Up Mt. Nagsasa & Down to Several Beaches

This year has taken me to many major new places and experiences. The first was last January, when me and my friends went on a trekking adventure to climb up a mountain, go over the other side and walk all the way to the beach to pitch our tents and sleep under the stars. Read the TL;DR here.

From the Jump Off to the Peak

This map shows where we trekked, sort of. It’s mostly guesswork as I forgot to use a GPS tracker to plot our movements.

This map shows where we trekked, sort of. It’s mostly guesswork as I forgot to use a GPS tracker to plot our movements.

We started at the jump point at around 4:30 in the morning. It was extremely cold (I think it felt around 15°C, I mean, for a place like Manila where it’s been around 35°C for the past few weeks). We walked through vegetation taller than me. It was pitch black, with only our flashlights to let us see the ground beneath our feet. Most of the plants had sharp edges. I was really happy with the leggings I got that were black and smooth. I thought they would be all slashed by the sharp leaves but they were fine and protected me. Our guide, who is native to the land, was only visible as a dot of white light floating ahead of us. You have to be really careful where you place your foot. Stepping on loose rocks can break your ankle, ouch! Sometimes we had to climb on all fours. In the dark. Sometimes it gets really creepy, you feel like someone or something is watching. It makes me feel like running away in a panic. We made our first stop for a quick breakfast. Our guide lit a bonfire. Then we walked again. Whenever I look up, I see the bright moon and the silhouette of the mountain peak. I was getting really tired. We’ve been walking for a few hours but the peak doesn’t look any closer.

When we got a little higher on the side of the mountain, the sun started rising and this was the view. I can see the river where I dunked my foot, socks and shoes all in.

This was our guide. He lives on the other side of the mountain. His son walks this very same path we’re on everyday so he can go to school in the city. Imagine that, the kid traverses a mountain everyday just to go to school.

Maybe the photos can’t show exactly how difficult this is. But the boys had to help me with my bag as I was really struggling during the steepest part of the climb when we had to use our hands to grab on rock ledges. Vinx already lent me his traverse stick and I still had to take long breaks just to catch my breath. The guys, who all had bags of their own plus a tent, took turns carrying my bag until we got to the peak. LOL. My breathing was getting more ragged and frantic but I can’t seem to put air in my lungs, and I felt I was on the brink of hyperventilating at times.
But I wasn’t worried. Most of the guys we were with were nurses, so yay. One of them told me to calm down and breathe slower even if my brain is telling me to breathe more. So that’s what I did and my lungs calmed down after a while. I felt guilty because I felt like I was slowing the whole group down, although the guide told us our pace was faster than average.

The feeling being on top of that mountain, with the nippy wind whipping your hair- it was exhilarating. I felt like I can do anything. Anything at all in the world.

Water break on relatively flat ground on the base of the peak. Here I saw our destination on the other side of the mountain: the Nagsasa Beach Cove.


From the Peak to the Beach

If climbing up was hard, going down was a little better for me. For the others though, like Li-j, they said it’s a harder time going down. I guess because the path had really loose rubble. Nothing you step on is for sure. You should always be ready to slip and catch yourself. It was a little scary because the one thing I can’t have happen is twist an ankle. I did, several times but not bad enough to get injured, thank God. I mean, I can’t have people carrying me, too! I ran most of the way down. It seemed easier to lightly run over rocks and sandy rubble quickly rather than methodically test each rock before stepping on them. Easier, but still painful. Every step and jump down is painful for my ankles. And it felt like the rocks were tearing my shoes up.

It was like coming down from Mordor with all the rocks and treacherous steepness. Then all of a sudden we were in outskirts of Rivendell. All the good smells of the woods and blessed shade from the sun:

We came upon what is supposed to be a river but since it’s the dry season (as we’ve seen from the parched plants and soil) and there was not much water, they were just rocks of the river bed.

Water! This walking/trek stick saved me. Really. Many times.

Then the landscape changed again and it was like being in the Dothraki sea of grass:

Grass everywhere but no Drogo 🙁

Then what looks to be a river again. Was I happy we did this during the dry season. It was around 30 metres wide. I guess I’d be able to cross it even when full of water, I mean nothing’s impossible. But at that time, at that point, and that level of tiredness- just thinking about it.. I couldn’t deal. We crossed it easy as pie.

I mean here’s what it looks like during the wet season. Look at the current. Cray.

It sure looks fun now I’m home, not tired and ready for another adventure. But at the time.. Just.. no way. We all wanted to just get to the beach already and be lazy.

When the landscape changed again, it was all ragged bits of grass fighting through sand. Sand, sand everywhere. At first I thought, nice, soft sand, better than the uneven rocks. Then I started panting. Like actually panting. I couldn’t understand. But it seems like sand doubles the effort since you’re always sinking and it’s like you’re climbing an endless flat staircase. LOL. I have no photos of that, too busy just walking and breathing.

Then we got to the beach. It was 10:30 in the morning. We’ve been walking and climbing for 6 hours. No cold water for drinking. No electricity. No cellphone signal. Not complaining, of course. I expected this.

We ate and then pitched our tents. I took a shower, grateful to wash away the sand and sweat. Then we slept for a bit. When I got up it was sunset. And living in this country, you’re spoilt with beautiful sunsets everyday. But this one was breathtaking.

Nagsasa Beach

They went swimming, I chilled on the beach with an ebook, with the waves for music.

When night fell, the guys made dinner. After that, they made a bonfire on the beach. And out came the ghost stories. Under the starlight and moon.

This was taken around 1:30 in the morning. It looks bright because of the long exposure but it really was pitch black, with bobbing red and blue dots of light coming from the banca on the shore and some light from the stars. We had flashlights in the middle of our mat so we can see each other.

Nagsasa Beach to Pundaquit beach to Anawangin beach

The next day we went by boat to Pundaquit and Anawangin before going back to the city.

Pundaquit is for surfing. I mean.. try swimming in those thundering waves, lol.

Anawangin is crowded. Compared to Nagsasa where we were the only group aside from another group of friends.


Mt. Nagsasa is an easy climb, according to the veteran mountaineers we climbed with. It was difficult for me though because it was my first climb and I’m really out of shape, lol. It started at 4:30am and we reached the beach at 10.30am with 1 breakfast stop, 1 stop at the peak and 1 quick break down the flatlands. Crossed 1 small river and 1 wide river although at the time, it was dry season so not much water. Using our own tents and supplies, we camped at the beach, cooked, made a bonfire, shared ghost stories. The beach sand is fine, not at all rocky. Nagsasa beach has no electricity, no cold drinks, but it does have a small sari-sari store. Cellphone signal is intermittent at best. There’s a shower area with running water. It was super fun and I will climb again.

What a great start to the year. I feel like this is definitely going to be an amazing year.

The author: Crisel Eslao

Nose in book, bow in hair, pen in hand.