The morning of our final day was the most relaxed I’ve ever been since we started on this craziness. The rain had stopped, the sun was up, and I was miraculously alive. What could be more amazing than that?
We even took our time with breakfast, swapping life stories as we feasted on coffee and hot mongo soup. The guard at the ranger station came by and shared his breakfast with us. I listened to Daisy’s and Jay’s stories and was in awe of what they lived through. These two are tough survivors and not just because they got through a traverse. It was an honor to be on a mountaintop with people whose strength and resilience I could only hope to have. Hats off to you, guys.
The view was still covered with thick fog. We waited for a clearing but the best we got were faint and passing glimpses of mountaintops. We started our descent at around 9:30am. Daisy went ahead because she had to catch her 7pm flight in Cagayan De Oro. Pele also had to go ahead because some of her stuff was with him.
Thanks to the rain, the muddy-and-slippery trail theme continued and even got worse on our way down. It was a classic basagan ng tuhod. My knees were literally collapsing as I struggled to keep my balance and bear my (and my backpack’s) weight.
Just as the peaks of Dulang-Dulang and Kitanglad are polar opposites, their trails are also vastly different. D2 was devoid of humans except for us. The Kitanglad trail was more like a busy street with porters and workers constantly going up and down the mountain. They also made the hike look so easy, running and hopping on the trail like it was child’s play. I, on the other hand, was literally on my hands and knees trying my best not to fall flat on the mud. I wasn’t always successful. In some parts, I was wading in knee-deep mud.
There were easy parts though. About five or six steel stairs were installed on the steep parts of the trail so it wouldn’t be so tough on porters who were bringing equipment and supplies to the summit.
We had little rest on this final trek, not even stopping for lunch. We got to the base a few minutes past 2pm, exhausted but triumphant.
It’s finally over! We made it! Bring out the balloons and confetti!
Or not. At least not yet.
It turns out there were still four more kilometers of walking to be done to get to the village road. We did not know this. So we trudged along amidst the afternoon heat, thinking it won’t be far. An hour wheezed by and we were still walking.
“Seriously, when is this gonna end?!” my brain screamed. My ankles buckled at one point and I fell hard on my ass. The celebratory feeling has evaporated along with whatever liquid was left in my body. I was famished, tired, dehydrated and in a very foul mood.
After what seemed like an eternity I saw Pele, all dressed up like he was going to the mall, coming up to meet me. I have never been so happy to see a familiar face. That was how slow we were going, our porter had enough time to take a bath and change into clean clothes. Ben was also there to pick us up but Daisy had already left for Cagayan De Oro.
On the ride back to town, it finally sunk in that I just completed the D2K traverse, bruised, battered and aching all over but still alive and in one piece. For some reason, this thought was so overwhelming I almost burst into tears. I had to control myself though as Ben and the others might think I’ve completely gone mad.
This three-day traverse has been nothing short of insane for me. I had gone from the highest to the lowest point of my emotional spectrum and then some. I guess the advantage to being a natural-born wimp is physical challenges like this, which may not be such a big deal to others, becomes a historic milestone.
Back in October, I stood on top of Mt. Dulang-Dulang, stared at Mt. Kitanglad and started thinking “Wouldn’t it be totally awesome if I managed to walk from here to there?” I just did and, yes, it was totally awesome.
- Mantalingajan Traverse: Epilogue, Lessons Learned and a Million Other Things I Want to Say (misadventuresoftintin.com)