04-Mar-2015 -- This is the fourth out of 5 reports, describing confluence visits in the Philippines. The story begins at 14°N 121°E and continues from 11°N 125°E.
Precise satellite images with full details of the Earth surface have been taken globally and are now freely available via Google Maps. However, the area around this confluence is not available, or at least not available with sufficient precision. The coarse images do not allow to find a footpath or track to the confluence when either coming from the East or the West. Interestingly, the confluence itself is covered with a little patch of a single high resolution image. From the image, I could see that there is a little village just 300 m away and a footpath just 100 m away. Therefore, I was assessing this confluence point as visitable. The only question was how could I get to this village? There are several footpaths which all end up at the edges of the high resolution image. The village is not connected to the road network, only by footpaths with a length of at least 4 km. Since I had no name of the village, I wouldn’t be able to ask locals for the way. Therefore the visit promised to be challenging.
In the morning of confluence day, we started at 7 AM with our rental car from Catbalogan City, which is just 30 km from the confluence point as the crows fly. However, in order to get to the closest point to the confluence on the road network (which is 4 km), we had to drive 2:45 hours. After leaving the Taft-Panaras Road, we entered a dead-end valley that runs east of the confluence in northern direction to the village San Jose de Buan, which is the last out of several villages in the valley. The first section is covered with concrete-slabs, but soon the surface is limestone gravel. The deeper we got into the valley, the worse the road conditions became. There was a wooden bridge that was already partly subsided and not looking trustable. But after considering the situation, we decided to travel across, since heavier vehicles compared to our compact car also take the risk of crossing this weak-looking bridge. Soon the road became too difficult to drive on with our little 2-WD car. More and more often the under surface of the car scratched on the big bumps of the road. Shortly before entering the village Hinica-an (4.5 km from the confluence), the road became impassable for our car. After a difficult and lengthy manoeuvre of turning the car around we finally parked 1 km south of Hinica-an.
Elionora decided to wait for me at the car. I put on my jogging shoes and started running, equipped with only my cell-phone (but the area has no cell-coverage), GPS, and camera. First, I went along the road passing through Hinica-an. Further north, I started looking for a path leading towards the confluence point. Since the valley and its hillsides are farmland, there were many promising footpaths. But which one was correct? After running another kilometre along the road, I decided to take one which was a little wider and more used than the others. It went steep on, steeper and steeper, I was sweating heavily and passing through plantations. However, after 15 minutes of hard work, I had to confess that I had ran into a dead end. Without much hope to reach the confluence point I went back to the road again. I had promised Elionora to be back within 4 hours and now I had already wasted one hour.
A little further up the road (at a distance of 3.6 km to the confluence point), I turned into another footpath and followed it. Again, it went through banana plantations and soon degraded to an almost invisible paths. I was about to turn around again, when I suddenly hit a huge track that was obviously used frequently. Now my motivation and energy was back. I followed it as fast as I could under heavy sweating. After 3 km running, I met another person. He turned out to be the teacher of the little village ahead. We continued our hike together and reached the village that he called Fernandez 20 minutes later. I was astonished that the village people didn’t acknowledge my arrival. I had expected that the locals might surround me as the first foreigner entering the village. But I was happy that the kids continued playing basketball and nobody was taking notice of me. The teacher and his family gave me plenty of water which I needed urgently. I actually don’t know if I could have made the long way back without water.
From the village, I followed the footpath according to the satellite image up to a distance of 99 m. From there, I had to find a cumbersome way through a sugar cane field. But at the distance of 34 m, by progress came to a sudden halt: a steep, almost vertical slope stopped me. Considering my shortage in time and my exhaustion, I decided not to approach the point any further. When I relinquish reaching all zeros due to exhaustion, that is an indicator that I was really exhausted. However, the confluence is down in the valley, while the point from where I was taking the pictures gave me a great view into the valley ahead (to the South and to the East).
I ran back exactly the same way that I had come although that route was surely sub-optimal. But in order to avoid any delays due to potential obstacles of an unknown path, I conservatively opted for the same route. At 1:10 PM I was back at the car where Elionora was waiting for me (3.5 hours after I had left). We cautiously drove back the gravel road until we reached the main road at the end of the valley. At 5 PM we reached Calbayog City and spent the night there.
CP Visit Details:
- Distance to a road: 3600 m
- Distance to a track: 3600 m
- Distance to a footpath: 99 m
- Time to reach the confluence from car parking: 2 hours 25 minutes
- Time at the confluence: 12:00 PM
- Measured height: 408 m
- Minimal distance according to GPS: 34 m
- Position accuracy: 6 m
- Topography: mountainous, CP at steep inclination
- Vegetation: sugar cane, ferns, scattered trees, bushes.
- Weather: sunny, 33° C (felt temperature)
- Given Name: The Remote Fernandez Confluence
The story continues at 13°N 124°E. More pictures about our trip can be found here.