Waking up in Basinan campsite felt like waking up in a strange land. I walked carefully through the logs to move from one part of the camp to another. By this time, I was so immersed the trek that it has become the new reality. As Javi put it, it felt like that we had been here, and had known each other, for a long time. Amid mountains that have stood like giants since time immemorial; amid primeval forests, time did not seem to exist, not in human terms; it was only daylight and moonlight and starlight that spoke of the passing of the moments.
In the midst of these musings, there was reason to relax: after an arduous hike the previous night, we were told by our guides that “the worst is over”. Deeno, whose passion for the trails seemed boundless, might say otherwise; it is actually the most challenging of trails that are the best; in the end, everything experienced in hiking is relative: it is up to you how you will “let the mountain change you”.
After breakfast, we continued our sojourn, heading westward in search for the connection to Lake Venado. This lake, the highest in the Philippines, is a major landmark for any climb up Mt. Apo; on its shores one can already apprehend the country’s highest peak, which casts a mighty shadow on the lake. Having already been there a couple of times, it would really give me much comfort if we were to reach the lake,
The trek proved pleasant indeed: none of the gymantics, both mental and physical, that we had to undergo to reach Basinan. Instead, we were treated to a mossy forest, distinct from Talomo’s, with clumps of moss dotting the canopy of slender trees. And, as the sun reached its zenith, we caught the first glimpse of the lake; within moments we were at the shore of beautiful Lake Venado.
On summer days when hundreds, if not thousands, of hikers flock to Apo, one would almost cringe at the sight of so many people crowded around its lake. Then, there are rainy days when the lake swells, its color brown, its banks muddy. But on that fine October day the lake was blue with the sky, and nobody else was there.
And then we basked in the sun, knowing that we were between cold nights, and in another moment of peace I had a pleasant nap by the lake.
By mid-afternoon our team resumed the trek to reach our main goal: the summit of Mt. Apo. we could already see it, yet I knew that the assault was tougher than it seems. I let everybody go ahead, and I just tried to enjoy all the beautiful views; as we climbed higher, the view of Lake Venado became more distinct, more beautiful, framed by forests, surrounded with the sky, flanked in both sides by lowlands. And, to the east, the distant yet still imposing presence of the mountain we had just crossed: Talomo.
Nighttime came and the lights of Davao City emerged, and those of Kidapawan, and finally, those of stars, with the Milky Way stretching across the vastness of the sky. Motivated by the nearneas of our goal, everyone pushed to make his or her way up the peak, and soon everyone was accounted for, safely in the summit campsite, which was, though wide, nestled cozily among several of Apo’s peaks.
After a quick dinner, we settled in our tents. The temperature plummeted to single digits, counting backwards, but we had already prepared for it, adding extra layers of warmth in our tent. It had been a long way from the summit of Talomo to the summit of Apo, and it was time for some well-deserved rest before waking up to see the sunrise at the highest point in the Philippines.