(This was originally posted on 5/2/2015 on my old Tumblr account.)
From Coastal Road, when the sun is just low enough and the afternoon sky clear, you can make out the shadow of the massive Mt. Mariveles across the bay. It’s huge, it’s intimidating, and it’s beautiful. A major climb, most hikers go there to set up camp and watch the glorious sun rise and set from one of its peaks. On its west face is the popular Tarak Ridge, a thousand meters above sea level. From there, you can see Corregidor Island, and if you look hard enough, the other side of the bay.
Justin and I were supposed to go to Tarak last January, but because of warnings and the fact that we were so unprepared, we decided it was best to reschedule. April 11 was perfect; the day hike to Tarak Ridge became some sort of an anniversary climb for us.
There were seven of us in this hiking trip. Six of us met up in Cubao. The plan was to board the Bataan Transit bus bound for Mariveles, but the conductor informed us that it won’t be leaving until 2 AM, which would throw the schedule in complete disarray. Since the Genesis station was just near, we decided to transfer and as luck would have it, a bus bound to Mariveles was waiting, it seemed, for us. Bon boarded the bus in San Fernando, and we finally arrived in Brgy. Alas-asin at around 4 in the morning. It was still pretty dark so we decided to eat breakfast and prepare for the 10-12 hour hike. At around 5:30 AM, we decided it was time to start our trek. We headed to the Barangay Hall to register and pay PHP40 each. Guides are optional as the trails are well-defined, except for a confusing part in Papaya River. Let’s divide the trail into three parts for easier storytelling (hehe).
FIRST PART (3-4 hours)
The first part of the trail led us to a really pretty forest. It was so pretty, I was constantly taking pictures. Fifteen minutes into the trek and we came across Nanay Cording’s hut. Nanay Cording is famous among hikers who frequent Tarak Ridge. We don’t know her full story, but she’ll ask you to pay (or donate) PHP10. You can buy buko juice and some snacks from her, and for a fee, you’re also allowed to use the restroom. I’m not sure of its necessity given we already registered in the barangay hall, but register with Nanay Cording nonetheless as it seemed like they do keep tabs on the hikers who have returned.
Somewhere along the trail, we reached some sort of a viewing area and a fork. Here, we rested while Justin surveyed the other trail, which apparently lead to some other peak (Vintana or Pantingan, we don’t know). We took the trail on the left, where we resumed our steady uphill climb. This went on and on for hours that some of us were getting kind of desperate. Where the fuck is the Papaya River? We went deeper into the forest, where the trail went on and on and on. Fallen, jagged rocks littered the path, and so did the trunks of fallen trees. I should mention that by this time, the trail is finally narrow. We didn’t take note of the elevation gain, but I would say that before Papaya Trail, we were 600 to 700 meters above sea level already. Finally, the sound of a stream was finally audible and at last, we came upon Papaya River.
Papaya River is a camping site where you can rest and refill your water bottles as the water from the stream is potable. We stayed here for a good twenty minutes or so and met kind Africans who came all the way from Cavite. They pointed us to the trail which would take us to the ridge. From then on, the trail got progressively harder and steeper.
SECOND PART (1-2 hours)
If you’ve been to Maculot then you’d know what I’m talking about when I say you have to scramble and rely on roots for your life. Not that it’s hard, but since the first part of the trail is reminiscent of Pico de Loro’s old trail, you’d be taken aback by just how much you’d have to hold on to roots. It was so tiring. Still, the morale was high as we took frequent “rock breaks” (“THERE’S A ROCK HERE IT’S NICE WE CAN SIT ON IT”) and “root breaks” (“THIS ROOT IS PRETTY BIG WE CAN SIT ON IT”).
It was on this part that the importance of gloves was well and truly realized by every single one of my friends (except Jerson and Justin, who are pros; the trail running duo). I should’ve borrowed Justin’s other pair ugh fml. Remembering what the Africans said, we were on the lookout to that part where the forest would end. After an hour or two of desperate scrambling and constant breaks, I finally announced that “UY WALA NANG PUNO WE HERE BISHES.”
We finally arrived to that fucking part.
THIRD PART (20-30 minutes)
This fucking part. Okay, I really hate open trails on loose ground, often littered with rocks. It’s hot, it’s dusty, and you have nowhere to hold on to. As much as I try (I TRY) to trust my shoes, I just can’t hahahahaha. If you’ve been to Pico de Loro then the assault to the ridge would be familiar as it is exactly like the assault to Pico de Loro’s peak. What annoyed me the most was Justin, just walking on the trail as if it’s the easiest thing in the world when Mara, Mayan, Inna, and I are holding on to loose soil for dear life. Thank God it only took us 20 to 30 minutes or else it would’ve been embarrassing beyond belief. Finally. Finally, we’re on Tarak Ridge.
ON THE RIGHT TARAK
Tarak Ridge isn’t the peak of Mt. Mariveles’ west face. It is merely a ridge (duh), and it’s your choice to do a final 30-minute assault to the peak. All of us girls + Bon opted to stay on the ridge, take pictures, and eat lunch while the Trail Running Duo (Jerson + Justin) went ahead to check out the peak. There isn’t much tree cover on the ridge, but you will find a very shaded campsite, which helps come nighttime as it provides cover from the wind. From what I’ve read, if you’re planning to camp up in the ridge, come early so you’ll get a spot in the covered area; camping out in the open can prove to be quite disastrous especially if you don’t have extra pegs.
From the ridge, Corregidor Island can be easily seen; it’s the island just right in front of you. You can also see Mariveles down below, and make out the shadow of Metro Manila and Cavite across the bay. The heat wasn’t that scorching, thank God. There weren’t a lot of people up there, which was a very pleasant surprise given that Pico de Loro and Batulao are pretty crowded nowadays. It’s refreshing to check out the view and rest in peace and quiet. Crowds are overrated, especially if you’re on top of a mountain.
As we were on a rather tight schedule, thanks to the fact that the buses bound for Manila are quite hard to catch, we set off for our descent around 1 in the afternoon. Going down was much easier as we were already familiar with the trail, which was, to begin with, already very straightforward. Of course, there were the roots and the jagged rocks, as well as deep ravines, but all in all it was very pleasant.
We took a break again once we reached Papaya River; some took a dip and we all refilled our bottles. Justin, after taking a tip, proved to be quite energized and led the way. Eventually, though, I led the way as I was really keen on boarding the last bus home. By five in the afternoon, we reached Nanay Cording’s hut. We struck out our names from her register and waited for Mara and Jerson, who lagged behind. They got lost, apparently, but ended up safe. Once we were all together, we headed back to the highway.
After freshening up and changing shirts, we were lucky to flag down a Genesis bus headed to Manila. As soon as we’re all seated, we dozed off that we didn’t even notice Inna and Bon getting off at San Fernando lol. By the time Justin and I got to Pasay, I was so tired (I crashed, thanks to the energy “shots” I took, courtesy of Mara and Mayan) I didn’t even bother to eat.
All in all, it was a very nice hike. The forested trail was a very welcome change, given that I’ve been to Batulao twice on consecutive occasions and the open trail can get boring. The friends that went with us were all fun to be with. Oh, and by the way, I am so happy to say that I don’t feel any post-hike pain now hihihihihi this is so awesome. Thank you for keeping up, body!
We’re planning on going back to Tarak Ridge to camp; we all fell in love with Papaya River. Hopefully, it’ll happen within this year. Anyway, so that was my first major climb, guys! ❤ I’m so kilig right now. Thanks for reading! 🙂