Our last day on the slopes of Mt. Apo was up with an early start. A very early, inhumanly start. At about 2 am, the girls’ tent suddenly decided to have a ‘socials’ of their own because apparently most of them couldn’t sleep given the biting cold. So naturally (insert sarcasm here), they had no choice but to joke around and tell stories and laugh their hearts out…at 2 in the freaking AM. And mind you, they weren’t inebriated which might have excused their behavior somewhat. 😀 In any case, they did make quite a racket that they eventually woke everyone up. I actually got up, took out my poncho, gave it to them to use if only to make sure that they go back to sleep at the soonest possible time. It was that or flat out shooshing them which would have been rude. 😀 I mean, I love those guys to death but at that moment, I just really wanted to get some shut-eye.
After their impromptu party eventually died down, we made do with what little sleep we had left before our respective alarms were blaring for us to get up in time to catch the sunrise. I think I set mine at about 4:30. After doing rounds and waking everybody up, off we went back to the Davao peak to watch the coming of the sun. Sir Johnmurs and the rest of our guides stayed at the camp and handled cooking our breakfast so that by the time we descended back, our food would already be ready.
So there we were, standing atop the country once more, this time waiting for the sun to shine. We had our obligatory photo ops, our jumpshots, our solar arts and basically all of the shenanigans that we get up to during the climb. We all chose our respective corners and basically depleted all of our various camera batteries. Since ours was already dead, I basically just shamelessly included myself in every photo taken so I would at least have a souvenir. Not all of us had 2 gazillion extra batteries like Erwin did. 😉 Below are some of the highlights (translation: manifestation of our Pampams mode :D)
In retrospect, I would not realize how lucky we were that we got to enjoy Mt. Apo with excellent weather and safe circumstances. A friend would inform me later that when they ascended Apo that week, they were not allowed to do a traverse because there was an ‘encounter’ on the slopes of Kapatagan. Just two weeks ago, another friend would end up being included in a party that would eventually had to be rescued because they were stuck when the rivers on the Kidapawan side overflowed. Truly, during the 3 days we were on his slopes, Mt. Apo was nothing but generous and for that I thank him for it 😀
We were scheduled to start our descent at about 9 am so after we were satisfied with the peak, we said goodbye to the summit and went back to the campsite to have our breakfast. We broke camp soon after that and were preparing ourselves for grueling day ahead. At least, that’s what we were told. Sir Johnmurs warned us that the descent would probably be the most difficult part of the whole trip. While the first leg up to Lake Venado wasn’t much of an indication, after that, the difficulty estimate would be dead on.
The first part was easy enough. We were still traversing open grounds, although this time, we were heading away from the peak and onto the picturesque Lake Venado. The views were still as breathtaking as ever and after about an hour and a half, we reached the forest line which characterized the boundaries of the lake. Des actually had a little accident when she sprained her foot and did not land correctly seeing as the forest trail was a bit muddy. It wasn’t serious but I’m sure she still found it painful given the trail conditions of the latter part.
In any case, we aimed to have lunch at Lake Venado which Sir Johnmurs expected we would reach by 12 noon. We reached it in one hour and a half (still with the exaggerated estimates… though not for long). We had lunch, lounged about and of course engaged in our jump shot marathons. We probably took the most jump shots at Lake Venado than anywhere else at Mt. Apo. Yes, we were Energizer bunnies, deal with it. 😀 Here were but a few:
After staining our clothes with mud because we didn’t realize that there was a drier patch where we could jump our hearts out, we went and have lunch, refilled our water bottles then off to continue our descent. We were oriented once more that in the course of the descent, we would be crossing 6 rivers and it would take us about 6 hours until we reach the Kidapawan road. At first, we thought that like every other time estimations, this was a bit overboard. Well, it wasn’t.
Our first mishap happened at the lake itself. Since I was part of the third group, we were the ones that were tailing the party. As we resumed our descent, the first two groups got on ahead and though at a clear day, it would be no issue, the fog suddenly started to roll in so we were left with no idea where the advance party went to. Good thing that a trail run was held just a few days along the Kidapawan City Trail so there were Smart banners lining up the path serving as markers. We saw one at the distance and just followed it hoping it was the right trail. And because it was at the lakeside, the trail was all wet and muddied so it was hard looking for a stable foothold all throughout the forest line. It also rained for quite a while when the steady descent began. We just concentrated putting one foot after the other and minding where we stepped on because there was a good chance that we could slip and fall given the slippery terrain.
