Monday, October 31, 2011

Mt. Pundaquit (Traverse to Anawangin)

San Antonio, Zambales
Major jump-off: Brgy. Pundaquit, San Antonio
LLA (summit): 14 53'59" 129 94'24", 464 MASL
LLA (cove): 14 52 41 120 04'04", 0 MASL
Days required / Hours to cove: 1 day / 4-5 hours
Specs: Minor Climb, Difficulty 3/9, Trail Class 2

 Mt. Pundaquit:
Traversed and Conquered!
 By Ivan Ignacio, The BP Lead

The typical Pinoy Backpacker knows what majestic and mystical wonders hide in the town of San Antonio in Zambales: its stunning islands and spectacular coves. Nestled in the region which is more known for its abundance in wide plains and rice paddies, one won't expect to see an array of crystal blue waters surrounding a rather breathtaking landscape. The BACKPACKERS are very fortunate for having been able to witness this beautiful divine creation last October 22-23, 2011!

It was approximately 10:00AM when we arrived and got off the bus at the heart of the town of San Antonio. We stayed at the shaded portion of the town's municipal center while we readied our packs, went off for a quick brunch and a last minute buying of things. Then, we boarded five hired tricycles that took us to the staging point: Kuya Joben's hut.

The first stop of this expedition is the famed Anawangin Cove. 16 of the 19 Backpackers and friends took the challenge of traversing the mighty Mt. Pundaquit, crossing the verdant grasslands of the mountain before reaching the mystical cove. Three Backpackers, Angel Cawaling, Contz Cirujales and Marion Macapagal selflessly volunteered to take the faster way, boarding Kuya Joben's boat therefore reaching the cove after a good 45 minute boat ride.

The three girls became in charge of safekeeping the bags and equipment of the group which greatly helped the trekkers because they only needed to bring themselves, some small bags, trail water and trail food. In return of this good deed, they were treated to a more relaxing San Antonio's Big Five experience as they did not need to cross several miles from Sitio Pundaquit to Anawangin which was a pretty demanding task considering that it was high noon when we traversed the mountain.

The introductory portion of the trail was a delight to the trekker's eyes. Rolling hills of chocolate and green hue loomed at a distance. Despite the intense heat of the sun, noone backed out - not even our guest, first timer Louie de Villa who had his Merrell slippers ripped by the ashy trail during the first twenty minutes of the hike. The gray fine trail of Mt. Pundaquit, its surrounding beaches and coves as well, are by products of washed away corals and lahar brought about by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo 19 years ago. After the ashy pursuit, we entered a bushy and rocky path with some river crossings. The flowing river was a relief and a refreshment for the group and the rocky outcropping was perfect for a nice outdoor photo opportunity.


The quest was indeed longer in comparison with the three Backpackers who were already enjoying the fine sands and beaches of Anawangin cove. But it was a good thing that even though the trail was open with very limited shade, generous clouds hid us from the blazing heat of the sun which made the trek a partial walk in the
'grassy' and 'rocky' park.

Trailblazing the ascent were the guide along with the boys York Advento, Lik Buendia, Mau Mauleon, Ivan
Ignacio, Mon Sarmiento and Paul Sarte. Comprising the midpack were guests Ghei Agoncillo and her beau Louie, Liz' roommates April and Desiree and finally the all star BP sweepers comprised by Clue Fajardo, Weng Topasi, Liezl Honrade, Ralph Flores, Jovy Duremdes and Frank Aguilar. There were a couple of minor overtakes but this was pretty much the trail management until we reached the somewhat peak of that portion of Mt. Pundaquit.

A breath of fresh air and relief! We saw the cove jutting at the end of the other side of the mountain! It was still a long way to go but our hearts were set to complete the traverse - after all we were already halfway through the challenge! The part had a somewhat pre-constructed hut which we learned from our guide that it was actually a place where locals stay to sell fresh coconut juice to the exhausted hikers. Bad thing no one was selling fresh juice that day. Even if we were obviously at a high elevation already, some of the Backpackers just could not stop their adventurous hearts and young spirits. They knew that the point they reached was not the summit, not even a peak. So when an established trail was spotted at the hill to the left, the boys Mon Sarmiento, Ivan Ignacio and York Advento could not help it but trudge up a little higher.The path was steeper as it was aiming for one of the peaks in the Pundaquit mountain range.

And when the three reached the top, they were greeted by a magnificent 360 degree view of the area. A couple of minutes later, they soon found company with Liz Honrade and Ralph Flores. The two equally adventurous lovebirds will not definitely miss the chance of stepping into a mountain peak. However, tragic happened to me(Ivan) when I accidentally stepped on a wrong foothole when we were descending from that peak.

Attacked by cramps on my left foot, I was down on my knee shouting for help when fellow Backpacker Ralph came in for assistance. I was trying my best to get up but it looked like the stubborn cramp won't disappear. I certainly did not want to mess up our itinerary so little by little, I descended...using my butt!

Mt. Pundaquit traverse is a fairly easy climb. But it was actually an overwhelming, self building experience for me as I battled it out with a personal hazard: the cramp that won't just leave me alone! I was pressured with the fact that the climb lead might actually be the person who will drag the group slower! With the help of my Backpacker buddies Frank, Ralph and Mon, going down was not as hazardous as it could have been with a useless foot. My sincerest thanks guys! Nevertheless, as the cove got nearer my thirst for the beach continued to build up and I went ahead of the others with Mon and caught up with the lead pack at the river.

The beach was so close that everyone was becoming more and more excited. The defining moment of my whole Mt. Pundaquit traverse was when me, Mon and Mau were racing each other (despite the threat of a cramp - I don't know if its my outdoor spirit or the outgoing child in me) across the glorious pine trees until we reached the back entrance of the cove. We went back to our childhood as we childishly and vivaciously sprinted across the magnificent ashes of sand and corals with the lined pine trees that will give you a tropical paradise vibe. Alas! Anawangin Cove!

We were met by Angel, Contz and Marion who were all enjoying the sand and the view hours ahead of us. After some of us took a dip in the cove and rested for a while, we immediately packed our things to board the boat as the plan is to stay at Nagsasa Cove instead of staying at the more famous but populous Anawangin Cove.

Traversed and conquered by The BACKPACKERS! 
Our first Zambales mountain - MT. PUNDAQUIT!

For the next story of our Big Five adventure: Nagsasa Cove, click here:

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