Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Cycling Philippines Batanes Day 5-1 : South Batan & Diura Dorados

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Cycling Philippines Batanes Day 5-1 : South Batan & Diura Dorados
"Blowing Ur Horn" at Batanes.
Batanes Islands - Day 5 : 18th March 2015
Distance: 41.70 km.
Time : 9:35am to 4:00pm
Time Taken : 6 hrs. 25 minutes (it was a leisurely ride with many stops to enjoy the place, have brunch and take photos).

This is page 7 of a 13-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D4 Batan 3        |       Go to Other Days       |      Go to D5.2 South Batan 2 >

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 for South Batan includes:
    - Diura Fishing Village with it's colourful fishing boats.
    - The Crystal Cave
    - The Fountain of Youth.
    - Marlboro Hills.
    - Imnajbu Coastline, one of the most beautiful coasts in the Batanes.
    - Honesty Cafe.
   - The old Spanish era stone houses with thatch roofs.
    - stopping to interact with the locals, they are really warm and helpful.
Faluwa boat ride cresting the blue sea on way back from Itbayat.
The past two days had been interesting; we had popped over by a 4-hour faluwa boat ride  to ItbayatItbayat is the northern-most inhabited island and one with the best remnants of the old stone houses from the Spanish era. We stayed there for two days and had returned to Basco the previous afternoon. Itbayat was interesting, but due to the steepness and rough conditions of the roads there, we did not bring our bicycles and instead opted to tour the island by motorcycles.
Today, we are all getting energized again. After two non-cycling days we are eager to get on our bikes again and race with the wind.
Race with the wind? This AhPek old man? 
No, we did not ride as fast as the wind, but our hearts did race as fast as the wind in anticipation. For today we will be having some major cycling, one of riding the southern loop of Batan, one that will expose us to more beauties of the island.


Ride Route : South Batan Island - Marfel's Lodge>Diura Fishing Village>Marlboro Country>Imnajbu Coastline>Itbud Village>Honesty Cafe>Marfel's Lodge
The route will take us through several towns & villages, up to the Marlboro Country and also to the Honesty Cafe where they take honesty seriously.
The previous day, our friends from the Brompton Club of the Philippines had asked us to join them on their round island ride. We had to politely decline as we will be stopping to take lots of photos, and were afraid that we would slow them down, but we still wanted to meet them somewhere along the route. They were riding counter-clockwise; so we decided to ride clock-wise and hoped to meet them somewhere along the route.

9:35am - We rolled off from Marfel's; as we rode down the streets of Basco we notice this man happily carrying his son on a bicycle. The son was standing on the seat and warmly holding on to him. The locals here are so trouble-free; taking simple pleasures in life just like this.
This was a warm heart-felt start to our ride, making us eager to see more of the people and their culture.

Along the way, we stopped to pick up some buns. Siew Yung has pre-ordered them; they will be our lunch as we were uncertain whether there will be any eateries along the way.
The road out was quite uneventful until we left Basco; then the the road began to wind along, hugging the coastline closely.

Just out of Basco town limits, our first stop - the Chanarian View Deck. This is a worthwhile place to stop to get an introduction to the beauty of Batan Island's coastline.

From here, viewing northwards, we peeped at Basco with Mt. Iraya in the background.
It's low tide now, and the beauty of the sea is just starting to emerge.

Southwards, a grassy, pyramidal knoll forms a gateway to more beautiful hills further away. On closer observation, it was not grass that covered the surface of the knoll but some sort of fern. Nevertheless, it was a striking scenery that presage of more to come.
Yes, we will have much to look forward too.

Another stop for another view; faraway are the communication towers on the hills of Mahatao (which we will be going to another day) and below can be seen one of many new lighthouses under construction. I am not too sure whether these lighthouses are functional. I think they are there just as tourist attractions as I did not notice them being lit up at night.

The road along the coastline slopes up and down, and winds along with its many bends like a snake. It is along here that we start to see the many black-on-yellow "Blow Ur Horn" road signs reminding motorists to honk as they approached these blind corners. We did not have horns, so we just rang our bells as loudly as possible, rode as much to the right while listening for oncoming traffic.
"Cring... CRING, Cring... CRING! Do you all hear us?"
(If you had noticed, Ong had got a new hat, bought locally to replace the one he lost on our first there here (... see Batanes Cycling Philippines Day 2-2). 

8:25am - We hit Mahatao town. At a prominent junction we met this cheerful local cyclist and asked him for directions to Diura fishing village. We are going off the beaten trek and will head to see this living fishing village.
Yes....yes.... I know there is a directional sign there, but it is better to enquire and be sure instead of getting lost. Up ahead is another fork, to go to Diura we will have to take the left fork otherwise we will end up in the hills of Mahatao. Luckily, we asked as at that fork there is no directional sign. See!

