Thursday, April 16, 2015

Cycling Philippines Batanes Day 5-2 : South Batan - Showdown At Marlboro Country

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Cycling Philippines Batanes Day 5-2 : South Batan - Showdown At Marlboro Country
(Photo by Siew Yung)
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).

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

We had kicked off in the morning from Basco and rode along the scenic coastline. Taking the road less travelled we visited the quite isolated Diura Fishing Village. There a local, Jane, volunteered to guide us to the Marlboro Hills, but first she took us to the nearby Fountain of Youth and also showed us the Crystal Cave.
Energized with gulps of the Fountain of Youth elixir and the positive vibes emanating from the Crystal Cave; we are ready to take on the steep climb up to the Marlboro Hills.

Ride Route : South Batan Island - Marfel's Lodge>Diura Fishing Village>Marlboro Country>Imnajbu Coastline>Itbud Village>Honesty Coffee Shop>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 invited us to join them on their round island ride. We had to politely decline as we will be making many stops 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.

Jane told us that the route from Diura to the Marlboro Hills is only half a kilometre; Great! then we would not have to back-track and take a longer route. She took us on a route less travelled by other visitors; well, it is "A Road Less Travelled" because there is NO ROAD!
We knew that it would involve some climbing, but for such a short distance it should be alright; after all we are pumped up with youthful energy from the Fountain of Youth.
Or so we thought!
Gung Ho, we started cycling up the steep road made from laterite; loose clumps of laterite. It seems to be a newly made track. Perhaps they will be building a proper road here soon.
We cycled for about..... (I'm pretty shy to say this).... hundred metres than gave up. The "road" was just to steep and rough to cycle up, we humbly came down and pushed!

A short rest and some relief from watching these guys. Hmmmm.... those woven coconut leaf hats should make for some cool cycling hat!

The path took a turn for the worse, now it was covered with large broken stones making it all the more difficult to push our bikes along. At certain steeper stretches I just carried my bike. Pushing our bike certainly taxed our seldom used shin muscles.
Yes... we did ask for some "Off The Beaten Track" experience, but this was just too extreme.

We looked up and saw the green fringing the top of hills above.
Hey! They look more than half a kilometre away (in fact they were close to two kilometres away). Aren't the islanders suppose to have that honest streak. Jane couldn't be bluffing us when she said it was only half a kilometre. No, I don't think Jane was pulling a fast one on us, probably to her fit physical self it just seemed like half a kilometre.
Okay... stop complaining... just concentrate on pushing...
There we were sweating it out, when a thought occurred to me: "Hey! I am sweating away the Elixir of Youth. Oh Dear, I hope I won't slowly wrinkle away like Dorian Gray!"

Towards the last half kilometre, the rocky path changed to a grassy one. The grass were short and on a firm surface, making it easier to push or even cycle on the less steep stretches.
At the end of this stretch is where Jane left us to continue on her walk to another even more isolated village to visit relatives. Dios Mamahes ,Jane (that's Thank You in the local Ivatan language), you have been a very kind soul.

After two kilometres, we were almost there, almost reaching the Marlboro Hills. The almost non-visible path joined a road at the top and soon we were eagerly cycling away, the episode of hard pushing behind us.

Panoramic view of Marlboro Hills (click on photo for enlarged view).
Marlboro Hills, or sometimes called Marlboro Country, covers acres of gentle undulating hills set on the south-east corner of Batan Island.

Almost all the hills are covered with short downy looking grass making the area look like the Scottish glens with the exception that here there is a nice back-drop of the deep blue sea of the Pacific Ocean. The hills edges the seas with cliffs and at certain spots there are access paths down to the sea level.

