Two days, 6 peaks
MANILA, Philippines - I stared at the hiking itinerary on the computer screen and felt thrilled and scared at the same time.
6 peaks around Batangas and Cavite in two days with an average hiking time of 10 hours per day.
It was a crazy idea but I trusted the friend who organized the trip and who was even more obsessed with mountains than I was.
I agreed to go without hesitation.
Day 1 - The peaks of Malipunyo Mountain Range
We started our adventure under dark skies at 5:00 AM in Barangay Talisay, Lipa, Batangas.
There were 9 of us; 7 guys including my female friend and I.
We had one guide with us, Mario, a wiry and energetic guy who appeared to be in his mid-twenties. A two-person support crew — a couple who treated us like their own children — stayed behind in our rented jeepney and took care of our meals.
Our group entered the mountain through a rocky trail with some parts encroached with overgrown vines. After 4 hours of sweating in a trail that passed through a steep section of the forest, we made it to our first summit.
Rain began to fall and wind blew from all directions. Fog quickly enveloped our surroundings leaving us with views of grasses, trees and of each other's grimy faces.
Since everyone desperately tried to keep warm, none of us savored our first victory.
One peak down, 5 more to go!
The maiden’s breast
The next 7 hours went by quickly as we completed two more peaks that day.
We passed at the side of Mt. Susong Dalaga, a common name attributed to mountains with a peak resembling the shape of a maiden's breast.
We rested at a grassy view deck called Biak na Bundok that’s overlooking the nearby mountains of Mt. Makiling in Los Baños and Mt. Maculot in Cuenca. We slumped on the grass as we tried to summon strength for our last peak that day.
A 4-hour hike through a dense part of the forest rarely used by other hikers led us to the summit of Mt. Manabu where a huge white cross can be seen. Another famous trail mark is Mang Pirying's hut, home of an elderly man 30 minutes from the summit. He offers free brewed coffee to anyone who will sit down and chat.
After a meal and a decent bath back at the jump-off, we travelled via jeepney for 3 hours to Ternate, Cavite, the starting point for next day’s adventure.
At the DENR station — a cottage with no walls — we spent the night on wooden benches cocooned inside our sleeping bags.
I woke up feeling the cool mist surrounding our base camp.
A quick breakfast paired with cups of brewed coffee perked my mood but it was not enough to soothe the aching muscles from the hike the previous day and the hardness of the bench where we slept.
The parrot’s beak
Pico de Loro is another favorite destination of both local and foreign hikers due to its proximity from Manila.
Its most recognizable feature is a towering rock the shape of a parrot's beak that can be seen from the summit.
We arrived at the summit in 2.5 hours where we found ourselves with dozens of other hikers. After resting, we took the shaded trail to Nasugbu, Batangas and exited at a deserted portion of the highway.
On the hot cement, we had our lunch of beef bulalo, a Filipino dish of beef boiled over water and onions, mounds of rice and ice cold water.
From Nasugbu, we traveled to Barangay Aga where we registered and prepared for a 2.5 hour hot hike to Mt. Talamitam's summit.
Its trails were not as grand as the other mountains we visited, majority of which were exposed to the sun.
The view at Mt. Talamitam's summit, however, was worth the sweat: the towns of Nasugbu and Calatagan separated by lush plains were visible.
30 minutes away from Mt. Talamitam was the jump-off point to our last mountain, Mt. Batulao, known for its beautiful jagged peaks that can be seen from its base.
It was a little past sunset when we started our ascent on the so-called "new trail." We saw light from other camp sites and the nearby cities.
In less than two hours, we arrived at the summit where strong winds welcomed us. We stayed briefly to gather enough strength to get back down in one piece. The trail back down was steep with lots of ravines on both sides so we had to slow our pace down.
It was 9:00 PM when we got back to the jeep. We were all happy from completing the 6 peaks, although most of us could barely utter any word due to exhaustion. Every muscle hurt, like we had been beaten up and trampled upon by a herd of cows.
Our group got back to Manila with no decent meal and bath, but like a lovesick fool, I couldn’t stop smiling.
There is inexplicable elation when pursuing a passion and conquering what at first seems like an impossible goal.
That weekend, we climbed a total of over 3,870 meters above sea level, higher than the total elevation of Mt Apo.
It was not really the feat of reaching 6 summits in two days that made the experience valuable; it was being able to spend time in the mountains I love.
After all, no one can conquer mountains.
Just oneself. - Rappler.com
Christine Fernandez has been an avid hiker since 1999 and advocates responsible outdoor practices by hiking in small groups and leaving no trash behind. She is thankful to Ceejay Custodio of Green Mountain Tribe for organizing this crazy but fun trip. Read more about her hiking adventures at www.jovialwanderer.com.