Mount Pulag: Sea of Clouds (Summit hike)

When we woke up we heard murmurs of others in our surroundings. More had joined to pitch their tents. We set off to our 500m hike to the summit to catch the sunset.

We stumbled out of our tents at 4am and made our way towards the summit, against the forceful, howling wind. It wasn’t too long before we ascended. Earth was growing bright. The sea of clouds could be seen. Happy hikers aplenty.

sea of clouds 
Sunrise at Mount Pulag!
I love so many pictures from this series, it was hard to choose.

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Mount Pulag, Philippines – Akiki Trail (3D 2N)

Our humble abode for the night
All ready!

What I liked about Mount Pulag was the fact that they conducted a talk with the hikers before we started our hike. They highlighted to us the importance of keeping Mount Pulag clean, and not to litter or wash our things along any water bodies because the residents around the area relied on Mount Pulag as a watershed for its clean water supply.

 
Looking at the map of the Akiki trail 🙂
The first part of the trail, approaching the Eddet River
love the sound of the rushing waters
The climb was alright before the river, but after the Eddet River it was uphill all the way. Up, up, up. Took in the beauty of everything around me. The pine forest and its needle-like leaves, the cool breeze tickling my ears. The blue dragonfly that whizzed past my shoes. Strands of thoughts weaved in and out of my head. Work, school, colleagues. I sincerely tried to shake these thoughts away and focused on the surroundings instead.



All ready to immerse in the beauty of Mother Nature 😊

My hiking guide shows us the trail route. All hikers have to pay and hire a local guide.

“Many locals are trying to convert the forest into agricultural land for commercial farming. To minimise the conversion of the forest, the only way is to give them another source of $$$ income – tour guiding.”

Watershed area that provides water to the community and dams. That’s why rubbish is not allowed to be left there. Everyone is advised to bring down garbage, and to wash their things away from water sources.

I love the calming sounds of nature – the rhythm of the rushing waters, and the gentle pitter-patter of the rain.

I heard the sound of a motorbike in the distance, except it had been going on for awhile. Where was the route for a motorbike, and why has that motor sound remained for some time? I asked Kyle, our guide. He tells us that that’s the sound of a chainsaw. I was surprised. I learnt that illegal logging meant lifetime imprisonment as imposed by the government. They were allowed only to saw the trees for their own uses. Buffalo tree, sticky sap…
 
Almost there. The guide hiding water in the middle of the grassland. LOL
Apparently they do this so they have extra water here (for cooking etc), hidden in their secret spots.
We reached the base camp at about 5pm. Before long it started raining and we hid in our tents, already set up by our dear porters and guide. In the drizzle and the cold we were greeted by a surprise knock on our tents – dinner, served! Room service! We exclaimed excitedly. Yummy hot rice with corned beef. In the cold and after the long walk, everything tasted like sweet relief. I finished Persepolis 1 and started on Persepolis 2 while Jolene blabbered on (LOL). Eventually we fell asleep.

Room service despite the rain!!! Actually I loved the rice – the somewhat hard texture of the rice, and the treat of eggs, maggie noodle on 1 day, the corned beef (YUMMYYYYY) and tuna!

Day 2:
We awoke at 8am and set off at 9.30am.

 

 

The vegetation took a gradual shift with an increase in altitude, from the pine forest to the mossy forest, and at the end, we emerged to the grassland – my favourite!

 

we got incredibly excited waking up to cows strutting outside our tents, and squealed way too early in the morning. HAHAHHA

random cow

 

So happy. So so happy. We reached at about 11.30am to a vast field of grassland. There was nobody but us! I wanted to roll around in the sunshine. I wanted to shout with joy. I did. I wanted to lie on the grass and read my book while soaking in the warmth of the rays. It was not so practical, and though I loved the cool breeze I crept back into the tent instead. We had all the time in the world, in the middle of this vast field. My usual day had barely begun but here, in this time and in this moment, I relished in the joy of not having to do anything. I had a blank space of time for myself, for the rest of the day, to do nothing. Absolutely nothing, if I wished! Stripped of all of my responsibilities, the large sacks I burdened myself with back home. So happy. I finished the rest of Persepolis 2, made a mental note to read up on the Iranian Revolution / Iraq-Kuwait conflict / Iraq-Iran & Iran-Kuwait relations and fell asleep to the lazy afternoon heat.

