We all have those days that just seem to dissolve into nothing. You want to finish things, but you can barely start. You want to be productive but useless surfing gets the best of you. You want to build better habits but the Internet has a nasty way of stealing life’s most important resource: time. I am bored and restless. I need a challenge. I need to feel pain in my body. I need to matter. My longing for yet another strange land grow especially strong in the “ber” months. Time to refresh that perspective and own the day.
After our Mt. Halcon climb, everyone just seems to have gotten so busy with whatever’s going on with life. I thought about going off to another challenging trek in the North or nearby islands but what does a woman do with her time? Ugh, I wish I could split myself into two: summon the one to stay behind this desk and make a living and command the other to scratch the itch of wanderlust.
And then I saw this flower garden they call “Little Amsterdam” because of its resemblance to the iconic image of the capital of the Netherlands. Search no more, I give you Mt. Kan-irag aka Sirao Peak. My friends have been here so many times over because of its accessibility and easy trail. It’s a good hiking destination for beginners or if one wants to train for more difficult climbs. Uh-huh. That word. Beginner. I never liked that word to be honest.
It’s amazing that it lies just a few kilometers from the bustling city. I didn’t expect it to be that convenient. So, with very little sleep on a rainy, thunderstorm(y) Saturday afternoon, the four of us found ourselves huddled in Sunny Hills, hailing habal-habal rides to take us to the jump-off of Sirao. See, that’s what I like about this crew, their ability to adapt rain or shine, functioning like unstoppable human beings. The last time we climbed together was exactly a year ago so this kind of served like a reunion climb.
Usually, a motorcycle can cater up to two people but since it’s been raining like crazy the whole day, rendering the road slippery, we settled to take our rides individually in the interest of safety. Oh boy was I thankful for calling that because every time that habal2x makes a turn on the curved sections of the road, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and utter a little prayer.
About thirty minutes later, we arrived at a house and logged our names while engaging chitchats with the locals. When we started trekking downhill at Budlaan falls, I didn’t even bother to warm up like I always do every climb because it’s only Sirao. Even kids can trek this thing. It’s almost like a walk in the park. Or so I thought.
Fifteen minutes through the trail and I could almost feel the familiar racing pulses, the tightening calf muscles, the profuse sweating on my forehead streaming down my face. Gaaahhh! Why do I always have to feel and look ugly every time? Can I just be a picture of a rad backpacker like the ones I see on TV and shiny outdoor blogs? Please?! Guess I must keep working on that.
On the best days, climbing – nay – trekking Sirao is not rocket science. But today is not a best day. The rain has eroded most of the soil tracks downhill so it became even more slippery to get to the falls. When we got to the river my heat sank. It is wider than I imagined, flowing swift and strong. The water was a turbid brown from the eroding banks. We waded, jumped in and stepped across it till we reached the falls. By now, I should have gained more insights into the risks of crossing rivers because hey, it’s not my first time but then I just can’t make peace with this irrational fear of falling through the deep swells not knowing how deep or shallow it could be, or how fast I could be swept away by the torrents.
So, there I was, barely managing to hop from one rock to another, tailing a few meters behind the pack. Then came this pivotal stage where we had to crawl up against a big rock. My friends have easily maneuvered their way through but I just stood there, confused. I had difficulty clambering because my fingers couldn’t find a solid cavity for support. My mind froze and I kept fidgeting and stalling. I was undergoing a lot of pressure from the judging eyes that were already sitting there at the top, staring down at me. I looked down the stream, moving listlessly over the rocks in its swift passage to the gorge. It’s not a refreshing sight and I was like “There’s no way that I could climb this up without a rope, else risk falling down these murky waters and die.” That’s basically how a phobic thinks.
It’s by far the most definitive moment of my climbing vocation. This is not some Hollywood flick where the protagonist solved and conquered the problems in the end. My knight without a shining armor Mike, lent his ever-supportive helping hands and pulled me up from this ordeal. Oh, he’s my husband by the way so he didn’t have much choice left, LOL! He cannot abandon his wife, can he? When your friends start telling you you’re almost there, it only means you’re all too tired and weak that you need motivation to keep going. After that, I mustered the courage to pick up the pieces of my broken pride and moved on.
We took a lot of breaks and downtimes and occasionally encountered steep slopes along the way amidst the trickling rain. From current affairs to trending topics and viral videos to Duterte’s war on drugs, we had fun and laughter until dusk slowly spread and covered the horizon. Suddenly, I was on that path again: trekking on a dark, rainy night. This is not what I had in mind but it’s alright, I just have to ignore the gloom and embrace the suck. Few moments later, we reached the campsite and saw another group of hikers. With the help of a tarp to shield us from the rain, we pitched our tents one by one and boiled water for coffee and soup. Ahhh…there’s nothing more comfortable than snugging to dry and fresh clothes after a drizzly climb. Top it up with coffee, Jollibee chicken with corn and crab soup on the side and you got yourself a blockbuster.
The next morning, we were greeted by a beautiful sunrise that we failed to capture. It’s like everyone slacked off and forgot their cameras and go-pros that I struggled to select decent photos of us. But Mike and I are selfish people. So selfish we’d rather keep the awesome experiences to ourselves than share it with others. Hahah, just kidding.
After breakfast, we broke camp and assaulted the peak. Nothing remarkable on the trail. It was something I’ve seen many times before. That is because all mountain ranges share the same topographical features in this side of the region. After 35 minutes of seemingly endless climb, I’ve set foot at the peak of Sirao. There we met more climbers preparing to descend. When they did, we stayed for an hour or so and basked ourselves in the glorious array of greens and browns, to reconnect with the spirit of all living things. Watching the bountiful land and cityscape of Cebu is a salve to my mind and a reminder to us all that we must protect what we have, cherish it.
We exited the mountain and walked straight to the habal2x junction and prepared to go home. En route, I looked back and remembered my prayers for a worthwhile trip. The rain never ceases to amaze me. It is the challenge that I always anticipate, that always keep me on my toes. I was schooled not scolded. I am humbled not humiliated. Sirao didn’t disappoint.