I was 15 when I first had a close encounter with nature and experienced its magnificent beauty. I can still vividly recall the picturesque, little mountain in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija as its green grassland met the perfect blue sky. After a few hours of walking up and down the hilly mountain, a mini-forest stood with a pristine water flowing by its side, the sound rushing down from a nearby falls in harmony with the whispering of the wind and the chirping of the birds. At the end of the stream was the louder sound of the river whose strong current we had to battle for us to go back to where we started.
That amazing experience coupled with my innate outdoorsy and adventurous characteristics made me long for nature. Climbing a mountain had been in my bucket list since then.
Last end-April, I was able to finally cross this activity off my list and commune with nature once again. My office/college friend R mentioned during one of lunch breaks that she and her boyfriend-now-fiance were planning to do a 2-day hike to Mt. Ugo, a beautiful mountain in the Cordillera region. Our other friend J expressed her interest to tag along which made me so envious for the obvious reason that I have a family to look after and climbing a mountain and being away from them for 2 days just didn’t sound like a good idea.
Until one morning on my way to work with my dear husband, I casually mentioned it to him who replied me with “Why don’t you join them?” I had to double check if I heard his words right. “Are you serious? It’s an overnight climb. How about the kids?” “I’ll take care of them,” he assured.
I kissed him right there and then who was sitting behind the wheel and screamed, “Yay! Thanks, Daddy!” He knew so well how I really wanted to hike and how long I’ve been pestering him for us to do it together. Since our boyfriend-girlfriend days, I’ll never forget. 🙂
Fast forward a few weeks later. I was so excited and giddy for my first major climb as I later on learned that the Mt. Ugo traverse climb was a bit challenging due to its steep elevation, but definitely worth-it and rewarding because of the majestic view of the Cordillera mountains and the pine forests along the trails. So I did a little running and climbing the 6-floor stairs of our office in preparation for this climb. My friends and I also attended the pre-climb meeting where we first met our new friend, J, who facilitated the orientation.
We booked the packaged tour of Trail Adventours for convenience sake and reserved all the hardship and suffering in doing the hike itself. 😀 This is the most sound decision a first-time climber would make, especially to Mt. Ugo. And since it was going to be my first climb and I didn’t know how difficult the climb would be, I also hired a porter via Trail Ad for P500 per day (so P1,000 for 2 days).
Trail Ad already took care of our round-trip transportation, meals for Day 1 dinner and Day 2 breakfast and lunch, registration fees, and all the coordination with the local guides, porters, local authorities, etc. A Trail Ad shirt, personalized ID and a bag tag were also given as souvenirs. All in all, the package cost was P4,100.
This was our itinerary for the entire trip:
10:00 PM Day 0: Meet up and Registration at Victory Liner KAMIAS Terminal
11:00 PM Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) for Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya
05:30 AM Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) Aritao. Board Jeep to Kayapa (Mt Ugo jump-off point)
07:00 AM ETA Jump-Off Point. Breakfast. Buy Packed Lunch and Supplies
08:30 AM Start Trek
11:30 PM ETA Indupit Village. Lunch
01:00 PM Resume Trek
04:00 PM ETA Domolpos Village. Set Camp
06:00 PM Prepare Dinner
07:00 PM Dinner. Socials
10:00 PM Lights out
03:00 AM Wake up call. Breakfast. Prepare for ascent to the Summit.
4:00 AM Start Ascent
7:00 AM ETA Summit
08:00 AM Start Descent
11:30 AM Arrive at Old Saw Mill. Lunch
12:30 PM Continue Trek
01:00 PM ETA Lusod Village
04:00 PM ETA Kawayan Village. Re-group and proceed to Barangay Hall
05:00 PM Arrive at Barangay Hall. Tidy up
06:00 PM ETD for Baguio
07:00 PM ETA Baguio. Dinner and souvenir shopping
09:00 PM ETD for Manila
03:00 AM Day 3: ETA Manila
We were able to follow our schedule except on Day 2 when we were delayed.
Let’s begin my account of my Mt. Ugo experience. 🙂
The meeting time was at 10PM at Victory Liner Kamias Terminal but since my office friend J and I didn’t want to get caught in the rainy-Friday-payday traffic, I asked dear Daddy J to bring us to the bus terminal at an earlier time. We left home at around 7PM and arrived at the meeting place an hour and a half later. Early birds but at least we were not left by the group. 🙂
We hung out at the nearby 7-Eleven to pass time where we met our 2 other office friends R and J and at the same time completed our stuff and supplies to bring like toiletries, water, trail food, etc and had some light dinner to fill our hungry tummies.
By 10:45PM, our group of 18 adventurers was already on board the bus and had started to roll by 11PM. I tried to get as much quality sleep as I could during the 6-7 hour travel to Aritao and I think I only got my forty winks after the second stop-over. We arrived in Aritao at 5:30AM and the weather was good despite the rainy forecast. We then quickly boarded a rented jeepney to Kayapa which is the jump-off point. I managed to snatch a nap in that 1-hour jeepney ride. Hihi! 😉
We had breakfast at a carinderia in Kayapa’s mini-palengke where we also bought our packed lunch, additional water and other supplies (AAA batteries in my case for my head lamp), had bathroom break, did a little stretching, applied sunblock and got to know the group we spent the next 2 days with. I also hired a porter to transport my bag
My adventure of a lifetime started with a 2-3 hour steep assault. Whew! That was tough! But I enjoyed every minute of it! 🙂
Time check: 11:30AM. Time for lunch at Indupit Village. This is where I started to appreciate Mountain Dew we bought from a sari-sari store. It did really taste good in the mountain! 😀
We resumed our trek an hour after where the trail was already flat but the view still fantastic!
