“Bakit ulit natin ginagawa ito?! Leche!!!” I exclaimed to Owen as I pushed my bike farther up against loose gravel.
We have been at it for nearly an hour, and before this, have been biking our muscles sore for 11 hours.
Our goal was to bike all around Batan Island starting from Basco, moving south to Mahatao, taking an inland detour to Diura Fishing Village, and then going back to Mahatao town proper to push farther south to the towns of Ivana, Uyugan, Itbud, and finally make the ascent back north to Marlboro Country and emerge at Mahatao town proper again.
But by this time, we were already so tired, we were in the middle of nowhere, it was nearing dark, and only the wind or cows or goats could hear whatever pleas we had. We had two choices: continue the hike to get back to Mahatao by nightfall (there were no lampposts and only dense forests along the way) or whimper like kids in the middle of the mountains.
We knew Batanes would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so we did not want to simply whizz past it. Like anyone who’s been wishing to set foot on it for the longest time, we knew all about the sweeping views of hills, of cliffs giving way to wild waters. And we felt that, being on the receiving end of all this wonder, the least we could do was to earn it by giving what we had in excess: our time, and perhaps our sweat as well.
This was why we decided to pedal our way around its valleys and hills and villages, no matter how slow and hard the going would be (and true enough, it was). At certain moments, it meant either slowing down and waiting, or pedaling faster and chasing what we wanted to see—the sun to rise above the seas and descend on the mountains, the clouds to part, the stars to show up. We were blessed with a sunny day—so sunny the sting from our sunburnt body lingers until today. We have been blessed with good roads too, only that they were endless and our energy was not.
Biking to Valugan Boulder Beach—2 kilometers from downtown Basco. Please note that we did this leg on another day.
Tree-lined road leading to Valugan Boulder Beach
On the way from Valugan Boulder Beach in Basco, we ran out of water and these elementary kids were too kind to refill our bottle when we asked.
Stopping after the first few kilometers out of Basco
THE FIRST FEW (CAREFREE) MINUTES RIGHT OUTSIDE BASCO. Please note that the 12-hour-bike ride included numerous stops for taking photos and meals.
For somebody who doesn’t bike regularly back home, I found navigating the blind curves separating Basco and Mahatao nerve-wracking, but the views made it all worthwhile!
Roads are carved from the mountainside. They offer a scenic view of the ocean separating Batan and Sabtang Islands.
The mountains of Batanes were endless and forbidding. Its oceans looked wild and merciless, and yet also looked protective. One road bend crafted from the side slopes would reveal an expansive valley dotted with grazing cows and goats and horses, the next would be all craggy cliffs with the ocean crashing and creeping up below. Standing in the middle of them all, always looking up or else looking far beyond, we felt it impossible to scale its vastness and measure its beauty, let alone give it justice through words and photos. There is simply no end to the splendor of Batanes, and there is absolutely no perfect way to describe it either.
Feeling so small in the middle of it all
We passed by countless beaches, some pebble-fringed and others sandy.
ON THE WAY TO DIURA FISHING VILLAGE INLAND. The best part of all this was the continuous downhill ride from Marlboro Country to Mahatao town proper—about four kilometers in all!
The final stretch leading to Diura Fishing Village is a steep downhill. This is why we didn’t do this again on our subsequent trips—the climb on the way back was just exhausting. NEVER AGAIN.
That’s when it hit home: there is not a place in the country that has made us feel so small, and yet so alive, than Batanes. It overwhelmed our senses at the beauty that looked back at us whichever direction we turned. The sun stung, but the wind provided comfort. The briefest of showers relieved, the downhills made all the uphills so worth it.
IVANA CHURCH, TAKEN FROM THE IVANA PORT RIGHT ACROSS. A couple of meters from this point is the Honesty Cafe, where we stopped briefly to have coffee. By the time we reached this place, we were already so tired and were thinking of going back while we still could, because we knew we still had a long way ahead if we pushed farther. Well, we did.
The very last point where we could have turned back (of course we did not know it yet). After this, it was all uphill ( for about an hour) until Marlboro Country.
To the left is the road leading to Rakuh-a-Payaman; to the right is the downhill road leading to the town of Imnajbu
AND SO THE HIKE BEGINS. The climb to Marlboro Country began with a steady uphill road that soon gave way to dirt roads and blind curves. Since we were by ourselves, we didn’t really know how long it would take and whether we were going the right way. Sh*t
If this came on the first leg of our bike route, we would have been okay with it. But no. It came on the last freaking hour, when our legs were numb from pedaling for the last 11 hours. How we were able to do all that, only God knows.
And so we pushed our way back up, and Mother Nature paid in kind very, very generously. That was all the reward we needed.
FINALLY, RAKUH-A-PAYAMAN OR MARLBORO COUNTRY. From this point, one could see the Mahatao Lighthouse (left), Diura Fishing Village (below), and Mt. Iraya (right part, not in photo).
Mt. Iraya rising from the rolling hills of Batan Island.
Oh yes we did it.
*If you ever get around to biking on your Batanes trip, do send us a picture at two2travelblog(at)gmail(dot)com so we’ll feature you on our Facebook page!
Some of the clips from this timelapse were shot during this grueling bike ride: