After the outreach, we headed back to the house where we left our packs for some final orientation before starting the trek proper. There, our guide Johnmurs, gave us our target schedule for the first day. He told us that we are aiming for the Godi-godi campsite (or goody goody as we initially thought based on his pronunciation) for the first night. He urged us to continue trekking until we reached the camp and night trekking was a probable option. Of course that led me to think that the trek would probably be grueling if we had to trek until nightfall. I would soon learn that the estimations regarding the Kapatagan trail were highly exaggerated for some unusual reason. Maybe it’s a conscious effort on the guide’s part so that expectations would be handled better. Pressuring their wards so that they would pace themselves accordingly. Well, to be entirely ironic about it, Johnmurs did end the orientation with, “Relax, enjoy lang. Mt. Apo lang yan.” For the first 2 days at least, I would say that that statement was true.
We were separated into four groups as pre-decided during the preclimb meeting. Group 1 consisted of Fred and Ed, Jeffrey as well as as our coclimbers from Cebu: Mayo and Rose. Group 2 was made up of Madz, Vernz as well as Tito Dar and Tita Aleli. Yan was supposed to be part of this group if she had been able to come. I, myself was part of group 3 with ate Ching, Des, Harie and Lee Jay. We assigned Erwin to “lead” (yes, euphemism ito) the last group comprising the other batch of HLGG newbies Arlene, Alvin, Shelly and Jevs (okay okay, “Javes“ pala…good luck on making that catch on!).
So at half past 8 in the morning, we start our journey of reaching the peak of the Philippines. Forgive the melodrama, it’s not often that I get to say that. And to be entirely honest about it, it was one of those circumstances wherein you could really internalize what it meant to be in that moment and come out the other side feeling unusually sentimental. I want to leave it at “I loved being there and I was excited as hell” but even that seemed like an understatement. It deserved every superlative adjective to describe feelings of excitement or elation that I could think of. Oh well, I’m getting ahead of myself…
The first two hours of the trek would take us through the farmlands and open fields tended by the residents of Brgy. Kapatagan. Like from the town below, Mt. Apo can still be seen clearly looming majestically in the background as we walked through the open fields. And despite being admonished about the possibility of night trekking, our guides were not pressuring us in adopting a faster pace and would actually let us rest as often as we needed to. It was a good thing that the weather cooperated and though the cloud covers fleeted in and out, it did not rain. The intense heat while trekking the open trails still took its toll though which made that area probably the most tiring part of the first two days. Which is maybe why we were allowed to rest as often as we did: to help recover ample energy as well. Personally, even if there were times that I had to catch my breath or wipe off a sweat, looking at Mt. Apo towering in the distance was enough to lift my energy up once more (there I go again huh?).
Trailing through the open fields somewhat confused our guides and for a time, we had to back track before reaching the forest line. The reason was more and more residences were being established and as a result, previous trails become cordoned off as private property which necessitated looking for other routes. At about 10:30, we finally hit the forest line which immediately started to hide the peak from our view.
There have been rains during the recent weeks and as a result, the Kapatagan forest line could be characterized as humid. There was beautiful flora overgrowth and some muddy patches which made the trek more captivating and challenging at the same time. Near the start of the trail, there was a section where a lush bloom of orange flowers could be found which made it look like as though you were entering some mystic garden. Steepness wise, it was not too challenging but neither was it as flat as it was during the first two hours (where your main enemy was the heat).
At one point in the trail, the first two groups got some distance on us and we lost sight of them. We held our pace for a time but wondered why we still weren’t catching up to them. It turned out that the first two groups took a slightly different, much longer route, that by the time we stopped to rest, we were surprised to find when the rest of the group caught up to us. There we were, wondering how the advance group managed to gain a substantial lead and becoming increasingly tired and frustrated in our efforts to catch up, not knowing that the rest of the party were waiting behind and wondering where the hell we were, all because they took a much longer route. You could imagine our confusion when sir Mayo suddenly came from the trail which we came from when we finally took a break. Tsk tsk tsk. So anyway, after the whole group was rearranged, the trails became much more straightforward and after another hour of heavily forested areas, we finally reached the Upper Sabwang area.
We had our precooked lunch of Chicken Adobo at the Upper Sabwang area once the porters carrying the food caught up to us. Before that? Well, let’s say we weren’t above eating rice sprinkled with Maggie Savor just to fend of hunger. 😀 We arrived there at about quarter to one, ate, rested a bit before pushing once more at about 1:30 PM.
Now here was one example of the generous trek estimates within the Kapatagan trail. A sign in the Upper Sabwang area said that it would take 3 to 3 ½ hours to reach Baroring, the river which served as the last water source before the Godi Godi campsite. While we steeled ourselves to reach it as quickly as possible and not waste too much time above the estimate…we reached it in 40 minutes. Now, this is not a testament to our hardcore trekking abilities. Sure we were walking steadily but it wasn’t like we were doing parkour just to get there faster. It was a normal pace for all intents and purposes so imagine our surprise when after less than an hour, we were told that we already reached Baroring.
The trail to Baroring was decidedly more montane, characterized by numerous trees covered in gorgeous green moss. Throw in the low fog cover and it gave off a spectral and eerie beauty. The trails were also somewhat slippery owing to the whole humid property of the area. Even Baroring itself was characterized by huge moss-covered rocks and tree branches. Here, we refilled our water bottles with “Mt. Apo water” which was touted as the best water you could ever taste. I tried some and sure enough it tasted like…water. 😀 It tasted like mountain water of course and to be fair, it really did seem like it was more refreshing than the bottled kind. After we collected enough water for our group to use for the night, we pushed on towards the final stretch to Godi Godi.
We were told that from Baroring, it would take 4 hours until we reached Godi Godi but by this time, we were already becoming skeptical about the whole thing and true to our suspicion…we were able to reach the campsite after a little under 2 hours, just before 4 in the afternoon.
This gave us plenty of light to set up camp with each of us choosing our own areas and considering whether it’s an optimal location in case the rain pours. Sir Johnmurs along with the rest of our guides advised us where the ideal places were and in next to no time, we were already settled in our own tents. The first night was highly uneventful; we just enjoyed the campsite and rested as much as we could. The peak of Mt. Apo could be seen although the tall trees slightly hid it from sight. We had dinner of pancit and menudo then when it was dark; we turned in to rest for the next day. We reserved our socials for the second night as we were camping at the peak. At this point, I didn’t go overboard with the warming paraphernalia just yet because it wasn’t that cold since we were still hours away from the peak. I got a good night sleep and woke up ready and excited once more as we continued our climb to conquer the great Mt. Apo.
Next: boulder trail, crater lake, two peaks and the ever growing HLGG family 😀