We reached the Ko-Ong campsite at around 3 in the afternoon, just after the first river crossing. From there on, the trail was much more even compared to the steady assault during the past 3 hours. This is also where we started hitting the river lines which meant river crossings galore! Some of the rivers do not require wooden planks and even those that had one could be maneuvered if you step on the right rocks (and if you’re a bit more agile than most). Sometimes though, all that separates you from a relatively fierce current were two bamboo sticks tied together with twine. Good thing that the makeshift bridges were but a few meters in length so you’d need not balance yourself on them for long but still, if you’re not careful, it would be easy to slip and be carried away by the currents. Forgive the vanity fair spread, I only saved the day 3 pictures of co-climbers that I was in because our camera had already died by then. 😀 Here are the numerous rivers that our group had to cross or ninja-like skip over during the descent:
Sir Dos informed us that in cases where the river overflows, they have no choice but to not risk it and just camp at the other side of the river in order to wait it out. Or else, be rescued by local rangers (which is exactly what happened to one miss Aiya Roxas when they scaled Apo a few weeks ago). Thank heavens though that the rivers afforded us easy passage during our stay there. After all of the river crossings were done, we finally arrived at the Kidapawan hi-way just as dusk approached.
What a relief that was. Personally, I abhor night trekking so that was one big plus for me. It was also a relief in the sense that we finally accomplished traversing the highest mountain in the Philippines. And while it was not particularly or extremely difficult, it’s a feat that not everybody gets to claim as well. We hiked up to Lake Agco resort to collect ourselves and organized how we would get back to Davao. The rest of the party would end up riding a van back to Davao and checking in at the convenient and relatively cheap Green Windows while my sister and I decided to drop by our aunt and uncle’s house in Matalam, Cotabato which was half an hour away from Kidapawan.
We met up with Mamang and Papang back in Kidapawan and from there, went to their house to eat, wash up and catch up. I admit we would have preferred to stay with them for a few days or at least get to see their home during the light of day but as it was, we only stayed there for the night as we had to catch the 4 am trip back to Davao to meet up with the rest of our friends. Still, it was such a nice experience getting to catch up with them once more since we rarely see them seeing as they lived so faraway. I think I last saw Mamang during my mom’s wake and I haven’t seen Papang since God knows when! I think I haven’t even learned how to drink alcohol when I last saw him. 😀 But as it was, Mamang, Chok, Ate, Papang and I shared stories until wee hours of the morning although admittedly only Papang and I were downing gin. 😉 With that experience on our backs as well as an awesome batik malong gift from my aunt, we headed back to Davao for our final day in Mindanao.
The last day was reserved for the side trip part of the whole adventure and to be honest, I was mostly half asleep during that whole day. We did a jeepney tour of Samal island (because we spent the entire morning basically inside one) until we lounged about at a beach that I quite forgot the name (half asleep remember?) for the latter half of the afternoon. I guess it was a fitting end nonetheless, relaxing on the beach and enjoying the salty waters after three days of hiking up and down the country’s highest slopes. We relaxed, which ironically included numerous jump shots, swam, ate and drank until the sun was nearly gone that we had to go back to the mainland for one final souvenir stop and of course, dinner.
I bought one tubaw and a pair of malong pants for me because I’m a cheapskate like that then we headed to Green Buffet for dinner. We paid 120 pesos to eat like there’s no tomorrow, which is actually the case for our experience in Mindanao. We also found out that Sir Jevs would be turning 25 (weh, mas matanda pa ko??) the next day so we did everything from teasing, cajoling, hinting without subtlety and even outright telling him to treat us… anything short of blackmail really but I guess there’s no getting through to that guy. Yes sir, we’re still holding on to that faint hope that you’ll be treating us with cake someday, HLGG is petty that way. 😀
So that’s how the whole trip ended. A little gambling tutorial on ‘Bet All’ before going to sleep and before we knew it, we were flying back to the metro and saying goodbye to an awesome 5 days of mountains, rivers, lakes, seas, sandy beaches, eagles, snakes, gluttony and of course, worthwhile company of family and amazing friends.
…ang drama lang? 😀
*Lee Jay Balongoy