Everything I Learned From My First Hike
Hi! My name is Erin, and in case you’ve been wondering who “The Tralulu Team” is, that’s me! I’m one of the authors behind Tralulu’s blog posts. Just recently, I’ve experienced a milestone which needs to be shared with everyone of you, while it’s still fresh.
On June 6, 2017, me and my fellow intern friends at Tralulu woke up at dawn and set out into the wilderness on what is called an “Induction Hike”. You can think of it as an initiation; like a formal introduction to the internship. For your information, it is a tradition here for the newbies. The glorious Tuesday morning had the perfect weather conditions to climb a mountain in Rizal — it was not hot (it was actually windy), not humid, and not raining. It was extra exciting to not know the specific mountain we were climbing.
It’s funny how I’ve been assigned to write about quick weekend destinations, which mountains to trek, and even hiking tips for beginners when I myself have never gone on a true, legit hike. I might have seemed like a hypocrite, looking back at the listicle that featured hiking hacks, because I, frankly, did not even apply most of what I researched and wrote about in that article. Hey, at least I admitted the truth!
In the end, we eventually conquered the mountain after a reasonable time of eight and a half hours! Good enough for first timers, right? Saying that it was a great feeling to finish the whole trail would be an ENORMOUS understatement. Instead, I recalled all the memories and struggles of the trip for you. Also featured are the lessons I’ve learned about hiking and things I regretted doing (or forgot to do).
1. Check your private messages for unexpected updates.
Kuya Jimmy agrees!
I tell you now, if only I had done this first step, then the next three bullets wouldn’t have existed below. I promise, I was trying to get rest for the long-awaited day, but I was having insomnia! While I was awake, I should have at least checked the group messages on my phone, but I was too excited. I forgot all about possible changes to the itinerary and things to bring.
2. Get six hours of sleep.
This is how we looked when we were tired.
A day before the hike we were supposed to avoid working out. I followed that advice very well. But when I clocked into bed at around 8pm, I found myself twisting and turning and thinking too much about the day of the hike. It might also have been the lack of physical activity. I checked my phone again and it said 9:30pm. All I could think of was — Why do I have to have insomnia tonight of all nights? Obviously that
just kept me up even longer. I eventually fell asleep, but then woke up at 12:34am. What I’m saying is that you should try to calm yourself before a big day. It’s no excuse to be excited, because lack of sleep can cause you to be sluggish. You might not have enough energy to face whatever is planned ahead of you. Good thing I still had my adrenaline rush keeping me alive, but I can’t rely on that everytime.
3. Don’t wear shorts.
Getting ready … to fall!
Simply one of the biggest mistakes I’ve committed during this trip, if not the WORST. If I had worn jogging pants, that would have made the hike ten times easier and more comfortable. I would have had one less problem with fully covered legs. While there’s no turning back now, at least I have a lot of souvenirs (in the form of scratches) on my limbs for proof that I’ve conquered three summits of Mount Sembrano. A bonus is that I’ve managed to get a nice tan on the legs!
Good thing Micha was wearing leggings when she slid! You can see me to the right. I am holding on to dear life, on the verge of falling too.
4. Bring three liters of water.
You don’t want to get water-deprived like these plants.
And make sure to devise a plan of when to drink. I was not thinking about the future, I was only relying on the guide’s estimated time of arrivals. I brought two-liters of water. I was pretty stupid to have finished a one-liter water bottle when we weren’t even halfway up the mountain. I think it was because my bag was feeling too heavy for me to carry, but that shouldn’t have been an excuse. Good thing I realized
Memories of full water bottles.
this early, so I budgeted my water and managed to save a few milliliters of it during the last few meters of the hike. Can you believe Kuya Jimmy survived on one 500mL bottled water for eight hours? He didn’t have any breakfast or lunch, and he was actually drunk the night before. Hardcore!
5. Bring hand sanitizer.
Unless you want to cleanse your hands with the scarce amount of water you brought, just like I did. Alcohol and wet wipes will do the trick to decontaminate your dirty hands from crawling, but they aren’t really recommended to use because of the chemicals they carry that can be harmful to the mountain.
6. Bring sun protection.
Sheltering ourselves from the sun.
I was surviving on the closest thing we had to sunblock, Andrew’s Nivea moisturizer with SPF 25 and a hat. That hat kept me away from deadly heat strokes that I couldn’t afford (since we hiked during bad hours). It also protected my face that had no sun screen, but nevertheless, the sun still established a bit of rosiness on my cheeks and mild sunburns on my neck, arms, and legs. I made sure to smother some aloe vera gel on the affected areas as soon as I finished showering. I should have brought an umbrella like my smart friend Micha did. It would work for both ways — rain or shine, while covering the entire body.
7. Wear the right shoes.
Sometimes, we need a helping hand when our feet won’t support us.
My Brooks rubber shoes (which I used for jogging on the track) were the least of help to my situation. It was built to be a cushioned when I ran, but not exactly like my spikes which could grab at the soil. It wasn’t helpful either that the ground was slippery. I felt that these shoes were a major factor to the hike. If only we hiked during the summer season, these shoes would suffice. Towards the end of the hike, I noticed the most painful part of my body were my toes. They were nearly protruding out of my four year old rubber shoes that have already been repaired once. I felt the padding of the shoe getting thinner and thinner. It really helps to know the type of terrain you plan to trek on so you can be prepared, but if you’re going on a mystery hike, it’s best to find actual hiking shoes first. Exceptions are people like Kuya Jimmy, who can wear slippers and not get affected.
