Let me tell you the about the most physically and emotionally-taxing weekend of my life, which started Friday, 13th of March, 8:00 PM while hoarding groceries for a Mt. Tapulao climb. Two days prior, the plan was to head to Tirad Peak and kill ourselves with a creepy, historical trail at Candon, Ilocos Sur–but it was soon put at the back-burner due to transport and other logistical challenges (my humble sedan can’t cross rivers). So off we drove to the sleepy town of Palauig to dayhike the highest peak of Zambales. Yes, we are quite hopeful (and arrogant) that way.
Mt. Tapulao is called the ‘poor man’s Pulag,’ difficulty 5/9, trail class 1-3, 18 kilometers up, and another 18 down. This shit is tough, I tell you, especially for someone like me whose family has a history of weak knees. According to Sir Gid Lasco, the trail is 85% rocky roads (pretty accurate if you ask me), which makes it putangina death!!!
Ascent: Introducing Tedric, the teddy bear with no nose
We started walking at 4 in the morning (after running into a minor vehicular accident that cost us two hours, aptly spent at the Subic police station) even with zero hours of sleep. The few things that made the hike bearable were the cool weather, the prospect of lunch at the summit, and photo-ops with Tedric. Meet our very own Trekker Teddy. Haha!
Our first seven kilometers, composed mostly of mild slopes felt pretty easy. It reminded me of slow, uphill climbs to the College of Forestry during my stay in UPLB. Fatigue hasn’t kicked in, we were still running (yes, literally running) on adrenalin. Fast forward to the 9th kilometer and the trail became a bit more difficult, arduous even, because putangina bato!
That awesome feat by Tedric was followed by breakfast.
On the 12th kilometer, we finally saw a few pine trees (trivia: ‘Tapulao’ actually means pine tree) and gained enough altitude to see the super great views of the Zambales mountains. I could wake up to this everyday.
We took a quick nap at Campsite 1 before doing the summit assault. One very important discovery: taking a power nap before 40 minutes of continuous ascent is not good. My heart rate was up, but I was so freaking sleepy–and the coldness of the mossy forest didn’t help. C. and I were so tired that upon reaching the summit, we decided to delay taking photos and just crash. Keber na sa kung ano ano mang gumagapang na insekto!
Note: Tapulao’s summit is not grassy or bald–so even if it is the highest peak of Zambales, you won’t see much (so enjoy the views at the trail). Its most popular summit marker is the ‘World Tree’ that’s been standing there since forever. Climbing it is not advised though. Mahirap na!
Descent: Death by bato
We descended via the steep trail (short cut daw) to the bunkhouse. This is where C. took a misstep and sprained her right foot. Patay, football captain got injured! But apparently, she’s used to many forms of sports injuries (from games and training) so she ignored the pain and just walked. Dear jesus-mary-joseph-and-legions-of-freakin-angels, this is one mountain where going down felt 10 times harder than an assault. Anyway, all the drama transpired while Tedric chilled by the bunkhouse.
This was C. limping on her way down, helped by nothing more than a stick. Haha! It was hard to look back at all the suffering–hard because during late afternoons, fog would already start enveloping the mountain; hard to see and even harder to think that we had about 10 more kilometers to go. Hard because, guess what, matigas ang mga putanginang bato! I actually used HARD six times in this paragraph. Hardcore.The descent is a fucking test of character. Several times, we asked our guide, Sam, if we were anywhere near the jump off point and once, he responded with ‘Mga 30 na putangina na lang ma’am,’ while chuckling. He is the coolest. Haha! Anyway, we ran out of expletives in the last five kilometers.
By the time we got back to the jump off, all we could really do was stare blankly at the wall, wiggle our toes from time to time, and muster enough energy for a 15 kilometer drive to Iba, Zambales. We just had to go to the beach. To cap this post off, here’s a photo of Tedric resting at La Vista Resort (not in photo: C. icing her ankle and me still trying to massage them poor legs). Total of 36 kilometers in 14 hours. Longest day ever, but fuck yeah! It was still awesome. Haha!
This blog post is part of my 2015 travel project called #epic7107 — to vist as many places within the home-country as possible and to write not just about destinations, but also, people.