Hi! I went on another “slightly spontaneous” escapade yesterday (I’ve been having slightly spontaneous trips lately, amazing). The reason why it was slightly spontaneous is because we found out that the initial plan, Plan A, was not doable a day before the trip and I had to think of a Plan B asap.
I suggested that we go on a day-hike to Mt. Batulao in Nasugbu, Batangas.
I’ve always wanted to go on a hike but what stopped me was my fear of not being able to reach the top and finish the hike, mainly because I used to frown on physical activities (Kindly refer to previous blog post, Eyes on the Prize) and I have a slight fear of heights. But this time I thought that I can already do it because my stamina, endurance, upper and lower body strength have already improved compared to before. The only thing that bothered me was my slight fear of heights but I decided to just screw the fear and try the hiking experience for myself.
[Disclaimer: Image-heavy post beyond this point]
April 8 (Wednesday)
After my work, I met up with my sister at her condo up in the north. From there, we went to SM The Block to meet up with our cousins. We had dinner in Kimono Ken and left around 9:45PM. We then went to a convenience store to buy the things we were going to bring the next day: water, snacks, rubbing alcohol, etc. We did our research of Mt. Batulao on this night too. Such crammers we are, yup.
April 9 (Thursday)
Happy Day of Valor!
We were on the bus to Batangas from GMA Kamuning around 4:20AM and it left at around 5:00AM. On the second hour of the trip, I was already wondering if we were on the right track because coming from the posts I read, the bus ride should only take about two hours. I decided to wait a couple of minutes more before I woke my other companions. Around 8:00AM, I told them that I had a bad feeling that we rode the wrong bus (although we were already in Batangas). A few minutes later, the bus conductor told us to go down that certain stop and just ride a van going to Evercrest. Indeed, we were in the wrong bus. Upon studying the situation, I found out that we rode the bus going to Lemery, Batangas instead of the bus going to Nasugbu, Batangas. We just rode a tricycle going to Evercrest but it took an extra 30 minutes.
Upon arriving at Evercrest, my cousins decided to take a tricycle to the jump-off point. The fee is Php30 each but we haggled it down to Php100 for the four of us. We also got a tour guide, kuya Wilson, for the hike. They said the minimum fee for a tour guide has increased from Php300 to Php400 . We started the hike at around 9:30am, two hours and thirty minutes late from our ideal time of 7:00AM. But it was fine, at least we were able to find our way from Lemery.
Kuya Wilson gave us bamboo sticks to use for the hike but my other cousin preferred to hike without one. I expected that since he’s already a veteran hiker back in Canada. We all decided to use the “old route” to ascend the mountain and the “new route” to descend. The old trail has ten camps, I understood it to be like pit stops or check points where hikers can rest – the 10th camp is the summit.
The route immediately started with uphill roads which excited me because I wanted to see if my legs can do it without getting tired. Thankfully, my legs did not disappoint. The trail is extremely dusty and slippery, which made going up sometimes difficult because aside from literally “eating the dust” of the person before me, the dust also went to my eyes, momentarily stopping my movement. Even though we started late, the sun was bearable because the breeze was very cool despite the fact that we weren’t that high up yet. Kuya Wilson pointed the summit of the mountain to give us an idea of how high and far we were going.
We came across other hikers too and everyone was greeting us good morning and telling us, “Ingat po kayo” (take care and be safe). The greetings really go a long way as they made us feel more motivated to finish the hike. The view got better and better as we ascended the mountain. If I’m not mistaken, we stopped over Camp 4(?) to pay a registration fee of about Php20 each.
We had to wait for other people to descend some parts of the mountain before we ascended since the trail is narrow and it would be safer to have less people there. The climb got a bit difficult after Camp 7 as the trail was steeper and more slippery.
More photos of our climb up the mountain:
We got to the summit at around noon. What an achievement! At first, I had no idea that it was already the summit but when I saw number of people there, I asked kuya Wilson if we were already at the top and he happily said yes. It was so windy at the top, I had a hard time containing my hair thereby making photo ops a bit difficult. Lol.
Going down was the difficult part. I found uphill relatively okay but I got worried when it was time to descend since the trail was slippery and I have this slight fear of heights. Kuya Wilson said that the new trail is easier than the old one which made me feel a bit relieved.
It wasn’t long after we started descending that I started to slip so much that kuya Wilson had to assist me (I’m laughing now that I think about it). Shortly after, I got my “groove” and started descending with less difficulty. To be honest, I enjoyed all the parts where we had to use a rope to descend. It sounds scary but when you’re there, you actually enjoy it.
The other tour guide pointed the part of the new trail where an accident occurred and someone slipped and fell. Because of this, people were not allowed to pass that specific part. There was also a part where we had to hold onto rocks to cross. It was difficult since the rocks were very hot so we had to move quickly. It was like, “rock climbing without the harness”.
More descent photos:
Since it was already afternoon, the breeze was already warm and the sun was really hot, making the descent extra difficult. There were several “sand storms” which made us stop for a while too. Because of this, our clothes got really dirty and our faces and arms got covered in dust. It was really uncomfortable when you feel dirty but we went on. When we got back to camp 3(?), we stopped over to buy halo-halo (Php25 each) before descending to the jump-off point. We were finished by 3:30PM – that’s a total of six hours of hike including all the stopovers and waiting period. We returned our bamboo sticks and rode a tricycle back to Evercrest. There is a place there where you can take a bath for Php20 a pail. We went there not to take a full bath but to just wash our faces, arms and feet and to change our clothes.
After this, we rode a bus bound for LRT Pasay. As soon as I got home, I dropped my bag and went straight to the restroom to take a bath.
I wish I could summarize the expenses here but as I mentioned earlier, we got lost so we spent extra cash but definitely the total won’t be over Php1000 per person. Nonetheless, I can summarize the challenges we faced:
1. So much dust!
– We did not bring face masks or anything that can cover our noses and mouths. When you decide to hike here, don’t forget to bring your face masks/anything that can cover your nose and mouth.
– If you finish your hike before 1:00PM, I think you’ll be okay. As far as I remember, the cool breeze was gone by 2:00PM and the heat of the sun was already piercing by this time. Bring caps and lots of bottled water, around two liters. (I forgot to bring a cap during my hike)
– We brought bread and some chips. Bring your lunch food as there are no stores there that sell rice meals, well except for goto.
– The slower you go, the more you will slip. I think this is the reason why I slipped several times during our descend. When I started to move faster, the trail became easier. But be very careful as some parts of the trail are very narrow.
4. Don’t wear contact lenses
– For those who wear glasses, like me, stick to wearing them. My cousin wore his contacts and he got dirt in his eyes several times making it difficult and painful for him. And yes, we all know how painful it is to get dirt in your eyes when you’re wearing contacts.
5. Watch your step
– I stepped on a puppy on our way up the mountain. It cried so much that I felt really, really, really, EXTREMELY bad. Watch out for puppies, horse poop and dog poop. And be careful when stepping on rocks as some of them are loose.
I recommend Mt. Batulao for beginners like me. Although it has a rating of 4/9 in difficulty, as long as you have the will to finish it, you can do it. Just remember to pack all the things that you will need and you’re good to go.
Special thanks to my veteran mountain climber cousin who was always ahead of us to take our “action” photos. I know he has been through worse mountains back in Canada (He even mentioned encountering a bear!).
And that’s the story of how I conquered my first mountain! I was dead tired but truly fulfilled that day. Looking forward to climbing more mountains in the future!