I had a great climb over the weekend at Mt. Palay-Palay, popularly known as Pico de Loro in Ternate, Cavite. Thankfully, my right knee didn’t give me too much trouble. It was utterly wrong timing for my chronic injury to act-up again a week before the climb. But I wasn’t gonna miss this one as Pico de Loro is totally new to me. So I cut back on my cardio and generally took care of my knee. The patella support also helped.
Assembly was at the 7-11 store at the Park N’ Ride facility beside the forlorn but still beautiful Metropolitan Theater. Two hired vans were to take us to the jump-off point beside a lonely stretch of highway unserviced by public transportation. Mariano and I were seated in front and the driver, a policeman based in Camp Crame and sidelines as a van driver bringing groups to Pico de Loro, entertained us with stories of the different groups he had brought and about Magnetic Hill. A stretch of winding highway going up to Puerto Razul got its monicker for its strong gravitational pull that causes vehicles to climb slowly up and speed down without stepping on the gas. I’ve also heard stories of how you can just stop the vehicle in the middle of a a slight incline and the vehicle would roll back. We didn’t stop but as we wound through the asphalt, the driver would say “mina-magnet na tayo” over and over again.
After registration at the DENR office along the highway, our van took us to the jump-off about a kilometer away. It was almost 11 but we opted to hike to Camp 1 about 20 minutes away to lunch on the food we bought at Ternate town. I was really hungry by then and couldn’t wait to dig into my 2 orders of hamonado, adobong pusong ng saging, and 2 cups of rice. I also had a clubhouse sandwhich from a stall that was also selling fresh strawberry shakes. “Binabalik-balikan ng mga tao itong clubhouse namin, ” was the sandwhich maker’s claim to fame. I was reserving that for a snack at the campsite up.
Descending into the forest, stepping over gnardled tree-roots, a couple of meters later, we reached Camp 1, a large grassy patch of land with 2 huts and a water source. Two 2 groups had already set camp. One group had kids in tow and they were just staying put and not hiking-up. Another group was just finishing lunch. Proof of Pico de Loro’s popularity was the info that since early morning about 80 people had already gone up. Considering that there were 2 others groups we passed at the DENR, we were quite worried that there wouldn’t be any place to pitch our tents.
We opted to take our chances and make it all the way up. A day hike would have been possible but it can’t beat camping high-up. After lunch and a cr break, close to 1 pm, we started the hike.
The trail wove in and out of the forested slopes of the mountain and some ridges. It was cool as vegetation was quite lush and a canopy of leaves from the big trees shielded the sun. The trail was well-maintained and really easy to navigate with some sections having trail markers. I did get disoriented at one point inside the forest though. The group had fragmented and Khel and I were at the lead. We had been hiking for more than an hour already and were deep inside the forest. After passing underneath some criss-crossing tree limbs, I couldn’t see Khel anymore and I lost the trail. He was close enough to have heard me call out and I spotted him to my left where the trail led down.
My legs were really tired by this time. It was really difficult hiking with just one good leg and the left one at that. Since it was painful to step up and extend my left knee, I would use my right to step up and the left to step down. It didn’t help that I had a heavy pack since I was carrying all of the stuff as Doc, my tent partner, already had 6 liters of water on him. This had to by slowest trekking time.
An hour and 40 minutes later, I ascended the saddle campsite and my sight was greeted with people, people, people! Actually, navigating the last few meters up, I heard them before I saw them. There was a jamboree up there! Of course, all the prime spots were taken but fortunately, there was still some space left at the last plain past the trail leading to the summit. Khel was already there and I placed my pack to stake our precious piece of tent space. The others arrived several minutes later and we made camp. Another group arrived a little bit later and the entire camp site was sea of tents.
We made our assault to the summit at past 5. The driving wind and the really steep and dusty path made it quite difficult but it was really worth all the effort. The small summit had spectacular views of Mt. Marami, Hamilo Coast, and the surrounding countryside. A small trail led down and on to the monolith which Elf, Mariano, Doc, and Bench scaled. Since it required some clambering and some rope work, I didn’t trust my knee enough to attempt it. Others followed while the rest of us went back down to camp.
The wind was really blowing when evening fell but it wasn’t as strong as Talamitam’s which flattened my tent. I brought my guylines this time.
Dinner was fried rice with crab nuggets and dilis which I partnered with adobo that Hilda’s meal group brought.
Socials lasted till past midnight but I didn’t get plastered this time. We just played a game where we had to complete the sentence, “If I were a c*nt*, and I were a mountain, I would be…” I chose Mt. Cristobal so I would enchanting. The wind was really blowing throughout the night. Since there wasn’t enough space, I couldn’t peg the vestibule on one side. Every time it flapped, it brought in a spray of dew that had collected.
Sunday morning dawned really bright. I did my morning rituals at some bushes behind. As we were breaking camp, a group of people who looked more like local tourists better suited for malling arrived. Most of those who camped overnight were going down already. We had planned to go to the falls but were told that it was dry at this time.
Lunch was back at Camp 1. We elected to just hike back to the DENR station to bathe and wait for our vans. With so many people lining-up for the single shower available, Mariano, got a small tub and a dipper and we bathed outside, even Hilda!
The vans arrived at 5:30, an hour and a half late. We opted to have dinner at dampa in Baclaran which was a really really great idea as the food was really tasty and delicious and we had a grand time with the videoke complete with interpretative dance numbers courtesy of Omar and a mini-beauty pageant with Rowel, Omar, Bench, and Stan. The fun only ended when a group of male caucasians arrived.
So now, my right knee is aching a little more than usual but that only means I gotta just take it easy on my cardio.