Friday, June 27, 2014

Hiking matters #412: Mount Victoria in Narra, Palawan Part 1 - To the high camp

At the beginning of the trail with the twin summits at the far right
PUERTO PRINCESA - After traversing Mt. Mantalingajan, the highest mountain in Palawan (see Hiking matters #408-411), and going on a pitstop at Puerto Princesa, my hiking buddy Coby Sarreal and I proceeded to the municipality of Narra to climb Mt. Victoria - also known as the Victoria Peaks - the second highest mountain in the island. Joining us was young Palawe├▒o hiker Brenton Tan. Arriving mid-afternoon, we didn’t miss the opportunity to visit the Estrella Falls, whose clear and cold waters turned out to be a great refreshment.

The next day we were welcomed by Jehson Cervancia, longtime Mt. Victoria advocate with whom I have corresponded in the past. He endorsed us to Kuya Julius who would be our guide for what is usually a three-day hike that would take us to the summit of Mt. Victoria and back.
Estrella Falls, an excellent sidetrip before the Mt. Victoria hike!
We rented a tricycle to Brgy. Princess Urduja - a thirty-minute ride away from the town proper - and started the hike at around 0700H. The weather was not promising to begin with: forecasts were dire and it had rained heavily the previous night, so we expected to get wet as soon as start. We were pleasantly surprised, thus, to see the two-pronged summit of Mt. Victoria ahead of us - among the many peaks in the Mount Victoria Range.

From the onset, the trail environs were impressive. A prairie-like grassland comes first - reminiscent of the trails of Mt. Kilimanjaro - with unique plants and shrubs, including pitcher plants - and butterflies and stick insects hovering. Every forest has its music - of birds, rivers, insects, winds - and that of Victoria is animated, suggesting that it is full of life. Indeed Mt. Victoria's biodiversity attracts scientists from all over the world.
Crossing the Buhawi River
Then, the thirteen crossings of Buhawi River - that limpid stream where we did some unplanned swimming, enthralled by the waters. The traditional way to do the trek is to begin with flip-flops or sandals, then don the hiking shoes after the half-day crossing is done. We did just that, but while that approach was rewarding while crossing the rivers, I found it challenging to trek the slippery, oftentimes overgrown trails along the river with slippers.

We finished the crossing by 1100H, and had early lunch by the 'Huling Sapa' - the last stream. From that point, it was a forested ascent, a bit steep but happily straightforward - a welcome break from the ups and downs of Mt. Mantalingajan. The trails, too, were surprisingly well established. While we were hiking, we spotted a Palawan blue flycatcher - with its pretty orange neck - perched in one of the trees.
More river trails with the lush jungle up ahead
We arrived at the High Camp - which is around 1400 MASL - at 1500H. The Palawan style of camping is just using a mix of tarpaulins and hammocks - and at the High Camp this approach is understandable, considering that there are no really flat areas, and we had to pitch our tent on a sloped surface.

We still couldn’t believe our good fortune - it didn’t rain the whole day, even as Narra and Puerto Princesa both experienced heavy rains. That night, we prayed that the next day would be as fortuitous. Continued in Hiking matters #413. 
At the High Camp, around 1400 MASL
MOUNT VICTORIA, NARRA, PALAWAN (JUNE 2014)
Hiking matters #412: To the high camp
Hiking matters #413:To the summit and back

2 comments:

Cebu Urbano said...

Great site you got here. will keep on visiting for more of your fun adventures ;-)

Ayis Austria said...

Sir may next climb ka pa dito sa palawan? Kelan po?

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