One of the toughest experience I had was the last time I climbed Mount Amuyao. It was not because of the mountain but because there were so many external factors that were uncontrollable, not to mention that all of us were first-time Amuyao climbers and there were 20 of us! This time around I had aces in my sleeve, the experience last time and time was on my side. I invited my co-smberks on this traverse and I did not expect that many will join. Our final team count was 7 (a.k.a. Team 7) from an earlier 12 member count.
DAY 0/1 – Wednesday/Thursday
We left Manila at 10:30 PM last July 25, 2012 via Ohayami Bus bound for Banaue. I slept 95% during the trip so I did not notice that the bus was slow moving. We arrived in Banaue (Las Vegas Inn and Restaurant) around 8:00 AM! After a hearty breakfast of pork tapsilog, we proceeded to Ohayami Bus to reserve our seats for Sunday night then to Banaue Viewpoint so that the first-time Banaue peeps could catch a glimpse of the famous rice terraces and buy some stuff. Around 10:00 AM we travelled to Barlig. We reached Macalama Barlig around 12:20 PM. Jeep rental is Php4500.00 from Banaue to Barlig as of this writing.
We searched for the Tourism Officer but he was on a convention so someone called him. When he arrived, Sir Alex informed us that it was harvest season so there were no guides available. He asked us if we climbed Mount Amuyao before and I answered yes. He told me maybe I could be the guide of the group. “No way!”, I told myself. I politely told Sir Alex to search for a guide while we ate lunch at the local diner. The papaitan and other dishes were great! After lunch Sir Alex informed us that all of the guides were already in the rice fields so we had no choice but to climb without a guide for day 1. Again I politely asked Sir Alex if it is possible for a guide to follow us early the next day. He guaranteed us 100% that he will send a guide to come after us. Registration fee in Barlig is Php 50.00/pax and the guide fee is Php 1500.00/per day.
We started the trek without a guide around 1:45 PM. While we were trekking on the rice fields it began to rain. We had to ask for directions going to the right trail and when the rain got stronger after a 30 minute trek, I lost confidence with my sense of direction (everything that I saw wasn’t familiar), so I called JR via radio that we need to “Back Track”. When we met a young man he told us that the trail we were taking was still a correct one but we did not want to go back there anymore. A lady pointed us to another trail (which was now familiar to me) and soon enough we began climbing towards Mount Amuyao. The rain kept on going and arond 5:30 PM we reached a waiting shed (signifying that we were still half-way towards the summit). It was getting dark and without a guide I told my companions that we will set camp around the waiting shed. The fog was also thick and I kept on pointing to them that if we continue climbing in the dark there is a big possibility that we will get lost and it would be dangerous without a guide.I also noticed the silhouette of the mountain in front of us and boy it was steep-looking!
DAY 2 – Friday
We woke up early and after a light breakfast we lost no time climbing again around 5:30 AM. This time the trail was really steep. After an hour of climbing I recieved radio communication from JR that the guide has arrived and he took Gen’s backpack. I was relieved for I was really worried that we won’t be doing a traverse if no guide came after us. I did not want to risk the safety of the team. Around 8:30 AM we reached the summit of Mount Amuyao and we took the chance to cook food and have heavy brunch. There was a cloud formation that slowly became a sea of clouds. We were fortunate that there was a clearing.
I now began to think of the long descent ahead. Experiences from last Mount Amuyao traverse began to haunt me. I told Jim our guide that if we don’t reach the kamote fields early in daylight we need to consider to camp elsewhere instead in Pat-yay. We started our trek around 10:30 AM and boy the trail was steeper than ever! The descent was really hard and when it began to rain it became harder as the trail became slippy. Limatik also abound but I was more focused on the trail and I just told myself, “Let the limatiks bite me. I’d rather be bitten than make a wrong step and fall down the ravine!”. I began to worry about Mam Gen and Sir MB. Their pace were getting slower and slower by the hour. Mam Gen was very concious with the trail and limatiks thus making her pace very slow. From the looks of Sir MB I knew that his feet and legs were already tired. We had a moment when Sir MB slipped and turned 360 degrees before hitting the trail, pack first beside a ravine. I ran immediately to him to see if he was fine and to help him get up. JR also came to the rescue and when we saw that he was in no danger, we slowly helped him get up. “Whew!!! That was a close call!”, I told myself.
When Sir MB was slowing down futher, I told JR that it’s better if he go ahead of us and I’ll just sweep Sir MB. JR forgot to leave the radio (and I forgot to take it from him) so I was second- guessing where they would wait for us. Sir MB told me he no longer had strength and that it was his fighting spirit that was keeping him from going on. I constantly reminded him that it would be too dangerous for us to descend if darkness came and it seemed to make him give more of his best to descend quicker although at times I knew he was pressured by my words (sorry Sir that’s what a sweeper is for). Sir JR and Sir Jann waited for us at the foot of Mount Amuyao near a small river and what a relief to see them. During the river crossing, Sir Jann assisted Sir MB and it was a good thing since I already felt my strength bog down. I had a bad fall in the second river crossing making my knee and left elbow painful and my face almost hitting a huge stone! It was already getting dark but still we continued to proceed to Pat-yay since it was already near. We passed-by a very memorable wating shed that made me grin (memories of the past Amuyao traverse hehehe). After the last river crossing, Mang Jose (owner of the place where we will stay that night) was waiting for us. He took Sir MB’s pack and his pace got better. Sir MB preferred to walk along the waterways since he no longer can keep his balance and he might fall if he took the “pilapil” trail. Around 8:30 PM we arrived in Mang Jose’s place and I thought the drama has ended but Mam Gen looked very nervous. She had limatik bites in her nape and back of her left (or was it right?) ear. Our guide, Sir Jann and I think Sir Ryan was helping her to cleanup the blood………. I won’t talk much about what happened after but it was a long night for me and it was the right decision that I slept in the hut together with Sir MB and Mam Gen.
