There are times where I rather keep to myself the places I visit. Many times I have forced myself from posting photos or blogging about it. The reason: It has become so special and I feel not sharing it for fear that others might damage it. Truth be told, humans are the number 1 destroyer of nature. BUT… it gives me hope that the same humans can also protect and conserve nature for at the very core, we ourselves are part of it. Everyone is interconnected in this huge web of life.
So I will blog about Mt Cleopatra in high hopes that readers would learn and appreciate what we have here in Palawan. I chose 20 photos from our recent hike with a prayer that you would help us in the conservation of what’s is left with the forest life that we have.
Instead of taking the van or bus to Brgy. Tanabag, we opted to drive my motorbike stopping along the way to take photos. The weather looking good as it is seldom you can see Cleopatra’s Needle (some call it Cleopatra’s Nipple) from the highway. Approximately 42 kilometers to go before we reach the jump-off point.
We started pass 9 o’clock in the morning passing along Tanabag River at least 51 times. Yes, you read that right more than 50 river crossings. Here’s at the beginning of the trek. You can even see the Batak houses on the left. Tanabag is home to the quickly dwindling Batak tribe.
Talking about the Batak. These kids could be the last generation of Batak tribe. These indigenous community of hunters and gatherers have dwindled in the past decades because of rapid development. As of today, there are only 200 tribe people left. They are close to my heart as I visited the Batak Visitor’s Center- Palawan Chronicle’s: A Visit to the Vanishing Batac Tribe 3 years ago. Batak/Batac is a Cuyunon (Palawan dialect) term which means “mountain people.” They are a group of people who are found on the north of mainland Palawan. They are believed to be Negritoes and have inhabited Palawan in the early 1900′s. They are nomads but have adapted and start settling in the mountains near the river for easy hunting and gathering of food. They are generally shy and peaceful.
One of the highlights of the river trek was seeing “Pulang Bato” or red rocks. It is a section of the trail where you see huge slabs of red rocks. So why is it red? Oxidation dude! “During the Mesozoic Era 250 million years ago, the earth’s crust started to rise due to tectonic shifts, and marine shales and sandstones were deposited. As the basin became isolated evaporite formations of salt and gypsum were deposited. Oxidation of the iron minerals in the sediments resulted in the red colors of some of the rocks.” Thanks Uncle Wiki!
This I guess is my favorite in this set. Tatay Leonardo, age 64, our Batak guide, resting on his trekking stick. He doesn’t speak much but when he says something it is like gems of knowledge from of old. He shared bushcraft skills to us and treks the mountain like a teenager. This is the root of our lifestyle- nomad. Look! he is sporting an awesome backpack made of rattan and nito and the indigenous trekking pole. Thank you Tatay Leonardo for saving my life many times during the river crossings.
Take 5! I guess my favorite part of the trek was the rests we took. To give you an idea of how long we walk everyday for 4 loooooong days here it is:
Day 1: Game Mode On! 6 hours (9:00am – 3:00pm) Brgy. Tanabag to somewhere along the river trail because of the rain flooding the river we can’t continue anymore.
Day 2: Survival Mode! 9 hours (3:30am – 12:30pm) Woke up 2:30am and started trekking with our headlamps on. I guess we just took rest about 4-5 times. We have to reach the summit campsite since we don’t have food supply.
Day 3: Batak Mode! 11 hours (5:30am-6:30pm) 1 hour to summit and back; (9:00am – 7:00pm) the great descend. My knees almost gave up during this day adding to the injury I got because I slip on the trail and hit my upper leg when I fell on a huge stone.
Day 4: Final Push! 1.5 hours (7:00am – 8:30am) From Batak Village to Tanabag Highway.
Gideon of PinoyMountaineer and Tatay Leonardo have the same pace. Me? The last mountain I hiked was 5 months ago (Mt. Talamitam) and I have no physical activity and cardio-exercise except for surfing. This hike was like doing 3 marathons in 3 days and ending it with a 10K recovery walk. That was 27.5 hours of walking for 4 days.
Almaciga or Dayungon (Agathis philippinensis). These humungous tree is not hard to spot, obviously, they are huge but they also have great importance to the livelihood of the Batak tribe. The trunk is scraped or cut to produce sap, the hardened sap are then collected and sold for Php16-18/kilo. These are one of the ingredients in making paint, varnish and even plastics. The sap smells freshly applied varnish.
Vandalism from the Latin word Vandalus. So Sir Noli and Sir Henry V masaya na kayo at nasa blog na kayo? I have seen a lot of marking on the tree and rocks along the trail of Cleopatra and I’m deeply saddened that there are still lots of mountaineers who don’t follow LNT. Speaking of LNT… check the next photo.
