May 31, 2013

around ranau

note: regression (2011)

after our kinabalu hike, madam wong toured us around ranau. there was no commuting for us since madam wong arranged the transportation for all our travel so i can't help with with commuting to get to the place. first in our itinerary was the rafflesia nursery where tomas met his long lost brother. hehehe.

the name of the place tells us enough what to see there: rafflesias. but there isn't too many of them as we were told that it's hard to grow them. i have seen rafflesias at mt makiling but those were just palm-size and would die easily. at the nursery, i've seen 2 arms-length-size rafflesia flowers. people say they smell like meat but i wasn't able to smell them probably because of my mild sniffles. 

after our quick tour at the rafflesia nursery, we went to poring hotspring and nature reserve. i must say that it failed a few of my expectations as i was in wildlife mode at that time. seeing mini pools in clusters reminded me of pansol in laguna. not that i hate the place but i thought we would be bathing in hot springs deep within the forest. 

before we took a bath in our private quarters, we did a canopy walk, which i guess is the highlight of our poring trip. we should've gotten discounts for the trail but as my chinese-like facial features and slightly lighter skin color signified "foreigner" to the park officers, we had no choice but to pay the highest rates. lol! 

the trail ended at the kipungit waterfalls where people get to feed the small fishes with dead skin cells, which is good because a have a mat blister which have been bothering me for quite a while. after 30 minutes, it was gone. thank you fishies!

madam wong getting a foot spa
my very first fishy and ticklish foot spa
my first shot at rock balancing

kipungit water falls
oh... hello there!

May 11, 2013

walk the torq: trusting the ropes unconditionally

note: regression (2011)

a lot of people who have climbed mt kinabalu told me to take the ferrata package to make our kinabalu experience complete. with madam wong's assistance, i booked the walk the torq package with mountain torq

it's been a while since i last held a rope and a harness. my last rappelling activity was summer of 2011, which was so many months from november 2011. good thing though, roland of mountain torq did a refresher. still hungry, all i could remember during the work shop was him yelling, "rope in, rope out!"

after our summit assault, we went to sayat sayat hut for a second briefing. the mountain torq team distributed our equipment and taught us again for the second time. 

sayat sayat hut
view of the trail from sayat sayat hut
starting point of walk the torq
since it was almost rainy season, we did not have much clearing as seen in google when you search for via ferratta in kinabalu. the clouds would uncover the breath-taking view below only a very few times. what i've seen for a few seconds made me realize the value of "rope in, rope out!" 

photos taken by our guide, roland, using my camera

the nasty monkey bridge and the boundless abyss.
despite a few instances of height fright, i did not regret spending extra on the via ferratta package. the only thing that disappointed me, aside from the zero clearing, was the steps were made for caucasians. a 164 cm-tall woman will have to stretch so much just to get to the next step!

according to the mountain torq guides, our team was the fastest to finish the walk the torq at 1 hour and 24 minutes. they said that tourists would normally finish in 2 to 3 hours. the fastest they said was at least 2 hours (i forget the exact figures). i guess what made us finish fast was the absence of a clearing. just imagine the cam whoring we could have done when the sky opened up!

May 05, 2013

mt kinabalu: a riceless climb

note: regression (2011)

the moment we arrived at kota kinabalu, we noticed that there's no rice. my hiking buddies and i thought it was ok since everyone was on a diet. unlike our previous travels when all of us gained weight due to gluttony, our diets will be sustained. after we had a malaysian dinner at kota kinabalu, madam wong dropped us at the nearest convenience store en route ranau where we'll stay for the night. since there's no rice, we loaded ourselves with loaves of wheat bread, liters of water, canned tuna, and quick cook meals. 

i was asleep the entire trip that i did not notice that it had rained. i was sleeping too soundly that i didn't notice my travel buddy, also a first timer in malaysia, thought a truck was going hit us and panicked but later realized the roads in malaysia are a "keep right" zone. everything was reversed. after our 2-hour trip, we finally settled in our lodge and slept. 

madam woke woke us up at 05:30 and cooked some of our food for breakfast. she's that thoughtful! ranau was colder than baguio. the bad thing though was only one cubicle has a working heater and the water dropped like a little boy's piss that i had to endure a freezing bath. 

our view from the mountain hostel

at 06:30, our guide, whose name i have forgotten, picked us up from the lodge with his personal vehicle. madam wong wouldn't come in since the malaysian government only allowed travel agents to travel for free if hey bring at least  10 climbers. we were only a group of 4 so she stayed to take care of our other stuff. 

