Surviving my first Major Climb to Mt. Pulag

Aside from Mt. Pulag’s famous sea of clouds, its uniqueness is its different vegetation in different elevation. Not only that, it is home to unique species of flora and fauna and is the natural habitat of the endemic dwarf bamboos and edelweiss that feast to the eyes when trekking the 500 hectares grassland. Sounds exciting right?

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and so we survived Mt. Pulag!

Trivia

Mt. Pulag stands at 2,922 meters above sea level (MASL) where its peak meets the borders of Benguet, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya. It is the third highest mountain in the Philippines next to Mount Apo and Mount Dulang-Dulang and is Luzon’s highest peak.

For a casual trekker like me, climbing Mt. Pulag is a rewarding experience I achieved this year. Thanks to my officemates Janice and Joyce for organizing this climb. I can’t sustain my happiness because right after my unforgettable adventure in Masungi Georeserve last November 30, Mt. Pulag came next.

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the golden brown grassland

We were all eleven and since most of us were casual trekkers (except Janice), we chose the Ambangeg Trail or what they call Artista Trail. It was the easiest trail and is perfect for beginners. But mind you, it was a major climb with difficulty of 3/9. To make things easier, we took a package tour for P2,700 per head courtesy of organizer Sheena Cmer. Van transfer was provided with two trail guides, dinner, breakfast and lunch. We were headed by Abby, the coordinator of this tour.

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a lovely sight going back to Camp 2

We left McDonalds Visayas Avenue, our meet-up place around 12:00 midnight. We reached Baguio City by 6:20 am and ate breakfast (with choices of tapsilog meal) at Daddy’s Restaurant along Abanao Street.

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mine was bangsilog with hot coffee… yummy breakfast

Side trip

By 8:14 am we head off to Benguet. We stopped at Jangjang Eatery in Brgy. Ambuclao to settle for lunch and for bio breaks. Shortly after an affordable meal, we went to Jangjang Hanging Bridge, the longest hanging bridge in Benguet. It was narrow and shaking, but still, we were able to capture memories in the middle of the bridge!

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thanks to Masungi Georeserve for helping me lessen my fear of shaking hanging bridges…

The sun was hovering in the clear blue sky. Indeed, the weather was so cooperative. Everyone was highly spirited.

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lunch time…affordable price

The journey

We were traversing picturesque scenery, but the journey to the sinuous and treacherous road was so fast. I felt quite giddy that I want to vomit. We told the driver to slow down a bit. He was driving like he was flying on air.

The Orientation

Orientation at DENR office is compulsory to anyone who will climb Mt. Pulag. We logged our names before we enter the function room. We watched a short video and later the facilitator shared insights about Mt. Pulag and explained well the guidelines.

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before the short orientation

The four trails: Ambangeg Trail (the easiest), Akiki Trail (the extreme 12-15 hour trek to steep ascent), Tawangan Trail (the bloody trail because of the presence of leeches) and the Ambaguio Trail (coming from Nueva Vizcaya).

I was so elated that I’ve learned a lot about Mt. Pulag and here are the two great things that top it all: to respect the mountain and leave no trace.

Medical Certificate

Everyone who will climb Mt. Pulag is required to submit a health certificate for safety reason and best interest of the trekker.

Camping in Ranger Station

We pitched our tent on a hilly side of Ranger Station for the night. I was sharing with Janice and Joyce. The view from there was breathtaking. There were lots of pine trees everywhere. The fleeting clouds and clear blue skies were sights to behold! I was so amazed seeing for the first time, a full arched rainbow. It was so beautiful and amazing! It was so wonderful taking photos of the wonderful things our eyes perceived.

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everyone is busy pitching tents… girl scouts and boy scouts before… now, climbers…

And the temperature? It was Amihan season (northwest monsoon) so the weather was so cold. Woooh!  In Manila, we escape from the heat of the sun, but in Benguet, we seize the sun! Hahaha! Amid the cool temperature, we had our happy photo ops.

