"When we were trekking Akiki Trail last weekend, I was mumbling, 'bakit ba ako nagpapakahirap ng ganito kung meron namang Ambangeg Trail? (why do I have to suffer this when there's an easier Ambangeg trail)' Oh, Akiki Trail, you're so worthy to be called 'the killer trail of Pulag'. Tawangan Trail, on the other hand, is totally different, simply mesmerizing."This was my FB status upon returning home from our 2-day Pulag Traverse via Akiki-Tawangan. It felt so great, to experience both the challenge and beauty of Mt. Pulag's trails in just one go. As my mentor has pointed out, Mt. Pulag Traverse via Akiki-Tawangan is one of the best hiking experiences in the Philippines, but certainly not for the weak (should you do it in just two days).
I've accomplished and seen the greatness of the summit of Mt. Pulag via Ambangeg trail, and it was definitely a very rewarding experience. It was like seeing a piece of heaven on earth, truly memorable. But then, that wonderful summit is just one part of my Pulag Dream. I dare say that experiencing the other trails, especially the "killer trail", will make my dream a whole.
More than a year after experiencing Pulag for the first time, Al, a friend from Sabit-Sabit Mountaineers group, invited me to join their Mt. Pulag climb. It was originally an Akiki-Ambangeg Traverse but soon changed to Akiki-Tawangan as we were inspired by Doc Gideon's successful 2-day traverse of Mt. Pulag using that trail. Two great trails in one go?!! Who wouldn't want? There's no reason for me to turn down such a wonderful opportunity to finally climb not one, but two interesting trails of Mt. Pulag.
Saturday - May 4, 2013
"Akiki trail at last!" said my psyche while on a ride bound for the jump-off of Akiki trail. It was 8:00 in the morning, positive vibe was lingering, kept everyone at high despite the long winding ride on the mountainous Benguet. And the sky, it looked so great, an awesome hike was ahead of us for sure.
Hiking up Mt. Pulag via Akiki Trail is one of the more challenging (in terms of tiring assault) I've done in my entire hiking career, seriously. So worthy of its nickname "the Killer Trail" of Mt. Pulag. It's no joke (lalo na kung gagawin mong day hike), it'll suck all your strength, gonna test your patience to the fullest, and will push you to your very limit. Not that I'm discouraging you to try this trail, but rather giving you some hints that Akiki is not for the unprepared, impatient and weak. So if Akiki trail crossed your mind, prepare accordingly.It was 8:30 AM when we arrived at the jump-off of Akiki Trail. I was feeling nothing but pure excitement until I noticed a sign board which I think was quite intimidating. It says "Difficult Route".
|Upon arriving at the jump-off, we were welcomed by a 'quite intimidating' sign board.|
Ignoring the signboards, we walked up the concrete steps to the visitors' center to assemble, register and pay the necessary fees before finally submitting ourselves to the long walk of pain. When I checked the logbook, it was very obvious (and I'm not really surprised) that not many take this trail compared to Ambangeg Trail (or the Tourist Trail of Mt. Pulag).
|Akiki Visitors' Center|
|through the pine trail|
|strong ladies taking the Akiki Trail|
|just one more final descent to Edet River|
Akiki trail can be partitioned into three stages: first is the jump-off to Edet River which can be classified to easy to moderate; second is from Edet river up to Marlboro country which for me is the most challenging stage; then lastly, the mossy forest part, which runs from Marlboro up until you reach the grassy summit area. Water source exist in every stage of Akiki trail, so hydration is really not a problem.As we were taking the trail towards Edet river, midday sun caught up. This of course brought extra challenge to the supposed easy to moderate trail which we took for an hour and a half. Right before we met the final descent to Edet River at around 10:30 AM, a magnificent view of the gorging river was seen. Sounds of rage were also heard, as if forewarning us that pursuing would only mean great torment. But ironically, we've become more excited upon seeing Edet river.
|approaching Edet River|
|beside the waters of Edet that was cold and raging, we had our first major break. Lunch time it is!|
It was as steep as the Pyramids of Giza, and each step we take was agonizingly difficult. I can remember how slowly we dragged ourselves over the pine forest trail just to reach the higher ground. Every 5 steps would mean 5 minutes rest. It was around 12 noon so the cooling effect of the high altitude was totally negated. Patience was tested to the fullest and our limits was pushed to the farthest extent. I felt great stress on both my legs while dealing on this trail, I almost gave up, buti na lang kinaya ko.
