Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cycling Philippines Batanes Day 2-1 : Itchy Legs At Basco

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Cycling Philippines Batanes Day 2-1 : Itchy Legs At Basco
Batanes Islands - Day 2-1 : 15th March 2015
Distance: 15.33 km.
Time : 9:00am to 5:20pm
Time Taken : 8 hrs. 20 minutes (it was a leisurely ride with many stops to enjoy the place, have brunch and take photos.

Route Recommendations :
1. For those from right-hand drive countries, take note that the Batanes are left-hand drive. Do keep right when you ride otherwise you will be cycling on the wrong side.
2. Much of Batan Island does not have trees to provide shade, do cover up or use sun-block lotions.
3. Except for the town areas and coastal road, most of Batan is hilly.
4. Parts of the route are on off-road paths, allow for tires to take these road conditions.
5. Points of interest that should not be missed includes:
    - Basco Lighthouse.
    - Vayang Rolling Hills.
    - Dipnaysupuan Japanese Tunnels.
    - Valungan Boulder Beach
    - The old Spanish era stone houses with thatch roofs.
    - stopping to interact with the locals, they are really warm and helpful.
This blog comes in a several parts. To go to other parts click on the following link to return to the summary page:

BCP Cyclist night riding in Manila (photo courtesy of BCP).
The previous night we had arrived late to Manila after a delayed flight and had missed meeting up and cycling with new friends from the Brompton Club of the Philippines (BCP). We could only look with envy at the photos that they posted of their ride and our legs got  itchy, very itchy indeed for some cycling action. We promised ourselves to scratch that cycling itch as soon as we got to Batanes.

"Yahoo! I am at Batanes!"
3:30am - We checked out from our Manila hotel and headed for the airport for our flight to Batanes. Our 6:00am Philippines Airlines flight was a short one physically but a long one mentally as we flew in anticipation of arriving at the island. So many things crossed my mind - how will the cycling be, will Siew Yung's aching back heal enough for cycling, will we get to meet the BCP cyclists who coincidentally will be arriving at the island a couple of days later. We will be in a way representing our country, if we meet them I do hope we will give them a good impression.
7:45am - We land at Basco and the airport transfer van picked us up and whisked us over to Marfel's Lodge where we had a quick breakfast of coffee and biscuits and was ready to ride.
"Huh! Going out so fast?" Jimmy from Marfel's remarked.
Yes... We are!
It's time to scratch our cycling itch and stretch our legs...


Route : North Batan Island - Marfel's Lodge>Basco Lighthouse>Vayang Rolling Hills>Japanese Tunnels>Valugan Boulder Beach>Marfel's Lodge
The ride will be a short stint around the northern part of Batan Island, a sort of introduction to the beauty of the Batanes and local life in Basco, the provincial capital. We will ride to see the attractions at the hills and the beaches.

A map of Basco town to help avid cyclists and other tourists.

The roads of Basco, and in fact for most of the Batanes roads are made from concrete with shallow drains on at least one side. Even shallower and narrower drains criss-cross the junctions, but some of this are slightly wider - so best to slow down when approaching these.
Most of the houses are single-storey, the double-storey buildings are mostly offices, churches or the like. Many of them are left bare without plastering and unpainted, these adds to the rustic atmosphere of the place. Others are painted in bright pastel colours, like those houses in Spain thus lending some gaiety to the town.

Dotted around the town are these stone houses with thatch roofs built along lines of a Spanish casa.

Most of these house are still occupied while some have been left dilapidated, without roofs or windows. Probably these were affected by typhoons (which hit the islands usually in August, in any), OR perhaps the owners have left the island and gone for greener pastures; I do hope that this migration will not be a normal or continuing trend, these houses and it's people are things that lend colour to the culture of the place.

Most locals either walk or cycle to get around, some have motorcycles. Cars are few and most of those ferry tourists around. This is just right for us cyclists.... as long as we remembered to cycle on the right!
Every so often we forget and had to remind each other with shouts of "Stay right... stay right! That's right, Right is right."

Commercially, most transport and hawk their goods using tricycles. Very often we see goods (and sometimes people) being transported with these tricycles.

Then there are these motorized tricycles, mainly used by tourists and sometimes by locals to get around town or nearby destinations. These are suppose to seat three passengers; one as a pillion and two squeezed into the cab. The roofs over the motorcycle and cab are rather low though, and some crouching prevent one's head from hitting the roof when the ride gets bumpity bump.

A quick stop at the Basco Plaza in front of the Provincial Capitol Building to take some photos. There is a plaque in Tagalog there, I think it states that this statue is that of a freedom fighter from Sabtang fighting for the country's independence from the Spaniards in late 1800's.
I better pick up more 
Tagalog, must do justice to this revered man.

11:00am - Stomachs are grumbling, those breakfast biscuits did not last long. Time to replenish.
We popped over to the canteen & store of the Saint Dominic College, it's just across the road from the Basco Plaza. This place also stand in as a store that sell stationeries to the student and sometimes as a study room for them too.

Here we had stir-fried vegetables, chicken mushroom stew... AND a local favourtie: deep-fried slighlty pickled Dibang (Flying Fish). It tasted slightly sourish and the meat was a bit hard and dry.

This is how fresh Dibang looks like. Most locals will buy this, fillet the fish, pickle it and hang it out to dry and season for a few days.

Across from our table, two young Ivatan girls were looking at me; trying hard not to smile, not to laugh at this foreigner who was having a tough time getting used to eating the Dibang.
I, on my part was trying to concealed my looking at them, taking short glances up. I was trying to look at their features and how to place their looks. Do they look Asiatic or do they have that Hispanic look?
Suddenly, they burst out laughing and I did too; we have become friends in a way. It doesn't really matter how we look! Chinese, Hispanic, Latino don't come into play, the simplicity of the heart just shines out.

We cycled onwards, along this stretch of the National Road are many wall murals depicting the attractions and life on the islands.

These are simple but colourful, not garish that they overwhelm they place. The above shows a fisherman carrying another of the islands' delicacy, the Dorado fish.

Just slightly ahead was the Santo Domingo Church. A Roman Catholic church, it is also called the Basco Cathedral and is dedicated to the patron saint of Basco, Saint Dominic. Built in the around 1795, it is one of the oldest churches here.

Some views of the church:
Indoor view.

The altar.

Jesus carrying the cross.

The first church was built around 1783 and was made of wood. Then it was dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, thus in this church one would find many statues of Mother Mary.

In the compound, a statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

And behind her, some college students were having a group study, picnic style under the shade of tree.
Life here is unhurried and idyll.

The idyllist slow pace here lulls me and it's getting to be afternoon with the sun shining brightly; perhaps I will go take a siesta.
See you all in Part 2 after my snooze.

This blog comes in a several parts. To go to other parts click on the following link to return to the summary page:

To see more photos for the day, Click here.

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