Monday, February 1, 2010
Mount Darala, Philippines
This was my first time visiting the Far East and I wasn't going to leave without doing at least one hike. So, I decided to tackle Mount Darala, the highest peak in the Calamianes group of islands in Northern Palawan, Philippines. I hired three tour guides/bodyguards, invited a French guy I met in Krystal Lodge, and my cousin who was my translator for this trip. With the company I had, I felt more secured knowing that the chances of getting kidnapped or lost was least likely to happen. However, we did get lost in the beginning since the tour guide hasn't done this trail in 8 years and much has changed since then.
The hike started in the valley where it was hot and muggy. I passed through some villages with plantation fields and nipa huts. From this point on, the trail kept going up and up, and I found myself being physically tested by a trail classified as a "minor climb". Everyone but me seemed to be doing okay as we scrambled up the hill. What made this hike ultimately different is that my backpack, water, and camera was in the burden of someone else's back. My bodyguard offered to carry them for me, and since I was the only one struggling, I let him. Many times, I kept on getting tangled with thorny plants along the trail. This unknown plant became a nuisance and the tour guide would later pave the way by tying these thorny branches out of the way. I guess they do have high respect for nature here, for in Hawaii, we would probably cut these annoying weeds.
As we elevated ourselves higher up the mountains, the panoramic rewards began to come into view. We were catching glimpses of all sides of the island with the addition of other islets in the distance. It was a hot and clear day, but the air was actually cooler and breezy as we were no longer protected by nature's canopies in the valley. The barren landscape from a previous forest fire was evident as we neared the summit. This area is normally lush and green during the wet season but we settled and took delight in its golden attributes. The frontal view of the final stretch up the peak was very intimidating and it appeared too steep to climb. But it's actually climbable even with the absence of foliage and trees to hang onto in case one falls. Small steps were carved into the ground which made it easier for us to push forward. The views were spectacular and I'll leave it up the photos to describe its beauty.