The first time I hiked Mt Arayat was when i was in Elementary school through a camping we had as Boy Scouts. From that camp, I remember we took the magalang trail and camped next to a dam/reservoir; water was freely flowing from a hose and along the hike on the second day of the camp, we came across a falls and a camp (not sure if it’s a private/residential or military). The worst memory about that camp: my designation in my team: The Cook (they don’t even call it iron chef or even just chef back then).
Ever since I got invited by a group of mountaineers from Tarlac, I seemed to have been lured by the idea of mountain climbing as leisure. After that climb in Mt. Tangisan, I knew it was the start forward. The group notifies us everytime they (or shall I say now WE? Yeheyyyy!!!) have a climb, and as long as schedule fits, we try to accommodate (parang kame pa daw ginawan ng favour ohhh!).
|approaching brgy banyo mt. arayat|
I have been asking my friend who introduced us to the group about any possible climb to Mt. Arayat. That I wanted to climb it again, after that Elementary days climb. Then, on my birthday, 26th January, while hanging out with a my friend, Ivy, and another friend, Jen, both of whom are qualified members of the group already, I was told that there will be a climb on the 28th in Mt. Arayat. And since both Ivy and I were unemployed at that time and were on super tight, nothing more to squeeze budget, we’ve called up Dra. Go (Ivy’s client and an active member of the group, whom we know acknowledge to be our second beloved mother), and told her about our limitations. Well, being nice and all, ahemmm..., she volunteered to shoulder our deficit, and in fact to lend us a bag and a tent (where on earth do you get those generous offers). Off we are on that weekend for Mt. Arayat.
|let the treck begin|
The itinerary was to take the southern Brgy. Banyo trail, and to meet at 8am. So, there we were right on time; Just as soon as Ivy set foot from jen’s car, everybody yelled “Iiiiivvvvvyyyyyyyyy.........” And, well, when it was my turn, everybody yelled “LLLLLlllllloooooollleng.....” Darn...everybody couldn’t get over the name loleng. It’s a long story and I’m sure gonna blog on how this loleng thing started. I have just been known as loleng everywhere and it’s both funny and irritating (of all names.....!).
Enough of the loleng, moving forward, I took the bag from Dra Go with her 5kg medical (and i feel some canned dietary) supplies, sroppws my stuff within, and on each hand, 6 liters of water (which, on a 7pH, shall weigh 12 kilos...whataload!).
|with Ivy and Jen...|
Let the adventure begin...
I was trying to stay at pace with the group but my friend Ivy was having a hard time through because the sun was directly on us. Just almost half an hour at the onset of the trail, we were already the sweepers (and i’d say, party because we don’t get porters, and there is almost a sack of rice weight on me alone). And, just an hour past, Ivy and I were already out of the group. .. The prodigal climbers don’t care whether we’ll reach there at the target time. We just said, “we have nothing to do up in the camp, so why hurry?” Definitely, it wasn’t anyway near the difficulty level of Mt. Tangisan. Totally unexpected. My distorted intellect had undermined the familiar mountain; Since I don’t really recall having a hard time when i first did it decades ago, I just assumed it will be all easy (having neglected the fact that it’s a different trail, and the first time was more of a baby climb). The group was halfway through the trail, and we were basically just at the foot. We get tired after just a few steps; And, to add to the delay, to compensate our stress through...partly water, partly energy food, and majority...cigarettes.
Xzzzzhhhh....zhhhsxxxxhhhh! xxxxhhhzzzhhh! It’s a nursery of (brown) mosquitoes up there.
|much part of the trail is like this|
As you go up, the rocks along the trail go bigger and bigger...it’s literally climbing. At one point, just next to the part they refer to as the balcony (where there’s a huge boulder where you could sneak at the Central Luzon range), there is something like a wall climb of a 10 feet height. When we got to that point, , somehow there is still mobile reception, we got a call from Jen asking us for our location and to rush as they are about to take their lunch. When we’ve come across this seemingly wall climb, we thought we just don’t have enough kilojoules to get through. We yelled at them and told them we’re eating right there. I can’t believe i’ve had 3 servings of rice there. My normal consumption has long been half cup for a whole day.
|and some more takes of the trail|
We were actually planning to nap first and let them proceed to the trail. But, just right after we finished lunch, they yelled us back and reiterated that we move faster.