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my very first time to see a beautiful full-arched rainbow

When night came, we were like soldiers dressed in full battle gear. I had several layers of clothing, but despite the number of clothes I wore, I was still shivering.

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the beautiful Benguet Pines

 Dinner Time

When we got out from our tent for dinner it was freezing outside. There were spatters of rain and the wind was blowing so hard as if there was a storm. This is where I experienced the coldest weather in the country. I was worrying, with this crazy icy cool breeze can I trek the summit in a bewitching hour at 1:30 am? Bahala na si Batman.

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sharing room… este tent with Jan and Joyce… you see us smiling… later you don’t… blame it to the cold weather… hahaha!

The three of us were the first batch to eat at Abby’s kitchen tent. We huddled inside and were delighted to eat nilagang baboy Abby cooked for us. Aside from the hot soup, we had coffee too and lakatan for desert. Nilaga was delicious. Just perfect to warm our chilling bodies.

After our dinner, we stayed outside for few minutes. Surprisingly, amid the stormy wind and spattering rain, the night sky was so clear. The full moon, the stars… I was thrilled by the beauty of the night in Benguet.  It was perfect for some social activity, but since we were getting wet, we decided to stay inside the tent and sleep.

We awoke rather late the next morning. Blame it to the cold weather. Brrrrr!!!! Since there was no time to eat our breakfast, we were given a packed meal each. By 2:35 am we set off for the climb.

Camp One – flat trail 

This was my first time to trek in narrow trails and in total darkness. We wore head lights to light up our way. We were advised to be extra careful because we will be walking beside dangerous cliffs. Since it was raining, the trail was slippery and muddy. It was really really cold that I felt the initial numbness of my hands. Later, I had a hard time catching my breath on the steep incline because of lack of oxygen. Despite my clothing, I was still freezing cold. The cool weather lingers into my veins. We reached Camp 1 by 3:50 a.m. We rested for ten minutes and moved on.

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the wondrous sight of rich vegetation in Benguet…this was the cliff we passed by at 3:00 am going to Camp One.

Camp Two – gradual not so steep trail

The trail to this camp was even more slippery. At times there were no stones or woods to step on so we had no choice but to walk in puddles of water in the softened earth. Thus, our feet were soaked to the skin. The thin air, the lack of oxygen and the cold weather made the trek harder. Again, I was catching my breath so hard on steep parts.

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the water source, a spring water near Camp Two

Seeing water sources along the way marked the proximity to Camp 2. We had several stops before we reach this camp. It’s good that there was a latrine in the area for bio breaks.

The Summit 

We now prepared for the hardest and coldest part of the trek. But before we move on, I ate first my packed meal. Though it was cold, we were advised by Abby to drink water so we will not be dehydrated. By 5:50 am we headed to the last leg of our climb!

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happy jolly guys but shivering inside hahaha! preparing for the Summit climb!

It was a downcast morning. The sun was hiding from thick clouds. Though it rained profusely, we continued walking on an ankle-deep mud. It was slippery and at times we hold on to tall grasses. I was mesmerized seeing for the first time lots and lots of bamboo dwarfs. It was definitely beautiful! But as we went along, it was an eyesore to see trails with damaged foliages. Poor bamboo dwarfs.

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the lovely presence of the endemic bamboo dwarfs we passed by while we were on our way to the summit

I made frequent stops to catch my breath as the altitude increased. Looked like my heart will get out from my body. It beats rapidly. After what seemed like hours of endless walking, I decided to quit. I had a hard time catching my breath and the weather got extremely cold. But then, I told myself, if I quit, I will miss seeing the famous sea of clouds and I will never have a picture with the iconic wooden signboard of Mt. Pulag. Well then, I proceeded.

