Stubborn as I am my injury wasn’t enough to keep me in one place—once again I’m out and about on an adventure, this time to revisit an “old friend” Mt. Maculot. And what perfect date to set it but on another long weekend courtesy of Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor), the 9th of April.
It was almost a year ago when I last (and first) visited Cuenca, Batangas where the famous (and also infamous) mountain is located, south of Taal Lake. This time I’m back to lead (or more like guide) new adventure-seekers in search for some crash-course on mountaineering for a bigger adventure that is TNF100.
This was my first time to lead anyone on a mountain. The members of our previous group that assaulted Mt. Maculot were occupied, so as reluctant as I was I had no choice but to lead the group that was mostly comprised of women, many of which had absolutely no experience trekking. I had promised that I’d take them on a trek before TNF100 for some training and so even if I was a little banged up I had to keep my word. To make matters worse I don’t remember the trail we took before as we did our previous assault at night! Fortunately our group was joined with additional testosterone on the last minute so I was able to forget all my concerns.
I had originally planned for a 1AM departure from Manila but due to a sequence of unfortunate events we were able to leave Manila at 4AM. Then there was a road accident en route further slowing our progress and it was way past 7AM when we finally got to Cuenca. There goes my sunrise plan!
Travel Tip: Buses passing through Cuenca from Buendia/Taft don’t have a fixed departure time as we learned the hard way, better ask the bus company what time their buses are “scheduled” to leave and add an hour for waiting time.
Since we were already way behind schedule we decided to take the faster way by riding tricycles toward the registration site (P10/person), Barangay Hall (where we had our restroom break), and the jump-off point. We were initially taken to the “traditional” jump-off point as I forgot to mention to our drivers that we were starting via Grotto trail and not the usual “tourist” trails, thus adding to our fare. Tricycle cost: P30/person (five persons per tricycle) which was a little hefty in total but it’s a way of life called tourism!
A year hence, the dirt roads that we took before are now paved. Uh oh! Not much seems familiar! Hiking in daylight does have the advantage of locals being awake and able to tell you the right way as I obviously am lost that time, so in summary we found the Grotto trail and everything was uneventful, except that I forgot how heart-pumping this trail was (great workout for the glutes).
Notice my huge 40L bag. Aside from guiding friends I also was doing some weight training, also for TNF100. I’ve no idea how heavy it was but it contains 3.5L of liquids, a 700g netbook, a pair of sandals, change clothes, etc.—no light packing today! A year ago I was carrying a regular backpack and just wore a tee and a pair of denims—things have really changed!
Our journey from the Grotto to the summit was uneventful and was surprisingly fast. From our previous record of eight hours from Municipal Hall to summit we were able to reach summit from jump-off point in less than two and a half hours!
Our “uneventful” series ran out on our first attempt to find a way to the Rockies. I vaguely remember the details and the trail I remembered that we took were no longer that established. With suggestions from my teammates we took the “obvious” route which spelled trouble for us.
The “obvious” trail eventually leads us to a very difficult location with a matching dead end. Many of my teammates slid down the trail as the earth was loose—it crumbles beneath your feet, literally! All of us get some challenge with that one, only to find out that we’re on a dead end (unless of course jumping off a ravine was part of the trail!). I can’t believe that we’re lost! (Again?!)