Sadly this photo reminds me of the timelapse video of our guide setting up the tent that we didn’t receive 😦

copying our guides’ pose, which we thought was genius

yummy!

The descent down the Ambangeg trail was pretty straightforward. After that, we made our way back to Manila and stayed at DG Budget Hotel, aka Salem Domestic Guesthouse for a night. At $31sgd a night for a private room for two of us, it was reasonable and comfortable after a long hike. Very near the airport too!

That night, we bought lots of polveron from 7-11 (hahaha) and I bought more at the airport the next day.

Thank you, Mount Pulag! You were beautiful and I’m blessed for the experience!

Mount Pulag, Philippines – Akiki Trail


Mount Pulag, Philippines.

4 days 3 nights – I had only this much time in my March holidays, and I managed to squeeze this in. Hurray 🙂 Thankfully Jolene could take the same leave. What’s for next year I wonder? Hmm.

It could have been a relatively easy, scenic route to the summit, with the Ambangeg-Ambangeg trail. But Cz and I read up on this a year ago, and unsurprisingly he wanted the Akiki trail, and we had read up a little on that. We had gone for Mt Batulao and Pico de Loro instead for that trip, but the Akiki trail stuck on my mind nonetheless. No regrets! Of course, on hindsight, once successfully summitted, the pain is but a faint memory.

Crew!

We landed in Manila. Explored some sights, such as Fort Santiago.

In the evening, we headed to our meet-up place in Cubao. We experienced some drama with the company we had booked with. 



Arcobaleno Trailoutours. We had made arrangements to join the group tour, and had made our down payment. Only the night before (or two), they told us that they didn’t have enough people who signed up, and wanted to cancel the group tour. At this point, after much negotiation, we went for the private tour. Overall, it took some drama, time and negotiation messages to settle everything.



in between 



In the afternoon and evening, we walked around Intramuros and Mall of Asia. The most memorable thing about that day was drinking the chocolate slushee at Krispy Kreme. Yummy! Also tried Jolibee and dinner was not very memorable. We reached the Victory Liner at Pasay at 9pm. Caught the bus to Baguio and reached at about 3am. I tried sleeping on the jerky bus (which had wifi! Pretty decently fast one too!) and we reached the final station, our stop – Baguio city. My brain was not working well in the wee hours of the morning, but Jolene problem-solved and called Jerry. Had some rice with meat and potatoes before taking the shared van towards Kabayan, Benguet, the jump-off point. Showered at the ranger station and ate lunch, before leaving at about 12.30pm.

Our cook and our guide/porter, which we hired at the registration centre. 🙂 Awesome bunch!

Sea of clouds!

 

10. Cyprus / End

Route in summary (15 days): 
Athens, Greece –> (AegeanAir) Amman, Jordan –> Madaba, Jordan –> Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan –> Petra (Wadi Musa), Jordan –> Wadi Rum, Jordan –> Aqaba, Jordan –> BORDER CROSSING –> Eilat, Israel –> Rimonim, Israel/West Bank –> Jerusalem, Israel –> Bethlehem, West Bank –> Tel Aviv, Israel

Cyprus. Seaside town. Coastal resort. I am highly unlikely to visit Cyprus again; I say this not only because it is not my thing (hanging out on a beach doing nothing) but also because I’m probably not going to take a direct flight there, with the many coastal resort alternatives around. 