because pinoys need rice... lots of rice

the mesilau - timpohon traverse map

as soon as our guide got our id's (with my name printed wrong having my middle name as my last name), we started climbing up at 09:00. we shared the trail with a lot of koreans and two lady singaporeans. we needed to arrive at pendant hut by 16:00 for the feratta training. if we can't make it by that time, mountain torq will forfeit our slots. so we dashed our way up. it was my mistake of putting mesilau first. i should have had timpohon first so we could enjoy the scenery. we walked non-stop uphills and ran on downhills to cut the time. we only took few pictures along the trail that we missed taking photos of the bonsai garden and the wateralls on 4km. 

we passed by a lot of people who were quite surprised about seeing us running with our full packs. most tourists who climbed kinabalu were not mountaineers. if they were, they had two walking sticks. we amazed the people who have seen us walk with none despite our very heavy packs. when a korean asked where we came from and told them we're from the philippines, he said, "oh! pacquiao! philippine is strong!" however others, the japanese, were pissed off after i, a woman they have mistaken as a japanese too because of my facial features, passed by all of them. i was told later by my japanese best friend that in japanese culture, women should always be 5 steps behind the men. obviously, with a strict itinerary, i can't follow that rule and in no way will i submit to chauvinistic traditions on trail!

one of the resting huts in mesilau
according to our guide, these were dead trees which were struck by lightning. the lightning caused a major forest fire in mesilau

at 11:00, we were way too hungry before lunch but we ate our packed meal of wheat bread with peanut butter jelly and tuna. we thought our meal would suffice when extreme hunger struck me at the mid point. i have no idea if i was stricken by altitude mountain sickness but my buddy and i dropped to the mid point gate entrance out of extreme hunger. form the mesilau-timpohon junction, we could have arrived at pendant hut within 2 hours. however, since we're drop dead hungry, we had to conserve energy. we arrived at the waras hut at 13:00. my other travel buddy went ahead and pushed for pendant hut so he could sign us up. sitting next to us at the entrance near waras hut was another climber who was vomiting because of ams. he signified to me that he wasn't fine so i gave him something to eat. when  his buddies came to the rescue, my buddy and i, still craving for rice, pushed baby steps to our lodge. the clouds which passed us by looked like rice which made my hunger worse. 

after 3 gruelling hours of baby steps and rice cravings, we finally saw pendant hut. at that time, my strength was faltering. just a few steps from pendant hut, my buddy said, "i can't push further! let's eat!" like hungry dogs, we devoured our riceless meal. we did not mind if the distance between us and the lodge door was only 6 steps. we were hungry. and just like the tv commercial, we thought of our food as rice. my other travel buddy, probably settled at the lodge already, dressed up with his climb clothes again hoping to get our stuff to help us ascend fast, was surprised to see us eating at the lodge entrance. 

our view from pendant hut
laban rata
we logged in at 16:15. we were 15 minutes late but the mountain torq guys allowed us to join after knowing that we were only hanging out at the entrance. at 17:00, a group of filipinos came who will also join us in walk the torq. the attendant told us that they'd still allow lessons until 18:00. after changing our clothes and had our rope seminar for tomorrow's ferrata, we had our free dinner at laban rata. the buffet meal doesn't taste that good but you wouldn't mind if you're dangerously hungry. yet, still no rice. we retired at our bunkers at 19:00.

sunrise at the peak

everyone had to wake up at 01:00 to prepare for the summit trek at 02:00. pendant hut served our free lunch of wheat bread, peanut butter, jelly, and tea or coffee. still no rice but we forced ourselves to eat a lot since it will be 3 hours to reach the summit. the wot trainer told us that we have to be at sayat sayat house by 8am to start the ferrata

it was still dark when we left pendant hut but you can see the line of head lamps going towards the summit. there are no trails in the summit as mt kinabalu is basically just a large rock formation. the only guide we had at night was a thick white manila rope which we had to hold on to from time to time when ascending too steep slopes.

a few meters from the summit, you can't push further yet as the place is cramped up by climbers. you have to wait for your turn to take a photo of the summit marker. 

everyone taking turns at the summit markers to take a photo

view of andrew's peak from low's summit
my neighbor and climb buddy, ricky, and the south peak
me and the south peak
me at the 4000 masl marker
st john's peak
km markers
the thick manila rope which guided the climbers to the summit

one of the mountain guides

mt daguldol: baptism by a concoction of mud and dung

since may is my anniversary in mountaineering, here's something from my old blog about my very first climb for zero cost! 


the word daguldol means "thunder" but when i went there, all i could see are lightning flashes but not a single roar of thunder. the place is privately owned and as you progress along the trail, you will see farmers, cows, goats, and horses. speaking of animals, you will never get lost in the trail since there are land mines of different shapes and sizes so you know where the animals have been. we thought we had ourselves a lucky trip because it was sunny, there's cool breeze, and we were all invited to free meals since it's fiesta. we concluded that it's the best day to have ivan and i's birthday celebration. but then 2.5 hours later, the clouds swarmed in really fast and there went the rain.

