Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Biking Batanes

I just came back from an 8 day bike trip in Batanes. This island group is just awesome ... It looks more like Scotland than the Philippines.
Almost no cars makes biking real fun. Biking along the ridges of the rolling hills is an experience you will never forget ... it is just amazing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bike 4 a Tribe

Bike 4 a tribe 2007
We made it. The whole trip can be easily categorized in 3 stages: The cordillera crossing, the flat lands and the Sierra Madre challenge. Crossing of the cordilleras was a serious challenge in terms of fighting agains the heat and serious climbing. All in all we climbed up 7540m on altitude and downhilled 7300m at the same time. The flat land was an easy cycling of 1 day where we covered 115 km to reach San Mariano in Isabela province. The real challenge waited for us in the Sierra Madre rain forest. The 4 days can be summarized in awesome cycling, serious hiking covered with Leeches, fighing against the current (we had to cross a river 50 times !!!), stand the pain of carrying the bikes for almost two full days an unforgetable encounter with the dumagat tribe. This 4 days really tested our limits and we had even go beyond it sometimes. The whole trip was worth it and we are planning to go back to Palanan in June and start our support with Marceling and his family.

From - To km km total up up total down down total
Candon - Quirino 57 57 1800 1800 1500 1500
Quirino - Sagada 56 113 2420 4220 1220 2720
Sagada - Banaue 66 179 1380 5600 1620 4340
Banaue - Aguinaldo 63 224 1190 6790 1450 5790
Aguinaldo - San Mariano 115 357 750 7540 1609 7399
San Mariano - Camp1 34 391 954 8494 585 7984
Camp 1 - Camp2 13 404 700 9194 820 8804
Camp2 - Lucban 14 418 120 9314 240 9044
Lucban - Palanan 38 456 400 9714 520 9564
Day 1 (30 Mar) - Candon - Quirino

We started at 7am with 4 other bikers joining us. Levi, Larry and Ariel from the Philippine Everest Team and Lester a guy into tour biking from from Manila. The beginning was easy cycling on paver road and we were expecting this for the whole day. But soon we realized it was unfortunately just the beginning. Serious climbing on rough road awaited us and the heat turned out to be the big problem. We took our rests and had a lot of drinks to avoid dehydration. After the 1st serious climb, we heard that there are 3 more to come ... that was quite discouraging. After another serious climb, where we even had to push our bikes a bit, one realizes for what all that suffering. The views at a height of 1800m over sea level into the Quirino valley and the cordilleras are just amazing. We took a break, enjoyed the views and unpacked our headlamps before we started our downhill on rough road to Quirino. We arrived around 8pm and were searching …... were we arrived at around 8pm. We had some good food, some beers and then we felt asleep at the gym.

Day 2 (31 Mar) - Quirino - Sagada
After a serous breakfast we started the day searching our way to a close by village, were the road continued to Sagada. After some river crossings (unbikeable) and some chats with the locals we reached the "road". Unfortunately Ariel crashed on one of the down hills and could not continue his cycling. This day turned out to be harder then yesterday and the climbing was more then serious. Some parts were so steep we had to push our bikes. On the last serious climb of today Jens got dehydrated and we had to make a longer break to recharge the batteries. After that an amazing ride along the ridge of the mountains paid back for the sweating and suffering of the day. At 10pm equipped with our headlamps we reached Sagada. On a nice bonfire we celebrated a bit before we fell asleep in our tents.

Day 3 (01 Apr) - Rest day in Sagada
Today we enjoyed Sagada. Visiting the hanging coffins and spending some time on our information booth we prepared our stuff for the next days. We ended the day again at the bonfire.

Day 4 (02 Apr) - Sagada - Banaue
Today only 1 serious climb was waiting. After a nice dusty downhill from Sagada to Bontoc, we had our breakfast there before we started our climb to Banaue. The guys who joined us the first days stoped in Sagada. From today on it were only Andrew and Jens. The climb to Banaue is long but not to serious and the views are just amazing. We reached the top of today’s trip and a nice long downhill down to Banaue was waiting for us. In Banaue another 2.5km uphill was awaiting us because we wanted to stay in Hinawan Native Huts. The climb was tough but it was worth it. We cooked our food (thanks MJ) and enjoyed the views over Banaue and the rice terraces. Again with a bonfire we called it a day and slept in the native huts.
Day 5 (3 Apr) Banaue - Aguninaldo
This day might be called the day of the rice terraces. We left Banaue after a good breakfast and cycled along rice terraces to Mayoyao. Before reaching Mayoyao another serious climb was awaiting us. The views in Mayoyao are impressive and the whole setup of the village within the terraces is just amazing. We arrived there early and decided to continue cycling to Aguinaldo another 16 km away. Our plan was to be as fast as possible in San Mariano, because we had no idea what was expecting us while crossing the Sierra Madre. We arrived in Aguinaldo around 6pm and found a place to sleep in a lodge, which is not yet open to the public. In the only public restaurant we did some carbo loading before we called it a day.
Day 6 (4 Apr) - Aguinaldo - San Mariano
The day started with a serious climb ...but we knew it will be the last one in the cordillerars and then a "flat area" is waiting for us. We climb up to the saddle and the views were just like we were expecting it. No more mountains.... we made it!!! We left the cordilleras behind us. A nice long downhill encouraged us to cycle. Soon we reached for the first time of the whole trip "paved" road and we cycled like it was our last day. Soon we realized we have a good chance to make it all the way to San Mariano. That would save us one day (a day we would loose later on again in the Sierra Madre). We arrived at 4pm in San Mariano and after a courtesy visit at the police headquarter and informing them of our plan we cycled straight to our guides place. He invited us to stay in his place and we talked about the crossing of the Sierra Madre. We bought our food for the next days and had a dinner in Romy’s (the Guides) place. We put our hammock outside and fell asleep.... dreaming what might expect us the next days

