May 2, 2017

Tarak Ridge, Bataan

I used to believe that breaking up with someone should be done in person, face to face. But when I asked one of my friends fresh from break-up, after 6 hours of long, arduous trek, 1,006 MASL, in the comforts of our temporary home along the ridge in Tarak, “Paano kayo nag break?” She said “sa text”.  Had I heard this answer a year ago I would have said that it was a disrespectful way of breaking up. Instead I said “Minsan okey na rin sa text kasi kung personal at magmakaawa sa iyo, baka di mo na matuloy.” It was almost dark, and I realized just how much I missed camping, the fresh air, the mist, the surroundings, this simple conversation. Tarak Ridge is one of the hardest mountains I climbed but definitely one of my favorites.

A part of the series of peaks of Mt. Mariveles, Tarak Ridge is notable for its rocky terrain, steep cliffs, jagged rocks and a wonderful view of Corregidor Island, and the bays of Mariveles and Manila. Tarak got its name from “Tabak” (hunting knife) and “Tarik” (steep). It is a major climb, and considered to be moderate to hard in terms of difficulty.

This is my first climb for the year. Sabit lang actually kami nina Mia and Jen sa isang mountaineering group but in the end we decided to break away so we could walk on our own pace.

We left Manila at 7 am and arrived at the jump-off point in Brgy. Alas-asin (just before the town proper of Mariveles) by 11 am. We had a decent lunch in a turo-turo along the highway, which sells Bicol Express. After registering from the Barangay Hall, we started our trek at exactly 12 noon. First stop was the hut of Nanay Cording. She is sort of the gatekeeper of Tarak. Her place is filled with tarpaulins of various mountaineering groups which have conquered Tarak. We registered at her place and asked for a porter and guide which we got for P800 one way.

The first part of the trail - from Nanay Cording’s house up to Papaya River - is relatively easy and about 70% flat land. It rained however, kaya medyo muddy ang trail.

It took us more than two hours to reach Papaya River, a small multi-layered river with large boulders, known to be the only water source in Tarak. Its potable water tastes really good. According to our guide, there used to be several papaya trees along the river but there was none anymore that we saw. We get to enjoy the river when we descend the next day, swimming in its cool, clear waters. 

After Papaya River, the second part of the trail gets hard, and mainly steep ascent. Most parts of the path is remarkably covered with sturdy jutted tree roots and branches, which we hold on to for support. 

From the river, it took us almost three hours to reach the ridge. It was dusk already, and there were several groups setting up their tents and cooking dinner. We chose a spot by the cliff. We had to-go fried chicken for dinner. Dahil sa sobrang pagod plus the cool bed weather, we were already asleep by 9 pm. The next day, we witnessed Tarak’s magnificent view. 

We climbed the summit, which is the third and last part of the trail, and another 30 minutes away from the ridge. From the summit, one can view the beautiful and lush Pantingan Peak.

The big bonus of this trek was the sea of clouds that suddenly enveloped Tarak without warning. The sight was ethereal, heavenly. All the muscle pain and ordeal we had to endure was worth it.

And if anybody asks me for an advice on how to deal with their future problems, maybe I’ll say “Just cross the ridge when you get there.”

Tarak Ridge can be done in a dayhike but better for an overnight camping to witness sunset and sunrise. From Manila, take a Mariveles-bound bus (Genesis or Five Star in Cubao) and tell the conductor to drop you off in Brgy. Alas-asin or Tarak jump-off point. Register first at the barangay hall and get a guide (especially for first timers). Standard rate as of April 2016 is P1,500 for porter/guide (but you can haggle as we did).  To save time and energy, you could hire a tricycle from the highway up to the house of Nanay Cording for P150 good for four pax. No. of hours going to ridge and summit will depend on your pace and weight of backpack (we did it for 6 hours). Water source is not a problem and tents are available for rent at the house of Nanay Cording. For day hikers, start as early as 5 am.  
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