Tatay Leonardo, true to his roots, caught a fresh water eel. Since we are saving our supply we cooked this for breakfast. Gideon took out the camp stove and cookset. We just got water in the river (super clean) and boiled a third of the eel without putting anything else. It was the most sweet eel I ever tasted, no “lansa” whatsoever. Thank the river goddess for the provision of high-protein food.
So do you think “Kill nothing but time” applies here?
Queue in music: “Carry on rootsman push on further. Don’t let the system hold you down… Fishin’ from the
sea getting the fruit from the tree. All the culture standin strong.” — O-Shen, Carry On Rootsman
Amazed at the towering Dao Tree (Dracontomelon dao) with banyan or balete. You would notice that Dao and Balete somehow go together. Actually Dao tree here is a host plant to the balete, the balete in order to grow must envelop the support tree (Dao). Only time will tell when this Dao will eventually be killed by the banyan. If you can still remember your elementary science, this is called a Parasitism. Parasitism is a relationship in which one organism (the parasite) benefits while the other (the host) is harmed. This is a positive, negative relationship. Diba, we learn a lot from nature about relationship. Since the Dao loves the Balete so much he is willing to die for the Balete to live.
Summit Camp. 30-minute away from the summit. So after 9 hours of trekking (the last 2 hours was deadening) we reach the campsite. It was cold as it was raining, someone offered me coffee which greatly helped my chilling body. Time for lunch. Rice and tinapa is best eaten in the moutain talaga! Hello Karina and Jessa! 🙂
And just before we have dinner, we saw a fleeting clearing of the clouds. The photo shows Ulugan Bay and the limestone karst peak of Mt. Saint Paul (the highest peak you see if you have been to Underground River already). Look at the setting sun too! Sea of clouds ba hanap mo? Thank the mountain god for the clearing!
Sunrise surprise! Hello there Mt Saint Paul! I guess you are next to our list of mountain to climb. Comparing this photo to the one above, that is Ulugan Bay. Ulugan Bay if I remember my Underground River guide correctly got its name from ulo “head” and hulugan “drop or throw”. Long time ago, our ancestors when attacked by pirates via Ulugan Bay would cut the opponents head and throw them away on the bay. Creepy huh? This is facing the west coast which is also known as the West Philippine Sea. So I guess China should be wary of our history especially with regards to the Kalayaan group of islands. Remember Ulugan Bay!!
Mossy forest at the summit. Also called as cloud or fog forest, it is characterized by persistent, frequent low-level cloud cover at the canopy level. Because of the consistent moisture retained here, mosses grow and cover the ground and tree trunks.
Do you know that only 1% of the total world woodland consists of cloud forest? What should we do if that’s the case?
Pitcher plant. Scientic name: Nepenthes mira. Mira came from the Latin word mirus which means “wonderful.” This pitcher plant can only be seen in Palawan, meaning endemic, on elevations of 1550masl and above, meaning only in 3 mountains Mt. Cleopatra, Mt. Victoria and Mt. Mantalingajan. And to go to those mountains require atleast 3 trekking days. Mind-bogglingly, this pitcher plant which is supposedly carnivorous to small frogs and insects is a host to some frogs. AMAZING!
Another pitcher plant. Still trying to research the scientific name. I would guess this is another specie waiting to be named. Please let me know if this is common or not.
MT. CLEOPATRA SUMMIT or as the our Batak guide would call it Puyos meaning highest mountain. Looking southward, on the left you see the east coast- Honda Bay and the islands- Pandan, Snake, Tabuan (Starfish) and Arreceffi (Dos Palmas). on the right you see Ulugan Bay.
It was really a surprise that God gave us a clearing. Facing north, we even saw Mt. Kapwas which is an important watershed extending to El Nido. You can even saw the islands of Port Barton, San Vicente from Mt. Cleopatra’s summit. Definitely, the most scenic view in all of Puerto Princesa City.
The obligatory group photo at the summit of Mt. Cleopatra. not only that I had a morning summit clearing, I also had cool mountaineers with me. Just love the vibe at the campsite! Kape pa?
This is by far the most extensive trekking/hiking I ever did. The most tiring and the most beautiful mountain I ever saw. Thank you Mt. Cleopatra / Mt. Puyos.
Thank you Bosing Gideon for your surprise invitation. Next time I’ll come prepared!
NAMASTE MT. CLEOPATRA. I stayed more than 30 minutes in the summit just enjoying the view. I even did a sun salutation above. Callie, if you can read this, I just want to say I LOVE YOU!! Refreshed and energized to climb down the whole day.
You may want to read these articles to learn and appreciate more of Mt. Cleopatra:
Pinoy Moutaineer has a series of articles during our 4-day hike: Hiking Matters #419- Cleopatra’s Needle