8. Physical fitness matters only fifty percent.
Even for someone like Jecel who doesn’t have much body fat, it was challenging.
I will be quite honest — I am physically fit. I workout at least five times a week. I engage in physical activity whenever I get the chance, from as simple as walking to rollerblading in my village, anything to keep my body moving. I even used to be a hurdler in my school’s Track and Field team! Seems pretty athletic, right? I have never expected hiking to be as challenging as it was when I first tried it out. Sure, I tried a mock hike, over five hundred steps of steep rock, but the thing is, those were stairs. They followed a form that would make it impossible to slip and fall. Hiking was a whole other story. I used a multitude of skills such as walking, hopping, stepping, crawling, mountain climbing,
Using makeshift walking sticks for keeping stable.
grappling, grabbing, falling, and sliding. Andrew always assured us that this was an easy path, but that just made me feel worse because I felt like an old woman, especially when we were descending. I couldn’t do anything about my painful joints (because of gravity) but to take everything slower. Being an athletic girl, I think the pain was only excruciating during the hike, but not so much after. I still have a bit of hip pain, but I heard it’s normal and it will pass. I just worry for those who aren’t as fit and who attempt to go on their first hike. I suggest that all you first timers strengthen yourselves as you would when preparing for a marathon. But even if you do that, get ready to face the aftermath of hiking. It’s inevitable. Just be sure to stretch it all out afterwards.
9. The other fifty percent is your mindset.
The mysterious Kuya Jimmy. Not a single word of complaints escaped his mouth.
Honestly, you don’t have to be the epitome of “physically fit” to conquer any mountain. You could be super toned and built, but you may not have the right attitude to overcome all the struggles that come with climbing a mountain. I fell guilty to this, when I complained about everything that annoyed me, even the slightest of things, like a small slip or an itchy twig. I realized it early though, so I renewed my mindset. This is all part, nothing different, nothing new.
10. Don’t waste your energy right away.
Barely making it up the narrow trail.
When we started ascending up Mount Sembrano, I was among the people in the front of the line. I felt good because I was first, I was ahead. But then I realized that I was just wasting my energy. We had seven more hours to go. Andrew also said that it really doesn’t matter how fast we go. Quoting one of the songs that the others were singing along the way, “It ain’t about how fast I get there, it ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s the climb”!
11. Check up on each other once in awhile.
Andrew attending to Paolo’s cramped legs.
Before we reached the first summit, our group was somewhat divided. Some people were left behind while the others just kept on going. One of our group mates, Paolo, even got a cramp going up, and I didn’t even stay with the rest of the group to check up on him. When we reached the last summit, we had what was called a facilitation circle. We took time to evaluate our strengths and weaknesses through the duration of
the hike, and doing this made us more efficient as a team. We decided to switch the order of who was in front — the slower people in front while the faster people at the back. This worked amazingly, since we were all within reach of each other instead of meter sticks away from each other. We were so close that the actions of the person in front could affect the person behind, like if someone fell, so would the next person. It was the ultimate bonding experience.
12. Be resourceful.
Freshly picked Indian mangoes!
Using water as a wash for the hands was one way of being resourceful, but there were plenty others during this trip. Take Jecel for example. She was being resourceful in more than one way. When we were having lunch up in the summit, it was scorching hot. She didn’t even have a cap or sunblock, so she used her extra jogging pants as a makeshift cap. She was also feeling blistery in the neck on the way down, but none of us had an extra hair tie for her, so she took a piece of plastic and wrapped it around her hair. It was brilliant!
13. Just keep going.
“The summit is near!”
Did I mention that I brought my sister with me to Mount Sembrano? (I was forced to by my parents.) It was fun with her, and she got to interact well with the team. There were times when she was feeling undetermined to complete the trail because she had numerous falls and ankle sprains. She felt like giving up, but she couldn’t or else she would get stuck on the mountain. In times like these, we just need a little push. Andrew was there behind her, giving her motivational boosts like, “You can do it, Iana!”
14. Enjoy the ride.
Taking a break for a picture.
I admit that there were times when I was too focused on moving forward and finishing the trail that I forgot to appreciate the once in a lifetime, breathtaking view. I was annoyed with the dogs that were following us, Brano, nicknamed “Favorite”, and her pup, whenever they would block
Brano, our photogenic guide.
the way or cut in front of me, but I should have let it pass. This tip also involves being respectful to the guide. It will be a while before I return to Mount Sembrano. More often than not we forget to savor life’s beauty when faced with struggles. But we should always remember that these predicaments will slide. What we will regret the most if that we did not enjoy the ride.
Kuya Jimmy taking a breather.
Micha and her Favorite, Brano, sharing a laugh.
15. It’s so much easier to write when you have actually experienced something.
Left to right: Paolo, Jecel, Micha, Andrew, Doggie, Erin, Iana, Brano/Favorite
I literally breezed through writing this article! I didn’t even have to take down much notes or go through hours of research to write this post, and yet I remember most details of my encounters by heart! I think that experiencing things is the most efficient way to go about writing a
paper or explaining history or just plain learning. From whatever generation you are from, you will definitely agree that experience is the best learning tool. If not, try it out for yourself! Will you join me on my next hike?
The much awaited view at the top of Mount Sembrano.
WE MADE IT!
Photo credits: Paolo Andre Pareno, Micha Villaroman