May 23rd: A summery of the last two weeks
I have not written in 2 weeks. Wow. I am not exactly sure why that is, probably a combination of how busy I have been but also how bored/tired. I am noticing how much these hiking adventures are becoming an integral part of my year here, but also how their regularity knock the wind out of me so that I sort of lounge around for a days after I return from each hike. Of course, I have that luxury of being able to take all the time off I need and, if I didn’t, I would manage all the same. It feels a lot better though that I am able to take the time I need to rest up as these hikes-even day hikes- in 32-37 degree weather are definately taxing.
As for the last two weeks, it began with Fred and I making our way to Bagguio and taking on the ascent of mount Ulap, which I will detail below. It was great and tiring and everything in between. We then made our way home to Manila (albeit later then planned, as per our usual Filipino travelling adventures) and then I got ready to leave for mount Amuyao (aka Batad-Barlig traverse), nearly died, and then came home sick and mended my wounds for 1 week. Needless to say, Week 11 was pretty uneventful. I have entered the last two weeks in two separate entries, as a means to make it clear what happened when. So, below is my entry for week 10 and week 11 is posted separately.
Mount Ulap: Benguet province, near summer country. North west of Manila.
On Sunday May 8th, I met up with a group of hikers mostly unknown to me, in Bagguio rather then in Manila, where they were departing from, to climb mount Ulap. Essentially, I had seen on FB that the van was stopping by in Bagguio from Manila. Baguio happens to be a 2.5 hours bus ride away from San Juan, were we were still residing In the week of May 1st. It would have been ridiculous to bus back to Manila, only to drive back up north the same day. I feel pretty proud of myelf of catching that opportunity and making the adequate plans. It all worked out quite well really.
In the process of packing for Bagguio, Fred’s colleague Maybz, who is absolutely lovely overheard our plans and let us know that she owns a house in Bagguio, and that we would be most welcome to make use of it. She stays with her relatives while in Bagguio as she and her husband are trying to rent out the house as they are now mostly living in San Juan La Union for work related purposes. We went down to Bagguio early Saturday and met with Maybz who was also down in Bagguio for the long weekend. We met her funny, charming husband and they gave us a delightful tour of some of their favorite spots in the city. In particular, Camp John Hay: it’s an old American airforce R&R camp. It’s many acres of pine forest, small hikes, botanical garden and historical colonial home is now a major tourist attraction. The aforemenionned house has been in turn, the house of the governor-general of the Philippines and the domicile of the American ambassador to the country. It’s kind of tacky and regal and definitely not the main interest of the base-turned-tourist attraction. However, we started there and then went exploring the grounds themselves. The camp is also a popular wedding location. Maybz and her husband happened to have gotten married there and had their engagement photos taken in different spots at John Hay air base. It felt really special to be with them as they revisited the place they were married. I hope Fred and I can revisit the same location some day and remember that year were we took this ridiculous leap of faith and just sort of, went to live somewhere random and went adventuring.
After checking out the location significant to their marriage, Maybz and her husband took us to a really nifty little café on location. The whole thing appeared hand built With whole logs complete with little covered benches in the yard. We sat outside and were treated to some sweet treats and traditional Bagguio hot chocolate. It was unlike the various hot cocoa blends I have experienced before. Not my favorite, but then again I am a die hard fan of hot cocoa and have tasted so many versions that I am bound to be picky. And, while not my favorite it was such a welcome treat as the evening breeze came in. In the Philippines, it’s been rare for me to actually feel naturally cold (as opposed to air con cold, which just makes me feel miserable.) This was a feeling I reveled in, especially with a warm beverage to hold and sip on. You see Bagguio is named the summer country because it is on average about 10 degrees cooler then the rest of Luzon and as such, is where Manila residents escape to during the summer to catch the breeze.
At the end of the evening, we were dropped off at Maybz house and they headed home to their relatives. We, on the other hand, finalized packing up for the Mount Ulap hike and went to bed.
We awoke around 2:30 am and slowly made our way to the meet up point for the van with Grace, the hike organizer, and everyone else. We got really lucky with he hole housing situation, as Maybz house was a 20 minute walk from the hospital. With the customary delays, we got on the the van and slept for a few additional hours before arriving at the jump off point.
We quickly discovered we were not the only ones hiking mount Ulap that day. There must have been about a hundred people there getting ready to hike. I was about 5:30 am. We grabbed hot Instant coffee and a summary, warm breakfast which was so nice in the cold morning temperature. I am so glad we were doing a reverse traverse, which enabled us to avoid a god chunk of the crowd assembled there.
And off we went! The hike was quite beautiful, despite being packed with people. The initial ascent was very steep and we saw no one, on account of doing a reverse traverse. After the initial climb, we started seeing more people but it really wasn’t too bad. We hiked a few ledges but I felt comfortable with these legdes, which was a pleasant surprise, as this is one hiking feature that I know I must get more comfortable with before next year’s major hike.
Other main features of the Mount Ulap hike included: A dung beetle infestation at the main look out point where everyone wanted to take pictues (littereally, we had beettles crawling up on us, getting tangled into our hair, Fred even had a pair of them mating on his back while an other watched the fertilization rite taking place); The cows and wild goats just hanging about; getting to spend the day in a pine forest that made me feel like I was home.
At the end of the hike we all drove back into Baguio. The others stopped to buy currios for friends and loved ones and we high tailed it back to the house where we just desperately wanted to grabb some shut eye, before cleaning up and getting a bus back to San Juan.
We left the next day to get back into Manila. That too, was a chaotic trip just as our way into San Juan.