Traversing Aklan and Antique: A Three-day Hike to Mt. Madjaas via Panipiason, Madalag; Uncovering Aklan and Antique’s Hidden Treasures | rich'nritch.com

Traversing Aklan and Antique: A Three-day Hike to Mt. Madjaas via Panipiason, Madalag; Uncovering Aklan and Antique’s Hidden Treasures

Rise and shine. Awesome morning moment in Mt. Madjaas with a breathtaking view of a neighboring mountain as its peak shows up slowly above the stunning sea of clouds just as the sun rises.
Rise and shine. Awesome morning moment in Mt. Madjaas with a breathtaking view of a neighboring mountain as its peak shows up slowly above the stunning sea of clouds just as the sun rises.

It was 8AM in Sitio Mananggad, Barangay Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan when we started preparing our loads for our hike to Mt. Madjaas in Antique on the same day. It is the highlight of our seven-day exploration so far and the toughest. We've traveled from Libacao, crossed the border to Madalag, and hiked the highest mountain in Aklan for the past two days. Spending a night with the people of Panipiason was a heartwarming experience for us. Their warmth and humility deeply touched us.

Misty morning; a picturesque view of Mt. May-ay� standing above the quiet village of Baranggay Panipiason with a fog slowly ceding from its summit, creates a calm and serene atmosphere.
Misty morning; a picturesque view of Mt. May-ayó standing above the quiet village of Baranggay Panipiason with a fog slowly ceding from its summit, creates a calm and serene atmosphere.
Preparing our supplies for the hike
Preparing our supplies for the hike

 

Packing our backpacks in preparation for a long and challenging hike.
Packing our backpacks in preparation for a long and challenging hike.

 

As we were preparing to set-out, one of our guides anxiously told us that he's not sure if we can cross the rivers today because of the downpour last night. The rivers are unpredictable when it rains. He asked us to think again whether to proceed or not. Persistent with our journey, we decided to continue.

Posing with our guides from Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan.
Posing with our guides from Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan.

My childhood was filled with outdoors and adventures. I grew up in the highlands and as a kid, the mountains served as my playground. Hiking Mt. Madjaas was a dream to me back then. Going to school, I would always look up to it and wish that I can climb it someday. It was last year when Ritch and I, on separate events hiked this majestic mountain from the Antique side (Flores trail).

Some photos of my three-day hike to Mt. Madjaas last year, January 2016, via Barangay Flores, Culasi, Antique:

The summit of Mt. Madjaas illuminated by the rising sun.
The summit of Mt. Madjaas illuminated by the rising sun.
Enjoying the view after an early morning ascend on this ridge from the first camp.
Enjoying the view after an early morning ascend on this ridge from the first camp.
The ridge offers breathtaking views of rugged mountain ranges, sheer cliffs, deep valleys and forests teeming with wildlife.
The ridge offers breathtaking views of rugged mountain ranges, sheer cliffs, deep valleys and forests teeming with wildlife.
We took a short rest on the ridge before continuing our hike to the summit.
We took a short rest on the ridge before continuing our hike to the summit.
Our guides looking at the vast mountain ranges of Culasi, Antique while taking a quick rest.
Our guides looking at the vast mountain ranges of Culasi, Antique while taking a quick rest.
Libog Falls running on the slopes of Mt. Madjaas. The cascading waterfall can be seen from the town of Culasi.
Libog Falls running on the slopes of Mt. Madjaas. The cascading waterfall can be seen from the town of Culasi.

Apart from the waterfall and scenic landscapes that we saw back on the ridge, the trail has so many magnificent forest trees that you can't see in the lowlands.

The amazing Bonsai Forest with overwhelming number of tiny trees covered with moss found deep inside Mt. Madjaas is a beautiful work of art crafted by nature.
The amazing Bonsai Forest with overwhelming number of tiny trees covered with moss found deep inside Mt. Madjaas is a beautiful work of art crafted by nature.
The surreal view of Bonsai Forest wherein the trees are covered with moss, the branches spread out and are almost knitted together forming a lush green canopy that creates an unusual-looking scenery.
The surreal view of Bonsai Forest wherein the trees are covered with moss, the branches spread out and are almost knitted together forming a lush green canopy that creates an unusual-looking scenery.
Huge trees with massive branches covered with green moss and lichen dominate the summit of Mt. Madjaas.
Huge trees with massive branches covered with green moss and lichen dominate the summit of Mt. Madjaas.