We made a left turn and started cycling uphill, it was getting tougher as the slopes got steeper and steeper. Fortunately some stretches of the road here is shady.
Up ahead we met up with a few locals who were plucking coconuts; one fellow plucking and throwing down to another to catch. Thirsty, we offered to buy some from them, but they did not accept. Instead, seeing how weary we were, they just cut opened some and gave those to us to drink. The islanders here are so warm and generous; they give without asking or expecting anything in return. Their children are the same, generous to a fault as we were to find out another day.

And here we are, Ong and me, two thirsty souls savouring the coconut water, one that tasted all the sweeter being like gifts of nectar from the locals.
Thank You!
The coconut was refreshing and rejuvenating. Revitalized,we rode on, took the left fork and struggle up more slopes...... then at the steeper slopes, we just came down and pushed and pushed and pushed. We should have drank more coconut water, all the pushing zaps up energy pretty fast.
After cresting the peak, we went whooshing down slope, glad that all the pushing were behind us already. Somewhere along this whooshing..... Ong did not lose his hat again, this time he had it tied tight. Sorry Mr. Wind, no hat for you today.

(A note of precaution: in the happy whooshing down-slope here, do be careful as some sections are rather steep. If you do not feel confident at the steeper slopes, it's better to play safe and come down and push.)

Diura is a fishing village of a few rows of thatch houses. The only road here runs in between these houses and ends at the far end of the village.
The locals are mainly fisherman and are a poorer lot when compared to the rest of Batan, most of their houses are fully thatch ones, i.e. with thatch roofs and walls. Those vernacular stone houses are seldom seen here.
For note: the gates to the Racauydi (that's the local name for this village) is closed to visitors after 5:00pm.

Our timing must have been a bit out when we reached Diura. Most of the men were not around, having gone out to sea for their daily fishing trip. So we did not get to see many of the colourful fishing boats. We did see this man, hard at work building boats for his fellow villagers...

... and this older man who runs the local Barangkay office where visitors to Diura needs to come, register and pay a visitor's fee of 50PHP...

... and these children who were rather curious about our bikes and wanted to take a closer look.

Though we missed the colourful fishing boats; we did get to see up close these Dorado fish curing in the sun. These are the cured Dorado, a delicacy in the Philippines, one that can be quite expensive too, costing up to 1000PHP per kg.

At Diura, we were sent an guardian angel, a local by the name of Jane. We met her while wandering around the village and enquiring about directions from Diura to the Marlboro Hills. It so happened that she was on a journey part-way there, and she kindly offered to travel with us and guide us along the route.
In the meantime, Jane was most proud to tell us about her village; the above photo shows her in one of the huts. She was showing us some cured Dibang (Flying Fish). Jane also elaborated on the Dorado fish curing process. Firstly, the Dorado is caught using the Dibang as bait, it is then filleted, seasoned with vinegar and some salt; and then left to dry in the wind and sun for up to four months. As a final curing process, the fish is smoked overnight in these huts. No wonder the ceiling of the hut is black with carbon!

9:30am - Time to leave Diura; with Jane as our guide we said our goodbyes to the village and headed for the Marlboro Hills. I took a look back at this isolated village with the blue seas washing onto its beaches and etched this beautiful sight onto my memory.
  At the far end of the village the paved road ended and we had to cycle on rough gravel roads, and then up some steep slopes. Cycling on rough roads are not too bad, and cycling up slopes are not too bad too, BUT cycling up slopes on rough gravel roads is a killer. The Marlboro Hills beckons, so we just pushed on as best as we could.

As we cycled up, Jane enquired whether we wanted to see the Fountain of Youth.
"Fountain of Youth? Here in the Batanes?" Is this the long-lost elixir of youth which Ponce De Leon was searching on a long sea voyage which led him to the South Americas? Hah! He must have headed in the wrong direction! "Hey Ponce, it's here at the 
And of course yours truly here, definitely wanted to feel younger (and be able to cycle into his ripe old age), quickly replied without hesitation and just simply said "Let's Go!".
We parked our bikes at a turn off point and trekked down some steep paths and steps to reach the fountain which was about five hundred meters away
The Fountain of Youth at Diura.
At the fountain, a pipe fed crystal clear water into a couple of ponds where people can dip themselves fully into the water and supposingly emerge with full youthful radiance. I took a few healthy gulps of the water and hoped for the best; hoping for the wrinkles to melt away and hoping too that the hair will grow back onto my bald pate.

Jane was not finished showing us around. She led us to the beach just beyond the fountain and showed us a rocky, pyramidal hillock to the left. Within this hillock is the Crystal Cave, one that is filled with luminous crystals. But we were running short of time, having just done a quarter of the distance round island; so we had to politely decline.
It would have been great to go into that cave though, as the Chinese believe that crystals from caves emit positive vibes to enhance a person. With the cave fairly nearby, I did hope that those crystals would have irradiated me with some positive vibes.

With the Fountain of Youth elixir within me coupled with those good crystal vibes, I am ready to take on the climb up to the Marlboro Hills. Let's see how well they worked for me in the next episode.....

This is page 7 of a 13-page blog, Click Here To Go To Title Page.
Go to D4 Batan 3        |       Go to Other Days       |      Go to D5.2 South Batan 2 >

To see more photos for the day, Click here.

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