I totally forgot about where the sagubey was hung, an offering made of moma (betel nut chew) to appease the spirits and not harm us as we started our river trek to two waterfalls: Guiput and Manambor Falls. I lost track as we hopped on rocks and crossed the stream, and stopping from time to time to take photos of the surroundings.
I was in my element, trekking this cool tropical stream with lush vegetation and tall trees. Damselflies were hovering about as some tiger beetles flew. But I didn’t focus on these insects, looking instead at where I am heading and where I step on the rocks. A foolhardy step might send me into the shallow water, and wet my camera gear or hit my head or body on some rocks.
After some stream crossings and skipping over boulders, we came into Guitup Falls, one of two destinations that we planned for this adventure trek. Guitup got its name from the crack on the rock where the water flows from. It’s actually a continuation of Manambor Falls above it.
Guitup Falls is just a low waterfall with a wide and deep pool. It’s not really that spectacular unlike the one we saw in Tubo. It would have been great to swim but our time was quite short and we still had to go to the next waterfall.
The farther we trekked up the more difficult it got but at the same time, the more the surroundings got better. The boulders became bigger and bigger as the path of the river became narrower as rock walls started to rise. We tried to take a shortcut to one side of the mountain, cutting through vegetation but eventually we gave up. We had to go back to the river.
We came to one big boulder, climbed it and came face to face with gorge like features along the river. Our native Adasen guides looked for a trail but found only a rockface. It’s possible to walk the path, hugging the wall and manipulate one’s footing and hands skillfully in crevices, on jutting rockholds. It was easier for them as they were slim and fit but I was a bit concerned about my size.
Darn. I never imagined that I would be bouldering and need to hug the wall just to cross the river without getting wet. I looked. I tried, my camera gear already transported to the other side by one of the guides. Darn. I was in a precarious foothold and the fear of falling into the water was greater. My confidence over the sheer rock face diminished each time I tried to look for a foothold. Darn…
Throwing caution to the wind, I took off my shirt and decided to swim. I confess though that I’m not so adept in swimming. Much more in water that is deeper than my height of 5’11. But I got no choice but to propel myself against the water. It was cold and deep but in less than a minute, I was at the other side. Relieved at my accomplishment. Ok if I got wet while the rest were dry.
We trekked farther. More than ten meters up, we came to another boulder, to another gorge. Darn. Another swim. This time, the distance was much farther that I had again trepidations of swimming. Will I make it? What if I get cramps? What if I can’t make it? What if…? I collected myself and decided that yes, I can make this swim.
I went to the side of the boulder then with my feet, pushed myself the hardest and swam. I swam. I threw my arms forward, against the current. Followed it up with my other arm while at the same time flipping my feet. I was afraid that I might not make it but all I was just thinking was to reach the other side. Few meters more, and I got to the other boulder. I grasped the stone while still in the water. Breathed deep and rose. I looked back and smiled.
The sound of Manambor Falls grew stronger. After a few more boulders there it was, a smooth but still low cascade just like Guiput Falls. But I wasn’t complaining. The previous ordeal was great. I was able to conquer my fears and just swam. After taking photographs of the waterfall, I just sat at a cavity filled with water and enjoyed the cool waters.
After swimming, we had to go back to the vehicle. We got lost and going back downstream was no longer an option. We followed another trail, along a stream that eventually became too steep to climb that we opted to trek its flanks. I got slower. I had no water bottle and the thirst was palpable. I was sweating buckets and I was sure I was running low on salt as my legs started to cramp.
It was my first time to have leg cramps. It was just so painful that I had to stop, sit and massage my legs. Ed gave me the remaining few ounces in his water bottle and I apologised to him that I just have to drink it all up. After a few minutes, the cramps were gone, I started walking again. Good thing, we were able to get back to the trail and we already heard our companions voices ahead of us.
I stopped at one point, at a break at the jungle canopy and just marveled at the forested mountains. Some parts have been cleared while most are still lush. I headed down the trail, slowly walking and holding on to roots and saplings. After fifteen minutes, the dirt road came into view. I was elated, relieved at the same time that I was near.
When we got to the vehicle, at exactly the same spot where it had stopped, a few tetrapacks of juice being cooled in the river awaited us. One of the guides prepared something exotic: rattan shoots with the bark stripped then grilled, just like ubod, or coconut heart of palm. It was tender and soft but so bitter that I just tasted a few bits.
It was already starting to get late in the afternoon and we still have to go back to Agsimao. when we reached the barangay, we had another round of that delicious brewed native coffee. Despite being asked to stay for the night, we opted to go back to Bangued.
I always look forward to rugged adventures whenever I am in Abra. In the two places that we’ve visited before, this one and the one in Tubo, were so great and exhilarating experiences! Nevermind the hardships, the struggles and pain. The mind numbing psychological and physical tortures we endured trekking for days in Tubo, or this Tineg adventure that tested my will and mettle. It also made me realize that I really have to shape up so that I can enjoy more of these adventures.
There’s always something new to overcome, challenges to rise above. And in these two trips, we can even brag that only a few people, other than the locals have been to these beautiful places. So raw, so wild. Abra’s interior holds so much promise for the adventurer. Perhaps, in due time, it will be realized and the right kind of travelers will finally enjoy what this under rated province offer.
Thanx to Vice Governor Chari Bersamin for making this Tineg trip possible.