A few more hours of walking and we reached the Domolpos Village where the elementary school which served as our campsite was located. We arrived at 4:30PM just in the nick of time before the heavy downpour! Thank God! I could imagine how cold and hassle it was for the other climbers who were still on the trail when the rain poured hard.
Bread with peanut butter, brewed black coffee and hot lemongrass tea were made available as our merienda at the campsite. I had lemongrass tea which tasted so good and felt so relaxing after a challenging 8-hour hike. After merienda, I decided to freshen up by taking a shower despite the seemingly freezer-cold water. It wasn’t as bad as I thought because I used to take a bath with water that cold in my Tita’s place. 🙂
While waiting for our dinner, we played the card game Love Letter and poor me only won once. 😀 At around 8pm, our dinner of chicken curry and sautéed veggies with rice were ready and we all partook the food under the bright light of an improvised gas lamp and our respective headlamps since there is no electricity in the village. We played Love Letter again after having our fill and enjoyed the night with our new friends while the others took a more serious activity of drinking alcoholic beverage and the rest, even more serious and solemn in dozing off. 🙂 I wasn’t able to make a call to my babies because there was completely no network signal in the area. 😦
At 9:30PM, most of us were already in our sleeping bags except for those who were still finishing their bottle of alcoholic drink. I couldn’t sleep even if I already plugged in my earbuds and played by lullabye Hillsong Instrumental on Spotify because the drinkers were still drinking and chatting, there was someone snoring loudly, and I think I was namamahay. 😀 I had very light sleep and I woke up even to the very light scratching sound of movement in the sleeping bags.
Everyone was already up at 3:00AM and we all started to pack up our things. We had fried rice, boiled egg, hotdog, canned tuna and coffee for breakfast. A quick briefing about the Day 2 hike was conducted then we were back on the trails on our way up to the summit amidst the cold and dark dawn.
We caught the beautiful sunrise along the trail and I just couldn’t help but get mesmerized by God’s wonderful creation. He is truly magnificent.
Along the trail to the summit also took place the life-changing event in R’s life: getting engaged! 🙂 How I wish I was with them to witness right before my eyes the proposal that transpired but I was hiking ahead. Booo! 😀 But I’m so happy for R and J! 🙂
After our group pic at the summit, we started our descent in what seemed to be an endless but full of fun trail because of the company of friends filling the long walk with jokes, laughters and stories. 🙂 This is also when our group began following a different itinerary. 😀
Before we started the day 2 trek, it was agreed by the entire team to have our lunch at the Lusod Village also called Kilometro 7, being 7km away from the jump-off point in Itogon, Benguet. But since we were trekking on chill mode, our tummies began growling even before we could reach the Lusod Village so the sweep pack aka slowest team aka our team just looked for a shaded ground where we had our lunch of fried chicken and rice and took some rest.
The endless walking under the scorching heat of the sun resumed until we finally reached Lusod Village. The alpha pack aka fastest group had already left when we arrived but there were other participants who patiently waited for us. Of course, what we had been waiting for: Mountain Dew time! 🙂
The remaining 7 kilometers to the Itogon jump-off point was a steep descent giving the newly-engaged J a hard time because of his ACL knee injury. Our energy began diminishing but thanks to the refreshing halo-halo we enjoyed eating at our last trail stop, we were re-energized. 🙂
At this point, we only cared about reaching the Brgy. Hall. I barely even checked the time but the sure thing was the sun hadn’t set yet when we reached Kawayan Village. Obviously, the much faster participants had already freshen up and were taking a rest while we were still suffering. 😀
After around a kilometer, we finally reached the Brgy. Hall. Whew! Imagine an entire day of walking. Again, WHEW! 🙂
And the one thing we were excited about? Shower! 🙂 But our turn took forever because there were a lot of mountaineers who were also lined up. I fixed my things first while waiting for my turn and was very tempted to take a nap. 😀
After an hour or more of waiting, I finally felt fresh and ready to sleep. Haha! We boarded the jeep and left the Brgy. Hall at around 7:30pm, an hour and a half late from our target ETD. We thought we wouldn’t be able to catch our 9pm bus but our jeepney driver was so fast despite the zigzag road – we reached the Victory Liner Terminal in Baguio just in time for us to have a quick dinner before boarding the bus. I must tell that a zigzag road and a fast driver are a not a perfect combination. I felt so dizzy I wanted to puke! 😦
Apart from the dizzy-almost-puking feeling, my entire Mt. Ugo experience was one-of-a-kind and I’m so glad I gave in to my long desire for nature trips. It was a hard climb but a very fulfilling one. My first but definitely not the last. 🙂