“Adventure is just bad planning.”
Norwegian Arctic & Antarctic explorer (1872 – 1928)
It was Independence Day weekend. I thought I’d do something as groundbreaking as the occasion. I have been planning to do a traverse for a while now. For peak-grabbing purposes obviously. The last time I visited Sagada, I noticed that the place has trails which pass through several mountains (a range!). A triple traverse from Mt. Pilaw to Mt. Langsayan to Mt. Datacan to Mt. Sisipitan would be a perfect lung and quad buster or a much-needed high altitude training at the very least.
So everything was set… or so I thought. Good news: I was told by the head mountain guide that I would be the only fifth mountaineer and the first Filipino to attempt the said traverse for this year. Cool. Bad news: For safety and security reasons, no guide would dare accompany me on my traverse because as it turns out, every June 12, the NPA (rebels) conduct an annual parade or procession in the said range. Of course, I’m not stupid to insist. So what’s Plan B?
I went for the 3-hour trek to Mt. Ampacao. Except for the final 200-meter steep ascent to the “real” summit, the terrain was gently rolling with an overlooking view of the Sagada town. My guide, Mario, and I took the reverse trail, which starts at the Lake Danum (“danum” actually means “lake” in Kankan-ay dialect) side and ends at Barangay Demang. Perhaps because it’s not a popular route, I met only two persons along the way — a lost couple named Glenda and Adler Acosta. They were looking for the famous “sunset view,” which obviously was nowhere in sight at 1 p.m. During our descent, we met a group of motorbike enthusiasts. They were on their way to the peak for their annual June 12 excursion to the mountains riding their motorbikes. I don’t really approve of what they’re doing. The bikes destroy the pristine condition of the trails. Also, the fumes contaminate the fresh air of the mountains.
When we reached the town, the roads were jam packed with vans of tourists. Apparently, the whole town is fully booked for the long weekend. I asked Mario where would be the best place to have a good sumptuous dinner. He led me to a French restaurant called Log Cabin Cafe to arrange a reservation. After pre-ordering my meal, I went back to Isabelo’s to get some rest.
Dinner was probably the highlight of this trip. The restaurant staff asked if I am willing to share my 4-seat table with other customers. I didn’t have any reason why I should not. So in the middle of my meal, two French girls, namely, Maylis and Nagisa, joined me. They were two backpackers (equipped with a Lonely Planet French edition travelogue) who at that point had decided to skip the rest of the Sagada sights because they had become frustrated of finding a place to stay and getting around on their own (the Sagada tourism office staff insisted that they should get a guide in going to the tourist spots). The three of us were engaged in a really interesting conversation that we stayed until the restaurant had to close. We talked about my love for mountains and how they think I will love France and the Mont Blanc area. I also learned that they are still university students — Maylis is in her last year of graduate studies (in Finance), while Nagisa has two more years in medical school. They had been spending summers around the SEA and South America regions because their currency has a higher value in the said places. After Sagada, they plan to go to Palawan. I then did not waste time telling them how beautiful that place is and how it had become my second home.
So this trip proved that Plan B can be just as good as, if not better than Plan A. If my planned traverse pushed through, I would not have met Mario (a more experienced guide would have accompanied me instead), I would not have dined at that quaint cafe, and I would not have met my new friends from France. Sometimes, the bumps lead you to a more interesting path. The real adventure lies in the unknown and the unplanned.