My feet are getting numb. I think I can no longer make it to the summit, but there’s no point of turning back for I still need to walk anyway. Besides, I can almost breathe success here at Camp 8. The scent of nature seeps in through my nose. It’s the opportunity to recover all the air I lost from the old trail down. I can do this.
However, my buddy Jay seems to be giving up. It’s actually his first time to hike a mountain and accepted my invite merely for the sake of new experience. Maybe he now realizes that hiking is not a walk-in-the-park. He wants me to move forward and leave him behind, he wants to retract. Well of course I cannot leave him as easy as that for I take full responsibility in tagging him along, so I decide to just trek back with him. But after a quick rest he insists that we proceed.
With clouds rolling side by side, we can see the highest peak of Mt. Batulao gently emerge. What a beautiful sight, but I’m more excited about the view from up there.
As we continue trekking, most people who pass by us stare or look at me with an eyebrow raised. They might be slyly laughing how ridiculous I am to climb mountains wearing only beggarly slippers. Yes, I’m on my way to the summit wearing just slippers. Truth is I never wanted to walk the rocks and ridges without the comfort of mighty foot apparel. Who would want to anyway? What they don’t know is that I came here wearing an old black ranger shoes I found in a musty rack in our house, thinking it would take me to the summit. However, it succumbed to the trails soon enough. But I won’t.
We reached the summit of Mt. Batulao after around three hours of sunbathed hiking and passing through steep and treacherous cliffs. There are a lot of people making the place pretty crowded given that the summit ground is narrow and can accommodate only a few. I think some are even on an office outing or team building. And I think I don’t like to settle for another minute longer. All I want is a nice corner to savor our much-awaited lunch and some peace perhaps.
In the new trails there’s another base camp perfect for what I’m looking for — a nipa hut, a wooden table, an improvised swing, and serenity. There’s also a stray dog which I think is a better company than a group of noisy and outrageous tourists. But a few minutes after finishing our meal, dark clouds start to cloak the clear blue skies. This may be what the weather forecast is all about. Good thing we brought umbrellas and garbage bags to somehow protect us from rain. So we pack our things right and descend at a faster rate.
Water starts to fall. The path becomes slippery putting much pressure on my slippers especially now we’re heading down. Eventually, the left one yields. I see Jay ahead of me quite a distance already. I hold onto wet grasses for support. I step on horseshit. I slide in the mud. I tumble. Then I decide to walk barefoot.
Only the earth underneath can understand: my feet are getting numb.