For Easter Saturday me and the guys got invited to join Emm, a fellow travel blogger from the Philippines (http://emmthepinaytrekker.wordpress.com), and her friends to climb Mt. Bulusan. 1565 meters high, it is the southernmost volcano in Luzon and one of the big landmarks of the Bicol Region, seen from almost anywhere. The volcano is one of the active ones in the Philippines with its last big eruption in February 2011.
With a climb promised to be more challenging than our assault on Mt. Pinatubo and some overnight camping, the trip sounded like another great adventure and we were glad to join.
A lazy afternoon hosted by friends
We left early afternoon with Emm and three friends of hers who came down all the way from Manila. Our first stop was at Emm’s friend Marjee, who hosted us at her parent’s house for the afternoon. They have a beautiful house in the city of Bulusan and we were warmly welcomed by Marjee’s dad, who is the former mayor of Bulusan. Taken me background in political science, I couldn’t help but chatting a bit with him about local and international politics. Very interesting. Before stacking up on supplies and trail food, we were taken to a beautiful little farm like compound, which Marjee’s family owns. It featured a lot of big palm trees and a couple of clear fish ponds. It was very pristine and we were invited for some fresh coconut juice – very tasty and especially refreshing at that time of the day. We had a relaxed afternoon but after a while it was time to head to Bulusan Lake, our base camp before starting our hike.
Setting up camp at Bulusan Lake
We arrived with our way overloaded tricycle and pitched our hammocks at the Bulusan Lake campsite. Besides getting our permits and the guide for the trek arranged, we didn’t do much since the plan was to get up at 2 am the next day to start the hike up to the summit.
The alarm clock rang too early and it felt like we had just gotten to sleep. Strengthened with coffee and some toast, we started the hike. It was pitch black out with the jungle path only illuminated by the light of our headlamps. The hike soon became steep, rocky and slippery and the rain sure didn’t make hiking easier. After about 3 hours we arrived at the second camp. We had a short rest and joined another, bigger group from Manila going up. That part of the trek was the worst. It was steep, muddy, narrow and overgrown, making the climb a real challenge for the body and mind.
After the strenuous assault to the summit, we had finally made it. We were on top of Mt. Bulusan, 1565 meters high and the wind was blowing incredibly hard. The climate and scenery up there were just unreal. Clouds blowing by and into our faces, a moon-like scenery around us and everything covered in thick mist. We still got some pictures taken and had fun up there. And after a while it even cleared up a little and we were rewarded with some beautiful sights of the surrounding area. It was great and at that point we felt that the exhausting climb was sure worth it.
Hitting rock bottom
The descent was yet another story. Hoping for another way than the way we came up, we were disappointed and had to rather slide down the muddy path than actually hike. It was insane but we safely made it to the first camp. After resting a bit, the guys and I wanted to head to our base camp to grab some food and pack the things we had left there. That part seemed way easier from what we had experienced before but then it happened and things changed from one split second to the other. I stepped on a tree root and twisted my ankle badly. I had injuries with torn ligaments before during my active basketball career and the thought of those instantly popped up in my head. I prayed that it would just be a minor sprain and no ligament injury, please..not again. I was in shock. After a bit of recovery, I tried to walk again and it felt not too bad. We made some progress but after a bit it got worse and worse. Chris had to cut me a walking stick and I had to take it very slowly. Because it happened early, I still had to make quiet a distance before reaching civilization. The pain was agonizing and keeping focused and walking took a great toll of me. It was an enormous mental effort to make it to the camp and I was completely exhausted when I made it.
My spirits were at an all-time low when I made it to the hospital in Sorsogon. I had all kinds of thoughts going through my head including the possibility of having to fly home. The examination wasn’t satisfying as nobody could tell me if my ligaments were ripped or not.
To put things in a nutshell, I went to another doctor a couple of days later, got another rather unsatisfying diagnose and got myself an aircast brace. After three days, I decided to hit the road again and continue traveling. Glenda, who we met during our stay at the Hayahay Surf Camp, hosted us three during that difficult time. She also helped in arranging the doctors appointments and a lot of other things. She was like a shining light in that dark moment of mine and I am not sure if things would have turned out the way the did without her. I know I should have given myself some more rest, but I wanted to keep on traveling and so far it’s been ok. However, I am very restricted in my movements and have to be super careful. I am hoping that the healing will progress without complications and that I will be able to be 100% active soon. Please wish me luck.
Last thoughts …
The trek up Mt. Bulusan was a crazy experience and it showed me how quickly things can change. I went from cheerful, happy and full of plans to rock bottom and depressed with worst case scenarios awaiting me. And that from one moment to the other. In one of the previous articles I mentioned how quickly things can change but this was the absolute extreme. I am actually lucky since I am already able to walk again. The definite learning of this incident is to really try to enjoy every moment of your life. Things can change so quickly that it is not worth getting caught up in negative thoughts and sorrows. There is way worse out there and it can hit you out of nowhere, anytime. I know it is easier said than done, but this incident was surely a lesson for me.