After settling in my room, I asked Ate Emy where I can rent a mountain bike. They have Japanese bikes for rent but it will not do the work for long rides in exploring the island. She showed me a map and tried to direct me where to go but it was not as detailed and she said that I might get lost so she just personally accompanied me to the bike rental shop. Along the way, she was asking me if I would really take a mountain bike to do a tour of North Batan because it would be a long ride. I said, I wanted to try it out. When we reached the bike shop it was still closed, she then escorted me to the office of Bisumi Tours to confirm my tour for the next day and to have a place to wait until the rental shop opens.
I was able to rent a mountain bike but from another shop for PHP 60/hour with the help of the Bisumi staff. Like Ate Emy, the staff also asked me if I’m really doing a mountain bike tour by myself. Again, I said that I wanted to try it out. The one that I got was a regular mountain bike, no special specs. After inspecting its tires, breaks, chains, derailleur and adjusting the saddle and seat post, I immediately head on to my mission in discovering North Batan. I have already been pedaling for quite some time when I realized that I do not know where to go. I was just riding and heading nowhere; I can’t seem to follow the maps that I have printed out. I stopped and asked a local for directions.
My starting point was near the airport. I biked down the National Road heading west; I passed by the hospital, the police station and then turned right after the Municipal Hall and just a few meters away was Basco Cathedral. The Cathedral in Basco is one of the century-old churches in Batan established in 1783.
After staying for half an hour at the Cathedral, I was on to my next stop, Naidi Hills. I went further right on the same road and it was starting to get steep. At the fork road, I took the left lane made with stones (like the ones they use for their stone houses). By 11:00 AM I have reached Naidi Hills where Basco Lighthouse and Bunker are found. At that time, I was the only one there because North Batan tours normally start after lunch. Since I have the place to myself, I really took my time to appreciate its grandeur. It has everything all in one place, the azure seas, clear skies, strong winds and the greener than green rolling hills. Oh Batanes! You are just splendid! When the other tourists started to arrive around 12:30 PM, I have decided to move along. I rode downhill and reached the intersection then I took a left going uphill to Vayang Rolling Hills. I honestly don’t know if I was going the right direction, it was just gut feel.
The roads to Vayang Rolling Hills were steeper and when I have reached another fork road, I took the left sharper lane once again. I have made it to Vayang Rolling Hills by 1:00 PM; I felt drained and was exhaling very loudly, almost shouting catching my breath. I went to the edge of the hill and I felt re-energized; I was literally on top of the world.
I made a quick break at Marfel’s to get the extra battery for my camera and to refill my water bottles then by 13:45H, I was back on the road to Valugan Boulder Beach. But then again, I was lost and realized that I made a wrong turn when I passed by Basco Port and the “Welcome Basco” marker. I was already at the route leading to South Batan. I felt lucky when I saw a small sign on the left lane of the National Road saying “This Way to Tukon Café & Fundacion Pacita” so I immediately took that route instead.
And yes, it was yet another uphill road but I pushed through. Forty five minutes later and after a few rests, I have reached Tukon Church or Mt. Carmel Chapel. It was well-designed, simple yet elegant; from the stone house-inspired façade to its artistic interiors.
From the chapel, I can already see Tukon Radar. I made my way up and got there around 15:10H. The PAGASA weather station is the highest point at Tukon Hills. I saw an unobstructed view of both South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean from where I was standing. It was magnificent; I do not need to find a good angle to take a shot. Just point and shoot and its postcard perfect. After about 30 minutes, I continued on to my tour and headed to Valugan Boulder Beach. I’ve asked the tour driver of other tourists how to get there and he said to follow the slopes and make a right when I reach a crossroads and another right on the next one then straight ahead. I kept that in mind.
I followed the road and passed by in front of Fundacion Pacita but I didn’t go inside anymore because it was already getting late.