I arrived in Larnaca and had about a 10 hour layover. I chose it on purpose, paying some additional sum, instead of the 2 hours one, because this was my chance to explore. Explore a country (?) I had no geographical imagination about (but now I do, it’s no longer going to bug at my curiosity). It’s basically like… Greece, because I went to Larnaca. A CS-er who sent me a message said he lived on the Turkish side, and I didn’t understand. Only after some Googling and chat with a shopkeeper did I realise the territorial struggle in Cyprus, between the Turks and the Greeks. The wall. Checkpoints and difficulties in accessibility. I think there’s some UN peacekeepers at the border, or maybe that’s in the past. 

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It was raining a little, rainy season explains the off-season. I sat in a shop and read my book, ate some fries. Walked around the beach for awhile, looking at the little seashell souvenirs. Then I packed my bag and went back to the airport.

This December trip has been such a meaningful one. I feel like I’ve gained a deeper insight into the Israel-Palestine conflict, and a glimpse of how it affects the people surrounding this issue. What would you do, how would you feel and respond if you were in their shoes? It’s really hard to say. Such complications. I loved that we met so many wonderful people along the way, who were willing to engage us in conversation, to share their understandings with us, their interests, to expand my mind a little further about history, wars, being in the army, religion, and youtube channels / questions i’ve never wondered about prior.

Thankful, and incredibly blessed! Thank you to the travellers I met (Natalie, Amritsar guy) who sparked my desire to visit Jerusalem / Petra, Papa for Greece. 🙂




9 dec – land at 2am – amman
10 dec – dead sea
11 dec – amman (to petra)
12 dec – petra
13 dec – petra (to aqaba to eilat)
14 dec – wadi rum (?)
15 dec – eilat (skydive?)
16 dec – timna park (OPTIONAL)
17 dec – travel to jerusalem
18 dec – jerusalem
19 dec – jerusalem
20 dec – bethlehem
21 dec – tel aviv (lyn pack for airport)
22 dec – tel aviv (night – lyn reach airport at 620am)
23 dec – me fly to cyprus -> athens -> abu dhabi -> sg 

9. Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv.
Tel Aviv is this
Tel Aviv is this
Tel Aviv is this!
 
For me, Tel Aviv is Buzi swooping us away on an unexpected night of being high on cheers, and edible bbq sausages
rooftop bbq at 2am.
Oh right, and as Oren had pointed out, this.
Vastly different from Jerusalem indeed, I picture Oren shaking his head briefly.
Tel Aviv is clean, structured. Developed, I find myself thinking. Like Singapore. There is something familiar about Tel Aviv in that some parts of it were highly reminiscent of Singapore.
 
But of course there were other parts I liked about Tel Aviv that Singapore didn’t have. I liked the fact that the beach was so near to them – it was in the city! It felt like people could just come here to chill, they had so many places to take quiet walks with their friends. The beach was at their doorstep. I mean we have ECP etc but it’s so far, it feels so far. The beach here is like an hour away or something. So many people were hanging out there, not in beach clothes you know, just, hanging out. I am so envious, I would love this. People walking their dogs, taking slow walks. Slow dips perhaps in the summer. The sea breeze.
 
 
These pictures were taken along Jaffa Port, where many people simply stood and enjoyed the breeze
I was envious, I would love to have something like that (climate)
 
And the bicycle lanes, loved it. Such a great idea. We need to move towards this, we do!!!!! More bicycle lanes for us please.
 
And of course pretty graffiti, and flea markets. Very Europe. 
 
 

 

some proper food on the last days (lol)


 
And well, Israel flag hanging all around. I see it so often, I can’t help but think that they do have a strong sense of national pride. We hang our flags, but particularly during national day. This was like.. at the shops, on the cars, at the front of their houses, even part of the housing decor. Though I have to say the design of their flag and the soothing blue and white makes for a pretty decor. ‘Well when all the surrounding countries hate us, we only have ourselves.’ 

still my strongest memory of Tel Aviv:

 

 




Other notes that emerged in our conversations: Startups in Israel. Waze, etc. Einstein. More startups than Silicon Valley? Education system where they believe in their views. 

 

bread factory excursion. Hot and yummy bread (challah) is AWESOME!

 

 

huuuuge oven