the trek started along the seashore which i find very relaxing having to see the turqouise blue sea blending with the sky before the unexpected torment begins. as 22 of us marched together with other mountaineers along the trail, many "beachineers" were amused to see us carrying our heavy loads to climb the mountain. some townsfolk were laughing at us for doing such odd actions of carrying heavy loads, wearing uberprotective mountaineering apparel, and tire ourselves along the way while they, on the otherhand, just go there with house clothes and rubber slippers. they called mountaineers "hulog dila" (tongue drop). it's just a normal reaction for the locals of a newly discovered mountaineering destination.

there are also a lot of resting points along the trail. first the small hut, then the place which i call the "softdrink and chicken" area because there are a lot of softdrink vendors ... and chickens, the "halo-halo" stop, and the "buko" stop (i forgot which of the two was first). the pit stops were very helpful since it was raining. it gave us time to check our stuff from time to time if we have done waterproofing the right way or if someone got injured. there are also a lot of manggo trees along the way so you will also be tempted to violate the rule "thou shalt not eat from that tree".

after almost 5 hours of trekking, we arrived at the campsite. we have to change to dry clothes immediately so as for us not to catch a fever or cold the next day. the mist was heavy that night that we had to make a campfire. you can't walk outside the tent without a flashlight because you'll never know if you're still alive on your next step. one funny thing that happened there was clara and ayie thought i was a ghost because of the thick mist. i covered myself with a malong at that time and i was sitting near the peak's edge hehehe. so ayie poked me with a stick and said, "sino ka?" (who are you?) then i looked at him and laughed.

zero visibility 
daguldol summit
amidst the rain and concoction of soil and animal droppings along the trail, the climb was worth the suffering. aside from the free food at the barangay, nice beach, and the handsome batangueños, the view from the peak was breathtaking as well as the view of the beach along the trail. ergo, the daguldol climb is awesome!

our friend, dugong

allergy schmallergy

disclaimer: i am not a doctor. i am only sharing the things i learned from my doctors. always visit your doctor first! 

allergies are rusty thorns in the spine. it is a hindrance to a wonderfully crafted travel itinerary. you'd get checked twice in airport terminals for having red eyes. you could even be quarantined for whatever signs you show which are associated with pandemic diseases. people will evade you when you sneeze (which sometimes can be an advantage when ramming yourself through a huge crowd hehehehe). it also spoils intimate moments with loved ones while watching a beautiful sunset. you can't eat your favorite food. in worst cases, it can be life threatening.

i am allergic to almost everything. i admire my dad for his achievements in life and for his wanderlust but if there's one thing i could blame my dad for, it's inheriting his allergies. i always get bad cases of sniffles in the morning and during season shifts. i have seen my left arm mutate into majin buu's after a hairy caterpillar (aka higad) landed on my skin. i also have sniffles which, before, if not attended to immediately, eventually led to asthma. to date, the worst allergic reaction i could remember (and i will never forget) was fainting after being attacked by a swarm of wasps after i hurled green muntingia (aka aratiles... yes i was a kid when i did it!) at a small hive in our old house's garden. the next thing i remember was waking up in a hospital with a doctor injecting a large syringe with yellow liquid into my neck! amidst all these, the good news is, you can control your allergies. but first thing's first...


^^ SEE THE EMPHASIS? if your poor judgement concludes that my post will help you solve your allergy problems, please be advised that i am not a psychic distance healer. GO TO THE DOCTOR!

although you can consult google or your friends, they, rather, we are not registered doctors! the worst advice i have heard so far was to expose yourself to your allergens for immunity. these are true and untrue! always remember that allergies are life threatening. as a general rule for allergies, what you consume and expose yourselves to can kill you. if the doctor tells you to consume small amounts for immunity, it may be the case that your body can and will still tolerate it based on assessment and tests. the worst you can get with allergies is anaphylactic shock as what i've experienced with wasps. reality check, people die of allergies to seafood so if you think your immunities can always tolerate everything you're eating, think again.

going to the dermatologist is the first big step you should do. they're not only good with getting rid of acne but in saving your life! 

go to the derma!

when you go to the dermatologist, as for a prick/scratch or a patch test. the procedure would be pricking your skin with all possible allergens which any person could be hypersensitive to. once your allergens have been identified, you should avoid places or food which you are highly allergic to. 

prick test (googled image)
as a reminder, procedures related to allergies are not covered by most hmo. most only cover consultation so you need to bring extra cash with you if a test needs to be done. it won't cost you more than 2000.00 php for a prick test.

