Bataan Mariveles

Climbing Mt. Tarak on a Rainy Day Was Madness

Thursday, September 20, 2012Ryan Mach

"This is madness," I cursed, more to myself, than to anyone else as we kicked off our trek one Saturday afternoon under a heavy downpour brought about by typhoon Karen which was reportedly leaving the Philippine area of responsbility the next day. With rain pelting like bullets and thick fog rolling in, I was quite sure that the climb would eventually be aborted. But I was dead wrong. The mountaineering club Ascend was as stubborn as a mule, though gentle as a lamb. I was told beforehand that the team rarely cancels a climb, unless the mountain has been declared off-limits to trekkers. Unfortunately, that gloomy afternoon Mt. Mariveles was still relatively safe for climbing. 

Common sense told me that I should call it quits and let the team pursue the seemingly insane trek. But I was more scared of the possibility that my supposed cancellation would tarnish my already blemished reputation. Oh yeah, Ryan Mach, I know him, he's the guy who always backs out from a trip. That's just a disturbing thought. So I plucked up courage and decided to join the pack in their quest to conquer Tarak Ridge in Bataan despite a terrible weather.

Photo credit: Phyl
And oh, what a trek it had been. Rain fell incessantly in buckets making the trail muddy and slippery. The journey from the jump-off point to the Papaya River could have been a walk in the park if not for the rain. The trail was mostly composed of flat terrains anyway with a few manageable slopes but the abundant downpour made it quite impossibly tough to trudge on. Some paths were too slippery that sliding down became a common occurrence. It sure provided some good laugh, especially when one member of the group came tumbling down at a tricky slope near the site where we camped for the night.
Photo credit: Phyl
The rain had abated albeit momentarily when we reached a clearing beside a bushy trail where a view of two cascading waterfalls from a distance provided some pleasant distraction. We could hear its loud rumbling, which made us think that perhaps it can be trekked in a short period of time. "We could find out in the morning. For now, we should decide which is the best place to camp," someone suggested. After some pondering and exchanging of ideas, the group reached a consensus - it had been decided that we camp right there, at that small clearing quite far from the summit. I let out a sigh of relief. 
Photo credit: Phyl
It wasn't the best camp site. The whole area was cramped and muddy but we made do of what was available. Besides, it's getting late, we were tired and perfectly hungry. Camping at Papaya River wasn't an option, especially after hearing from another mountaineer we met along the way that the camp site there was a blockbuster hit. 

Once the tents have been mounted, the situation seemed to improve. Overhead, the skies became less gloomy allowing us to remove our raincoats and change to dry clothes. Cooking sets and eating utensils started clinking and clanking - a sound that was music to our ears. It simply meant dinner (hot rice, adobo & spicy caldereta) was to be served soon. But the jubilation was ephemeral. We were about to dig in when the rainshower came back with a vengeance. Frustrated and utterly helpless, we found outselves eating under the rain. 
Even sleeping proved to be tough. And this was quite true for those whose tents were drenched in rainwater, ours included. The notion of sleeping upright while holding an umbrella was hardly appealing. I was ready to curse again when Ian, the leader of the group, offered his tent to us. We just couldn't accept the generosity without asking for his own welfare. He said he just needed some alcohol and he'd be okay. Before he could change his mind, we scurried inside his snug abode and drifted off to dreamland. I'd wake from time to time just to hear the heavy patter of rain outside. 
Photo credit: Phyl

We didn't catch the sunrise came morning as the sky was still darkened by thick clouds. Most of our food supplies were soaked in a small pool of rainwater but we were still able to have coffee and a decent breakfast (adobo leftover and tokwa't baboy). As we munched our share under a drizzle, we contemplated on doing a trek to Papaya River and possibly a scale to the summit. The latter proved to be quite impossible given the time we had left. The last bus from Mariveles to Manila would leave at 7pm. We'd surely not make it if we opted to reach the peak. From the camp site, going to the river alone took 1.5 hours, add another 2 hours to the summit, we'd be consuming at least 7 hours, give or take, then add another two hours from the camp site back to the jump-off point. That's a total of 9 hours. 
Photo credit: Kukz
If truth be told, I didn't really mind if the group decided to break camp early and head down. But I didn't mind a trek to Papaya River either. We left the camp and headed to the river in a hurried pace, ocassionally stopping at small rivulets and mini-falls to bathe and take photos. The trek was relatively easy and enjoyable, mainly because we didn't have any weight on our back. 
Photo credit: Phyl
Seeing a number of tents that mushroomed near Papaya River, we felt terribly sorry for our own camp. The camping ground in that area wasn't muddy, unlike ours and they had canopies of huge trees shielding them from rain. They also had an abundant water source, thanks to the river nearby which swelled with the unrelenting rain. But there's no use mopping at this point. We came there to have a good time anyway. Fun and a refreshing swim we had in the river.
Photo credit: Phyl
By noon, we decided to trek back to our camp site, packed our stuff and decamped. At the same slippery slope where one colleague had a funny mishap the day before, I tripped over and fell on my butt pretty hard. Further down, I scratched myself on the arm by a wayward wild plant with nasty thorns. Meanwhile the rain hadn't let up, we were soaking wet when we arrived at the Barangay Hall in Alasasin. 

We were able to catch the last trip to Manila. Aboard the Genesis bus, one male companion was thrown forward when the vehicle made a sudden halt. We laughed when he quipped "Langya, hindi ako naaksidente sa bundok, dito pa yata ako sa bus madadali." Ah, how ironic would it be if he indeed hurt himself inside the bus. As the overhead lights faded out, I found myself grinning. Trekking on a terrible weather was indeed madness but it was kind of madness that made me want to climb more mountains. 

Who but the mad would choose to keep on living? In the end, aren't we all just a little crazy?

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