Mt. Hamiguitan, already unique because of its well known “pygmied” inhabitants, is not your usual outdoor climbing destination. The area around this bonsai fields lay host to a number of equally fascinating sites that will hold your imaginations in awe. The Cawa-Cawa Pools, the cascading river rapids, the dazzling mossy (pygmy) forest, the unbiquitous pitcher plants, the “tidal” Tinagong Dagat, the 250 ft long Twin Falls and off course the acres of naturally occuring bonsai plants, all give allure to the already famous Mt. Hamiguitan. While itineraries for Mt. Hamiguitan abound here in cyberspace (here’s by Pinoy Mountaineer and Dispatser sa Kanto), it will be prudent to plan well ahead for your climbs to get maximum fun while keeping safety a priority in your list.
Here’s Talakudong Mountaineer‘s insightful advice for trekkers planning an outdoor adventure on the highlands of San Isidro, Davao Oriental.
- Plan your climb and register early with the Department of Tourism – San Isidro. Ask advices and recommendations from them before you even formulate your itinerary. Ask which one among these spots are accesible during the expected time of your visit.
- Formulate your itinerary depending on the spots you wanted to visit and those spots you were allowed to. Some spots like the Cawa-Cawa Pool, the Tinagong Dagat take additional routes and time off your IT. It may be prudent enough to plan a 2-3 day camp 3 to peak exploration rather than an overnight summit from La Union to Mt. Hamiguitan’s peak.
- Prepare a budget that include provisions for transportation to and fro jump offs of the different spots, food for whole the climb duration, porter guides and registration. Then add 20% of that budget as an allowance for emergencies.
- Get a guide or porter to accompany you to all treks and spots to visit. It might be cost effective for you to get a guide knowledgeable to all these spots rather than get one guide for every spot you visit.
- Check your camping gears and equipments. Waterproofing is a must since the trail involves 20 or so river crossings ( starting just a few meters from the jump off), a number of slippery muddy trail thereafter, frequent downpour of rain while ascending a 70-80 degree vertical ravine, a chilling breeze at the peak and multitude of sharp rock formations
- Check the local weather. Some trail will virtually turn into rivers when rain start pouring. Others, make you roll with a big thud on your butt when you fall. So get adequately fit for this tropical rain forest weather shifts.
- Personally, I enjoyed the trek when the pace is sufficient for me to take pictures.When walking rapidly, the bonsai trees look like weeds to your inattentive eyes. You might even miss the terrific views (at Lantawan), the ferns, the pitcher plants and even eagles too (one of my buddies said he saw one during the trek) when your racing to the top and back.
- The campsite near the bonsai fields (Camp 3) is about 2-3 hours to the peak and an hour (or two) to Tinagong Dagat. The twin falls also get around 30 minutes of exhaustive 80 degree descent (ascent when you go back) on a different route from Camp 3. Lantawan 2 is just 30 minutes from the camp via a different route. Thus, if you plan to explore all of these sites, make sure you leave your stuff on one common place (Camp 3) and just get back there to lessen your load and time exploring.
- Watch out for the slippery, moldy rocks near the falls and streams you pass by. They might just cause the next cut on your skin.
- Take a dip in one of those fantastic river your crossing. Believe me they are one of the more soothing relaxation I get after the tiring four legged ascents to Mt. Hamiguitan!
- Visit to the Cawa Cawa Pool is a must. Your trek to Mt. Hamiguitan or San Isidro is incomplete without it. The travel through a different trail is worth it.
- Finally, after a long journey and tiring trek you might want to cool down in one of San Isidros better beach resorts (I only went to Adolfos and I never asked for more) before you hit the road again back to Davao.
In all of these, I enjoyed my trek to Hamiguitan not only because of the majestic pygmy forest the greeted me warmly. With the kind and fun people I went with on that fateful trek to the Bonsai Capital of the Philippines, I never would have appreciated the beauty that was there all along for a hundred years!!