April 16, 2014- I joined a small group of vacationers/travelers who wished to visit Anawangin Cove and then island hop to Capones Island. The usual route to reach the former is via the sea and hiring a pump boat, but for this trip we decided to traverse the intervening mountain interchangeably referred to as Mt. Pundaquit and Mt. Anawangin- a peak that is 'only' about 460 meters in altitude.
Many who pass by the province of Zambales are struck by the 'denuded' nature of the mountains- they are mostly browned. However, it should be noted that much of Zambales' mountains are mafic in nature, that is, the substrate contains high concentrations of heavy metals that only very specialized plants can thrive and survive. Zambales is a major producer of chromite.
I remember asking the guide what that mountain was, and he gave a vague reply. Most likely, he doesn't know what the name is. If any of you readers can give an educated guess, I'd be very grateful. Balingkilat? Cinco Picos, perhaps?
With the absence of shade-giving trees, it probably can get oven-hot inside those houses...
Hydrophytes in a clear pond.
Gatherers of forest 'products'.
The slopes are mostly very rocky, but the late afternoon sun intensifies their earthy hues, in stark contrast with the sparse greenery.
And despite its low height, this peak can give one serious work-out. The steepness of many parts and the very rocky substrates can indeed punish even those legs well-seasoned by a number of hikes and treks.
Below is Cycas zambalensis, a primitive plant that has evolved to thrive in toxic soils. I have been fortunate to visit the only two known sites of this extremely localized Philippine endemic; the one is in San Antonio, also in Zambales.
Cycas species are very slow-growing plants, so this specimen may be several decades old. The bases show evidence of recent burning- probably natural, likely man-made.
A small specimen of Cycas zambalensis.
Finally, the trail opens itself up for Anawangin Cove.
It was already dark when we made it to the cove, where we promptly set up our tents. However, I wasn't too impressed. An account on Anawangin will have to come in a separate post- when and if I can get myself to doing it.
By the way, you will frequently read in many blogs about the presence of pine trees in the cove, which is erroneous. The trees- whose silhouettes are captured in the photo below- are actually Casuarina equisetifolia, or agoho in Tagalog. These are fire-resistant trees with very dense and durable wood. Their ability to thrive in extremely nutrient-deficient soils can be attributed to their ability to fix nitrogen from their root nodules, with the help of species of Frankia, a genus of nitrogen-fixing actinobacteria. Pretty cool, isn't it?
But for now, let's say good night to Anawangin- at least for this post.