I wasn’t planning to go to the Japanese Tunnel anymore but when I moved along after taking a rest at a bench on the side of the road, I saw one of its entrances. I was really lucky that day!
I continued on, then I’ve reached the crossroads and did what the driver told me, turn right and another right then straight ahead and thank God I am at the Valugan Boulder Beach by 16:25H.
The path was easier going to Valugan Boulder Beach from Tukon because it was mostly downhill but there was one very sharp vertical road so I opted to get off my saddle and just walked down. I stayed until 17:20H at the beach and headed back to town.
As most trails are uphill I ended up carrying my bike on steep roads going to Naidi Hills, Vayang Rolling Hills, Tukon Church, Fundacion Pacita, PAGASA Radar. Even if I already had maps printed out, it was still hard to figure out where to go because they don’t have enough road signs that direct someone to a tourist spot, if there were any, it was not that noticeable, so be watchful.
I haven’t done biking a great distance like that in my life that’s why mountain biking in North Batan was a whole new experience for me. It was fun, physically possible, and quite strenuous but it was absolutely worth it. I would not recommend it however to those who are not really bikers. You need to build your stamina and be fit. But if you really want to try it out and want to feel what I felt, just make sure that you finish before night fall as the roads don’t have enough street lights at night. It’s all up to you to decide. As long as you got what you want out of your trip then that’s what matters.
Advantages, Disadvantages and Tips
- At my own pace – I stayed as long as I wanted to in one place before going to the next and I was able to stop at any place I please to take some photos.
- Fun and Adventure – I was in for a surprise. I didn’t know what lies ahead, what I’m going into.
- Cheaper – walking around or renting a bike is cheaper than booking a tour.
- Feel lost – I don’t know where to go, where to start?
- Lose track of time – overstaying in one place more than what I have originally planned for. I skipped a meal too (based only my own experience), because I was already racing with time to finish before dark I forgot to eat lunch.
- It is much more exhausting. Since I have to do everything on my own, it was grueling. But if you’re trying to lose those extra pounds, it’s a perfect workout! Just make sure you know your health condition very well.
- Bring extra battery for your camera or power bank for your phone; you don’t want to miss recording those memories.
- Use sun protection. Apply sunblock, wear a hat, sleeves to cover your arms.
- Travel light, only the essentials but lots of water, some food or snacks.
- Comprehensive planning is required – maps should be printed out, make your own itinerary before heading onto your own tour.
- Be careful, the roads have some sharp downhill slopes.
- If in doubt, ASK!
Here was my Biking Itinerary
|09:00 H – 09:30 H||Look for Mountain Bike rental shop|
|09:30 H – 10:00 H||A bit lost, figuring out where to go|
|10:00 H – 10:45 H||Basco Cathedral|
|10:45 H – 11:00 H||Transit to Naidi Hills|
|11:00 H – 12:30 H||Naidi Hills - Basco Lighthouse and Bunker|
|12:15 H – 13:00 H||Transit to Vayang Rolling Hills|
|13:00 H – 13:30 H||Vayang Rolling Hills|
|13:30 H – 13:45 H||Transit Back to Marfel’s to refill water bottles, quick rest|
|13:45 H – 14:30 H||Transit to Tukon Church|
|14:30 H – 15:00 H||Tukon Church|
|15:00 H – 15:10 H||Transit to Tukon Radar|
|15:10 H – 15:40 H||Tukon Radar|
|15:40 H – 16:00 H||Transit to Japanese Tunnel|
|16:00 H – 16:15 H||Japanese Tunnel|
|16:15 H – 16:45 H||Transit to Valugan Boulder Beach|
|16:45 H – 17:20 H||Valugan Boulder Beach|
|17:20 H – 17:30 H||Back to Basco|
Breakdown of Expenses
|PHP 480||Bike Rental (PHP 60 X 8 hours)|
|PHP 44||Lunch (1L water and biscuit - was not able to eat proper lunch)|
How would you like to explore Batanes, DIY style or through arranged tours?
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