I’ve never been to a place with thousands if not millions of mosquitoes but this day was different. There’s always a first time for everything indeed. I joined a tramping adventure heading to the mystical mountain Mount Arayat located in the province of Pampanga, Philippines.
This journey was not easy neither difficult however, what makes this adventure distinct from the rest was the unfriendly mosquitoes. Yes, MOSQUITOES dear. Honestly, I was prepared for it though I’d say that my preparation was not enough.
After 1-2 hours’ bus ride and 30-40 minutes’ by jeepney, we reached Magalang, Pampanga. It’s too early in the morning so we decided to sipped a hot coffee and bought packed lunch. We then rode a tricycle going to Barangay Ayala (10-15 mins) and hopped off from our ride 300 meters away from the jump-off point. The road was too steep and the tricycle can no longer go further.
We’ve waited at the DENR’s office for 15-20 minutes to register however there’s no sign of a single soul in the office. Time is ticking so we decided to hit the trail and wait no more.
The terrain was rocky yet relatively easy. Few minutes on the trail into the dense forest, the mosquitoes started to party. It would be nice to get some rest and breathe fresh air for a minute or two but I’d say think twice.
We paused for 30 minutes at North peak to regain energy after two and a half hours of grueling assault. We’re looking forward for a fantastic view unfortunately, the mountain seemed to hide its stunning beauty behind the clouds. It cleared for 30 seconds or less and that’s it.
We started our traverse around 11 am then, the fun part begins. There’s nothing technical at this point however, you’ll get a taste of authentic wilderness. The terrain was literally bushy, thorny, rocky, and let’s not forgot the snakes and mosquitoes around.
We arrived at the legendary rock tower past 12 pm. Can’t wait to fuel my starving tummy with a dose of protein and carbohydrates. One of our hiking buddy finished lunch in a flash then head towards the rock tower. I couldn’t afford to miss the chance to climb it so yes, I followed after him.
At first glance I found the giant rock tower impossible to climb without rope. Thanks to the tree branch and one little trailing plant which aided us to the top. Climbing the rock tower was optional but for me, it’s worth the risk and danger. The view on top of the tower was incomparable rather than just standing at the view deck few meters below.
NOTE: Climbing the rock tower is not recommended for faint-hearted hikers. Climb at your own risk and extra caution is a must.
There’s another rock tower behind yet, we didn’t bother to gamble our lives just yet. It’s a giant towering rock and climbing it with your bare hands (no rope, no nothing) while finding a route to the top was not a good idea. Maybe we could climb it next time around but not this day. One rock tower was enough for the day and I couldn’t agree more.
We took thousands of photos at the top while we relished the breathtaking view of the magical mountain. Forgetting all the danger and savor the out of this world moment realizing that we’re among the few ones who experiences it. This was truly priceless.
We resumed traverse after spending some of our precious time at rock tower. Everyone needs to tackle a vertical rock wall to carry on. No worries, this part was not difficult as you could possibly imagine. We’re back on the bushy, thorny terrain, and this time it got steeper and steeper.
There was this part of the trail where we cling unto the tree trunk/branch like monkeys or hang tight unto tree roots that surfaced above the ground. It didn’t felt like a hike but more like a competition. A competition where the adversary was myself. A game that brought back a lot of childhood memories while I was playing underneath the trees.
We were on the lead, so my hiking buddy and I decided to rest while waiting for the others.
When the others were few meters away from us, we then carried on and hit the trail once again. Then, I noticed the venomous creature right next to where my friend laid his butt with utmost confidence. We went further until we go past the South peak.
There’s nothing interesting at South peak. Aside from the 3-4 feet tall Imperata cylindrica (cogon grass) that blocked the view, the space on top was too narrow. We swiftly trekked more or less two hundred meters from the peak ‘til we reached the camp site.
This was the perfect moment to reveal the hush-hush to my friend. I showed him the picture and boom, he was petrified for the fact that he sat next to the snake. Late reaction though he might have nightmares after this climb. He he!
After few minutes’ break, we started our descent on a rocky terrain. It was relatively easy but aggravating at the same time. The mosquitoes on this area were enraged. You can’t be idle in the wilderness surrounded with these demented mosquitoes. They will show you no mercy.
I never anticipated the mad mosquitoes up there and they were different from the rest. The mosquitoes occupying this mountain were hybrid. They master the skill of sucking your blood and they are immune to mosquito repellent. Yes, they are so immune.
We descended non-stop not only because we wanted to call it a day but mainly because we must escape from the mosquito territory.
We freshen’ up and hire a tricycle to take us to Arayat intersection. Sadly, we ended up in the hospital along the way. Some reckless driver bumped unto our tricycle and leave one of our friend wounded. It was almost 7 pm and we didn’t manage to get the plate number of the motorcycle. Joey said that she didn’t want to file any complaints and just moved on.
From the hospital, we took a jeepney going to SM San Fernando Central Bus Terminal then traveled by bus going back to Manila.
A lot of things cropped up this day alone however, it’s going to be one of the most memorable hikes for sure.
TIPS and TRICKS
- Mosquito/insect repellent is a MUST. Bring the most powerful and effective mosquito repellent if you please but don’t rely on it. Mosquitoes in Mt. Arayat are immune to these things.
- You can climb the mountain with or without a guide. The trail is well-marked but if you’re a newbie then hiring a guide is recommended.
- When paying entrance fee at Arayat Nat’l Park, make sure you’re giving the money to the legit collecting personnel. There are people around the park who would pretend to be the collecting officer. Don’t get scammed.
- Climbing this peak is not difficult but not easy either. Prepare accordingly.
- Take time to appreciate the beauty of the nature.