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raining… freezing… I could not use my cellphone because my hands were numb… thanks to Joyce for this picture…

There were two colors of mud, one is brown and one is black. You may choose which will discolor your shoes because you have no choice where to step on. But I noticed, black is much slippery so I went on walking on brown mud.

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there’s no other way going up and down the summit but through this slippery black mud beside a cliff

When at last by 6:10 am, we were on the summit, the highest point in Luzon! Yahoo!!! I can’t describe the feeling. It was overwhelming and amazing! I felt so proud that I want to shout to the world, “I survived Mt. Pulag!”

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So proud of myself, I did it mgabeshies! I survived it! I almost quit, but thank God, I did not or else I will regret not having this photo with the iconic wooden board of Mt. Pulag.

But there was no Sea of Clouds in sight or a beautiful sunrise! Nonetheless, this climb was truly worth it. Picture taking with the signboard was jam packed. It took several minutes before our turn.

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It’s good that the sun came out to open as we trekked back. And because the sun was shining, it was then I appreciated much the beautiful rugged terrain of Mt. Pulag. The golden brown grassland was dominated by dwarf bamboo. Next in sight was the mossy forest with bonsai shaped trees, brown and green ferns, the red flowers locally known as “lolong” and the edelweiss.

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locally known as “lolong” an eye-catching flower in mossy forest

According to Abby, the beauty of mossy forest was magical. Certainly, it was. Philippine Oak Trees were prominent in mossy forest.

From ten minutes rest from Camp 1, we now headed to Station Ranger. Another wonder along the way is the presence of Benguet pine which dominated the picturesque trail. It was getting hot but as I’ve said, here in Benguet, we seized the sun! Hahaha.

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me with these cute red-cheeked kids

The journey going back to where we started was enjoyable and relaxing. Thanks to one of our trail guides Mercy, for helping me eased the trek. Conquering Mount Pulag is an amazing feat. No wonder why fervid climbers kept coming back to this beautiful mountain in North Luzon.

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By the way, Mt. Pulag is named after the local term called Pul-ag meaning bald.

My meaningful adventure with Mt. Pulag had finally ended. Will I return or not? Certainly, I will. Wait for my revenge climb! Hahaha!

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Minor Climb No. 2: Mt. Pinatubo Challenge Minor Climb No. 3: Mt. Gulugod Baboy Minor Climb No. 1: Taal Crater Lake-Family Hiking Adventure The Exciting Masungi Georeserve Trek

The Exciting Masungui Georeserve Trek

Masungi Georeserve a geopark in Tanay, Rizal was fast becoming famous since it opened its doors to the public on December 2015. It is a conservation area where it aims to protect the lush forest, the rock formations which are somehow similar to those found in Palawan, the flaura and its natural fauna.

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high above the limestone formations… a bit scary but once you get there the feeling was great!

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Part 8: Hong Kong and Macau Trip: My Solo Adventure in Disneyland

I’ve often heard from my friends and office mates that Hong Kong Disneyland is the best place to visit in the city especially if you have kids. But I was in a solo vacation and it saddened me to leave my family in Manila for not spending a great holiday like this with them. Anyway, their encouraging words somehow lessen up the agony. They wanted me to enjoy every minute of my vacation especially the most anticipated part of my Hong Kong and Macau Trip.

My solitary adventure in Disneyland!  Again, thank you HSBC for my free trip to Hong Kong.

IMG_6699 Continue reading

Part 7: Hong Kong and Macau Trip: The Peak Experience

Victoria Peak or The Peak is a “must visit” destination and one of the major tourist attractions in Hong Kong. What so unique about The Peak? First, you’ll be thrilled riding the Peak Tram in getting there. Second, you will be rewarded by the panoramic view of a magnificent skyline and the waterfront that will take your breath away.

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it was a downcast morning so this was the only picture I got from The Peak

Perching on an elevation of 552 meters (1,811 feet), The Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island and undeniably the place where every visitors will surely enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Hong Kong.

