I’ve been meaning to do some trekking in El Nido since finding out last year that there was this option aside from the island hopping tours. While El Nido is more famous for its beaches, the allure does not fall short for its mountain cliffs, particularly the limestone cliffs that so beautifully line up the island. You can’t miss them.
So on my second trip to El Nido this month (and my fifth, over all, in a year’s time) I decided to go trekking. Solo, as the occasion called for it. I was telling my friend Josiah the other day that in my few years of climbing, I haven’t really gone solo –and I don’t think I’m brave enough to do it. Call it the Aron Ralston effect: somehow, I’m safer with a companion or a guide. But it looked like I was going solo this time (wait —when you’re with a guide, does that count?) Okay, whatever.
Mt. Taraw is the highest peak in El Nido and is described by many as ‘seriously not for the faint of heart.’ That, for its steep assault and rock climbing –which to be honest was actually the part that lured me in the first place. I know by now that my strength lies in rock climbing; my body is built for it since I’m smaller, lighter, and more flexible than most people. But it worried me when I read blogs about how physically taxing the climb was, and the dangerous assault with no use of ropes at that. There was even one blog that said you will be overwhelmed by the actual steepness of the cliffs which eventually leads to the mother of all mountain complains, “why are we doing this again?”
It didn’t help that when I was arranging for my trek with the owner of the inn that I stayed at, she told me that just very recently, somebody fell. (A group of Koreans —news IS NOT verified, FYI). Whether that person died or not didn’t matter; the fact that it presents that danger made me consider postponing at the last minute.
Ah, but stubborn (and rebel) me. I got a piece of paper, wrote down two important emergency numbers (Keren’s and Sir Ace’s), and went ahead as planned. I did bring my trek shoes all the way from Puerto Princesa and I was not returning them unused, along with my head gears, trek pants, mosquito repellant, and sunblock.
The jump off points for Taraw are in two different areas in Brgy. Maligaya, which is the entry to El Nido town proper. My guide for the climb was Al, a brother in law of the brgy. captain and a licensed tour guide. Upon arrival at Ate Judith’s canteen (before Midtown Bakery and in front of the local Pharmacy store), we went all the way to the back alleys until we got to this section of rocks. Here, we start our ascent.
The ascent is gradual but will immediately require some rock scrambling. The advice I will give now will be the most important one you’ll need to heed when you plan a Taraw climb. Wear the right trek shoes. Do not trek to Taraw using slippers (sorry, flip flops will NOT do in a million years), or some running shoes. Hiking shoes that have thick soles will do you a big, big favor on your climb. The rocks are so sharp and jagged that everything else you wear apart from hiking shoes will simply not do.
Second to that, bring gloves. You can actually buy from any store in town. I bought mine from the store just in front of Midtown Bakery. They sell at 65/pair. These gloves will be your hands’ best friend and best defense against cuts of all forms. They’ll speed up your pace, too.
Third, bring an assault bag that’s light and will only contain a few important things, like water, food, camera, maybe a first aid kit –that’s it. You need both your hands so make sure your backpack is light and will not in any way affect your climbing.
As for the actual terrain, the rocks are really sharp and anything sharp always points to danger, so it’s really better to secure your footing and not rush to get to the top. The vertical walls do require some serious rock climbing, so make sure you’re really up for a strenuous activity. My guide Al told me the usual trek hours for individuals is 2-3 hours, but I got to the summit in just 40 minutes —with two stop overs at that! My, how my body ached for a climb :)
And the sight? It was everything I imagined it to be. Overlooking Cadlao island and Bacuit Bay, you will see the busy streets of El Nido, the bancas that are floating peacefully like paper boats, the constructions of new hotels and establishments, and of course, the sky blue waters of El Nido which I have come to love as my second home. I spent a considerable time at the summit just savoring this sight. I even shouted for people to hear me, to take a good look above and see that where I’m standing now, I’m unhurried, undistracted, and appreciative. It may be a laid back, quiet little town, but it gets crowded, too, and loses that sense of provincial tranquility and peace, and then everything becomes busy. Below, I see obligation, demands, tasks. At the summit, I see fulfillment, and the God that makes it possible. It was such a stark contrast –that of peace and preoccupation. That’s probably why I lingered at the summit for a considerable amount of time. My current life is too preoccupied that any form of peace I can get, I do so without reservations.
So I went down (met a Canadian couple who told me I was so fast I had already passed by them twice: one going up, one going down), and in 30 minutes I was already at the jump off. What a refreshing morning activity, and definitely a must-do in El Nido!
- Rates vary between 350-500/person. If you need a contact, I can refer you to my guide Al.
- Hotels/travel agencies in town can arrange a trek for you. They say the minimum is 2 persons. Um, parang hindi. :)
- To be safe, I would advice that you go with licensed tour guides. If anything happens, people know who to
- Best time to go trekking to Taraw is in the morning, from 7:00 – 9:00 when the sun is not yet at its peak.
- Bring band aid. I didn’t even notice I already had two cuts on my left leg.
- Seriously bring mosquito repellants. They’re just everywhere.
- Your big SLR might prove tricky on the ascent. Maybe a point and shoot will do? Or, yes, iphone.
- If you must climb solo, leave notes with somebody about your activity, what time, where, who to call in case of emergency, and whatnot. You know the drill: safety first.
- If it rains before your trek, or during your trek, I would advise to turn back and postpone to another day. The rocks are already dangerous as they are; slippery rocks can be a killer.