30 January 2006

Camping out at Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal

Things here were turning rather routinary. Go to work and back, then if I feel up to it, I would haul the things hidden in closets and boxes and sort out those headed for the trash and keep the deserving ones. Still got lots to clean up, but when I get back from the office at 8 or 9PM, I already feel tired most of the time so I end up watching TV. I needed a break.

So when some friends invited me to go camping with them in Tanay, Province of Rizal, I only gave it a few minutes of thought before deciding to go with them. It reminded me of the times my friends in college (which includes Tina, now my wife) would go to the Mountain Provinces to visit the home of one of our peers and spend the night in the mountains. We did not have camping gear though. We would build a bonfire and chat under the stars, then head off to the house to rest.

Plus, my wife's Christmas gift of a year's subscription to National Geographic was also an inspiration to see the great outdoors again. It's been quite a while.


We were destined for Daraitan, the name of the sparsely-populated town at the foot of the mountains. Our trip would lead us to a camping site alongside the river.

There were six of us in the team. We converged in the corner of Buendia and EDSA, where a number of groups geared for camping with huge bags in tow were also milling about. The bus and jeepney rides took most of the morning. We arrived in the Tanay market at past 10, and everybody was in good spirits that we would be able to have lunch on time. What we did not anticipate was, Daraitan was so far flung a place that there wasn't exactly a lot of people going to and fro (we learned from the locals that on an average day there are only two rides: one in the morning and one in the afternoon). And so we waited. And munched on snacks. And waited. And munched on snacks. And waited. Until it was already half past lunchtime. At which point, the driver promptly warmed up the engine and off we went, a half hour earlier than the scheduled departure.

Another mountaineering group arrived at 11 and they disappeared for a while. They must have known that such is the transportation case in that area. At any rate, this group rode in the same jeep and we were comforted by the fact that we will have company along the way. Some rode on top of the jeepney as an added thrill to the trip.

The cemented pavement eventually gave way to rough roads as the buildings and houses were gradually replaced by trees and bush. I occasionally struck conversation with the local sitting next to me and he mentioned that the jeep is supposed to cross a river but since it has been raining for the past few days, the river has swollen to an unmanageable size so we will need to take a banca ride to cross. When we arrived at the riverbank, it was indeed still not permitting jeepneys to pass through. So take a boat we did, and hiked the rest of the way to town.

We dropped by the local municipal hall to register (with a fee of 5 pesos each). At this time the other mountaineering group of over 10 people were aware of our presence and they were glad to have additional company. They were, in fact, very friendly and eventually helped us along the way where there are boulders to climb and streams to cross.

And so we started on our journey, with majority of the mountaineers keeping a comfortable lead and a couple of their members lagging behind, serving as the tail (in case somebody lags behind, needs help, or drop something, they can call out to the others). There was a clearly-defined pathway, so we wouldn't exactly get lost even when left to our own devices. But it's always good to have company when in unfamiliar territory. It soon dawned to us that the path is frequently used as we occasionally crossed paths with some of the locals, some even with horses carrying people or various necessities.

We had our first 5-minute break near the town proper, with a breath-taking view of the winding river below (see topmost photo). The second 5-minute break was an even more pleasant one. As we rounded a bend in the narrow path with trees to our left and the river to our right, we were greeted by an open valley with a breathtaking view of a riverbank with the mountains beyond. Huge stone formations abound, a couple of which were quite flat on top that you can climb onto it and enjoy the scenery from there.

The other campers were already taking their rest while the others walked about, picking up a few roundish stones and throwing a couple into the river that skidded off the turbulent water surface a couple of times before finally sinking.

At this time we were quite tired and hungry (we only had potato chips, bananas and an odd assortment of tidbits to munch on for lunch because the driver kept saying we were leaving soon and so we stayed put in the jeepney) and were clearly enjoying this extended break that we were thinking of staying there and set-up camp already. The other group started hauling their backpacks and motioned us that the trek will be resuming.

Sensing that we would rather stay put, they said that the campsite was already quite near.
What's the terrain like?
Roughly the same that we have already passed through. We will, however, be crossing streams so it is advisable to switch to slippers.
How deep is it?
Knee high.
Come on! It will be fun!

Shall we continue the trek, or stay put and pitch camp? To be continued...
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