Mt. Pulag from Ambaguio (Lusod) trail

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The Ambaguio (Lusod) trail to Mt. Pulag is a trail from Nueva Viscaya to Benguet crossing different mountains and forest for 3 days in January 30, 31 and February 1, 2016.

The sea of clouds and the sunrise of Mt. Pulag is an astounding beauty to behold.

My first hike to Mt. Pulag is neither of the two popular trails: Ambangeg or Akiki. So this story of our journey is definitely worth remembering in years.

Our hike to Mt. Pulag was planned as Ambaguio to Tawangan however it didn't materialize as three days passed as our legs can no longer can take the exhaustion from the journey.


1st day: Journey to upper Napo Village

We arrived at the outskirts of the Cordillera mountain at a small town called Bayombong in Nueva Viscaya at around 3:00 AM in the morning. Restless but excited, we ate something lugaw and noodles from a nearby food stop to replenish our strength before the journey starts. We waited for an hour before our service truck arrives.

Our service is a small truck used to bring construction materials. We mobilized at around 4:00am, crossing rough road in the mountains. I slept for a little while in an uncomfortable position. The road is covered by the morning fog and the cold wind seeps inside our drifit shirts.

We arrived in Ambaguio town proper at around 6:30 AM, we registered in the police station and the barangay outpost to mark that hikers are passing through the Cordillera mountains. Surprisingly, a small rain cloud welcomed our adventure what it looks like the heavens endows us with blessings to enjoy its creation.

By 9:00 AM, we crossed the wooden bridge and later on waited for our porter to help us in carrying our luggage on our hike. After a repacking some goods in our large backpacks, we continued our hike until we reached the foot of the mountain before our mountain assault. By 11:30 AM, we took our lunch just outside a wooden house as the sun began to torch us with its radiating afternoon light.

Fine weather during our 1st day going to the Napo vilage
The beauty of the mountains in the afternoon.

What makes the assault difficult is the heavy baggage and the scourging heat that tries weaken our spirits. But none of it matters as we went on the roll as we go uphill in a the beauty of scenery in the Cordillera mountains. 

There are a lot of rest stations along the trail that was established by the locals to help them transport goods like rice grains, corn, wood and products to other places. Aside from rest stations, the flowing water source coming from a few houses is abundant so if ran out of water, you can get supplies from the villages.

Wooden, old homes are seen visibly along the trail. You can see children playing around, locals gathering and discussing in Ilocano about their daily lives and gossips. This is something that maybe other trails lack, and as an avid fan of cultures and history, this is something I admire and seen firsthand thus I really love our Mt. Pulag adventure in Ambaguio trail.



At around 3:00 PM in the afternoon, we reached the top of the mountain range and after a few minutes of walking down the flat road, we can see vividly the trail going to the Upper Napo village but it may still take an hour to reach it. By around 5:30 PM, we have successful completed our first day in the Upper Napo village, still part of Nueva Vizcaya. However, our ultimate destination, Mt. Pulag is still far away from our reach.

We rested in the porch of the Napo Elementary School's office in the Saturday night. From my red bag, we took out the ingredients for the Adobo and cooked it in the stove and low flames. Reducing the supplies is a quite a big deal for the hikers, so this lightens up my carried baggage a lot but it is still insignificant to help me up for tomorrow. We regained our lost energy and brought out our warmers but I didn't bring any sleeping bag so I rested on two jackets to warm me up. However the 15 degrees Celsius temperature and fairly strong cold winds would try to enter and shake up my body so I slept and woke up sporadically.

2nd day: Assault to the Mossy Forest, Mt. Pulag

We woke up from our chilling slumber at the porch, warmed up ourselves with instant hot coffee and fried the luncheon meat from our food supplies. At dawn break, we were greeted by a fine weather and a beautiful sunrise while repacking our equipment for the day's journey.

By 6:00 AM, we started our adventure again from the Upper Napo Village to descend to Lower Napo Village by 500 meters that takes an hour. Quite depressing indeed after all the trouble of assaulting the mountain from Day 1.


Our excited faces as the 2nd day arrives.

Before reaching the Lower Napo Village, we crossed a long metal hanging bridge that is probably 30 to 40 meters long.  By that time, we saw how a rider and his motorcycle fits and cross easily to that narrow bridge. We reached the Lower Napo Village after descending for 45 minutes and rested a bit.

From the village to the entrance of the Mossy forest is the beginning of our assault of around 1400 MASL. We resumed our hike and walk through rice paddies and gardens where they produce food as their source of income for the village.

Along the trail, an old quiet lady is sitting outside her home waiting for hikers to look by. Inside her home, she is producing spears and preserving bone heads of mountain rats. It is remarkably astonishing to see how she maintains this tradition.

From the old lady's house, the assault trail is an open grassland with a few trees along the way. We were lucky that the morning weather is cloudy so we get a chance to recover much our strength during the assault. From the lower old lady's house, it took us around 2 and a half hours to reach the entrance to the Mossy forest where an old wooden house seems to have been guarding the sacred forest. Apparently the owner of the house is not present, but there is a good hospitality rule where people can use it to rest and cook food for themselves after the exhausting assault on the mountain.


