RELENTLESS: A Mountainous Essay of the Toong Trail
RELENTLESS: A Mountainous Essay of the Toong Trail
(The author of this post claims to be a seasoned climber and trekked Mt.Batulao Via Kaybunga to Toong Trail which is not advisable for new hikers and during rainy season.)
Spell HARDCORE? It’s T-O-O-N-G!
This might be a little overrated for other knowledgeable mountaineers out there. But for someone whose passion for this career is a little on and off, exploring the mountains of Batangas thru Kaybunga-Toong trail has been the most ambitious move I did for the past year.
The Wrong Moves
The target of our team that day is to do a traverse of the Mt. Batulao ranges from the Kaybunga Trail and rummage through Toong Trail to exit at Mt. Talamitam jump off. I have already climbed Batulao 3 times already but not through the mentioned tracks so I was actually expecting new discoveries from this trip. By the end of the day, my expectations were exceeded three times. It was indeed a new face of Batulao for me.
The start of the climb was pretty much what I have expected. It rained the previous day so my feet were already sodded with mud within 30mins of walking since I only wore my trekking sandals. Wrong Move #1: Wearing sandals on a full trekking spree.
I wouldn’t say I didn’t prepare for this climb but the preparation was a little half-hearted. Several GMT members have been my friends already for the past years and I know all of them are responsible climbers (pero sbi ni Sir Ceej bawal daw hindi baliw sa kanila..lol). There is this assured feeling that no matter what happens, the team would back me up.
Wrong Move #2: Taking your team for granted.
Mt. Batulao’s summit has never failed to amaze me. Visible from its peak are the beautiful slopes of its ranges and the colour for that day is a vibrant green. We rested for a while there to enjoy the view and relax our legs a bit after the steep ascent from the ropes. I had a good laugh while resting with all the silly jokes and punchlines some team members were throwing at each other. Wrong Move #3: Did not research for jokes when you knew your team enjoys them.
Through the Looking GRASSES PA MOORE!
Toong trail, if I can describe it based from my recent experience, is a roller coaster ride. Nearly lunch time, our guide pointed to the pretty mountain ranges not far from where we are and said with sparkling eyes “Yon ang Toong.” Immediately, I fell in love with the trail ahead and felt a similar surge of excitement a new bride feels when the wedding is near.
Four hours later, I wanted to file for annulment…lol!
The first hour and a half is a trail full of tricky forestry paths where your teammates’ imprints get lost if you look away for a second. We are lagging behind the pack and almost got lost by the fallen tree hiding the real trail. Most of the ways are steep downward directions, made slippery by wet leaves and mud. I fell many times but I took one fall badly when my hips smashed to a huge root, it’s unbelievable the tree is still safe.
So when the slippery forest ended, I felt relieved, but once again changed my mind when after 2 more hours, I’m getting immune to the taste of grass on my lips. Apparently, we are planned to commune with more grass later on. These are not typical trimmed grasses found in gardens, but tall, fresh, tasty, razor-sharp and mapaghiganting mga grasses (this is so conya of me).
We’ve met grasses early that morning in the Batulao traverse, but I am not mentally prepared for the kilometres long range of tall bushes we went through. It felt endless and tiring because of the double effort needed to clear the way out of these unrelenting plants. The sun scorching our faces and unprotected arms felt unwelcome this time.
Three times I slipped to loose soil. Numerous times I hugged razor-sharp leaves to hold on to my dear life. I am not sure why I am doing this anymore, but when I reached one rocky clearing and saw the majestic view of Batulao’s mountain range, I felt alive again.
Again, I am saying this out of my little experience in climbing less prominent mountains, but Toong trail really tested my patience and endurance. There was this one time along the trail that I wearily told my friend, “Gusto ko na lang mawala ung mga damo.” but later on reprimanded myself after realizing what a feat I’ve gone through. I am not physically fit, not mentally prepared, hardly a seasoned climber, but I did it!
Rain, Sweat and Tears
Push! I’ve heard this word from our Team Leader all throughout the climb. By nightfall, I am not sure what he means by push anymore. I have mild nyctalopia, making it a little hard for me to adjust my vision during the night but just hearing him say “Push!” behind me in an encouraging tone made me really push it.
Rain fell that night. The time we were by the river made me feel more nervous. The medicine I drank to lessen the pain on my hips is starting to wear off already. It took 3 people to assist my river crossing and when we made it past, I knew better than to celebrate. It is still a 1 hour and 30mins steep ascent before we can finally rest our tired bodies and minds.
Of course, the 1 hour and 30mins ascent is for my super strong team mates (#TeamBaliwJ). It was more than 2 hours for me. But the happiest moment was when I finally saw asphalted road upfront and spotted fellow mountaineers resting by the store side at Talamitam’s jump off. I almost cried again, if not for my limbs that I cannot feel anymore J
There are three things I realized during this trek: 1. I am weak; 2. I need buddies to help me up; 3. Rain, sweat and tears all tastes the same.
We finished by 10pm with 19km total distance of travel in one day. If this is not impressive, I don’t know what is anymore. If the purpose of this climb is to train us for harder trips in the future, it served us well. If the purpose of this climb is to teach us, it has been a good teacher. If the purpose of this climb is for us to discover our hidden potential, it reflected ourselves like a mirror.
I don’t want to end this article like an acknowledgement letter, so let me just say ‘Good Job’ to #TeamBaliw who felt ready to conquer the world after what everyone went through. I would not be able to tell your story but I hope, somehow, my story echoed yours. To the one who raised the ‘baliw’ standards up at nagpasimuno-sa-lahat-ng-kaguluhang-ito: Sir! I have enough souvenirs all over my body to tell good stories to my friends and let me credit all the good ones to you.
Every day is a challenge indeed! I am just thankful I am still alive to face it. J