Tuesday, October 4, 2016

When in Coron: Day Two -- Adventures in Mt. Darala

Welcome back! 

Depending on whether you followed my advice in my last post, you may have had a second day in Coron that is quite different from the one we had. We chose the road less traveled, the rough road -- upwards. MT. DARALA or Tundarala is the highest mountain in the Calamianes. Rising at an amazing 600 MASL, this wonderful giant gives one a majestic view of Busuanga and the rest of the Calamian Group of Islands. 

Told ya it was majestic
We left early  a bit late than what was recommended. And we committed some errors (one of many) which are quite fatal errors. Our first stop for that day was the Tourism Center near Lualhati Park, hoping to find anyone who could give us information or, at the very least, a map of Coron. We found, to our great dismay, an abandoned shell that smells faintly like the Quezon bridge. We were on our own. Armed with information we got from blogs we set off to find a tricycle going to Darala's jump-off.

The tricycle driver we asked had no idea where the jump-off was which, according to pinoymountaineer.com was at Brgy. Balisungan. Luckily, a friend of the tricycle driver came by and lo and behold, he's a fellow mountaineer! The friend told us that there were, in fact, two trails heading up to Darala. He suggested the one that didn't go to Balisungan, which, he claims, had a steeper trail and to use the Mabentangen Trail, named after the river and waterfalls in that area. The mountaineer told the driver where to go and we were off. 


Also being early won't hurt. Especially when you are planning on hiking up Mt. Darala. If your hotel offers free drinking water, please do re-use your containers, besides having less impact on the environment you'll be saving yourself some money.

The whole tricycle ride only costs us 80.00 per person but I suppose if there are a lot of you going there you could probably haggle your way into a more affordable rate. Or you may just not ride a tricycle and walk all the way to the jump-off, which is also possible if you have enough energy to do so. The ride going there was quite a bumpy one, passing through the Coron-Busuanga Road and then turning towards a road that passed by BISELCo. and some hotels that were located behind Tapyas. Some stretches of the road leading to Darala's jump-off were muddy red, owing to the fact that it has been raining in Coron for the past few days. Once we arrived a woman-resident greeted us and told us where to go from there... along with answers to my question of whether or not there are still tricycles here going back to the town.

"There are some tricycles" she told us. The word some made me feel a bit uncertain on what fate lies for us after the hike up Darala. We registered at one of the stores. A quick glance of the entries revealed that no one else dared hiking up Darala, with us two being the only entries and the rest being entries for people who used the trail in going to the Maquinit Hot Springs. A short chat with the woman handling the logbook reveals that the water might be high in some parts but that was still uncertain.

Tiny Falls
From the main wide trail starting from the registration area one will also find a tiny spring. If necessary, use this opportunity to drink and refill your water storage. The trail passes by parts of the Mabentangen River and Dam, which is also one of the water sources in the town of Coron. Several incredible examples of Coron's diverse flora and fauna is evident throughout the trail.

The water in this river is actually quite cool

There were no serious river crossings through this trail. But the trail could get quite steep at some parts for some individuals who are not that used to climbing up mountains. Hence:

If one is planning on hiking this wonderful place I suggest that you should bring a good pair of hiking shoes. It doesn't necessary need to be metal-toed, military boots, just ones that won't easily get damaged. (More on this later on) Along with this, consider using sunscreen. 

The hike upward, though a bit tiring, was quite rewarding by itself given how many interesting plants  and creatures one sees along the trail. After a wooded area, the trail leads to a several slopes. Several butterflies and birds abound in the place. We also spotted several hammerhead worms during our ascent, and even more during our descent (more interesting details about this later). This little buddy underneath this paragraph was found along the rocky steep trail almost near the summit. The pitcher plant was a fascinating find, since neither I nor my companion has ever seen one in the wild. 

Hello there, buddy!

Some parts of the trail were gentle curves, sloping up and down. One must still exercise full caution since one wrong step and you might end up tumbling down. The trail is paved with lots of small rocks. There are some parts that have loose rocks, which are often the cause of slips. 

The views that we encountered as we neared the summit was breathtaking. At some points clouds would cross near our paths, or hover a few meters above us, sending a bit of a drizzle on our heads. As we neared the top we found several other trails, one of them was, I supposed the Balisungan Trail. I took several stops as I struggled to climb up. (TIP: If there are other people around and you are too shy to stop and rest, pretend to take pictures. This gives you an excuse to rest and admire the view) And finally:

The Summit

The summit! The towers marks the highest spot in the entire island group. From there one could see the Siete Pecados Marine Sanctuary, Mt. Tapyas, the town of Coron, and the other islands and mountains in the entire area. We first tried to get a bit nearer to the tower. Right beside the tower was a deep pit, a broken transmission dish (which made me imagine riding it all the way down in some fancy adventure), and a shed. The intense smell of gasoline coupled with the sounds of the generators kinda made the summit feel a bit too human. A closer inspection of the shed revealed two workers, both of which were sleeping, a pack of soy sauce, and a container that had rice. We stayed away from the workers and walked to a trail that led from the fenced area of the tower. 

Beautiful view of the mountains of Busuanga Is.

Exercise EXTREME CAUTION when trying to take pictures near the mountain's edge (or encountering humans). Sure, it looks cool but your selfie is not worth your life. Areas which may appear too risky should be avoided. Speaking of selfies, the mountain, surprisingly has strong mobile network signal. It was actually so strong that I could chat with my friends and post pictures using my phone the whole hike. 

After half an hour we decided that we should head down. 

Rain clouds were coming in and before we knew it -- we were drenched by the rain. A snake of some sorts crossed our paths as we headed down. As always, the way down is always the hardest. We considered using the other trail as a transverse but then we judged it far too risky, given how near we were to sunset and the lack of water stores. Curiously enough, there was another person in the mountain, some local possibly, who was taking a shower just a few meters from the summit. Waterless and snackless, we relied heavily on sugar packs and salt pills (which I liked fairly much). The rain just got worse and soon the trail was a muddy steep mess, with the both of us clinging from tree to tree. But we carried on -- even despite the damage in my shoes.

My toes were already peeking out from my shoes. 

The rain clouds would visibly pass by us and curl up the slopes, covering the tower and making it look like a haunted hill. The rumble of thunder only made us rush a bit more, fearing lightning strikes. Along the way, we spotted more hammerheads, now in abundant numbers as they search for their prey, the humble earthworm. We spotted several hammerheads devouring their prey. I suppose that this behavior was something they would always exhibit on the onset of a storm, knowing that their meal would come out of the mud.

I was thirsty, far too thirsty by now that I started gulping rainwater, no matter how few got in. Hence, again, do not make this mistake and please do bring water. I entertained the idea of me drinking from the river once we cross it once more on our way down, only to reject the idea once I considered the fact that I may drink something else that would jeopardize the rest of our plans in Coron. Finally we reached the bottom, or at least the near bottom, where we drank a lot from the springs, which drew its water from some higher source up the trees. 

We were far too thirsty to stop. 

We waited at the store, again, hoping a tricycle would come soon. The woman from earlier today saw us and told us that we can't expect any other tricycle to come anytime soon. It was 5 PM, and everyone was already on their way home, even the tricycle drivers. The best we could do, she said, was to walk and haggle with whichever driver was saw. And so we walked on, and on, until we found ourselves walking all the way to the highway. 

May luck be with us.

- end of Part Two -

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