Lush, verdant and lusciously damp; Pico de Loro was exactly as I expected. It has been a while since I climbed a mountain wrapped in verdant tropical rainforest.
It is easy to get used to "well-pressed" National Park trails. It is easy to forget the sensation of being slapped crazy by foliage and thorny bamboo again and again in poorly maintained trails. It is easy to forget the sensation of losing one's balance and having no choice but to grab onto a thorny palm with your bare hands. Though Pico is not entirely like that, there will be portions during the assault that hints of this verdant past.
Pico is a regular destination for mountaineers and hikers of all ages. Any reasonably fit person will find the climb moderately exhausting even with a fully loaded day pack.
If you want a challenging ascent (so as to at least break a sweat) you can always shun the first turn-off that leads to the peak. Go past that and keep walking until you reach a small campsite. You should be able to see Pico's jutting rock overhead. Beat around the bush to find the trail leading up that rock. Taking this trail will have you scale 5 foot stone blocks and scrambling up roots and
Pico's rock that juts up the slope would have been a perfect platform to lie down and take in the view if not for the vandalism that the rock formation has suffered. It is just too basely and low for regular brains to comprehend the motivation behind vandalism in the wilderness.
In the Philippines, mountaineers seem to welcome if not encourage more regulations and restrictions in their favorite camping sites and hiking destinations. If only to add that extra barrier to protect these places from mindless vandals, most mountaineers are willing to put up with added layer in the bureaucracy of climbing.
Pico de Loro has two peaks that are quite close to each other. The higher and relatively gentler sloping one is where most would make their way to. The slightly lower vertical rock is more fun to go to and scale but obviously, it is the stuff acrophobic's nightmares are made of.
Many opt to pass climbing the rock once they have a glimpse of it. In actuality, you simply just have to stay close to the ground and everything will be fine and dandy. There is just this portion where you will need the aid of a rope to scale a near vertical portion. If you boulder or wall climb then you most probably wouldn't need the rope - which is by the way, weather-worn and tied to the base of a scrawny bonsai tree.
When I first went up that vertical portion, I knew there was something fishy about that rope that is why I refused to commit my weight to it. I doubt anyone would find the time to use a bolt for this. Trees can't grow on rocks so there couldn't be a trunk to anchor the rope on. . When I finally saw the scrawny bonsai where the rope was secured, I suddenly noticed the freaky drop to the side of the rock.
The view was fantastic on top of Pico's rock! We basked in the 360 degree scene where you can make out the outline of the beaches of Nasugbu and the highway that will take you there. Pico de Loro is actually in Cavite, though traversing the hiking grounds will lead you to the Province of Batangas.
At the end of the day, you have the choice of setting up camp or returning the way you came. For this trip we traversed and made our way to the Batangas side of the hiking grounds - more specifically, the Municipality of Nasugbu. The hike down took about two hours with minimal rest.
For the amount of effort put in to climb Pico, the reward in terms of the view is definitely runaway profit.
After hiking for hours, nothing beats loading up on a jeepney and hitting the beach.
Our itinerary took us to Cutad Beach - a sort of private white-sand cove huddled in privacy by forested hills. Beyond the beach and out of sight were ready roads and development work. We knew it will be mere months before this jewel of a place is forever closed to the public where only the rich and paranoid will be allowed to walk on its shores.
The wondrous feeling of having the cove to ourselves was exhilarating. We chased baby crabs up and down the beach in drunken stupor, gathering as many as we can, then sautéing them in garlic. The results were so crispy and fresh that you can bite through everything, claw and all.
Under the light of the full moon, we rolled, tumbled, wriggled, dug and jostled in the sand, and wadded, splashed and bubbled in the warm shallow waters whenever we could.
If "funnest" was a word, then that would aptly describe the entirety of this trip.
Pico de Loro
Ternante, Cavite to Nasugbu, Batangas.
Total Budget: Php 600.00.
08:00am ETD Baclaran
10:00am ETA Ternante. Catch Jeep to Magnet Road - Pico de Loro Jump-off
12:00pm Lunch at trail
02:00pm Assault Pico
02:30pm ETA Peak
03:30pm Start descending
05:00pm ETA Brgy. Papaya
05:30pm ETD for Cutad Beach
06:00pm ETA Cutad Beach
10:30am Depart for Nasugbu (pre-arranged jeep pick-up)
12:00pm ETA Nasugbu
01:00pm ETD for Manila