Assault to Mt. Udok II
It was a thrilling 5am when we got our things into the car. It was going to be my second visit to Baler along with my siblings. The trip up was roughly 5 and a half hours going there (most of which I spent sleeping it off. I hate road trips…). When we got to Aliya Surf Camp, mom told us that we weren’t going to sleep here; instead, we were going to the base of Mt. Udok and stay the night there in tents.
The first thoughts that came into my head were, ‘Mountain + tent+ overnight stay =Lantaka?’ Wow, it’s like one of those Lantaka Summer Camps I’ve been joining since I was a kid. So, lucky for me, I’m kinda used to climbing up and down mountains; the last one was in Baguio.
At lunch time, our mountain guide Arse (pronounced “R say”) joined us and gave us a briefing on the basics of trekking, including what to expect and what to bring. Afterward, we loaded up our mountain climbing gear into the van, and drove to the town of Maria Aurora, which is at the base of Mt Udok and less than an hour’s drive North of Baler.
Our first stop was the municipal hall of Maria Aurora, where we had to register for our climb. According to Mom, we had to register so that the government knows we’re there, and if anything happens, they know where to find us. After registering, we drove to Ascot, or the Aurora State College of Technology, which is the jump off point to climbing Mt. Udok.
When we passed by a gate check point, my sister Bea quickly noticed at herd of sheep and goats passing in front of the car. She quickly screamed, “Mama, mama, get the camera; take a picture of the sheep!” but when she got the camera, the sheep had already crossed the road and went to the nearby clearing where they began grazing on the grass. My other sister, Cathy, got out of the car, camera in hand, and began taking pictures of the sheep and goats. Meanwhile, the four of us were laughing in our seats.
After parking in one of the work sheds, we walked down a rocky path downhill which led to the caretaker’s house, where my siblings and I had sodas while waiting for the A-okay to get to the base of the mountain. Once we got the signal, we walked along a dirt path that led to an ice-cold stream. At first, I thought it was an easy crossing, since I’ve been through cold waters before. But boy was I wrong!
As soon as my brother, Thomas, and I made our first steps into the stream, we were shocked almost senseless. The water was freezing! It took us an unbearable five minutes to just to cross the stream. With each slippery step we took, our legs froze stiff with the icy bite of the fresh mountain water. Mom and my sisters also had a difficult time crossing the stream. But soon we were all safely across and ready to set up camp.
Arse and our guide Mang Rohel had made a small clearing beside the stream and set up the tents. By nightfall, we had a nice campfire going and cooked our dinner.Everyone pitched in and soon we had a very nice meal of steamed rice and sausages. Not a gourmet meal, but, hey, this was roughing it Filipino style. Canned goods were the order of the day.
I then spent the rest of the evening with Arse and Mang Rohel, and we talked about our upcoming climb. At around eight-thirty, mom popped her head out of her tent. She sounded pretty angry when she called out to me, “Psst, Marco! Go to sleep, it’s late!” But then my sister, Cathy, wakes up and tells mom, “Mama, it’s only eight-thirty…” mom shrugs and goes back to sleep. I got inside my tent at around ten in the evening, and had a really good night’s sleep.
The next morning, after a hearty meal of rice, canned spam and corned tuna, we prepped our things for the trek. We all prepared two bottles of Gatorade, a pack of assorted candies, water, spare clothes, a med kit and were wearing t-shirts, jogging pants, and rubber shoes. We began trekking up the mountain at seven in the morning.
About a fourth of the way, Mang Rohel made us some walking sticks out of the branches of coffee tress. These were really sturdy, smelled good, and were a real help during the ascent.
Half-way up, we hit a clearing called the “Jollibee Point”, since this was where most climbers stop to have lunch. While we were there, we managed to hear (and somewhat see) a Philippine Eagle, soaring above the canopy. It gave a squawking call, which my brother mimicked. We all laughed when the eagle answered him back; and while we climbed Thomas and the eagle exchanged calls before the eagle finally left us, flying majestically over the trees.
It took a grueling six hours to reach the summit. There were a lot of obstacles and tough situations we had to hurdle to get there. There were ants (really big ones that really like to bite) and steep ditches to overcome.Throughout
the trek, Thomas was such a sourpuss. Every time he’d come across a hurdle, or if he slipped during a steep climb for example, he would start swearing, and we’d just roll our eyes every time he’d say “I never wanna go climbing ever again.”
“The exhilaration of having conquered the mountain was totally worth all the challenges of the climb.”
But when we reached the top, the exhilaration of having conquered the mountain was totally worth all the challenges of the climb. From the summit, we could see the town of Baler and the Pacific Ocean out in the horizon.
It was a totally breath-taking experience, and we could’ve stayed there for hours. However, it was almost noon. The sun was out, and it was hot! Mom even told us to put on sunscreen. We were only there for a few minutes when he had to begin the four-hour long trek back. With gravity on our side, the descent was easier and a whole lot faster.
“It was the best tasting tinola I’ve ever had in my life.”
At five-thirty in the afternoon, it was nearly pitch dark when we neared the campsite. Boy, were we shocked when we noticed how quickly it got dark!
Fumbling in the dark, we packed our things, cleared the campsite and re-crossed the icy stream back to Mang Rohel’s house. We were sweaty and dirty and in need of a good scrub, according to mom. We took turns taking a bath to remove all the grime and mud that had stuck to us during the climb. For dinner, we had delicious native tinolang manok, cooked by Aling Deedee, Mang Rohel’s wife. To tell you the truth, it was the best tasting tinola I’ve ever tasted in my life.
On our way back to the car, fireflies surrounded us, guiding us with their bright lights. Our trek was over, and we were heading back to civilization.
Despite all the exhaustion, the complaints, and the pains, the mountain can really change you, and how you think about things and people. The climb was truly was truly an unforgettable experience. I would be delighted if I was invited to climb Mt. Udok again; and I can assure you, it’s a climb worth taking. Well, shall we?
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