Trekking with a Vision – Twin Peaks of Grand Corderilla

”A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

MANILA PHILIPPINES – We, a group of 22 people, step foot onto this country with great eagerness, looking forward to the great Philippines outdoors and get some good trekking done. For many of us, joining a ‘Trek for Hope” expedition is our 1st time, and though we are aware of the community service segment of the trip, most of us do not really know exactly what we will be experiencing, other than trekking through the mountains, staying in some villages along the way and being involved in some community event.

camping under the stars in the village at Philippines | Grand Cordillera

Camping under the stars in the village at Philippines | Grand Cordillera

So lets start with the TREK segment: We started with our 4DAYS 3NIGHTS trek to conquer the The Twin Peaks of Grand Corderilla, which consist of Mount Pulag (Difficulty 3/9) and Mount Ugo (2,150+ metres, Difficulty 5/9), located in the province of Benguet, which requires an overnight public bus over from Manila City.

Trekking to the top of Mount Pulag and concluding our 4 days hike

View from the top of Mount Pulag at sunrise, hence concluding our 4 days hike

Despite lack of the soundest sleep/ or any sleep for that matter through the night, our team was all psyched and ready to start our trek on DAY2. Glad for an entourage of guides and porters to lead the way and help us with some of our craziest load, we started our ascend shortly after a hearty breakfast. Though the weather is sunny and breezy in the day in the Philippines in this season of March, it can get quite chilly at night depending on which point/ altitude we were, so everyone had to bring a couple more load of warm layers to get through the night.

All packed and gear up for the 4 days hike ahead. Remembering the importance of being aware of our natural environment and protect it

All packed and geared up for the 4 days hike ahead. Mother Earth Tag – remembering the importance of being aware/ conscious  of our natural environment and protect it

So here begins what makes this TREK for hope expedition something worth experiencing. I will share the HOPE aspect following which.

Trek for Hope

The Physical Test: Endurance and Consistency

Balance between pressing on and relaxing along our 4 days grueling trek

Keeping the balance between pressing on and relaxing along our 4 days grueling trek

The 1st 2 days on the way to Mount Ugo peak was a gradual but tiring hike. Perhaps factors like – body was just warming up to the heavy backpack load ( which mine was 15-20% of my body weight) and lack of sufficient stairs training before the trip, everyone was moving at a slightly different pace. Eventually, we moved in staggered speeds and groups slightly apart, with the faster ones leading the pack.

Lone tree spotted along our hike up towards Moutn Ugo. The whole stretch is filled with lush greenery of pine trees and beautiful weather

Lone tree spotted along our hike up towards Mount Ugo. The whole stretch of the trek is filled with lush greenery, mountain ranches, pine trees and beautiful windy weather

sit here and watch the mountains all day

One of our many rest points – I can sit here and watch the mountains all day. Backpack was such a hassle to remove that I just slouch back onto it.

me perched on my tree feeling on top of the world

Me perched on top of the tree feeling on top of the world. Situated at our lunch point along the trek

I was at the tail end of the pack, however, those lagging behind aren’t actually lagging for the sake of it. We were really breathing in the moments, capturing lots of photos of the best views of the mountain and pine trees. The cloud movement was brilliant – constantly changing, with sunshine straight in our faces one moment, overcast skies the next and then before we know it, the grey clouds sailed away with the wind. White wildflowers line the pathways of our trek and really add to that natural woody forest element.

Capturing moments all along the way. Sunshine made so many picturesque moments along the way down from Mount Ugo

Capturing moments all along the way. Sunshine made so many picturesque moments

The Cold Test: Braving the Chill and Ice

The days are warm, but the nights get cold.

We stayed at 3 different villages/ shelter throughout the hike –

  1. Domolpos Village, Camp in Elementary School by Mt Ugo Baptist Church
  2. Lusod Village
  3. Ranger Station (Pulag) Home Stay
Rice padi fields as we near the entrance to the village

Rice padi fields as we near the entrance to the 2nd village

Each village/ shelter came with its own natural unspoiled beauty, and we are greeted by a skyful of twinkling stars every night.

milky way captured on camera near mount pulag - trek for hope

Milky way captured on Yi Xiang’s camera near Mount Pulag | Hiking in the Philippines

The majority of us tried to shower before the sun sets at each village, but that doesn’t stop you from going crazy when the ice cold spring water touches your bare skin. Reminds me of my much younger days when I was in Thailand on a mission trip, the difference is – I feel much less adaptable now. But still, every shower leaves you feeling so snug clean after a long day of hiking in your muddy boots and sweaty gear.

Sunset singing - let our voices ring and echo through the village and to all the world - trek for hope

Sunset singing session while everyone takes turn to wash up at the bathroom – let our voices ring and echo through the village and mountains

The Unison Test – United we fall

Sticking together as one unit throughout every segment of the trek wasn’t easy. 22 people of varying speeds, varying goals and objectives did lead to some compromises made in the name of team spirit. But we learn, endure and at times and putting others before self. The group though different and imperfect as we are, have definitely proved to have great compassion and kindness for each other, even in periods of illness and fatigue of some of our team along the way.

Team spirit at the top of Mount Ugo | Mountain Climbers in the Philippines

Team spirit at the top of Mount Ugo | Mountain Climbers in the Philippines

the sunshine in our hearts, the hope in our souls

the sunshine in our hearts, the hope in our souls

The Fear Test – Feeding that Euphoria for speed

Other than foot, our next most common form of transport is the Jeepney – a colourfully painted vehicle that we squeeze into to navigate ourselves up and down the mountaintop roads.

going crazy on top the jeepney on the way down the rolling hills

Going crazy on top the Jeepney on the way down the rolling hills

Trek for Hope - on our jeepney trotting down the mountain road - - trek for hope

On our Jeepney trotting down the mountain road, not really knowing whats ahead

The Sweet Victory

Reaching the top of Mount Pulag at the end of our trek and witnessing that stunning sunrise with a sea of mysteriously moving cloud below it – is beautiful and definitely mind blowing.

photographing down the moments as the sun rises - trek for hope

Eagerly photographing down the moments as the sun rises

All snug in our windbreakers and posing for beautiful sunrise and bursting sun ray shots.

love shared on top the mountain

Adelene and I, one of my buddies-in-crime in the trip, share a ‘heart’ moment on top the mountain

 

 

Hence, concluding the sharing on the TREK portion and what we got out of it, but trekking with a purposeful intent to give back to the community was the next challenge we have. Having gained so much, what are we giving back in return to the people of the Philippines?

Click here to read about the HOPE segment – Discovering Happyland – The Painful Irony

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PHILIPPINES PHOTO GALLERY

Where’s the Hope, in the mountain of neglect and despair?

Read more about Philippines Slums…

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This trip is made possible in partnership with organizer Trek for Hope, which conducts trips to the Philippines, Nepal, Chiang Mai, Japan and more yearly. Find out more how to join a Trek for Hope Expedition today.

A joint collaboration between Travelled Paths and Lydiascapes Travels

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