I was introduced to Tarak Ridge (part of Mount Mariveles) when one of my friends went there last year. It is relatively popular among mountaineers because of the distinctively strong winds at the ridge. I was given the chance to confirm it amidst heavy rain courtesy of typhoon Falcon.
When I got off from the bus at the jump-off point in Alasasin (pronounced as Alas-asin), it was raining hard. When the weather worsened, I thought of going back home to enjoy the comfort that my bed can offer. While waiting for one of our friends, we had a wonderful sisig breakfast at Erlinda’s Eatery. The rain kept on pouring and increased its intensity. All the excitement and enthusiasm in me were slowly going down with the water in the drainage. The two sides of the main street looked like a waterway. People kept looking at us, probably thinking that we are crazy. From the words of Dindo, “makulit ang akyat na ‘to.”
After registration at the barangay hall (40pesos), we proceeded in high spirit. We put on and off our ponchos because the rain was also on and off like the lights in most red rooms. The jump-off point is relatively near from the main street of buses. There are houses along the way and the locals greet you with the biggest smile. Expect people to ask you Aakyat kayo? and Magta-Tarak kayo? with, of course, answers that they already know about.
When we reached the DENR station slash Nanay Daldal’s nook slash stop-over, the rain temporarily stopped. We were treated to a sight of a dead python. Nanay Daldal claimed that she single-handedly killed the snake. At this stopover, you can see banners of various mountaineering groups tied to an erected wall-like grid made from bamboo sticks.
The rain started to pour again when we left the stopover point. The surface runoff turned the trails into shallow bodies of water.
In the forest, the colours of our ponchos seemed like moving cartels of kiddie playgrounds: yellow for Bong, violet for Louie, grey (which is a bit dull) for Dindo, green for me, lucid yellow for Rey (with, of course, his red umbrella).
The clouds were stubborn; they kept on blocking the view. The trail became increasingly impenetrable after the first open area. Coronitas (Lantana camara) and rattan throng the area, with the thorny stems thwarting the excitement of trekking.
Small falls adorn the trail up to the summit. According to Rey, some of these are not as stunning as they are in the rainy season. With the water flowing like shawls, the falls provided lots of pretty background for picture-taking. Just be careful as the water current might be strong, enough to cause swaying or imbalance on your position. Be sure to have your own trekking pole or anything that would make you stable throughout the course of crossing the catchments.
The Papaya River, which is one of the highlights of the ascent to Tarak Ridge, was raging like a roaring lion. The sound of the falling water filled up my sense of hearing that I could not almost hear when they talk to me, except when they shout.
A short distance from the mighty Papaya River, we decided to eat our packed lunch. When it was about time to proceed, I realised that I have lost my eyeglasses. And I was telling them that I put it on the log, which was felled by nature. Minutes ago while they were eating, Bong noticed that rice kept falling from his container. He did not attribute that to clumsiness, he believed that something paranormal was going on.
As my sight was significantly assuaged, I trailed behind the group. It was getting dark because of the weather and the dense canopy. Rey told us to prepare our headlamps. Dindo acted us my eyes and guided me through the mini-labyrinths of Tarak Ridge. Bong led us to the monkey-trail part. Rey and Louie formed the head, Bong as the mid-man, and Dindo and me as the tail. The three waited for us at the grassy part near the summit. Rey showed us the part where the gustiness of the wind is unbearable. Because of the extremely strong winds, we decided to camp at the forested part not-so-far from the summit.
We brought four tents, but we decided to install only three. Bong had his sturdy tadpole tent, Louie in his tent, and Rey and Dindo in my tent. Rey ensured my tent’s durability and sturdiness against Tarak’s winds by binding the poles with lots of pegs and ties, in addition to his flysheet as the vestibule. Rey cooked sinigang na baboy with chops of chicken and gabi. I brought suka na may sili (6-month old) but we never used it.
I have done rain-trekking in Mt Daguldul but I never experienced hypothermia (mild or serious). In Tarak, I chilled twice: right after the booze session and dawn the following day. While I was chilling, I got scared because I did not know what to do. I could not move my body because I was really shivering like an earthquake shaking the Hyatt Hotel.
The following day, the weather was still not good. Since the four of us (except Rey) were first-timers, we tried our best to go to the peak and not mind the strong wind. Rey was left at the campsite to cook for our breakfast. We had our lunch at 1100H and hiked down at 1200H. We wanted to stay longer but we needed to go down because the local people might think that something had happened to us.
We met Eric, Casey and another Dexter at the Papaya River. Rain had stopped. The python at Nanay Daldal’s nook was already trashed out. But the dogs near the mini-Baguio part were still there. We left Mariveles at 1730H with the thought of “Fairy Godmother” and “Faster” playing in the small screen of the bus. Fare is 222pesos for students (Mariveles to Pasay).
Photo credits: Louie Casimero, RED Mountaineers