Sunday, May 3, 2015

Cycling Philippines Batanes Day 7-2 : The Hills of Mahatao

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                                                   AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                                                
Cycling Philippines Batanes Day 7 : The Hills of Mahatao
Batanes Islands - Day 7 : 20th March 2015
Distance: 24.03 km.
Time : 9:30am to 4:15pm
Time Taken : 6 hrs. 45 minutes (it was a leisurely ride with many stops to enjoy the place, have lunch 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 Mahatao includes:
    - Mahatao Town ride around the town and relate with the locals, who are warm, friendly and helpful.
    - Tayid Lighthouse, is the other renown lighthouse of Batan but is octagonal in shape.
    - Mahatao Windmills., are a combo of windturbines and diesel engine that are use to provide electricity for Batan. Called the Sumhao Windturbines, when we were there there were lying on the ground awaiting maintenance.
    - Tukon Church, we missed this one.
    - Fundacion Pacita, the restored home of Pacita Abad, one of the most renown Filipino artists from the Batanes. The place is now operating as a boutique hotel. (We missed this one too.)
    - It is not easy to find food at Mahatao. The locals may invite you to eat if asked; but then that is not the right way. Some of the sundry shops may cook the things purchase from them (eggs, spam, etc). Food could be available from Paulvana's Canteen, but when we were there it was closed for some function, so we are uncertain of the time (see map for location of this).
This blog comes in a several parts. To go to other parts click on the following link to return to the summary page:
Cycling Philippines Batanes 2015.

Siew Yung at Mayahao Arch in Sabtang.
After the previous day's boat journey for a half day tour of Sabtang Island by motor-tricycle, we are eager to ride again. That's the thing about us cyclists, we are passionate to cycle not just because of the exercise; the slower pace of cycling let us appreciate a place and it's people more. At anytime we can just stop to take in a good view and it's ambience or interact with the locals.
Today was a free and easy day, we get to individually do what we want. And what all three of us wanted was to go explore the hills of Mahatao, there are many a thing to see there. Siew Yung left slightly earlier to explore the hills own her own (... see her adventures here). After days of waking up in the wee hours of the morning, Ong and me decided to sleep in and have a good rest. Nevertheless by 9:30am we headed out from Marfel's.


Ride Route : Marfel's Lodge>Mahatao Town>Tayid Lighthouse>Mahatao Windmills>Mahatao Town>Marfel's Lodge
The route will take us along a short coastal stretch to Mahatao, from there we headed up for the hills and their attractions. The road up can get rather steep, even up there some roads are just to steep to cycle; so we just came down and pushed along those stretches. All the hard cycling/pushing made seeing the sights up there all the more worthwhile.

The first thing we did was to go to the Provincial Office (it's opposite Basco Plaza) to get maps of the Batanes for future reference. These can be bought at the Heritage & Tourism section for a reasonable price (... see the maps at Beautiful Batanes blog).
The friendly staff there (Angel, Bev & Cindy) were most happy to see us; they were cheerful and helpful and even posed with me there; see, "It's more fun in the Batanes"!

The Mahatao Boat Shelter Port.
This was suppose to be our original destination as Ong wanted to take photos of the boats there. Seeing that there were not many colourful boats down there, we decided to skip the place and headed onwards to spend more time at the hills.
A new lighthouse can be seen being built at the coastline just ahead and behind that are the hills of Mahatao, look daunting don't they? Well, we will just take it in stride.

At Mahatao we made a short stop to buy drinks, here we met with Ferdinand Porter, he's the Captain of the Uvoy Barangkay. A stout and helpful person, he clarified the directions up to the hills for us and also gave us some tips of where to eat lunch later (we did not follow his advise on the eats though, you will see why later).

Winding and steep roads at Mahatao Hills.
The approach road is rather steep and we had to push part ways. Up at the hills, the roads winds up and down the undulating slopes, most are cycle-able; at some of the steeper stretches we just came down to push.