 

Their massive branches are blanketing the trail and allow only little sunlight to pierce through.
Their massive branches are blanketing the trail and allow only little sunlight to pierce through.

 

Bright sunlight breaking through the dense plants and trees covered with thick green moss.
Bright sunlight breaking through the dense plants and trees covered with thick green moss.

 

Real gems of untouched nature make the most of the Mt. Madjaas ranges.

A refreshing view of fog which is slowly moving away from the dense ridge of Mt. Madjaas summit.
A refreshing view of fog which is slowly moving away from the dense ridge of Mt. Madjaas summit.
The retreating fog reveals this extraordinary sight of wild flora along the ridge.
The retreating fog reveals this extraordinary sight of wild flora along the ridge.
As the fog slowly disappears, we saw a remarkably large number of diverse and unique species of plants.
As the fog slowly disappears, we saw a remarkably large number of diverse and unique species of plants.

Mt. Madjaas is a tough mountain to climb with incredibly majestic and preserved nature. The most beautiful sights can be found close to the summit.

The trail to the summit offers an mystical view, an enchanted garden right in the middle of the jungle. 
The trail to the summit offers an mystical view, an enchanted garden right in the middle of the jungle.

 

The atmosphere was magical, it feels like you�re walking in a beautiful green fairyland surrounded by moss-covered trees.
The atmosphere was magical, it feels like you're walking in a beautiful green fairyland surrounded by moss-covered trees.

 

The ridge that connects to the summit of Mt. Madjaas.
The ridge that connects to the summit of Mt. Madjaas.
Thick fogs are building up when we are approaching the summit.
Thick fogs are building up when we are approaching the summit.
At the view deck of Mt. Madjaas, often called false summit, the fog was quickly covering the other side of the view when we got there.
At the view deck of Mt. Madjaas, often called false summit, the fog was quickly covering the other side of the view when we got there.

Video: On top of Mt. Madjaas

On top of Mt. Madjaas, the highest mountain in Panay Island.

The true summit of Mt. Madjaas, not too far from the false summit.
The true summit of Mt. Madjaas, not too far from the false summit.
Taking a selfie at the true summit of Mt. Madjaas while enjoying the view.
Taking a selfie at the true summit of Mt. Madjaas while enjoying the view.

Video: My hike to the majestic Mt. Madjaas

Video of my hike to the majestic Mt. Madjaas

Photos of Ritchel during her hike to Mt. Madjaas last May 2016 via Flores trail:

She hiked this majestic mountain in May 2016. It was a group climb organized by Higher Grounds, an Iloilo-based mountaineering organization.

The early morning view of Mt. Madjaas mountain ranges and it's summit as seen from Baranggay Flores, Culasi, Antique.
The early morning view of Mt. Madjaas mountain ranges and it's summit as seen from Baranggay Flores, Culasi, Antique.
Posing with Jayson, the son of Tay Joshue, the legendary guide of Mt. Madjaas.
Posing with Jayson, the son of Tay Joshue, the legendary guide of Mt. Madjaas.
The dense forest deep inside in the first camp known as Camp One.
The dense forest deep inside in the first camp known as Camp One.
A magical view of Bonsai Forest photographed by Ritchel. The moss-covered trunks of these trees create beautiful and dramatic movements.
A magical view of Bonsai Forest photographed by Ritchel. The moss-covered trunks of these trees create beautiful and dramatic movements.
The trees don�t tower skyward; they are only few meters taller than the height of an average man.
The trees don't tower skyward; they are only few meters taller than the height of an average man.
A group of hikers walking along the ridges going to the summit of Mt. Madjaas. Because of its incredible beauty, it has became a favorite hiking destination of many local and foreign tourists.
A group of hikers walking along the ridges going to the summit of Mt. Madjaas. Because of its incredible beauty, it has became a favorite hiking destination of many local and foreign tourists.
A surreal view of a mossy forest along the trail, close to the summit of Mt. Madjaas. Massive tree branches covered by enormous moss.
A surreal view of a mossy forest along the trail, close to the summit of Mt. Madjaas. Massive tree branches covered by enormous moss.
The vast mountain ranges of Aklan as seen from the view deck of Mt. Madjaas.
The vast mountain ranges of Aklan as seen from the view deck of Mt. Madjaas.
Ritchel looking at the vast mountain ranges of Aklan from the false summit.
Ritchel looking at the vast mountain ranges of Aklan from the false summit.
The amazing view of Culasi shoreline as seen from the summit of Mt. Madjaas.
The amazing view of Culasi shoreline as seen from the summit of Mt. Madjaas.
Ritchel poses for a photo with Tay Joshue on the true summit of Mt. Madjaas.
Ritchel poses for a photo with Tay Joshue on the true summit of Mt. Madjaas.

