As part of our fundraising-cum-training for our upcoming Everest Base Camp trek, we organized rappelling and hiking activities in Mount Talamitam in Nasugbu, Batangas last weekend. In our group, I was the only one who hiked with the participants while the others had to set up the rappel equipment and prepare our breakfast.
Normally, the hike to and from the peak of Talamitam only takes three to four hours depending on one’s phase. This is my average speed for the past three hikes I did. But not this time though. My friend Mela and I walked for more than five hours in total.
Originally, I planned to hike Talamitam on our first day in the site before rappelling. I was thinking that if we do it the next day, some of us may be too lazy or too drunk to get up especially at 5 in the morning and with a rainy weather. The next day, no forcing happened. Everyone woke up at 5AM. Freshened up a bit and off we went hiking. It was 15 minutes before 6AM. The whole area was covered with thick blanket of fog during our hike. Thanks to the cold temperature, it saved us from being exhausted fast.
With our water bottles still almost full, we reached the peak of the hill in less than two hours. The summit was still clouded with fog. Some of us are Talamitam first-timers and I feel bad for them because they couldn’t see the amazing view of Talamitam’s twin hill, Batulao.
They did the mandatory I-survived-Mount-Blah-Blah pictorial. As for me, I just stared at the thick blanket of fog hoping that the sun shines and Batulao shows itself. Well, it did, only for just a few seconds.
We neither had food nor any drink before our hike. After a few minutes at the peak and with our stomachs already rumbling, we decided that it’s time to descend. We couldn’t stop thinking of the food awaiting us—fried rice, hotdog, daing na dilis, adobo, sautéed string beans. Yum!
The group got separated on our way down. We were given three guides to lead us throughout the whole hike and the two of them went straight ahead without waiting for the third guide and the remaning hikers. Mela and I tried to catch up with the two guides to no avail. We passed by a guide who was just ascending along with two other hikers who pointed us to the direction where they came from and said, “Dito po ang daan.” Because he’s a guide, I obliged and led Mela to what we didn’t know was a different route.
It didn’t occur to me that I was walking on a different trail. We passed by a corn field which I do not recall passing by from any of my previous hikes. Right there and then, I knew we’re walking on a different path. But then I thought, there’s just one way up and down the hill of Talamitam. And so I continued walking. I didn’t let Mela see the budding panic within me. Oh no, not again. I already got lost in Tarak Ridge once leading my friends to nowhere. Rowjie’s gonna kill me for sure.
If you’ve been to Talamitam before, you’d know that you’re in a different trail if you see houses. The traditional trail isn’t residential and so you won’t see any houses. I took every chances asking all the people who we saw along the way for the right direction but they all told us that we just have to walk straight ahead until we reach the bridge. There’s no going back I said. We’ve descended too far now to go back. Mela is not an expert hiker so it’d be a burden for her. I dragged her into this shit and I must no longer continue giving her more pain.
We heard a loud gush of water. The river, yey! Finally, we’re back to the right trail, I thought. But my happiness was short-lived when I saw that the bridge the residents all referred to was different from the bridge we walked by on our ascent. And why could we hear buses honking their horns? Ugh-oh.
I knew we had to cross the bridge. But where does it lead to? I saw two men wearing only briefs taking a bath in the river. Wala nang hiya-hiya. I yelled at them asking for the right direction. They both pointed to the direction with the killer ascent.
Luckily, there were three young men behind us who were also heading in the same direction. We told them that we are lost and asked them which way to go or if there are any other way for us to be back to the traditional trail. They all shook their heads saying that if we want to go back to the traditional trail, we would have to hike back to where we came from. They offered help saying they could lead us to the right trail until we reach the highway since they were also heading that way. Apparently, a group of mountaineers that’s rumored to be as many as 20 is arriving and they were hoping they could earn some money guiding them.
The boys seemed harmless but for ladies like us who don’t know their way out of the forest, surrounded by three male strangers, and the horrible news of rape and hold-up we all are hearing these days, I got scared for a moment. Hindi kaya re-reypin kami ng mga ‘to.
After a few minutes, we reached the end of the trail, which is the highway but there were no mountaineers and the waiting shed of Kilometer 55 is nowhere to be found. We were told that it’s another three kilometers from where we were that moment to get to the waiting shed. We didn’t have money with us so we couldn’t just hop on the next arriving jeep or bus. The boys offered to lead us to a shortcut which ends just a few feet away from our campsite but we would have to go back to the forest. Naku, baka dito na kami re-reypin. What a stupid thought!
We just followed their leads and in less than 10 minutes, me and Mela were back to the main road near our camp site. Since we didn’t have anything with us that we could give them as token, we just said our heartfelt thanks. We walked for a few more minutes before arriving in the campsite. Rowjie knew we got lost because, according to him, I have to sense of direction.
I just considered the hike back to the campsite as an extension of my training. Unfortunately for Mela, she was my hike buddy that day. Haha. Also, I bought a liter of RedHorse beer for Aries, one of the three men who helped us get back to the right trail, when we met him again in one of the stores in the area.