The beauty of the hills up here soon made the difficult cycling easier. Light green farmland dotted the scenery with dark green hedges demarcating them and at the same time protecting the plants from the cool wind. Cool wind? Yes, the day temperatures in the Batanes ranges from 25 to 27 degrees, and a blowing strong wind makes it even cooler; cool enough to lull us into forgetting about the strong sun.

Little did I realise that I was being scorched by the strong rays, today the sun must have been stronger as it was the first time we could see Mount Iraya's peak clearly, no cloud cover to shroud it in mystery. It was only when I got back to Malaysia that I noticed that I baked and did indeed look as dark as some of the locals. Fortunately, my family could still recognise me.

The hills are at the narrowest part of Batan Island; from a strategic part of this waistline, on one side can be seen Mahatao town facing the the South China Sea...

On the other side in a cove facing the Pacific Ocean is the Diura Fishing Village. The Marlboro Hills can be seen in the background.

Okay, time to see the attractions up here:
The Tayid Lighthouse; it's octagonal shape make it stands out from the rest of the lighthouse at the island. It is also the highest lighthouse and can be seen from both sides of the island.

The beauty of the island was not the only thing I appreciated here.... Heh! heh!

The green door of the lighthouse set amidst the rough stone work is an excellent spot for photos.

Somehow we managed to ride over to the Samhao Windmills over at the other end of the road. There are three windmills here, two next to the stone house and one at the other side of the road.
The windmills were not standing tall and mighty; according to some they had been lowered down for some maintenance work while others say that they have not been operating for quite some time now and are just getting rusty. Pity, it would have been a sight seeing them blowing with the wind.

Many hope that these windmills will be operating again soon, in the meantime they provide shelter for the goats and cows that roam here.

The outhouse toilet with one of the best views in the world; sitting next to the single windmill.
It  has a view overlooking the farmlands, and in the distance the Marlboro Hills with Pacific Ocean in the background.
It has a fantastic view because there are no walls!
You can see out and others can see in; so I refrained from using it *grins*.

 Enraptured by the hills, we spent quite some time there and by the time we went down to Mahatao town it was 2:30pm and our stomachs were grumbling.
The FOOD HUNT was on!
First we went over to the stall recommended by Captain Ferdinand, most of the food was sold out and whatever left did not seem appetizing. I was wondering why the good captain had recommended this unremarkable stall until I looked at the map and saw that it was within his Barangkay of Uvoy. Well, he must take care of his flock irrespective.
We rode further into the town, nearer the seaside and asked around the locals for places to eat. One bare-chested old man even invited us to eat at his house; seeing that it was well passed their lunch time, we politely refrained. So he just put on his T-shirt, hopped onto his bicycle and led us to Paulvana's Canteen, but then it was closed (little did we know that the owner was busy catering for the beach function which Siew Yung was invited to).
We thanked the old man and he went his way; as he rode away, we just could not wonder that these people here are remarkable - they are just so generous in their humble ways to help strangers.

Hungry we rode, searching over to the other side of town and saw another stall manned by some giggling girls. It was a grocery stall, no immediately edible food except for some bananas at a corner.
We wanted to by some of the bananas, they just said take as many as you all need, they are free - so there we were with more Batanes generosity.
We sat with them while eating the bananas, chatted and laughed. The girls may not know it but their cheerful, lively laughter coupled with their generosity will be one of our good memories of the islands.

Ong waiting at the steps of the Marina Cartano shop while waiting for lunch to be cooked.
Tummies partly satisfied with them bananas, we continued our food hunt and ended up at the Cartono rice dealer shop which was actually a grocery shop to buy some water. They had buns, Spam and eggs sold here too and we asked the young girl whether she could fry the spam and eggs for us.
She said YES! ... and our stomachs jumped with joy.... real food at last!

Here we are eating our lovely meal in the dining room of the shop/house (Yes, the young girl did invite us, strangers, into her home so that we can eat more comfortably. Such is the trusting nature of the islanders).

With beautiful scenic hills and beaches, the Batanes is indeed one of the loveliest place in the world. We found more importantly that it's people are even more lovely - simple yet trusting, ever willing to give strangers a warm welcome with their cheerful smiles.

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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