Lower Napo Village


Assaulting the open fields from Lower Napo Village. 


What is very surprising and ultimately made the difference from all my other hikes is that we get to taste true, fresh Arabica beans. Our guides appeared to have brewed coffee from a kettle and brought it out for us to try for free. Just in time where our weariness strikes us, it was tear down by the good coffee. It is a gracious, authentic experience at the top of the mountain, enjoying the scenery and resting on a fine weather.

We resumed by 1:30 PM and entering the Mossy forest. We are told to expect mountain leeches or Limatik along the trail but expectations are somehow different from reality. I only encountered one Limatik in my pants and it was colorful. Good thing I wore my long socks and pants on me.

We walked under the enchanting, wild Mossy forest and went to see how the trail is less established than yesterday. What we know is that the few people walk on the trails from the entrance until we reach a certain point where it becomes wide and used by locals. The Mossy forest is certainly calm, peaceful and reserved combining with the fog and cold air changing our yesterday's adventure from immersion into captivation.


Selfie along the trails of the mossy forest.

After a while, you will walk past into a very long narrow trail at around 1600 MASL. With the fog blocking our far sight, it certainly feels like you are bewitch by the forest itself. The trail also features beautiful white flowers living on the mountain. Meanwhile taking a long rest, does not make you comfortable because by that time you can now feel the winds of Mt. Pulag coming near.



Our team reached the point of crossing between Ambangeg and Lusod trail by around 5:30 PM and made it to the Camp 1 before 6:00 PM.

The assault to the mountains of Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet is rough, fascinating and yearn for by hikers a lot. The dark night descends immediately upon us and decided to camp at Camp 1 since we were unable to go to the saddle camp. I helped my friend create the camp and went back to a house where the guides can stay for the night.

We cooked a delicious Sinigang for our dinner, just perfect for the cold night. However the nights prepared us for a sever 8 degrees Celsius temperature drop that my two jackets did not handle very well. I slept nicely until my body heat can't catch up with the cold weather at around 3:00 AM.


3rd day: Summit at dawn

We broke camp by around 4:00 AM then tasted warm instant coffee for our hike into the summit. There are already many people outside Camp 1 so we hurried a little bit and started marching at around 4:30 AM. 

Eventually we reached the summit by around 5:15 AM and started to sit on the tall warm grass on the farther end of plateau to heat up our body. We were greeted by the warm sunrise at the ends of the earth. The sunrise is majestic and elevated as we glance it across the other side.

However the famous sea of clouds were absent from our sight.


Waiting for the sun to rise.
The magnificent sun rises from the east.
At the summit of Mt. Pulag


Beyond the mountains of Mt. Pulag.
This dog just hiked from Ambangeg to the summit of Mt. Pulag to play with the hikers.
Hikers celebrating the rising sun in Mt. Pulag.
A mandatory shot on signboard of the summit.


The impressive mountain range of Cordillera
The brown grasslands of Mt. Pulag
The rolling of Mt. Pulag as seen from the diverging paths between Tawangan and Ambangeg trail.


Last group photo before we descend through the Ambaguio trail


We descended from the summit by 7:00 AM and reach the camp in less than an hour. We organized our items, packed our goods, cleaned up our trash and made sure that no trace is left. And as discussed by our group, we sprinted down in the Ambangeg trail until we reach the ranger station by around 9:30 AM.

The Ambaguio-Ambangeg traverse is a beautiful, diverse trail full of vibrant scenery, different set of challenges, local culture and it is one of the best hike I ever did. If one could ask if I would repeat it, then I will do it again. However, I have not yet tried the famous difficulty of Akiki trail yet, so it is definitely in my books.


Itinerary

Day 1

  • 06:30 AM - Start trek
  • 09:00 AM - Reach and cross bridges in the lower part of Ambaguio
  • 11:30 AM - Rest and lunch
  • 01:00 PM - Resume trek, assault to Upper Napo Village
  • 05:00 PM - Reach the Upper Napo Village, camp and rest.

Day 2

  • 06:00 AM - Start descent to Lower Napo Village
  • 06:45 AM - ETA in Lower Napo Village
  • 11:15 AM - ETA in the entrance of the Mossy forest, lunch and rest
  • 01:00 PM - Resume trek, enter the mossy forest
  • 05:00 PM - ETA in the Ambangeg trail
  • 05:30 PM - Camp, dinner and rest

 

Day 3

  • 03:30 AM - Wake up, prepare ascent to summit
  • 04:30 AM - Ascent to the summit
  • 05:15 AM - ETA in the summit
  • 06:45 AM - ETD back to the camp
  • 09:00 AM - ETD to the Ambangeg's Ranger station
  • 10:00 AM - ETA in the Ranger station


Author Notes

  • If you are going for this hike, make sure to prepare yourself for the 3 day hike. It is both tiring and awesome. Bring a good jacket that can handle low temperatures.
  • I forgot the names of our guides but they are really nice people. You can check out the other blogs for their contacts.


If you like this story, check out my other hiking stories:


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Kenneth Bastian@onezeronine

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