This time, we are hiking it together from the Aklan side (Panipiason-Osorio via Alojipan trail). We walked for three days across swaying monkey bridge over Dumalaylay River, waist-deep river crossings, huge boulders, waterfalls, narrow ridges, and cliffs accentuated by scenic landscapes along the way.

The swaying monkey bridge over Dumalaylay River in Panipiason.
The swaying monkey bridge over Dumalaylay River in Panipiason.
Crossing this bridge is a tough challenge but for the locals here, it's a daily commute.
Crossing this bridge is a tough challenge but for the locals here, it's a daily commute.
Drinking water in the jungle, the local way.
Drinking water in the jungle, the local way.

 

The trail is very steep and challenging. In many parts, you�ll be holding onto tree roots during ascends and descends.
The trail is very steep and challenging. In many parts, you�ll be holding onto tree roots during ascends and descends.

 

It�s drizzling, the river is waist-deep and the current is strong. Our guides helping us carry our packs across the river.
It's drizzling, the river is waist-deep and the current is strong. Our guides helping us carry our packs across the river.
A short upstream walk alongside the riverbank will take you to this wonderful waterfall.
A short upstream walk alongside the riverbank will take you to this wonderful waterfall.
As we hike further upstream, we were surprised to see these huge boulders. The river flows in between these impressive boulders forming a rapid and a deep pool inside.
As we hike further upstream, we were surprised to see these huge boulders. The river flows in between these impressive boulders forming a rapid and a deep pool inside.
Few minutes later, we found ourselves in this house in the middle of the jungle where we had coffee. The house is just few meters above the huge boulders. It�s hard to believe that somebody would choose to live in this place, far away from the civilization.
Few minutes later, we found ourselves in this house in the middle of the jungle where we had coffee. The house is just few meters above the huge boulders. It's hard to believe that somebody would choose to live in this place, far away from the civilization.
Pounding rice, the local way. The warm hospitality of our host family was remarkable. We spent the night here with our guides before we continued our hike to Mt. Madjaas the following day.
Pounding rice, the local way. The warm hospitality of our host family was remarkable. We spent the night here with our guides before we continued our hike to Mt. Madjaas the following day.
Enjoying the dinner served by the locals. Native chicken soup and brown rice grown nearby.
Enjoying the dinner served by the locals. Native chicken soup and brown rice grown nearby.
A fresh catch of huge wild freshwater shrimps locally known as ulang (�-�ang in Ak�anon).
A fresh catch of huge wild freshwater shrimps locally known as ulang (ú-éang in Akéanon).

 

And look, they also caught some freshwater eels (s�l� in Ak�anon)!
And look, they also caught some freshwater eels (sílí in Akéanon)!

 

Our breakfast is served and ready. Fuelling before we set out for another tiring hike.
Our breakfast is served and ready. Fuelling before we set out for another tiring hike.
Walking through the giant trees along the trail.
Walking through the giant trees along the trail.

 

The trail is home to these enormous trees.
The trail is home to these enormous trees.

 

