realized that we would be compromising our safety if we will push through with the plan of reaching the campsite in this state. Tired and hungry, we decided to set camp right there and then. It wasn't a bad idea, since we were just a few steps away from the water source.

Photo Cred: Carlo M

They stayed up, ate and drank. I just slept.

The next morning we decided to climb up to the campsite, with the intention of exploring the peak. The trail to the campsite from Papaya River was a lot harder. It was very challenging. The assault was almost 90 degrees, and right after the wooded area we were able to see the steep and very exposed trail we would need to take. It was no comfort to climb considering that it was raining very hard and was very windy. Slowly, we made or way upwards, clinging to everything that's strong enough to keep us from being blown away by the fierce gusts of the wind. We really had to be very careful since one wrong move would mean a lost life. 

As expected, the campsite was bare. There were no campers in sight. No tents, no nothing. Just the mountain itself, the rain and the wind, and us. We tried to roam around but we can only stay huddled together to avoid hypothermia. It was freezing cold. We managed to climb the peak but could barely see the beauty lying before us. The rain was coming down too strong that raindrops hurt the flesh, and blinded the eyes. We never attempted to pose for a picture since it was utterly impossible to take one. Sadly, we were not able to enjoy the stay at the peak.

When we got back to the Papaya River, I was surprised that it wasn't raining there at all-- it was just drizzling.  I was dripping wet, full of mud, yet very much thankful that I was alive. I went straight to the river and bathe, oblivious to the coldness of the water. I barely felt anything because my body was still numb from our trip to the peak.

We broke camp and started to descend. There was no rain at all, but one look at the direction of the peak told me that it was still raining there.  The rain and the wind were just happening up there, it seemed. I sighed and shuddered at the thought of the previous encounter with Tarak's peak. I told myself and the mountain that I will be back.

We reached Nanay's house and hung around for a while. We talked about her advocacy in protecting the mountain and I felt real admiration for her and her husband. My colleagues took the time to take shots of themselves with the hanging tarpaulins in the background. I took only but one picture using my then Nokia phone, a photo of the tarpaulin of the Triskelion Adventurers. We offered Nanay our heartfelt donation and went on our way.

The only picture I took--

Since it was a Sunday and they went to church, we had to wait for the owners of the place where we could wash up and change clothes. It was shortly after 7pm when we were able to reach the highway and we were surprised to learn that we missed the busses bound for Manila. They were only until 7pm, the Carinderia owner told us. She offered to transport us to the bus station wherein we can take a bus to Manila, we accepted and paid them for the ride on their van. Since we got there past 9pm, the bus driver said we would have to wait for the 1am ride, and maybe because of the long and tired faces he could see, he told us that we can sleep inside the bus.

So we got in. Slept until we felt the bus moving and leaving the station.

I went to sleep again. I fell asleep thinking of somebody. I fell asleep wishing that somebody was with me.

And then we were back in Manila.