Friday, August 30, 2013

Bantakay Falls

It was a triple A for The BACKPACKERS' Atimonan Adventure this August. The adventure was quite unexpected due to Typhoon Maring and the Southwest Monsoon. The deluge brought destruction and flooded most parts of Mainland Luzon. The adventure was almost abolished because of weather's grit until sun shone the day before the trip. Weather forecast reported a hundred percent suspension of the monsoon and although there was a low pressure area in PH's trerritory, it was still distant to cloud effects in the country. "Push with the Atimonan climb and adventure!," I told myself.

Part 1: Bantakay Falls


A couple of back outs due to the weather trimmed down the explorers to fifteen; five BACKPACKERS and ten  guests. We met at Worldwide Corporate Center in Shaw Boulevard where our ride was waiting for us. A blog visitor turned guest, Sean Roa contracted Tito Mon Fajardo for our transportation needs. We left Manila at 10AM. We anticipated a long ride all the way to Quezon Province.

Inside our service, Angel, Isabel, Leah and Heinz
After a quick stopover for lunch in an eatery in Pagbilao, Quezon, the group readied as the start of the adventure was in the offing. It took us five hours despite our private service due to the traffic and roadwork in Sariaya and Tiaong. The adrenaline heightened when we reached the infamous old zigzag road which marked that we were officially in the forested part of Atimonan, Quezon.

Approaching the Old Zigzag Road
The Old Zigzag Road is a portion along the highway which from its name is notorious for its several winding and zigzag roads. During the time when the new highway was not yet established, all vehicles were compelled to traverse here to trudge Quezon to Bicol. And this particular hill was known as the peak of the thrill when travelling to Bicolandia. However, due to the accident prone road and several accidents as well, they built a convenient and longer route passing through Atimonan. But for those who wishes to experience that 'bituka ng manok' road to Bicol, can opt to pass by. After all, the area has a natural park and is a good stopover for motorists.

Arrival at Atimonan Zigzag Park
We reached the Atimonan Zigzag Park at around 4PM. The plan was to spend a night atop Mt. Pinagbanderahan on Day One since it is shorter and easier than the trail to Bantakay Falls. However, the DENR personnel did not allow us to push through with the climb that day because of the weather conditions during the past few days. Apparently, during rainy season, there is a ban on overnight climbs in Mt. Pinagbanderahan. We understood that it was for safety and respected the authorities' decision so we boarded the service to get to the jump off point of Bantakay Falls.


The plan was altered into an overnight stay at Bantakay Falls since it was feasible and that was the only option we could vie for. The jump off point of Bantakay Falls is difficult to find because it lacks signs and landmarks. What the guide advised us was to look for the alley between road markers 158 and 157 (if driving northbound). After missing the spot once, we finally found the registration area. Since time was of the essence, we hurriedly registered, offered a prayer and started the trek.

Action shot: during the introductory part of the trek
I wouldn't pose long in that water!
We encountered a cemented trail except for three occasions: the river crossings, river trail and the last leg towards the campsite. All in all, the trail was paved making it very easy. However, it was not always manageable as there were several slippery areas that we had to maneuver carefully to avoid falling or sliding down. It was inevitable that many in the climb party did not avoid the slips and slides. Guest Leah had the biggest slide when she was trying to evade the slippery cemented road by taking on the elevated soil trail at the side. Blag! But brave Ma'am Leah did not give up, and with the help of Sir DR, she was able to manage through the easy but tricky trail.

BP Heinz and our favorite guest Leah at the bridge crossing

Night trek shot feat. BP Nick and cousins Jethro and DR
with Tito Mon trailing behind
It was expected that halfway through the course, we would be doing a night trek. Everyone readied their sources of light as the sun was slowly disappearing from the sky. BP Nick pointed a faraway hill and joked around that the campsite is located there. His joke bit him as our local guide said it was indeed true. So the cemented course continued sans the interesting stream trail, river crossings and bridge crossing. During the last leg, we got divided into two groups, each had a local guide as an evasive action against the mud. It was already pitch dark saved by our camp and headlights. The grass and soil blanketing the last path to campsite was very muddy. We took the course for at least two hours.


The hilarious and spooky socials - one of the highlights of the trip
We arrived after two hours of muddy night trek. Some went to the falls to clean up while the others started cooking the dinner for the night. Many opted to visit the cascades of the falls in the dark. While doing so, one BP was spooked out from what he 'saw'. We gathered around to eat dinner with the help of our socials' mat. After a hearty dinner, we proceeded with the socials where everyone got to tell tales of their favorite mountain/s.

The challenging part was not drinking the alcohol in the shot glass but rather the EOP policy because we had a Spanish guest, Marta - the Sarah Jessica Parker of Spain. Nose bleed it was, until the favorite expression of the night was stated, "Boring that", pertaining to a chitchat of those who were not listening to the main socials conversation.

The mysterious sighting of BP Heinz in the water earlier became the box office topic and, you got it, ghost stories started to be shared by the people brave enough to stay outside for the socials. Until, it was lights off for there were no booze anymore.

STAY TUNE for the next section of this story:
Meeting the mighty falls and swimming on its clear and refreshing water


CONTACT: Mr. Rico Roldan @ 0916-716-9207

Photo credits to Sir Albert, Sean and Jethro
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