I’m typing this entry in probably the worst manner of cramming on this side of blogging. The year has almost ended yet I’m writing about an event that isn’t even past the midpoint of the year. Meanwhile, there are 3 more mountains, 4 provinces and 1 overseas trip that I would still have to write an entry each about that I would need to skim through when I come up with a year-ender entry.
But anyway, Mt. Arayat. Reading about Mt. Arayat prior to this climb was not very encouraging. Almost everyone who has ever blogged or written about this mountain had something negative to say about it, mostly on the practice of mulcting tourists of their cash under the pretext of collecting fees. In addition, this mountain supposedly isn’t as clean as Mt. Cristobal, which we visited exactly the week before. I guess we’ll find out whether or not the negative publicity is deserved.
WELL, THEY WERE RIGHT
Getting to the jump-off point involved a number of rides via public transportation. When we got off at SM City Pampanga, we didn’t realize that attempts to take advantage of tourists would start right away. When we were about to board a jeep going to a town near the jump-off point, our group was asked to board another empty jeep despite us making clear that we did not want to rent an entire jeep. Later on, that jeep that we originally boarded began to take in passengers and inexplicably left!
The only conclusion that could be gathered from this is that the drivers were trying to intimidate our group into renting an entire jeep at extortionate rates. But we didn’t budge. And soon after, they were forced to let other passengers ride with us. After what seemed like hours, we were on our way.
It took one more ride via tricycle, a trip to a military base (for registration) and a long uphill hike before we could finally meet up with Vernz, Madz, Yan and Jet who have gone ahead of us at the jump-off point. When we finally met up with them, we rested for a while because the long hike was pretty exhausting. Apparently, the road leading up to the jump-off point can already be considered part of the trail. The area has been turned into a pilgrimage site of sorts because every 10 meters or so, we encountered life-size statues of what looked like the Stations of the Cross.
The start of the hike seemed easy enough on gently sloping ground, but it didn’t take long before it transitioned into a steeper trail with thick vegetation. We eagerly stopped to rest on every opportunity that the majority agrees to do so.
Towards the middle of the climb, the vegetation transitioned from tall grasses to woodland, and the terrain became a lot more rocky. We began to encounter huge boulders strewn along the trail. It was at this point where I began to feel unusually exhausted. “Unusual” because my last climb was just a week earlier and at that time, I didn’t experience feeling so out of breath to the point that my vision threatened to black out. I felt that I was about to faint at any moment so I welcomed the long break that was spent at the place where the boulders were located.
I was seriously considering not continuing with the climb and just wait for everyone to come back from the summit. I felt like I was in really bad shape and I didn’t want to become a liability to the group in case i fainted along the trail while going up. Eventually though I decided to just endure a little more because being alone on the trail for a couple of hours doing nothing didn’t seem to be appealing, if you really think about it.
During one of the long breaks, it was discovered that the people in our group were more or less evenly distributed among 4 color schemes – red, blue, black and white – with the sole exception being myself, who was the only one wearing green. So the guys had a bit of fun and grouped themselves according to “teams” bannered by their jersey color. And so here’s how that turned out:
MONOLITHS AND A VANTAGE POINT
I’m not sure if the area where we stopped to have lunch was the saddle, but it was also located near an area with enormous monoliths that can be reached in around 5 minutes of hiking.
Had I been less tired, I would have also climbed up the rocks and trees like the rest of the gang. But I had to content myself with imparting words of wisdom to Allan (long story).
If one goes further from the rocks, one would reach a small clearing that gives a 180-degree view of the surrounding landscape. There were more rocks to climb here, giving people a chance to do more poses for photographs. It was disappointing to see acts of vandalism and littering in this particular area and throughout the trail in general. It really ruins the experience for every climber who has a proper appreciation for nature.
And a video clip too:
After lunch, it became apparent to me why I seemed out of my element. There has been a lack of sodium in my food intake that day, and this was what was making me more exhausted than usual. After having my lunch of canned tuna I began to feel like I was in much better condition than when I was starting this hike. Getting to the summit therefore became more manageable for me.
Mt. Arayat does not have a nice-looking summit. The view of the surrounding landscape is pretty enough, but it simply was not inspiring being there. To begin with, there’s a huge telecommunications installation right on the peak we went to, as well as a military detachment dating from the days when this mountain was an insurgency hotspot. When one is nature tripping, these two things simply diminish the experience.
Barking dogs announced our arrival to the soldiers stationed there. We saw a flat, open space as large as a basketball court, a flag pole, some shaded areas, and broken glass strewn on one area of the summit – presumably the result of target practice by the soldiers. It was also noontime when we got there so while we had some fun taking lots of pictures, we didn’t stay out in the open for long.
We had our traditional prayers at the middle of the open area, and after that, it was time to descend and get back to the jumping point. Needless to say, the way down was much easier than the way up, although I still ended up being one of the last. I never really learned the skill of going down the mountain faster than I climb it. I’m always extra cautious.
On the way back to SM City Pampanga, we were scammed by some tricycle drivers who managed to pack us tightly into just 2 tricycles instead of the 3 that we requested. We didn’t complain anymore as we just wanted to get it over with and leave the place. I personally didn’t want to stay longer to experience this kind of Kapamgpangan “hospitality”.
There are some mountains I’ll always look forward to returning to. Mt. Arayat is certainly not one of them. Climbing it once is enough.
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This entry is part of the Midyear Mountain Madness series
1. Preview: Midyear Mountain Madness
2. Midyear Mountain Madness: Mt. Cristobal – 04/29/2012
3. Midyear Mountain Madness: Mt. Arayat – 05/06/2012
4. Midyear Mountain Madness: Mt. Sembrano – 06/23/2012
5. Midyear Mountain Madness: Tarak Ridge – 09/22-23/2012