Hikong Mahi: the aftermath
….continued from here.
We assumed that the remainder of our river trek would be a piece of cake. But just when we thought we could breeze back to our starting point, we faced one more challenging pit stop. We found ourselves on top of a large boulder and the only way down (an approximately 60° descent) was via a single 4-inch wide bamboo pole. We took off our footwear to have better gripping while walking down the slippery pole. I would have wanted to know the limits of my Merrells, but my common sense got the better of my misplaced optimism.
Everything else was easy after that obstacle. There were only moderate inclines, manageable descents and even two reliable wooden bridges. We learned that we have already reached Sitio Laboy, the community at the riverbank opposite Sitio Kangko. Along the way, Roy showed us the starting point for a Mt. Three Kings expedition. We also saw cut bamboo poles and timber strewn on the trail like railroad tracks. A carabao (water buffalo) would be used to drag these down, which would be later sold at the nearest local market.
Our group arrived at the base at around 12:00 PM. Before heading out for a late lunch at Punta Isla Resort, we took a quick bath at a nearby stream, the flow of which could be traced back to Hikong Mahi. The water was surprisingly clear and cold even at this point. It washed away all our exhaustion from all the hiking we have done for the past 24 hours.
And that I believe, capped all our adventures in Sitio Kangko and Hikong Mahi. It was indeed a memorable trek for a lot of reasons:
- Michaela bought a new life vest just for this trip. After 1.5 hours in the air and probably a day’s worth of land travel, the vest was finally used in Hikong Mahi for around 20 minutes.
- Claire took our only photos during our river trek because all our cameras were safely tucked in our bags. Since she came all the way from Metro Manila for this, perhaps for her, documenting every leg of our journey was worth all the risk. But I did notice Honeylee perching her phone on a rock. I have yet to see her takes though.
- Ella May and Cyel both slipped at different points during our river trek. But despite the ordeal that these ladies underwent, both of them bravely stood up after each fall.
- When most of us were struggling to sleep soundly in our tents, Moonyen slept undisturbed in a hammock. Probably because she was also wearing her favorite pajamas. And among the ladies in the batch, Lesley holds the distinction of being the first to reach Hikong Mahi. She arrived with her small sling bag that was never soiled the entire time.
- Although Earl John hails from South Cotabato, he did not know how the trail to Tinago Falls would look like. Nonetheless, he finished every challenge without any objection. The youngest in the group was John Jay. It was his first climb and I am pretty sure there will be more for him this year.
- Kuya Julius Mella is the most (and only) experienced mountaineer in the bunch. He surprised all of us at Hikong Mahi when he brought pork adobo and DOLE pineapple slices out of his backpack.
It would be a different experience if I was trekking alone. Mountaineering after all, is never a lonely endeavor. For one, you need a good team for support, encouragement and especially when you run out of water. You can also become a better teammate by waiting for others to catch up, by carrying someone else’s belongings and by taking the occasional group photo.
Someone told me that those who climb mountains end up discovering more about themselves at the end of the day. Seeing a breathtaking sunset is just an added bonus. What new and old fears were conquered this time? How did you face every obvious danger? What does it really mean to be alive in the absence (or the presence) of everyday comfort? If you get the answers to any of these questions, then your trek would not have been just another photo album in your Facebook profile.
It is not difficult to draw other important life metaphors from this trek. There was an instance where I could no longer distinguish the trail amidst the forest undergrowth. I knew that I was just a few minutes behind Roy, but he seemed nowhere in sight. I almost panicked but I reminded myself that I must make it alive to the waterfalls. I cannot afford to give up or abandon this race without putting up a good fight. I shouted out Roy’s name and he then waved from a distance. I asked him how I could get to where he was. He gestured that I should go to my right. I would not know what would have happened if I had proceeded further in my previous direction.
May I end this entry with this final thought. Next to my pair of shoes, the second thing that I brought fitting in this journey was a heart that longed for an adventure. It certainly got what it wanted. And yes, it is ready to take in so much more.