The trail has unlimited waterfalls, the Madang-g� waterfall (hot and humid in Ak�anon) is one of the most captivating that we�ve seen along the way.  It�s one of the highest waterfalls on the trail. The cascading cold water is good for hydro massage.
The trail has unlimited waterfalls, the Madang-gá waterfall (hot and humid in Akéanon) is one of the most captivating that we've seen along the way.  It's one of the highest waterfalls on the trail. The cascading cold water is good for hydro massage.
The deep forest of Central Panay in Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan. The forest has a very dense vegetation.
The deep forest of Central Panay in Panipiason, Madalag, Aklan. The forest has a very dense vegetation.
Keeping up with the guides. The foliage is so thick and green and there is no visible trail making it hard to navigate.
Keeping up with the guides. The foliage is so thick and green and there is no visible trail making it hard to navigate.
Nanáw River, running from the foot of Mt. Madjaas all the way to the Aklan river. According to some locals, there was a plane crash that happened somewhere in this area a long time ago.
Nanáw River, running from the foot of Mt. Madjaas all the way to the Aklan river. According to some locals, there was a plane crash that happened somewhere in this area a long time ago.
The best place to spend the night in the middle of the jungle. The cave is used by some locals as shelters when they are out around this area harvesting ratans.
The best place to spend the night in the middle of the jungle. The cave is used by some locals as shelters when they are out around this area harvesting ratans.
Cooking our breakfast in preparation for our longest trek yet. Breakfast in the cave.
Cooking our breakfast in preparation for our longest trek yet. Breakfast in the cave.
The hardest trek so far, mainly walking along and across rivers and waterfalls.
The hardest trek so far, mainly walking along and across rivers and waterfalls.
The river is relatively easy to follow but as we go further upstream, it becomes more and more difficult. We�ve gone through huge and slippery boulders that can cause slip and fall.
The river is relatively easy to follow but as we go further upstream, it becomes more and more difficult. We've gone through huge and slippery boulders that can cause slip and fall.
The stunning view of small waterfalls flowing from the slopes of Mt. Madjaas as seen from the Aklan side.
The stunning view of small waterfalls flowing from the slopes of Mt. Madjaas as seen from the Aklan side.
The climb to the slopes of Mt. Madjaas is getting more difficult. The incline became steeper as we climb onto dry and slippery waterfalls. Luckily, there were plants to hang onto.
The climb to the slopes of Mt. Madjaas is getting more difficult. The incline became steeper as we climb onto dry and slippery waterfalls. Luckily, there were plants to hang onto.

The trail was very challenging and very exhausting, mostly 80 to 85 degrees ascend, thick forest, dense moss, heavily-thorned plants and trees, and aggressive leeches. We've gone through all hardships and extremities during the hike but seeing the wonderful treasures hidden in this part of Aklan and summiting the highest point in Panay was all worth it.

The trail in the Panipiason side has plenty of this heavily-thorned plants called ratan.
The trail in the Panipiason side has plenty of this heavily-thorned plants called ratan.
Do not brush up against this tree. Aklanons call it Boéan-boéan or Daéamo and it can cause irritation and immense pain to any creature that touches them.
Do not brush up against this tree. Aklanons call it Boéan-boéan or Daéamo and it can cause irritation and immense pain to any creature that touches them.
6 Apart from the poisonous and heavily thorned plants, limatiks (bloodsucking leeches) are also prevalent in the area.
6 Apart from the poisonous and heavily thorned plants, limatiks (bloodsucking leeches) are also prevalent in the area.

A huge boulder wall forming like a cave, perfectly shaped by nature on the slopes of Mt. Madjaas.
A huge boulder wall forming like a cave, perfectly shaped by nature on the slopes of Mt. Madjaas.

The vast mountain ranges of Aklan seen on top of the Lomay tree at the Aklan side of Mt. Madjaas.
The vast mountain ranges of Aklan seen on top of the Lomay tree at the Aklan side of Mt. Madjaas.

Video: Looking at the vast mountain ranges of Aklan from Mt. Madjaas

Video of the vast mountain ranges of Aklan as seen from Mt. Madjaas.

The view of Aklan mountain ranges from Panipiason side of Madalag, The highest one is Mt. Nausang (locally known as Mt. Maylomay)
The view of Aklan mountain ranges from Panipiason side of Madalag, The highest one is Mt. Nausang (locally known as Mt. Maylomay)
According to our guide, this is one of the summits of Mt. Madjaas.
According to our guide, this is one of the summits of Mt. Madjaas.
Stunning view of Madjaas ridges all the way down to Culasi during our descent to Barangay Osorio via Alojipan trail.
Stunning view of Madjaas ridges all the way down to Culasi during our descent to Barangay Osorio via Alojipan trail.
Taking a selfie with our guide during our descent.
Taking a selfie with our guide during our descent.

Video: Descending to Baranggay Osorio, Culasi, Antique 

Video of our descend to Baranggay Osorio, Culasi, Antique

Mt. Madjaas summit is covered by thick clouds as we descend towards Barangay Osorio, Culasi, Antique.
Mt. Madjaas summit is covered by thick clouds as we descend towards Barangay Osorio, Culasi, Antique.
Breathtaking view of sunset over Sulu sea.
Breathtaking view of sunset over Sulu sea.
Looking at the breathtaking view of sunset over Sulu sea.
Looking at the breathtaking view of sunset over Sulu sea.

Though I've been to numerous destinations, both local and international, it's fascinating to know that there are so many paradise-like places in my home province, Aklan. All it takes is a strong will and courage fuelled by passion and a sense of purpose to discover and explore them. It was an amazing journey and for us, it was the best hike of our lives.

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