The ride

For me, I chose the Peak Tram for I want to experience the best and most unique ride in getting to The Peak.

The Peak

The five-minute ride at the Peak Tram in getting to the Peak was short but it thrilled me much. Our trip ended in upper terminus inside the Peak Tower. It is a large shopping complex located in Victoria Gap where it offers dining, shopping and entertainment events.

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We passed by the Peak Market, a lane of souvenir shops quietly inviting visitors to drop by and shop. There was a series of escalators connecting all levels of the tower.

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The major attraction of the Peak Tower is the Sky Terrace 428, the 360 open-air viewing deck located at the top level of the building. Its distinctive stylish architecture includes the captivating wok-shaped roof designed by British Architect Terry Farrell. At 428 meters above sea level, this is where visitors can enjoy the stunning panoramic view of the harbour, the surrounding islands and the skyline.

they say you will get the best view here at Sky Terrace 360

they say you will get the best view here at Sky Terrace 360

Opening Hours: 10:00 am to 11:00 pm – Monday to Friday / 8:00 am to 11:00 pm – Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays

Ticket price:  Adult – HK$48.00 / Children (11 and below years of age) and Senior Citizen (65 years old and above) – HK$24.00

Another attraction is Madame Tussauds, a wax museum exhibiting nearly 100 life-size wax figures of local and international known personalities which are grouped into themed settings. The museum offers visitors a unique experience to get close and have pictures taken with famous Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe, Angelina Jolie, Elvis Presley and Asian stars like Bruce Lee and Jacky Chan and a lot more.

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Opening Hours:  10:00 am to 10:00 pm daily

We set off to a viewing deck in one of the levels of the tower and from there, I was hooked looking at the stunning vista. But since it was a downcast morning, all my pictures were not so alive. I wish the sun will come out so I have a better picture of the view.

Just across the Peak Tower is the Peak Galleria, another shopping complex that also offers dining, shopping, a museum, tourist attraction and free-entry observatory deck on level 3. But the latter has more restaurants and boutiques. Sip your favorite coffee at Starbucks Coffee or have some scoop of your favorite ice cream at Häagen-Dazs, both located at the ground level.

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One of its major attractions is the TrickEye Museum located at the 3rd level. For those who love the mind-blowing tricky paintings and sculptures, this museum will excite you. TrickEye Museum has 50 optical illusion paintings in five different themed zones, Hong Kong Discovery, Secret Garden, World of Masterpieces, Neverland and Great Adventure.

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Opening Hours: 10:00 am to 9:00 pm – Monday to Sunday (All year round)

I had my best shot

After touring around, we looked for a better vantage point to see again the panoramic view. Still, there was no sun. Anyway, I had my best photo of the marvelous skyline soaring high and a breathtaking harbor which is one of the finest I’ve seen.

My sojourn to The Peak had ended. Nonetheless, I was happy and satisfied. Now, it’s time to embrace my intrepid solo adventure…in Disneyland.

Next Destination – Hong Kong Disneyland

Four ways in getting to The Peak:

* The Peak Tram – at Grand Road Terminal tram – opens from 7:00 am to 12:00 midnight-Monday to Sunday and Public Holidays. Departs every 10 to 15 minutes.

* By Bus – take the bus route no. 15 from Exchange Square bus terminus in Central. Operates daily from 10:00 am to 12:00 am – trip may take 30 to 35 minutes.

* By taxi – the shortest route may take a taxi ride from Admiralty MTR Station for about 15 to 20 minutes.

* Mini-bus – you may opt to take the green mini bus route no. 1 from MTR Hong Kong Station Public Transport Interchange.