The hills look so beautiful, so attractive. We just had to go in and cycle there, at a convenient point where the road joined the hills smoothly, we rode in.
Just as we entered, a bull stopped at its track, standing there refusing to let us pass. Playing it safe I dismounted. I steeled my heart and look at him like in a "Stare You Down" contest, it did not budge. So I tried the soft approach by talking to it, telling it "Can you let me pass please, I am not after your cow. I already have one at home." Still there was no response and it still stood there steadily.
After a while, the brown cow on the right ran off. Only then did the bull let me pass; jealous blighter that one. (See top-most photo for a better understanding of this funny situation).

(Photo by Siew Yung)
The showdown was over, and here we are riding on the Marlboro Hills; up and down the undulating slopes. The short grass and firm ground makes cycling here easy. It was a joy riding here; the open space, the vast extent of green against the blue sky and a strong cool wind blowing were just ideal. The only thing we had to look out for were the "cow-pies" that dot the area.

(Photo by Siew Yung)
I was wondering why this place is called Marlboro Hills when the cows suddenly herded together and started rushing like in a mini stampede. It was just like a scene from the Marlboro advertisment; yes this is Marlboro Country. As the cows ran along, I could almost hear the music from the theme song "Come To Marlboro Country"!
(Click here to hear this song)


Leaving the hills we happily coasted down slope until we hit a road block; it's a gate that encloses Racuh A Payaman (that's the local name for the Marlboro Hills). A sign says that this is a protected area and to keep the gate closed at all times; we went through and obediently closed the gate after us.

We were smoothly rolling down the slopes when Ong suddenly screeched to a stop, took out his camera and started snapping away:
Below was a bird's eye panoramic view of Mahatao not to be missed.

With new friends from the Brompton Club of the Philippines at Imnajbu.
While eating our lunch at a shed and admiring the Imnajbu coastline, we suddenly heard a shout "Hi guys!" It was our new friends from the Brompton Club of the Philippines, they had made good time and had cycled more than half way round the island even-though they had started later.

Batanes is simply amazing, the sceneries kept on getting better and better; this was what we were admiring at Imnajbu...

... and slightly ahead, the Alapad Rock Formation.

The Honesty Coffee Shop is a place that should not be missed when in Ivana.

Honesty is one of the main guiding principles in the daily lives of the people of Batanes, where they have a zero crime rate. It is here at Honesty Coffee Shop that honesty is best examplified because it begets tourists to be honest too. The shop sells coffee and other beverages, some cakes, souvenirs, etc. But there is no one manning the shop.
A simple statement says it all - BE HONEST.
 Customers take what they need, record it into a log book; and just be honest and drop off payment into a box.
And there is another sign that says "God is my security guard". Now, that's a real deterrent and I presume that nothing is stolen from this place and all payments are paid promptly lest a bolt of lightning comes down and strike the guilty culprit.

 At Ivana and many of the other ports, there are long piers that lead out to the sea, from here one can take beautiful photos of the sea, colourful boats, etc. But do bear in mind that the wind here can blow strongly; hold on to your possessions tightly or else they might be blown into the sea.

A quick run down of other things we saw:
Imnajbu Church.
Imnajbu was the birth place of Christianity in the Batanes.

 The Uyungan Church.

The "Way of the Cross" stations up at the hill behind Uyungan.

Some of the many stone houses we saw along the way.

A monument to the people at Ivana.

A tree with red flower against a green hill back-drop.

Standing room only on a Jeepney.

A colourful signpost...
Aha!... where shall we go after this?

Our round island trip showed us one thing, it showed us that Batanes is an amazing place; a place of scenic coastlines, beautiful hills and beautiful people.
Later, in the evening we had a beautiful dinner of traditional Ivatan food with coconut crabs at Hiro's in Basco.
Yes, I shall sleep happily tonight.

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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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / AhPek Biker / Cycling Philippines Batanes / Day 5-2 : South Batan - Showdown At Marlboro Country     | Jump to Day 1 / 2-1 / 2-2 / 3-1 / 3-2 / 4 / 5-1 / 6 / 7-1.1 / 7-1.2 / 7-2 / 8
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