Climbing Mount Pundaquit is not easy for beginners like me, but totally worth it – makes you feel like you just found a bar of gold! Don’t miss doing this if you want to go to Anawangin Cove, one of the popular destinations in San Antonio, Zambales.
Day 9 – part I
“Almost there. You can do it, don’t quit.”
The voice inside me keeps telling me this and rather pushing me that I’m actually stronger than I always thought I was.
The cove looks fascinating from my distance and seeing it makes me feel like I just found a gold. I know it’s close but somehow my gut is telling me it’s probably gonna take awhile to get there. I’m hoping it’s only an hour but due to my weariness and constant breaks to feel the wind, I’m afraid it will take me two, or maybe more. 🙁
My 1-litre water bottle is empty. My backback is so friggin’ heavy almost tempted to leave it there on top of the mountain. My breathing is becoming heavier and heavier for every fifty metres I make. My toenails are quite sore I can feel it through my fake Nike rubber shoes that I regretfully bought the other day for my Mount Pinatubo trek because I had no choice or else they wouldn’t let me hike. I’m never a sneakers or rubber shoes girl, and without the expectation of mount climbing, I couldn’t be bothered to bring one.
Although I know I need to keep going as fast as I can since my friend has gone out in the view, again (damn, he’s fast!), I pause and look back from where I’ve been the last several hours.
I open my mouth in silence and awe as I gaze toward the panoramic view of the houses and resort hotels looking miniature, and the magnificent blue sea. Then, I look above to see the obvious sky painted with clouds. I cannot believe my eyes I’ve made it this far. It’s a very beautiful day indeed – this doesn’t get any better.
About six hours earlier, my friend and I hurriedly packed our stuff, went to get breakfast and started the hike. We’re late for an hour as we originally planned to begin the journey at five in the morning. Fortunately, we were able to scout the starting trail yesterday; otherwise, we’d spend frustrating minutes looking for it. Though the sun’s out, there’s no way we back out now.
As we’re about to begin ascending, we heard gunshots from our 8 (a military term, sorry I watch too much action/thriller shows) just a few miles away. One shot at first. Then another. I’d be lying if I say I didn’t feel frightened. My friend looked concerned too.
“Oh, boy I don’t wanna die up there or here on this plain field when we haven’t started the climb,” my mind quickly turned to what-if scenarios.
There’s a few more bangs like every two to three minutes.
“Are they practicing, slaughtering an animal or murdering someone,” I couldn’t say out loud but I thought of a lot of things as my heart started racing fast.
“Come on, let’s go,” my friend made it sound rush like we couldn’t be late to an appointment. He seemed alright than I thought too.
After ten minutes, I finally set the gunshot scare aside. The adventurous side of me had finally kicked in and before I realised it, we’re ascending. Yay!
Out of the blue, my friend asked me something that never crossed my mind since the day I found out we’re going climbing.
“Are there snakes here?”
“Oh, shoot!” Yeah, why did I not think of that. Thanks for giving me fear slash potential obstacle number two.
“I don’t know,” I responded as it’s the only honest and most hopeful answer I know of.
Climbing Mount Pundaquit today (for the record it’s March 28) isn’t the first in history. There have been thrill-seekers and amateur hikers who have done this, but mostly had guide from the locals.
The night before we took the liberty to just enjoy a sip of ice cold lemon, honey and cucumber smoothie at Ohana Art Cafe – the only best, cosiest and also expensive (haha) food grub in the area. Before we could even choose a seat, there were two guys who were already drunk wanted to talk to us. They seemed nice and respectful as both kept referring me as “ate”, but chatty. Somehow, the random conversation they initiated turned to our plan to climb the mountains – I even don’t remember how it went there or who first mentioned it. I think they asked if we’ve been there and surprisingly my friend gave the info away, that we’re going tomorrow. They offered themselves to be our guide but we really never had any plan to get one. We could only say, “yeah, we will see.”
