Lately I have been publishing mostly bookworm related stuff so today I am going to break the monotony by looking back at the year that was in terms of travelling, exploration and adventures. Although it is already midway through the month but I believe it is never too late to write a new piece about 2018 (just another one in a growing pile I surmise). Unlike the previous years, 2018 went a little too slow; adventures and travels were very few and far in between. Nevertheless, here is a throwback to my 2018 travels.

This recap series will come in trio. It was supposed to be short but then I kind of got hooked writing and before I knew it, I have written a thousand words already, just for this part which relates my hiking adventures for the year. Over this series, I will also be highlighting three firsts I had in 2018 apropos traveling. I hope you enjoy reading! For the second and third parts of the series, please click on the links provided below:

2018 Travel Recap: A Year of Firsts and Reflections (Part II)
2018 Travel Recap: A Year of Firsts and Reflections (Part III)

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Off-the-beaten paths often lead us to the most unexpected and most wonderful experiences.

Mossy Getaway(s) and First Overnight Climb

When I wrote my 2018 travel resolutions, I planned to climb at least one mountain every month, carrying on with the momentum I gained in 2017, a year where I successfully scaled about 30 mountains. With this in mind, I automatically clicked “Interested” to all climbing events I saw in social media. But it was all for naught because in spite of the number of climbing events I was interested in, I was never fully able to muster enough energy to get up from my bed. I even backed out of what was supposed to be my first climbing event of the year (Zambales’ Mt. Pimmayong) at the very last minute. I ended up January just climbing mountains in my imagination. This was the same case I had at the start of February. I was, unexpectedly, going back to the sedentary lifestyle which governed most of my four-year stay in Manila.

Everything changed when a friend messaged me and invited me to join her group’s exploration of Batangas’ Malipunyo mountain range. I was kind of hesitant at first but eventually warmed up to the idea; I was climbing with a friend after all, besides it is high time already for me to stretch my legs. Finally, on the last weekend of February (and after numerous “Interested” clicks), I found myself on the trail of my first mountain for the year.

To read more about my Malipunyo mountain range adventure, click here.

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What made the climb very memorable is that it is on a mossy trail, not quite like the verdant mossy trails of Mt. Pulag but teeming with flora and fauna nevertheless. It was a delight trudging down the misty and mossy trails of Malipunyo because the verdure resonated with so much life. The climb was even made more memorable by the new friends I have met on the trail. My great adventure at Malipunyo was immediately followed by another great adventure on another mossy trail, that of the ominous-sounding Mt. Purgatory.

Now, the mossy trails of Mt. Purgatory is the one that really gives me the creeps. Mossy forests like that of Mt. Purgatory undeniably possess an ethereal beauty that is captivating, but apparently it doesn’t appeal to me that way. I cannot overcome the eeriness that obscures the lichen wrapped trees and the moss carpeted trail. As I scampered down dark mossy trails of Mt. Purgatory, I can’t escape the notion that the trees might suddenly come alive. Haha! I do have a playful imagination.

The Mt. Purgatory traverse is actually composed of six mountains, starting with Mt. Pack. It is also the highest of the six mountains. The first six to eight kilometers of the trek was pleasant because it was away from the mossy forest. The mossy trail started at the base of Mt. Pack and was endless until it ended near Mt. Bakian, the fourth mountain in the traverse. Thankfully, I was able to survive the 20-km marathon trail of Mt. Purgatory but unfortunately, due to our late start, we skipped climbing Mt. Komkompol.

To read more about my Mt. Purgatory adventure, click here.

When I look back at 2018, it was never my intention to climb mossy forests because of my aversion of them. However, without design, all the mountains I climbed in 2018 were mossy forests. Two weeks after climbing Mt. Purgatory, I found myself yet again on a mossy trail, now in the Central Plains where a towering mountain is looming. Mt. Arayat is the tallest mountain in Pampanga and can be prominently seen when traveling from Manila to Baguio. Like an anomaly, it is a strange sight in a flat area of farmlands.

The mystical Mt. Arayat is another major hike, and a very fabled one at that. It showed a different type of mossy forest. It is not as verdant as that of Mt. Malipunyo and Mt. Purgatory, but it was still fascinating nevertheless. It was a tough climb with its very steep assaults; it was still rewarding, and I can proudly say that I have crossed out another mountain in my list. A period of procrastination followed my Mt. Arayat climb and it wasn’t until late May that I was again on the trails of a new mountain. This time around, I went out of Luzon.

I saw a post by my good friend Saul; he was planning to do a trip to Marinduque with the ultimate goal of climbing Mt. Malindig, the highest mountain in the province. It was a chance for me to travel after a period of procrastination so I joined him; this was supposed to be his solo travel though haha. Even without a decent itinerary drawn up, we jumped into the void and simply followed through with our instinct. It ended up being my first do-it-yourself climb in over the year (the last one was Mt. Pulag).

Climbing Mt. Malindig was more pleasurable compared to the other mountains I climbed in 2018. The only challenge was that the first phase of the trail is an open trail. For nearly two hours, we had to suffer the vengeful heat. It was a relief when we entered the mossy forest. Mt. Malindig has its own version of mossy forest although its vegetation is a thicker version of Mt. Malipunyo. The best part of the climb was when we saw a live nest with a live egg. Our guide, whose power of observation matches that of an eagle, pointed it to us. It was my first time seeing one and I was humbled by the experience! The picture I took is still one of the best ones I ever had. Mother nature is simply amazing.

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Like a spirit, the mist obscuring Mt. Arayat is slowly rising from the mountain’s thick vegetation.
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I was blessed to have witnessed such a wonderful sight at Mt. Malindig.

The week following our Mt. Malindig shindig (oh the pun!), Saul and I found ourselves yet again on the trails of another mossy forest. With Saul’s friend, Ara, we were on the trail of the mystical Mt. Napulauan of Ifugao (yeah, it was a south to north trip for Saul and I). I am particularly keen on this climb because it was going to be my first overnight climb ever; this is one of my many firsts in 2018. But my initial euphoria was immediately replaced by apprehension as we started climbing the endless and steep assaults of the Balentimol trail.

The arduous trek ultimately hampered our appreciation of the mountain and before we could even enter the mossy forest, the rain has already begun pouring. Moreover, it didn’t take long for the mountain’s major denizens to make their presence felt. Saul immediately fell prey to the blood leeches; even Ara wasn’t safe from them. My careful preparation saved me from their infestation, haha! With the rain falling heavily, blood leeches were dropping one-by-one!

Just when everything felt disheartening, a ray of hope showed itself as we entered the summit. The view that we witnessed once we woke up the following day more than made up for the treacherous climb. To reiterate, Mother Nature has its own way to fascinate and it is simply breathtaking. All that trouble to witness the wonderful sunrise is worth it. Well, as they say, the best views come after the most difficult climb.

To read more about my Mt. Napulauan adventure, click here.

Unfortunately, Mt. Napulauan was my last climb for the year. It was a premature end to what was, so far, a wonderful series of adventures in mossy forests. I entered 2018 apprehensive of mossy forests but after the enlightening and enjoyable climbs I had, I can say that my perspective is starting to change although it will always have that Black Forest (of the Grimm Brothers) atmosphere to me. But yeah, the ethereal beauty of the mossy forest is undeniable and truly captivating!

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That amazing sunrise after that treacherous climb up Mt. Napulauan is very rewarding.

Hoping to climb more mountains in 2019! Do watch out for my next 2018 travel recap. Spoiler: it is about another first.

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