Tough Tarak

Tarak Ridge on Mt. Mariveles is one of the more famous mountain destinations in Central Luzon.  Well, these days, almost every mountain is a famous destination, judging by the number of climbers I encounter along the trails. At 1,130 meters above sea level, Tarak Ridge is my toughest dayhike yet.

It took us 10 hours to trek from the jump-off near the highway to the top of the ridge and back to the highway.

The first 3.5 hours to the river was easy enough.  Covered by rocks and roots, the trail was surrounded by trees so heat was not a problem.  There were steep parts, but these were gradual and followed by flat areas so the lungs and legs had time to recover.

After the river, though, almost every minute of the next 1.5 hours was walking uphill, and this is probably why Tarak got its name from the word tarik (steep). Pulling on sturdy tree branches and large rocks helped relieve the strain on my legs (poor quads!)  Of course, I forgot all that when we gazed upon the astounding view of the Ridge and the west side of Mt. Mariveles, all bluish in the light of the cloudy morning.

About 30 minutes more of climbing Tarak’s slope brought us to the ridge’s highest point.  There, we saw another impressive side of Mt. Mariveles, prefaced by a bare tree.  I thought we were looking at Pantingan Peak, but I wasn’t sure.

It took us 4.5 hours to get back.  We headed straight to a house that offered P20 bucket showers for dirty and spent mountain climbers.

It felt like I couldn’t take another step.  My hips screamed, my upper legs and knees wailed, even my calves protested and threatened to succumb to cramps.  I guess not having a wink of sleep the previous night and regular exercise the past week heightened the effects of the trek.

Yet I treasured every painful second.  All part of being alive. 🙂

I appreciated hiking with a small and quiet group this time, allowing the forest sounds to prevail over the trail.  I will carry with me the different bird calls I heard. My fellow hiker Samantha remarked that they sounded like clock and car alarms.  We heard a bayawak (monitor lizard) coming down a slope (Bee was lucky to see it) and thought trekkers were nearby.  The sound of the river on the way back signaled easier paths ahead.

I loved the take fives when we would sit on large roots or a smooth rock.  They were perfect moments to savor the breeze, watch the sunlight play with the leaves, and marvel at the vibrance of green against blue and the silhouettes of branches.  It also felt amazing to see a large lizard standing on a rock (yeah, standing).

Thanks for the challenge, Tarak! We may meet again.  After all, I have yet to step on your summit.


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