My heart was at my throat while I was listening at our tour guide’s orientation. For the first time, I felt a little apprehensive against a planned hike. We were told this would not be an easy one but that fact did not dawn on me until that morning. We were about to conquer an assault we have not yet conquered. I never thought my limits would be tested at Mt. Daraitan – at least a portion of it.
With the world still numb in darkness, we were already bustling with excitement as we waited for the van at 2 o’clock in the morning. I was excited on meeting new friends as well as catching up with old buddies. Because this was the first time we had rented a van, I thought we’d be cozy for the rest of the trip.
Arriving at Tanay, Rizal two hours later, we were surprised to find a wide river separating us from the jump-off. There’s no other way to get there but to cross the six-feet deep waters through a makeshift raft that was able to carry the ten of us. We had to bring all of our things to the summit because shower was also at the other side. But nature’s whimsical charm had made its way to brush off our little disappointment. The smooth rocks beneath the river peered at us when our lights pierced through the clear, pristine waters. It’s going to be a beautiful adventure.
A short tricycle ride carried us to the registration area. The registration area, which
was actually the baranggay hall, was jam-packed. Weekends do make terrible hike dates sometimes, even at such a cold Sunday like this. Though hikers were told an assault would meet them ahead, nobody dared to turn back and let us take the rest of the mountain’s space.
Existing blog posts told us Mt. Daraitan’s difficulty was at 4/9, which was a notch higher than the usual 3/9 level mountains we have visited frequently. Our tour guides, Delo and Marquez (because he said his first name was hard to memorize), told us there are two routes to the top – the hard route and the easy route. The first, which was everybody’s usual way, would take 2 to 3 hours. The other one, which might have been a leisure to most of us, would take about 5 to 6 hours. Forget that one. We have became willing advocates of the tougher road.
As the pathways were still dark at 5 am, most of us have to rent headlamps for 30 pesos (secretly vowing I will buy one on the next payday – next month). After we huddled to pray for God’s guidance and protection, we immediately trudged off with the long line of tourists. Soft drops of the early morning drizzle were already pelting on our already cold faces.
The ascent was a bit more arduous because some of the pathways were at 80 degrees. Most of the muddy path was littered with huge limestones that either slipped us down or helped us up. Around us were sturdy trees that kept our footing sturdy, shielding us from the treacherous cliffs that lingered on one side. The daylight rendered our headlights useless after an hour. Gray clouds have not been cleared from the skies I expected to be blue that day. The wind then howled like mad above our heads.
We were refreshed as it blew horrendously above us, resonating like a typhoon about
to make a landfall. But at that moment, we were not threatened by its howling angst, because it enlivened our weary muscles. But I could sense these kinds of blustery gusts would soon bring rain. While I welcomed the cool winds, I hoped to have a little bit of sun warm me up for the rest of the day.
The sea of clouds were gone and the fog was lifting up, but the wide, green view welcomed us at the last resting point leading to the summit. The little caves that were hidden in dense rain forests have been left behind. The pain of clutching those sharp limestones was forgotten as we stood before the picture-worthy spot that was about to be blurred by the rising fog. It was beautiful, wondering how green and vivid it would have been without the fog. Still, the view appeared to be a dreamy haze that might be stomped eternally in the minds of campers. It was just 8am in the morning and I had this inkling this sight was better than at the highest point.
Upon arriving at the summit, it was even more crowded than we expected. True enough, the fog has already covered the view. I would have loved to stay and watch the clouds dissipate but more and more tourists were flocking in the area. If there would be anything memorable there, that would be our group action pose on one of the limestones.
And this strange plant that was hidden behind other plants at the edge of the summit. Can anyone know what it is? I would gladly appreciate your help.
We proceeded to descend to the Tinipak River. Not yet halfway there, the rain started to fall. In a short moment, it became a downpour that slowed a few of us down. We held onto sturdy trees to keep us from rolling down. This was a crucial part of the trek because it still involved steep pathways and edgy rocks. I was irritated because of the seemingly endless rain that only stopped when we arrived at the foot of the mountain (to which the rest of our group clapped when we came there dripping wet).
The rains have subsided after we took lunch in a hut beside the river. Not wasting the moment, we went to see and wade our feet into the sandy waters of the Tinipak River. From its name (“tinipak” means “chopped off piece” in Tagalog), huge rocks towered along the river’s meandering path. The murky current slices through the verdant Mt. Daraitan and another mountain, sleepily looking down at us as we frolicked on the sabulous riverbed. The roaring sound of the hasty current was memorable, as if its waters were washing away our tired souls.
The pathway back to the jump-off was lovelier. The captivating landscape garnished with lush, green grass and tiny, yellow flowers seemed to have transported us to a portion of Middle-earth. At our left side, the river’s current became stronger and louder. Some portions of the pathway were danger zones though because of the falling rocks ahead. We needed to hurry and to be alert especially that many are
crossing that path. Horses carrying loads of goods would rush past us. Ahead, the tricycles were waiting to ferry us back into reality.
Instead of crossing the river through a raft, we crossed the hanging bridge. It was sturdy but my head nearly spun as I wobbled while walking on the metal steps. Seeing the river below, the pristine waters
were already replaced by murkier waters caused by the wild current. At the other side where we came from, people were flocking for the next boat ride that has not arrived yet.
I turned back to the mountain which is now shrouded by rain clouds. Hiking season has almost come to a close because of the rainy season. But I guess no season would be able to dictate when we should stop. I bet the bad weather did not dampen our enthusiasm in this adventure and the mud did not spoil the fun we had in our visit to Mt. Daraitan.