[Travel] How Mt. Tapulao brought me to my knees

I'm not one to broadcast my failures online - Facebook, Twitter, this blog....but I promised myself I'll be more fearless for this year. Posting this may be a good start. It's quite poetic that my first post for this year is about failure and probably won't be the last.

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What a wonderful day for a hike (HAH!)

So early last year, I participated in my fourth climb  with two of my college friends - Len and Jam. Len had been an avid hiker long before Jam and I got into mountaineering and when she told us about Mt. Tapulao which features Pulag-like scenery and fog, we quickly said yes to the invite without researching about the mountain. Our blood is singing with longing for the Great Outdoors, a veritable escape from the tediousness of city life. Not to mention the package is cheap! Just PHP650.00 for a day hike which includes transportation and guide fee*. There's no way we're gonna pass it up.

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Mt. Tapulao is the highest mountain range in Zambales region. We left Cubao around 9PM in the evening because we need to get be in the jump-off point at 3 AM to start the trek. The three of us were happily chatting inside the bus, blissfully ignorant to the torturous trek ahead. Looking back now, the whole trip went smoothly. Too smoothly, in my opinion. Knowing my luck, I should have known that was a sign for the things yet to come.

Before the sun rose, we set off to the infamous Rocky Road, the first phase of the trek. Why Rocky Road you ask? Just take a look at the picture below. And if you're thinking 'Meh, that's just the quarter of the trek. It can't go on forever' then you're WRONG. The Rocky Road is like 80% of the trek and by the time you descend Mt. Tapulao, the mere sight of a harmless rock will drive you nuts. Nuts, I tell ya! (I can't eat a rocky road ice cream without having a flashback of rocks, rocks everywhere)

The rocks don't disappear. They just keep getting bigger and bigger.

As far as I remember, the route to Mt. Tapulao covers 16 stations of which I don't know how it was divided. Let's just say up until Station 14 or 13, you'll be tripping on rocks until you finally enter the pine tree forest, the most scenic part of the hike. Jam and Len went as far as Station 14 while I, worried about the dusk, decided to climb down earlier. It was around 1 PM and we haven't reached the peak yet!

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In my previous hikes, I used to enjoy the descent more so than the climb. At least, I have some help from gravity when it comes to pacing. With Mt. Tapulao, the hike down is just as painful to the knees as the climb. The rocks are slippery and my knees are close to buckling down from exhaustion. I swear I have to ask my guide to have a rest every ten minutes or so. And when things couldn't get any worse, it rained. Heavily.

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Pictures of the pine forest courtesy of my good friend Jam. Check out her amazing blog https://wandergirldiaries.wordpress.com/

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Jam's cool shots near Camp 1

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Good thing I brought some extra clothes and underwear for the occasion. When we arrive back to the Rangers' Station, it was nearly 3 PM and I changed off my wet clothes without some competition from other hikes. After comforting myself with a cup of warm noodles, I collapsed to one of the benches and slept until evening like a wimp.

TIPS BEFORE GOING TO MT. TAPULAO:

  • If you're a beginner, I STRONGLY recommend you to join the the overnight hike instead of the dayhike. If you want to challenge yourself, prepare prepare prepare weeks before the actual hike.
  • A walking stick will be very useful especially during descent. By this time, your knees may buckle anytime and it's good to have a stick to support you.
  • Always bring a poncho or a raincoat. Don't take the weather lightly.
  • Wear comfortable footwear. You're gonna rely on it especially during the Rocky Road.
  • Mt. Tapulao is also a perfect pre-major hike climb. If you want to take on Mt. Pulag's infamous Akiki challenge, Mt. Tapulao can prepare you for the terrain and the altitude.
  • And don't get discouraged! Whether you reach the summit or not within the allotted time, it doesn't matter. We have revenge hikes for a reason 🙂
  • Have fun! Make sure you file your one-day vacation leave after the hike.