Day 7 (5 Apr) - Sierra Madre (Day 1)
We started with easy cycling to San Jose, the last barangay before entering the Sierra Madre. The rough roads changed to carabao trails and the mud became the problem for the bikes. Some hike and bike parts brought us along some areas were you really could see the logging is still taking place. After a few hours we had to hike up a smaller hill in the surrounding of the real rain forest. Nice views on top of the hill and an amazingly nice downhill through the rainforest along a foot path brought us to a small creek. We had a nice swim, cleaned our clothes and prepared our dinner. After hanging up our hammocks we fell asleep with the sounds of the nature.

Day 8 (6 Apr) - Sierra Madre (Day 2)
Very enthusiastic we were awaiting the second day. Today the rain forest would show us his true face. A serious climb awaited us and the fact that we had to carry our bikes on our shoulder didn't make it easier. Fortunately we had long sleeve bike jerseys, the thorns found their way into our skin not so often. But the leeches did ... we were still eager in the beginning to remove them as soon as we found one but soon we realized that is not working, otherwise we will not reach our proposed camp2. So we just let the leeches suck our blood, knowing that once they are fully loaded they will all off. The downhill part on slippery muddy ground with roots everywhere and thorn bushes around made our last hours to a torture. At 5.30pm we reached our proposed camp 2 covered with bruises, scratches and leech bites everywhere. We had our dinner and fell in our hammocks, hoping tomorrow will be another day.

Day 9 (7 Apr) - Sierra Madre (Day 3)
Today we had to walk the whole day along a river bed. The difficult thing was we had to cross the river 50 (!!!) times. Sometimes we had to swim often we could walk, the water reaching till our neck. The problem was, the current was really strong and there were big stones in the river and we had to carry our bikes. On can imagine how difficult it is to cross a river with strong current with a bike on your shoulder. Sometimes when we had to swim we just put the bikes on ropes and pulled them after us. One time we were holding the rope both of us while swimming and fighting against the current. If there was no river crossing, we had to walk along small "cliffs" holding with one hand on the roots while having the bike on the shoulder and balancing along the slippery ground. The whole thing was tiring and we were waiting for reaching our destination. We had to cross 2 times the river when it was already dark. All the clothes and things were wet except the things we packed into dry bags. At around 7pm approached our shelter for the night. A dumagat family has build 2 small bamboo huts (better roofs) were they are living at. We arrived there and were impressed from the hospitality and the friendliness. We warmed ourselves at the bonfire while Romy our guide prepared us a chicken which was donated by the dumagats. After our dinner we had some nice talks with Marceling and his wife. They are living in that area with their 3 kids. We could convince him to join us the next day to Palanan were we want to buy corn seeds and medicine for him and his family.

Day 10 (8 Apr) - Sierra Madre - Palanan (Day 4)
After our breakfast we started the last day with 7 river crossings ... on our way we met several other dumagats which are living in that area but not like Marceling they are still living a nomadic life. We had to cross another time a small mountain covered in rain forest before we reached the flat fertile area around Palanan. We cycled now again along rice fields on carabao trails with the Palanan river on our right and the views of the Sera Madre on our left. We stopped 15 km ahead of Palanan and bought some corn seads for Marceling and some medicine. After that we continued our cycling for the last 15 km on rough road. It was like a sprint along the finishing line ... we became faster and faster and the smiles in our faces bigger and bigger. Then we reached it ... Palanan. We had our first cold soft drinks for 5 days and stocked up with some food. Then we went back on our bikes and cycled the last 9 km to the shore line of the Pacific Ocean. Dipping our front wheels into the Ocean made us clear... we have done it. We arranged the boat for our next day trip back and then celebrated our success with some ice cold beer and rice with sardines.