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Mt. Ugo: My last climb for the year

Hiking Trails: Mt. Ugo in Itogon, Nueva Vizcaya

I won’t lie. I’m not your run-of-the-mill hiker. My idea of a major climb preparation is half-assed jogging. There’s no stopping me now — not my chubby arms and legs, my lack of gear and training nor the incessant nagging from my loved ones. I will hear none of it. #YOLO

In the market - Pocholo James Loresco
In the market by Pocholo James Loresco

So there I was, bright eyed and sweaty at seven pm in the wrong bus terminal. I guess my brain left me as I was traveling since 2:30pm from Laguna. Got off at Victory Liner Cubao because the driver said that’s already Victory Liner Kamias. Jeeze.

After a few phone calls and a lot of walking with my little brother in tow, we’re on our way to Aritao, Nueva Viscaya. Two restroom stops later, we’re on a chartered jeepney to Kayapa Public Market. Awakened by the sudden drop in temperature, we had breakfast and stocked on water and trail food there.

We began our trek at roughly six am. Over eager by the whole affair, I did a noob move and filled my 3 liter bladder for me and my brother. I regretted this when we were into 20 minutes of assault. Tip #1: Hold off the water if there’s a water source after 3-4 hours of trekking.

Uphill - GMT
Uphill by GMT

A couple of leeches claimed casualties from our team mates’ legs and hands. I had one sucking away at my left ankle. It never penetrated my socks. Tip #2: Wear double socks and tights if you know what’s good for you.

leech - EJ
Leech by EJ

After scaling the zig-zag road towards Indupin Village, we finally had lunch by the roadside.

Taking a break - Gadz Sanchez
Taking a break by Gadz Sanchez

We noticed a couple of shy village kids. We figured they’re too far from Domolpos where we’d hold the outreach. I had to hunt a little girl all the way back to her house to give her a dolly. It was totally worth the extra sweat and huffing.

Giving simple gifts to the Kids photo by GMT
Giving simple gifts to the Kids photo by GMT

I noticed the kids there have naturally rosy cheeks — the best that only high elevation and cold winds can offer. Tip #3: Your sunblock is no match for wind burn in here. Keep a petroleum jelly handy for your face and lips.

Long winding road by GMT
Long winding road by GMT

Off we go with more assaults that reminded me I wasn’t really ready for this. My heart is screaming and it’s louder than my footsteps as we head past Mt. Sarmiento. We started taking turns sharing anything under the sun to pass the time. My little brother and I caught up with our lives with that heck of a stretch.

Winding some more - Bhern Nadeth
Winding some more by Bhern Nadeth

Under the picturesque sky we passed acres of rice fields and dusty gravel paths. We were almost at our wits end when we heard kids’ laughter. We have reached Domolpos village by two pm, an hour earlier than projected!

After catching our breaths, we proceeded with our brief program. The kids, we learned then have limited English and Tagalog making the games I had prepared moot. That’s when the rest of the tribe stepped up to help.

Tip #3: Everything will not go according to plan, embrace it and have fun! From hula race to tug of war – we did it all and enjoyed ourselves as much as the kids did. The winners were declared and we handed out the toys and the school supplies we brought them.

tug of war - Gadz Sanchez
tug of war – Gadz Sanchez

In Domolpos Elementary School - Ghadz Sanchez
In Domolpos Elementary School – Ghadz Sanchez

I caught myself smiling while I recalled the delight I saw on the children’s faces when they were trying out their toys.

Happy Kids - Joko de Jesus
Happy Kids – Joko de Jesus

I had a fun time acting all injured to a group of boys who decided they want me dead and kept aiming and firing a toy gun at me. Imaginary ammos are the best, no reloads required.

Camped in one of the huge classrooms, we spent the night there. It was a non-event save for a discord of snores enough to rival my teeth chattering.

We didn’t waste time and headed straight to the peak of Mt. Ugo early the following morning. It was overcast which made the terrain misty. The top of Mt. Ugo was breathtaking. Too bad the weather did not permit us to see anything below the steeps.

Then came my favorite part of hiking as gravity becomes my friend, it’s all downhill with a few assaults for the next couple of hours or so.

Downhill now - GMT
Downhill now – GMT

I felt like Naruto running like the wind past breathtaking slopes, humongous trees and scenic paths that can fit 25 people hand in hand. This part of Mt. Ugo’s the best for me. It’s the perfect balance of eerie, mystical and peaceful which makes for a unique pre-nuptial venue.

Sweepest Team - May Frances Cruz
Sweepest Team – May Frances Cruz

We made it to Brgy. Kayapa after getting drenched slight rainfall. We had a repeat of fun inducing activities with the kids there. We handed out slippers together with the toys that time.

At Lusod Community School - Poch Loresco
At Lusod Community School – Poch Loresco

We finally find ourselves heading home. Battling herds of cows which blocked out paths we can’t help but make fun of them with that aged joke: What type of animal’s ugly? ‘Cow’.

Path filled with Moo - Jerome Deliquina
Path filled with Moo – Jerome Deliquina

I’ve skipped the part of our trip from Baguio to Manila. It got ugly with all the unprecedented events that made us test what our priorities are. Tip #4: Always have a backup plan in getting home.

Utilize the online ticketing service from Victory liner because you’ll never know if there’s a pop up teacher’s convention that may ruin your chances of getting back to Manila on time.

The view up here - Gadz Sanchez
The view up here – Gadz Sanchez

For a few days I was stolen away from the ugliness of reality, the sadness that social media brings and the toll of being a responsible adult. It was all feel good moments and the joy of stepping out of your comfort zone to be a joy to someone else.

From a series of post climb misadventures to an unforgettable climb of the year, Mt. Ugo sure is one helluva hike that changed my outlook of life and reminded me to keep moving forward.

Written by Nine Andres

Nine's sort of a weekend warrior if you count Thursdays and Fridays as such. What's keeping her sane from her desk job is her family, her violet hair and her penchant for all things green -- in nature or otherwise.

What do you think?


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