Mountain climbing has crossed my mind several times but I never had the chance to pursue it due to numerous reasons. Lately, however, the stars aligned and the universe conspired to make a lost dream happen: to finally climb a mountain.
Cleopatra’s Needle is the highest peak among the mountain ranges in Puerto Princesa City, with a height of 1,593masl—the third highest in the province next to Mt. Victoria (Narra) and Mt. Matalingahan. Months ago my mentor asked us if we want to join her in a climb. I said yes right away because I believe that opportunity presented itself. Unknown to me, her desire to climb that specific mountain was born four years ago – and finally it came to life.
But the truth is we are never a mountaineer. Yes, we trek, chase waterfalls, explore caves but never really climbed a mountain. Cleopatra’s Needle was our first. So let me share with you a firsthand account of a nature enthusiast-adventurer-turned-mountaineer for four and a half days.
Ascent: Aprill 11, 2017/ 7:00 a.m. Descent: April 15, 2017/ 1:30p.m.
How to Get There
There are multiple entry points to summit the mountain. We chose our entrance in SitioTagnaya, Barangay Concepcion. You can ride a bus or van and ask the driver to drop you off at the Batak Visitor Center. Bus Fare is P70/pax. You’ll reach the village after thirty minutes of trek and crossing two rivers.
Important Reminder: Have a guide that will accompany you to the summit. KuyaWeng is an accredited guide by the City Tourism and was accompanied by Kuya Daniel and his team of porters—they were very accommodating and fun. You can contact Rosdel at 09468128677 (makisuyolangbes!) and leave a message for Kuya Daniel (09122141662). There’s no cellular coverage in the village where they reside. Make the necessary arrangement with the guide. Guide fee is around P400/day, porter’s fee is P250-300.
What to Bring:
Provisions that will last for days – tetra pack of canned goods proved to be a great help, water canister, eating utensils, emergency/first aid kit and medicines, tent or hammock, dri-fit clothes, leggings/hike pants, insect repellent, and comfortable footwear (‘yunghindi ka sasaktan o iiwananbasta-basta).
Your pacing determines your provisions. You might need to hire an extra porter to carry you bags because the trail gets trickier as you summit. We reached the peak on the third day, and we descent for one day and a half. Seasoned mountaineers such as Gideon Lasco of PinoyMountaineer spent only four days for the hike.
If travelling as a group it is suggested that you have a ‘buddy system’ so you can help each other out when the trail gets tough.
Leave no trace – a friendly reminder to those planning to climb. Bring a garbage bag and make sure to dispose litters properly.
Vital Note: Cleopatra’s Needle is considered a sacred place by our native Batak brothers. Our share of respect would be very much appreciated. There’s a belief that whenever there’s someone new that climbs, drizzle of rain is experienced. True enough, during our hike, it rained. When the guide told you to keep quiet during trek, please do so. This means respect for the mountain and for people who consider it sacred.
Pinoy Mountaineer described the trail difficulty of Cleopatra’s Needle as 7/9. Be ready to cross rivers approximately 45 times on ascent and another 45 on descent. It’ll be 51 river crossings if Tanabag is your point of entry. The first two days is comprised of crossing rivers, and trek. The third day to summit is about treacherous steps and heart-pumping tricky trails. If you are up for this kind of adventure then hiking Cleopatra would exceed your expectation.
There are times you’ll need a staff to support you during hike, and sometimes you must learn to let go of whatever you’re holding because you need both hands to find crevices and hold roots for support. Check everything you put your feet on or place you hands with.
Water from the running river is cool and refreshing. You can drink it, but if you’re a bit skeptical, you can boil it. Plunging into the cold waters proved to be fun. The mountain flourished with flora and fauna, of which a great number of species is still unnamed. This has been a piece of heaven for scientist and numerous nature lovers. The giant and towering Almaciga Tree, which produces sapthat is harvested and marketed downtown, also thrives in the area. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the animal where Puerto Princesa City’s emblem came from—the local peacock or tandikan.
The Centre for Sustainability, an NGO, helps protect the mountain through their conservation program, such as their Saving the Almaciga Tree. Project. They educate our native brothers on how to effectively protect and propagate the trees.
The mountain summit is covered with moss, orchids and wide array of pitcher plants of which some are undocumented. We spent our night at the last camp an hour and half trek away to the summit, approximately 1500+ masl. It was almost freezing because of the fog, glad I brought my jacket.
The mountain range below was blanketed with clouds when we reached the peak. However, there’s a window where we saw the stretch of canopy below, it only appeared for a short time but it already charged our energies. The struggle, slipping, falling, sprains and paltosduring the climb are worthit all.
It’s a dream come true for my boss and a proof of endurance for me and for the rest of the team. We made it to Puyos. And I learned a lot (but that deserves another blog). So hurray! Unto the next mountain!
About the Author: Bev is a contributing reflection writer for Didache Youth, a Catholic devotional for youth. She travels extensively throughout her college days as a youth leader in her lay community, allowing her to meet lots of people and discover new places. Her love for her province has been fortified when she became one of the 2014 Tubbataha Youth Ambassadors. This has awakened her interest in rediscovering Palawan’s beauty and protecting it. She writes her adventures and reflections on the road on her blog bevthepalawanderer.wordpress.com. You can also read her ruminations on her page, The Wandering Palawenya.
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