|mukha ng paghihirap|
|pine forest trail of Akiki, though challenging, was really beautiful|
We only had three major stops in the entire assault since we target to reach the Akiki campsite before the sun bows down. One in the campsite known by many as the Helipad, another in a place under tall pine trees where we probably had a 30 min break (I myself managed to take a power nap here, hehe), last was at Marlboro Country where the second water source is located. All in all, we took the challenging Akiki assault for 4 hours.
|pine trees overload|
|a place to take a rest at Marlboro Country.|
From Marlboro, a short steep upward trail led us to the third stage of Akiki, which is the mossy forest trail. Just like any other mossy forest, what I saw in Akiki was magical, a forest that's so alive. However, rain poured the moment we entered the forest. I was feeling so cold and damp, thus cannot fully focus on appreciating and taking snapshots of the forest's beauty.
|Akiki's mossy forest trail, the third and final stage before you enter the grassy summit area.|
|just one final rest before hitting the last few meters to the summit area|
|almost at the saddle camp|
After the quick dinner prepared by friends, I entered our tent and finally rested my weary body. It has been a very busy day for us at Akiki, and I know that more awaits tomorrow. Lights off.
Sunday - May 5, 2013
I woke up early in the morning to prepare everyone's breakfast. Many stars were twinkling as the velvet sky was so clear. A promise that a sea of clouds will show up to steal many hearts.
However, that morning, I realized something that's too unfortunate. I grabbed my cam to prepare it for some morning shots at the campsite, but I found out that it isn't working anymore (it did not survive Pulag's cold). That's right, my camera sadly met its end at the Saddle campsite of Mt. Pulag. sighs
As much as I want to whine on this ill-fated event, I kept myself busy and reserved my emotions for later. That's why beyond the Saddle Camp, all photos are not mine.
Before the sun bursts its light upon the dark sky and over the sea of clouds, we started to break the camp, munch quickly our breakfast, prepare to move out for the summit. The time was 5:30 in the morning.
Since I have witnessed already the beauty of Pulag's summit at the dawn, I was not too keen on pursuing it that morning. I, together with 3others, volunteered to stay at the campsite to wrap things up, while others went on to chase the sunrise. Clearing at the summit, however, lasted only for a few minutes. While clearing our camp, a huge chunk of clouds came and eaten the whole summit area. It was so damn bad for the first timers, sea of clouds turned aloof that morning.
Then at 6AM, the remaining 4 of us followed the rest of the team on to the summit.
|Sunrise at Mt. Pulag|
|Foggy summit when we arrived. No sea of clouds for the day|
|it was only our team who descended Mt. Pulag via Tawangan Trail that day.|
|Some people call the rolling grassland of Mt. Pulag the playground of the gods.|
|one last group shot before entering the enchanting mossy forest of Tawangan trail|
Tawangan Trail is one of the four main trails of Mt. Pulag located at the north. It features an amazing mossy forest, filling up at least 90% of the entire trail. Evidently, the ecosystem in this side of Mt. Pulag is vibrant and alive. Also, the mountaineers' creeping little friend— the limatiks— shows dominance in this trail.It's a total different world upon entering the mossy forest of Tawangan trail. Green fuzzy moss covers almost every surface in the forest, it's so amazing. I fell into silence most of the time. (arrgghh. I'm out of adjectives now)
|trekking inside the mossy forest of Tawangan trail is one of the best experiences in the cordilleras.|
|enchanted forest it is|
|Tawangan trail is one of the mossiest trail I ever encountered.|
After 6 hours, we finished already the day's trek. It was a pleasant surprise 'cos I expected a much longer trail. Our descent ran from 7AM until we reached Tawangan Village at around 1PM. awesome!
|walking at the final stretch of Tawangan Trail|
|Tawangan Village marks the finish line of our two-day traverse.|
Doc Gideon was right. Upon completing Mt. Pulag Traverse via Akiki-Tawangan, you'll realize that it is the best Pulag experience. It was so worth it. My Pulag Dream was greatly fulfilled.
2-day Mt. Pulag via Akiki-Tawangan - Success!
I owe this wonderful experience to Sabi-Sabit Mountaineers, especially to Al Veloria who spearheaded the event. You guys rock! I also thank everyone who joined the event: Pong, Mam Joy, Mam Tanya, Mam Ron, Sir Genisis, Arj, Dawn, and Sir Kevin.
Special thanks also to Sir Kevin and Dawn for letting me use their photos.
I must mention too that in this hike, I found my special someone.
For more info regarding our budget and itinerary, please follow this link: Pulag Akiki-Tawangan itinerary.