The whole journey of climbing Mount Pundaquit from end to start involves a trail to follow based on some website where my friend gathered information from. But the grass is so tall and there’s no sign of that trail. We are on our own. I put my confidence in my friend as he keeps telling me about how he did on his climb in New Zealand when it was snowing (and I guess almost zero visibility?). He assures me this is much easier. If he’s survived that, then we should just do fine. Truthfully, I have no setbacks at all, let alone any doubt whether I can make it or not. I believe in myself, too. I know I’m gonna cross the mountains and get to that cove. Heck, I’m more thrilled than scared.
Back on the mountain, I’m starting to feel the scorching heat on my skin. I’m sweating and catching my breath a triple more than the last couple hours. It’s probably around nine, yet we haven’t gone so far. I stop to have a quick rest, enjoy the view (again), take photos and videos (again), and then eat my packed breakfast. I had no appetite earlier and thought I’d just save it when I begin feeling tired and hungry. We didn’t bring enough foods or anything for survival just in case, but I managed to grab two protein bars. Sounds like an experienced climber, huh (LOL)?
On my east from where I’m sitting is a jaw-dropping view of the Pundaquit beach along with the Capones and Camara islands, which are also tourist destinations of this town. With the soft wind passing through, it feels so heavenly making you forget about what’s happening in the world politically, financially, everything. Even for just a quick second, I take it.
On the other side is another majestic view, the closest green lush summit I’ve ever seen. I turn my head to my left and to the right, then repeat. The first few hours of struggle and scratches are worth it. So far the longest, we spent the rest of our break for some memorable “I was here” snapshots. Anywhere you turn is a perfect back draft to create almost endless mesmerising solo portrait and landscape photos.
On this hiking trip, there are two goals. One is to get a closer look of the first cove, which is the Agnain Cove. At that moment, I wouldn’t mind going down and swim in the water as I feel very weary and almost dehydrated. The water is probably as blue and clean as the other one. I only see a couple of people staying there. It would be a nice, quiet relaxing dip.
Sadly, it’s only a short break to enjoy the sight since the main objective of our hiking is to reach the other cove, the Anawangin Cove, hopefully by lunch time.
As we continue stepping forward to cross a few more mountains, I notice my speed is becoming slower. It doesn’t also help feeling the slight pang of several small cuts in my legs and arms.
Hours become minutes and minutes become seconds. The Anawangin Cove is just a short distance away but getting down there isn’t as easy as it looks.
I keep stopping, catching my breath and sitting down. I do not want to allow myself to be fully dehydrated and passed out in the middle of the mountain. I’d rather take it slow and endure patience. Going down is much harder than climbing up. You need to be extra careful to avoid an uncontrollable roll over and hitting your head.
I’m not sure how far my friend has gone. Yell at his name and there’s no response. He must’ve kept going and never stopped for a second. Anatomically, he’s stronger, much faster and more persistent.
After an hour or so, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s probably down there enjoying the soft sand and the view of the beach of the Anawangin cove. I am right. It’s not difficult to spot him even from a mile away. My dilemma is which way to go. For a few minutes I argue myself whether to go left or right. Shall I compare the distance? Which way is easier to go to? It seems going to the right is the smartest option. However, the problem is that slithering down the slope is more difficult and riskier because of its steepness.
It is taking me too painfully slow to move. I do not want to fall down. I keep praying to God that I’m gonna make it. Being alone up here on the edge of the mountain is making me feel like I just made the stupidest decision of my life.
I stay there for another hour and waving my blue sarong hoping my friend would see it. He doesn’t look like he’s aware I’m stuck here. I even convinced myself that he probably doesn’t care where I am now.
Not sure how long has it been but I’m waiting for a miracle. Finally, I hear a voice from the distance. He’s calling my name. OMG I feel very relieved! There comes my rescue LOL. And he has a bottle of water with him.
He tells me to go to him, which is on the left side of the mountain. It is way too far for me and I feel like it’s gonna take at least 30 minutes more before I could reach it. We argue for the next minutes. I tell him this is the easy way. He debates it’s a bad idea since there’s no landing ground at all – down there is water full of small rocks.
For the last time he tells me to move my ***, and so I start moving toward him.
To hold that bottle of water is like the only best thing happening in the world right now. Beating my thirst is very satisfying.
See the beauty of the Anawangin Cove!
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