after identifying your allergies, you must visit a specialist to thoroughly examine your allergy-prone areas. a general practitioner can help you as well but specialists give thorough examination. just talk to a medical specialist so s/he can prescribe you the right medicines. most of the medications in conventional medicine are steroid-based, which means that they should only be taken in tapered dosages in a certain period of time. like any other medicine, they have side effects. i was an anti-histamine junkie for quite a long time because it made me sleep easily. i only realized the value of what i was doing when the pill i took didn't work anymore in an allergic reaction i had in one of my travels! here are the list of specialists i have visited so far.

my medicines for all my allergies as of the moment. i blurred the image so you won't self-medicate!

for all allergies related to the skin and food allergies. depending on your allergens, the derma would require you to change your lifestyle. if diagnosed with skin allergies, the derma would require you to change your soap and lotion to a compounded formula or with mild ones sold in the market. for food allergies, your derma would require you to have a food journal so you can both determine which food and/or ingredients you have to avoid. my former boss is allergic to his own sweat and was advised to avoid certain food which would make his sweat too acidic.

in most cases, allergic rhinitis can lead to allergic asthma. since the latter can be deadly, the pulmonologist would prescribe you with steroid-based inhalants and salbutamol sprays. if you are given steroid-based inhalants, you have to have good oral hygiene as it would make your teeth brittle and prone to tooth decay. 

sometimes, general practitioners think you have sore eyes because eye allergies and sore eyes share almost the same symptoms. the difference is 'sore eyes' is a contagious viral infections. an opthalmologist will help you identify which is which.

aka the ear, nose, and throat doctor. if you always have snuffles in the morning or whenever the season shifts and it has been bugging you since you were a kid, go to the ent. an ent will give you nasal sprays and saline solutions to control your allergic rhinitis. if the snuffles are unattended, you may develop nasal polyps.

traditional medicine

acupunture (googled image)

if you're not a fan of the "conventional western medicine", you can visit a traditional chinese medicine doctor who could help you identify the weak points that causes your allergies. in most cases, people with allergies have weak livers and kidneys. your tcm doctor will help you balance your "qi" () to help your body control your allergies. the procedures may require acupucture and moxibustion, herbal medicines, change in diet, and breathing exercises. if you drink coffee in the morning, replace coffee with green tea as it has natural anti-histamines.

a moxa consists of compounded herbs in a large stick. this helps if you have asthma or allergic rhinitis. blurred image so you won't self-medicate!

what works best?

as far as healing is concerned, both approaches work and it depends on which your body responds best. the difference is tcm has a slower but holistic approach when it comes to healing. in most cases, i visit a specialist first before going to the tcm doctor so i could compare both findings. needless to say, both require a change in lifestyle to help you heal yourself. just last year, i achieved a health milestone. after 2 and a half years, i was able to get rid of my asthma attacks which often proceeded after my allergic rhinitis through the help of exercise, diet changes, and acupuncture.

traveling tips for the highly allergic

here are some tips to control your allergies while traveling:

me wearing a rash guard ina a mountaineering trip at tarak ridge
  1. always bring your medicines. ask your doctors how you should take each medicine and be sure to follow the instructions. a drug for maintenance is different from the one you use for attacks. if you know acupuncture, bring sterilized sets of needles in a screw-capped test tube and disposable ones.
  2. inform the organizer of the trip about your allergies. in all cases, always inform the organizer what you are highly allergic to especially if the trip your are joining is inclusive of food and drinks or if the location would expose you to allergens such as zoos, forests, etc. this way, you'd be provided of the food you can only eat, the organizers would prepare for your allergy attacks, or kick you out of the event for the team's safety :P
  3. inform your organizer who your doctors are and their contact numbers. in case of emergency, your doctors know your health history and should be able to advise the attending medical team how you should be handled.
  4. bring your own toiletries. you should bring your own toiletries especially if your doctor required you to use compounded soaps, shampoos, and lotions. even if you are not allergic, you should still bring your own. 
  5. bring your own sleeping bag or malong. if you think the accommodation would not have decent beds, you must bring your own.
  6. bring rash guards. rash guards are your first lines of defense against skin allergies. wearing rash guards can be irritating most of the time if the weather resembles a microwave oven so you should also ventilate yourself well. if you are a diver, you must have your own wetsuit and it should not be a shortie. you should also have mouth mufflers to prevent your mouth from being exposed to allergens underwater. 
  7. bring emergency food. if you are traveling out of town or out of the country and you are not sure of what you are eating, always stash food you can eat. in my case, i always have a can of tuna.
  8. ask what the food ingredients are and inform the waiter about your allergies. if you are dining out, always ask for the food's ingredients. there are times that you can eat them still with medicines so you should know the food you can easily tolerate. 
this is a different kind of muffler which i bought from nautilus

have an allergy-free adventure!