|view from the balcony|
Considering how much we’ve eaten, there was now space to fit in the water within my bag. I thought it would be better if I can use my hands to pull in the trail. We managed to get up and from there, the trail just gets harder. There will be broken thorny branches and logs along the way, where you’ll have to either go hop up, or crawl below. Likewise , since you’re going through rocks, there’s really no clear trail. You’ll just have to check every now and then for some signs posted on the trees, and take cues from some trash. At one point, since i had just dumped the 12kg equivalent water at the peak part of the backpack, crawling between rocks, my head went first; luckily not totally in upside down position but very close..Also, there’s a part, right behind the balcony where you’ll have to bend backward, like on a limborak, while stepping sideways and holding on a tree. Shall you slide, it’s an instant 20-30 feet drop down a rough base of rocks. More stress came on, pace gone far slower, and water and cigarettes almost empty.
|The tree where a priest has hung himself in Y2000. Photo was taken on the way back|
An hour past the balcony, 2 porters came back. We thought someone has forgotten something or asked to pick up something back; Little did I know that It was us. The group is already setting camp and we’re not even close. Dra Go has asked her porters to pick us up (and our stuff of course. We were kinda sorry about them having to go back for us, we just let them carry our bags, and us, the water. Had we known Dra Go will be paying them extra for that, we would have let them carry everything, and probably even us). Just before we let them part us, we told them to take rest. One of the porters said, the tree where I was sitting was where a priest, in the year 2000, committed suicide! Creepy. I knew ivy was internally freaking out right there and then. Just like the rest, we told them to move ahead and just give us the direction, and that we won’t take long this time. They’ve given us the instructions and just a few minutes, we couldn’t even hear them anymore. They were back in the camp, and we have barely moved. Two cigarette packs done so far.
|finally reaching the camp|
We were probably 2 hours behind the group. When we got in the camp, everybody was setup and done eating; Some were already asleep; And everybody asked “what took you so long.” Our reply: “well this trail is totally cluttered with all the fallen trees, and the messed up rocks, so we decided to fix things up.”
Jen has prepared an enormous serving of soup and dinner which was enough for her and her boyfriend as well as the 2 extra prodigals. We did not bother cooking ours anymore as Father was already preparing for a mass. We had the mass; my first time in years, done in English alongside the innocent porters. After that, we had the fellowship; Our filthy rich fellows brought in kilos and kilos of lean beef, grilled complete with A1 sauce. I don’t even know how much bottles of Gin we finished (somewhere between 10-20); At around roughly past 10pm, it was lights out; And then it rained! It was freezing cold. When I was packing for the climb, I never really expected rain so i did not bring any blanket. All I had were my shirt, a sweater, trouser and socks...I could still feel the cold. Midway through my REM sleep, perhaps about 2am, I was awakened, and I pulled my meter long backpack and shoot myself in it! It was that cold. Then, at 4am, I noticed Ivy’s chilling. I was going to lend her whatever thermal I have in me when she said “Are you feeling cold, i got a blanket in the bag, you can get it!” Darn...she was actually the one chilling there! And she has been tolerating it through when she could have just pulled the blanket earlier. We didn’t sleep well really the whole night so we woke up late. As usual, everybody’s done with breakfast at the time, and some of the tents were already dismantled; Stood up, cooked our food, collected trash, took some pictures, and off downwards.
|it's too slippery to check out the other peak|
Just like earlier, the trail down was far harder. Since it rained the night before, the ground’s wet and slippery. As my hands were wounded on the trail up, I asked Jen to lend me her gloves. Somehow, it was easier to cling on to the branches as compared to ivy who would slip every so often, hold immediately to anything she could probably hold onto, and screammmm....Ouch! she’s been thorned!
Our pace wasn’t a surprise. It took us 6 hours up, and it has taken us 6 hours down. When we met the group down at the hiker’s center, same old question, “what took you so long?” Our reply “for some reasons, the rocks we’ve fixed on the way up were messed up again, so we had to fix things up again! DARN! Who did it?” That pinch of humor is all it takes anyway to lighten them up from all that waiting. Everybody’s done eating, washed up, and ready to go. We were served with sinigang, or shall i say, inasimang baboy! All vegetables finished already. Everybody’s in the rush for whatever business they have left in the day...Ivy and I didn’t even have time to wash face. We all left, and off we were, Ivy and I, to a friend’s place at a nearby town to clean up and recharge.
What a hike!