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Part 1: Hong Kong and Macau Trip: Senado Square and St. Dominic’s Church Part 3: Hong Kong and Macau Trip: A-Ma Temple, Maritime Museum and the Golden Lotus Square Singapore Family Trip-Part 7: Orchard Road and Clarke Quay Singapore Family Trip-Part 9: Child delight in Singapore Zoo

Part 6: Hong Kong and Macau Trip: The Double-deck tram, the Peak Tram and the Peak Tram Historical Gallery

Our yesterday’s visit in Macau and to the prime attractions of Tsim Sha Tsui of Hong Kong at night had been crammed with adventure. For my second day in the city, I was again so excited for I will be riding the double-deck tram and the Peak Tram. And lastly, I will be exploring Disneyland, alone. Sounds scary? It’s not! (I guess so, hehehe).

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getting ready for the exciting and enjoyable ride at the Peak Tram

Day Leen and I woke up early, took a quick shower and set out hurriedly to Shau Kei Wan MTR Station to avoid the long queue at the Peak Tram Lower Terminus. We alighted at Admiralty Station and settled for breakfast at KFC. As promised by my new friend, she will let me experience a ride in a double-deck tram right after we eat. And I was pretty much excited to the highest level.

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Double-Deck Tram 

The double-deck tram which is called by the local as Ding Ding is the cheapest and one of the earliest forms of public transport in Hong Kong (over 110 years in service). Its size was smaller compared to the regular bus in the city but it looked so cute.

while waiting for the double-deck tram to stop

while waiting for the double-deck tram to stop

 After our breakfast, we headed to Admiralty MTR Station (an intermediate stop) and boarded excitedly the double-deck tram. We tapped our Octopus Card on the processor and I smiled in delight while standing inside the tram. We alighted on next stop. It was a short ride, but I was so happy for this memorable experience.

Passengers may pay an exact fare in coins or by tapping the Octopus card. The current fare is HK#2.30 for adults, HK$1.20 for kids (below 12 years old), and HK$1.10 for senior citizens (65 and above).

The double-deck tram is also a major tourist attraction in Hong Kong and what’s so good about this? You’ll be riding an environment-friendly way of roaming around the city.

So when you are in Hong Kong try it too! It was fun!

 Our Way to The Peak

We walked all the way to The Peak Tram Lower Terminus in Garden Road to buy our ticket. Since we will not stay long at The Peak, we only bought a return ticket for HK$45. It was around 7:30 am and while waiting for the Peak Tram to set off, I grabbed the opportunity to see The Peak Tram Historical Gallery. It’s like going back in time seeing several memorabilia displayed on the glass wall and be more educated and be amazed how The Peak Tram had started, its heritage as well as the history of Hong Kong.

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have a little history of Hong Kong while waiting for the Peak Tram to set off

Time for the exciting ride!

There are four ways in getting to The Peak. But for me, I want to experience the best and most unique ride in getting there, so I chose the Peak Tram. This is one of the world’s oldest and most famous funicular railways which is serving Hong Kong for 120 years now! Imagine that!

Day Leen and I opted to stand at the back when the tram car slowly moved upwards on a steep slope. So steep that those buildings looked like they were leaning. The cable railway was sandwiched by a lush tropical forest. It was only a five-minute journey and before I knew it, we were in the upper terminus already.

passengers inside the Peak Tram

passengers inside the Peak Tram

For a climber like me, I was thinking, I could trek the top in thirty minutes. The ride though short thrilled me much. Kids will surely love this ride too.

the tram railway on its way to the steep slope

the tram railway on its way to the steep slope

Ticket Price: for single ride – Adult-HK$75 / Children (11 years old and below) – HK$34 / Senior Citizen (65 years old and above) – HK$34

For return ride: Adult-HK$88 / Children-HK$42 / Senior Citizen – HK$42

Next Destination – into The Peak

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Part 1: Hong Kong and Macau Trip: Senado Square and St. Dominic’s Church Part 3: Hong Kong and Macau Trip: A-Ma Temple, Maritime Museum and the Golden Lotus Square Singapore Family Trip-Part 8: Orchard Road and Clarke Quay Singapore Family Trip-Part 9: Child delight in Singapore Zoo