We had made it.
The guides had warned us it would be tricky. Indeed, as we made our way through the thick forest we began to see why. This wasn’t your ordinary run-of-the mill hike. Step by step, we journeyed higher, passing centuries old pine trees two meters thick until we came to a wall of green. We followed the trail on and we were engulfed by the lush verdant web of the Kalawitan
A sunbeam caught a drifting tendril of mist as it wisps through the forest undergrowth. As we fumbled in vain for our cameras, it flickered for a golden moment. A parrot cried in the distance. Onwards we pressed into the green. Alas we could not help but stop and stare at the occassional, massive grandmother trees. These giants of the forest stood clothed in vines, ferns and orchids, a mesmerizing sight to behold. It was a scene from Avatar, yet in the much more dazzling 3D of interactive reality. Several hikers gave one such tree a hug.
The begining of our hike was slow going as our group of a dozen adjusted ourselves to the incline. This was the first Trail Adventours climb of Mt. Kalawitan
. Our guides Darren and Bianca, did their best to reassure us that we could make it. Raymundo, our local guide, wasn’t so sure. Half way up, he expressed his concern that our pace was too slow to summit.
You see, Mount Kalawitan, despite its well hewn trails, is still a six hour climb to the summit, not to mention the 2 hour hike to the Apa baseccamp the day before. Evening can settle in with surprising swiftness in these densely forested mountains, and wherever a climber finds himself at 12:00, he must turn back.
We rallied ourselves for the next half of the climb.
Incredibly, it was the first nature hike ever for Manila participant William. Like many of us, sweat was coursing from his brow. The group rallied behind him, giving him tips and encouraging on. Some of us had not brought enough water or food, yet bottles and snacks were shared without hesitation. We patted each other on the back, and set off into the steepest part of the climb. The trail became so thick and inclined that at some places it felt we were using our hands more than our feet to pull our selves up, grasping a tree limb here, a vine there, or– the helping hand of a fellow climber.
And then, before we knew it, we broke through the dense cover of trees, like that golden ray of light, and found ourselves in an open and level plain. The undulating peaks of mountain province could be seen all around shrouded in clouds.
Raymundo smiled broadly.
We had made it!