DAY 3 – Saturday
All of us were already awake around 5:30 AM and we were very eager to proceed to Cambulo. I for one was very excited because the last time I climbed Amuyao, our team did not take the Cambulo-Batad route. We ended up taking the Mayo-yao route due to time constraint and team fitness reasons. After eating a hearty breakfast we started our trek around 7:30 AM. After an hour walking in the rice terraces we were greeted by a very steep climb as if it will never end. Our guide told us that it’s more difficult during the descent and he was right on! If the climb looked like it would never end, the descent was the type that would break your spirit. Again Mam Gen was very concious with the trail and limatiks (I understand her after her ordeal). Sir MB on the other hand improved because he got a porter.All of us were feeling tired and to make matters worse it again rained around 10:00 AM. The trail was slippy and most of the time I just skated down the trail. We reached the Cambulo Rice Terraces around 2:00 PM but it was still a long way to go to the village. We had a short stop in a waterfall and we took a dip in the cold water. The trails going to the village was slippy dangerous and very very difficult and I thought the trails in Pat-yay were already difficult! My TNF shoes with vibram soles was not for the slippery stones and I was very very careful in every step I took. I had one close call but I managed to control my fall. When I saw the village I was ecstatic but when I saw the long flight of stairs going down I kept my composure and continued to trek with sure steps (of course I took photos now and then). I thought my slipping career already ended but again I slipped near the hanging bridge which caused multiple cuts to my left hand palm. JR was worried that I had injured my elbow. Oh well what else can I do? I just thanked God that I only got cuts on my palm.
Cambulo welcomed us with native huts and friendly people. The children were very eager to be photographed. I called our guide, Sir JR, Injann and Albert and we had a short discussion. We decided and agreed to stay in Cambulo that night and we will just proceed to Batad early the next day. It was already around 5:00 PM and I really felt that if we continued we would have a hard time managing the trail in the dark. We stayed in a guesthouse where a nice bath (cold though), warm dinner (huge chopsuey servings!) and cozy bed (with pillow and blanket!) were waiting for us. I slept like a log that night.
DAY 4 – Sunday
We woke up around 5:30 AM and we prepared for the trek ahead. All of us were looking forward to reach Batad! Around 7:00 AM we started our journey. The trail now was more friendlier although most stones were slippy we were able to manage them. Gen and MB were quicker now. We reached the first Batad viewpoint around 8:15 AM and of course we took some pictures! After the viewpoint, the trail was again dangerous since we were managing very high “pilapil” trails going to Batad proper. We reached the registration area around 9:30 AM. After signing the logbook and donating a small amount we proceeded to the store nearby and had a hearty snack! After that we continued our trek to the saddle parking area which to my estimate was an hour away. I was left behind mainly because I wanted some “alone time” to think of the things that transpired, to reflect, not to mention I was also already tired and just wanted to take it easy since we were an hour early before our jeep would arrive. I took the stairs this time going to the parking area. The last time I was there I took the road, so it was nice to experience the long flight of stairs going up to the saddle. Around 10:50 AM everyone was already at the saddle buying gifts, eating snacks and waiting for our jeepney which arrived 30 minutes later. We said our goodbyes to Mang Jose and his companion.Jeepney rental from Batad to Banaue is PhP 2500.00 as of this writing.
We were all glad that we still have enough time to roam around Banaue to search and buy gifts. We did not expect that our stay there would be extended for another night due to a landslide in O-ong (4 kilometers away) which caused a delay of our trip back to Manila. Anyway it was super fun to spend another night in Banaue. We had a grand time doing an acoustic version of “Enveloped Ideas” (Sir Injann on the guitar, me on the keys and Sir MB on vocals) and “Take me home” country road este Banaue Road hahaha. The owner of the restaurant also made requests but we ended up just doing parts of the songs ala INTRO-boys (need more practice hehehe). The owner and his son also graced us with their guitar skills and singing! We decided to do our post-climb meeting that night and we had a very interesting and constructive discussion. Everything went well (thanks to bottles of beer and free tapuy!) and when we called it a night I went straight back to my room and slept. Thank God everyone was safe and everything turned out great!
Congratulations SMB Team Amuyao 2012 a.k.a. Team 7! I’m glad I got to climb Mount Amuyao again this time with you guys! God bless! ‘Till our next adventure 🙂
More photos in our gallery. Click HERE.