Itching to try out Justin’s new Elixir 2 tent from MSR, we embarked on an overnight camping trip last February 28-29 to where else but Tarak Ridge?
I don’t know what kind of hold Tarak has over me. It’s not my favorite mountain per se. I do love its forest and the trail going to Papaya River. Still, Tarak can be a bitch, and I forgot about that until it was time to assault the ridge.
Since it was an overnight trip, Justin and I decided to leave his place at 5 am. We got to Genesis’ Cubao station and wait an hour or so for a bus headed straight to Mariveles. This proved to be quite tiring, as it felt like we were racing against time. Although our itinerary was much more relaxed compared to our usual schedule for Tarak day hikes, we wanted to secure a nice spot in the ridge for our tent. It was around 8 or 9 when a bus to Mariveles finally arrived, and since it takes 4 hours to get to Bataan, we arrived at the jump-off point at high noon.
After necessities and a quick lunch, we started our arduous trek to the ridge at about 30 minutes past 1. The heat was totally bearable given we had ample cloud cover. I can’t say if our pace was relaxed, although Justin and I are usually fast walkers on a regular day. We reached Papaya River by 2:30 pm, and slightly got lost.
It’s our third time in Tarak and the trail from Papaya is still confusing. One “kind” man led us to what we thought was the way to the trail, only to be greeted with discarded wet tissue and yeah, human waste. The trail was nonexistent. At this point I was pretty mad at Justin for leading me to a shithole.
After 20 minutes or so, we finally found the way up to the second part of the trail — the rocky and rooty part. I had with me an Osprey Sirrus 36-liter pack, but the weight didn’t bother me that much since we didn’t bring any cooksets or whatever. But I was tired from that nasty adventure back in Papaya River that my legs started to act up.
I thought I’d have an easier time with this part of the trail since I’ve been to Tarak a few times, but it was a complete lapse in my judgment. I had a really hard time. I had to pause every once in a while to catch my breath. It was a bit stressful since we’re running out of time — we have to be up in the ridge before sunset. Fortunately, Justin is a patient and supportive partner that we managed to complete the whole ascent at around 5:30.
The campsite protected by a grove of trees was quite full. It had little spot left for one more tent. It was noisy however, that Justin and I decided it to be shitloads better if we camp out in the open. Yeah, in the open. In Tarak Ridge, where it’s notoriously windy. We pitched our tent fast and secured it by burying the pegs deep in the ground. When we were done, the tent looked like a sturdy shelter.
The clouds that provided enough shade for us throughout the day didn’t disperse at all, so there was no majestic Manila Bay sunset for us. When night fell, we had a pretty view of the port below, all lit up. Then we decided to spend the rest of the evening inside the tent. While we ate our dinner and tried to sleep, it felt like we were in a middle of a big storm. I was pretty surprised the tent managed to hold up, really. We did have a hard time sleeping as we didn’t really anticipate the cold. The fear that we’d get blown away by the wind constantly bothered us as well.
Hoping for nice views of the sunrise also proved to be quite futile as the clouds did not let up at all. Justin left and ran down to Papaya River to get water while I read some graphic novels we packed. When he returned, we wolfed down a quick breakfast and broke camp. We started to descend around 10 in the morning and ended up in Nanay Cording’s hut for some lunchtime turon. Then, we headed to one of the houses that offered shower services, cleaned up, and got on the next bus back to Cubao. The next day, my thighs started to hurt like hell. So much for muscle memory!
If you’re also planning on camping up Tarak Ridge, leave early so you can pick a nice spot for your tent and relax. Bring a jacket, and maybe even wear a Uniqlo heattech item if you don’t want to get cold at night. Tarak Ridge offers great sunrise and sunset views, but do pick a weekend or weekday with clear weather.
Still don’t know what Tarak has over me. Perhaps because it’s a perfect combination of chill and challenging that I keep coming back. Maybe it’s also the small number of hikers it attracts every weekend, compared to mountains like Maculot or Daraitan. Idk, man.
I was trying to get wistful about Tarak Ridge but I am waiting for dinner. One thing’s for sure, though; we’ll probably go back to Tarak to camp again.