Hiking up Mt. Maculot is special as it’s the first time I climbed a mountain. While we only went up ‘til the Rockies, the climb took us more than 700 meters above sea level, and that’s already high. As a person who’s somewhat scared of heights, Mt. Maculot and its famed Rockies shook me. From the town of Cuenca, it looks like an innocent mountain that actually looks like a hill, but trust me, it’s harder than it looks.
I’m really starting to learn not to take ANYTHING in face value.
Eight other people were supposed to go hiking with us that day, but due to a low pressure area that formed somewhere in Batangas, most of the people we invited backed out. It was a shame. Justin and I talked about going to Batulao instead if the only person who didn’t back out (aside from us) ditched us, but Krisha came. We boarded the bus to Lipa/Tambo exit in Buendia at around 4 in the morning. The bus ride didn’t take long; since we left early, there weren’t a lot of traffic. We were surprised to find ourselves getting off the bus at only 6 in the morning. Early birds.
After that bus ride, we took a jeep to Cuenca, a town in Batangas. The jeep ride took approximately 15-20 minutes, which was alright. The morning air was cold and since we were a couple of miles away from Manila, I think it’s safe to say that the air was fresh, too. Since Justin, Krisha, and I have never been to Cuenca before, we actually had no idea where we’re going to get off. We just decided to follow this dude who was carrying a sack of what I think was pork; we assumed he was heading to the market. Luckily, he did get off the town center and from there, we walked to the registration site.
Glenda (fucking Glenda, man) wreaked some havoc in the mountain so we were advised to get a guide. I never did ask the dude what his name was and for that I feel incredibly sorry. After registration, our little group gained another member (our guide) and we made our way to the start of the trail, which was still a good kilometer away from the registration site. We were told then that we’re the first group to arrive. Hooray, early birds!
Here’s the thing; my body’s still pretty sore from surfing the weekend before the day hike. I was not conditioned to hike at all. I just trusted Gideon Lasco from Pinoy Mountaineer; he stated in his blog that Maculot was only a minor climb. Suffice to say, I suffered. Every once in a while, I’d ask Justin and Krisha if we could stop so I could catch my breath. It was horrible. I was also sweating profusely. We haven’t even gained altitude and I was already sweating buckets. My buff (which I wore around my neck) was already drenched, and I was halfway done with my bottle of water. Talk about me being so out of shape. It’s not like I can back out, though. I’m with a guy I want to impress (hahaha I know) and I also wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. Besides, what am I going to do if I did back out at the last minute? Wait for them in the middle of nowhere? Thanks, but no thanks.
We were supposed to go to the summit (which was 900+ MASL), but due to the fact that Glenda (that fucking bitch), as I’ve mentioned, created a big mess, the summit was out of the question. We were only allowed to go up to the Rockies, which was the most popular spot in the mountain anyway. We mostly hiked through dense forests and it was a continuous ascent (for which I am sorta thankful). The trail was rocky and a little wet (it rained the night before). I made sure to be extra careful since I was only wearing my football cleats instead of proper hiking footwear.
After two hours and 30 minutes of blood, sweat, and tears (I kid), we finally reached the campsite and the store that was dubbed “7-11” because “it has everything you need”, which is not true. They did have water, softdrinks, and a couple of cup noodles, but that’s it. We were allowed to store our water in their icebox, though. We decided to have snacks first before going to the Rockies. I packed a couple of sandwiches for Justin and I, but since I’m so nice, I also gave our guide a sandwich (I thought it was only proper). It really amazes me that guides usually don’t have the proper hiking gear, but they’re way more surefooted than people who are actually equipped.
Once we finished our brunch, we started out way to the Rockies. Instead of going through a forest, we went through a grassland sort-of area. I suggest you bring arm covers or something for this part; after we got out of the grassland area, my arms were stinging with cuts. I didn’t mind, however, because the view up there was spectacular. Although it was a little cloudy, it was enough.
And of course, we had to take “buwis buhay” shots. The whole time I was posing for these pictures, I was crying inside. Because heights. Cliff. Lake below. More rocks. Death.
We stayed there for an hour or so, just taking in the view and talking about different things (including the accident that happened in Maculot quite some time ago). We met another guy in there, who has climbed up Maculot a lot of times already. After hanging out, we decided to start our descent. The goal was to get to Manila before 6 pm.
The descent didn’t take us that long. I believe it only took us an hour or so. I guess we were all eager for a shower, a fresh change of clothes, and food. We met a few hiking groups along the way, and that’s when I first heard of the so-called “mountain etiquette.” Basically, it’s nice if you would exchange some pleasantries with the hikers you meet along the way. “Good morning/Good afternoon Mam/sir” and “Ingat po!” would suffice. We also came along this hiker who, for some reason, knew Justin from Batulao. Typical Justin, he forgot the name of the dude.
Once we got out of the trail, we changed our clothes in this little house by the road. Krisha and I had some cold drinks (I swear to God, why is it so hot when you’re near Taal? Unless you’re in Tagaytay, of course). After chilling, we made our way to the town, took a jeep, and got on a bus to Manila. That’s when the rain started falling. We made it back to Manila 30 minutes past five. (That’s the main perk starting your hike early. Going home early is the best).
All in all, we spent no more than five hundred bucks each. We chipped in for our guide, and the bus fares weren’t that expensive. We brought our own food so that helped as well. It’d be nice to go back to Maculot just to compare the difference of climbing it now and climbing it then. Besides, I do want to get to the summit.