Batanes Day 4: Biking from Basco to Mahatao to Ivana – 12/11/09

For my last full day in Batanes, I planned to spend it on my own – without a tourguide – by renting a bicycle and testing the strength of my legs and my lungs all the way to the town of Ivana in the south of Batan island.  I got the idea from Ironwulf, who gave very precise instructions on where I could rent a bicycle in Basco, as well as an idea of what a tour of that magnitude would entail for somebody who hasn’t used a bicycle in a decade.

So the day before, prior to setting off to Diura, I was able to drop by the F.V. Amboy Gen. Merchandise in Nuñez St. and inquired about  the rates and the conditions in renting a bicycle.  Having gotten the details I needed, I resolved to wake up at the earliest possible hour the next day in order to make the most out of my last day.  Unfortunately, I woke up rather late, and due to some water problems in DDD, I was only able to take a shower by around 7:45am.

the mountain bike taking a rest by the roadside

My bicycle trip started at around 9:00am.  I was given a blue mountain bike that looked slick and heavy duty at the same time. (This replaced the red one I was initially given because Mr. Amboy thankfully spotted a problem with that one’s gears before I was able to go far.)  So I exited Nuñez St. to the town plaza and started biking down the National Road.  Any thoughts of this being an easy ride were dashed upon reaching the first incline just outside Basco proper.

There, my legs began to burn with an intensity I never experienced before.  I actually regularly jog and do squats with a barbell, and so my legs are quite strong and muscular.  So this difficulty I encountered was very much unexpected.  I seriously began to doubt whether I have what it takes to even reach my very first stop, which is the Chanarian Cliffs view deck.

trying to smile but ended up grimacing at the morning sun at Chanarian

Well, I did finally reach the view deck.  It actually has steps that lead all the way to the bottom of the cliff, but I had to take a rest for about five minutes first before descending those steps because no matter how much I was willing, my legs simply could not take one step down.  While resting I took pictures of the views from the deck and even took photos of myself by setting up a tripod and using the camera’s self-timer.  When I felt that my legs were already well-rested, I began my descent.

downward steps leading to the bottom of the Chanarian Cliffs

The steps were pretty steep and uneven so there was a real danger of losing my balance here.  This is why I had to leave my backpack along with the mountain bike at the viewdeck and just took my camera with the dependable kit lens.  Probably due to the position of the morning sun, the lighting on the cliff face was bad, and so the photos were a bit disappointing.  I however succeeded in reaching the very bottom of the cliff despite the very slippery moss at the bottom steps.

waves pounding against the rocky shore

Waves pounded the rocky cliffs very close to where I was standing, which was made up of coral rock.  The natural rock formations formed pools where, I was told, tourists usually took a dip.  Since swimming wasn’t on my agenda, I did not get tempted, no matter how exhausted I was.  Anyway, I hate saltwater and the day’s just starting for me.  I didn’t want to get sidetracked.  I had two more towns to visit.

Around half an hour later after I left the Chanarian Cliffs viewdeck, I reached the Municipality of Mahatao.  As I said in my previous blog, I was able to visit this in passing the day before, but was not able to stay long.  Whereas before, Joaquin and I cut through Mahatao to reach the eastern Batan coast, this time, I biked down the national road southbound to see the length of the town center.

Mahatao northern town marker

The first spot I visited in Mahatao was the San Carlos Borromeo Church.  This church is reputedly the most beautiful in the entire Batanes archipelago, and I certainly wanted to go there to take pictures of it.  Upon arriving, however, there were unsightly bamboo scaffolds right on the facade of the church, so I resolved to just take pictures later in the afternoon, when I’m on my way back to Basco.

old Spanish bridge in Mahatao

So going by the side streets, I found my way to the old Spanish bridge.  There are actually two existing Spanish period bridges in Batanes, the other one being in Ivana.  But this one in Mahatao is the one that is still in continuous use.

I was pleased to observe that despite the modern-looking structures in the town center, a quick turn at the side streets would reveal that the traditional stone and cogon houses still abound in most of the town proper.  This is so much unlike Basco where the traditional architecture has completely disappeared.  I hope Mahatao retains for as long as possible it’s current state of progress.  I would really find it sad that this and all towns in Batanes turn into something like what Basco has become.  (Not that Basco is ugly or anything.  It’s just that there should be an effort towards preservation.)

After continuing on my route southward using the National Road, I came upon a small elevated viewdeck just by the road outside Mahatao, which looked like this:

…which, upon ascending, gives this view of some rock formations on the sea below.  One of which is:

It was also in this viewdeck that I took out a hooded light jacket to protect myself from the sun.  Riding a moving bicycle can give one an impression of cooler temperature because one’s body is refreshed by the onrush of air.  However, it’s easy to lose track of how the sun’s radiation can still burn one’s skin despite not feeling particularly hot.

Lots of views like the one above by the National Road from Mahatao to Ivana.  Oftentimes, I was the all by my lonesome, with no other person for as far as I can see.  Let me ask you readers: When was the last time that you were at least 1 kilometer away from any other human being?  Most of us have never experienced this since the day we were born.  Well, in Batanes, I did.  It wasn’t eerie at all.  It was amazing! ;-)

Most of the morning was spent stopping by the roadside and shooting cliffs, rocks, the sea.  I also was able to capture excellent shots of a white heron that I encountered during one of these roadside stops.  You can read more about this encounter here.

Ivatan fisherman using a nanawuy

I was also able to capture shots of some Ivatan fishermen going about their daily work.  One of them was using a wide net connected by two long poles in the shallow water.  I later on learned that this contraption is called a nanawuy.  Spent a lot of time shooting this man that I think he’s the reason why I got thoroughly tanned by the noontime sun, despite my hooded jacket.

So I continued towards Ivana.  Although I was not particularly feeling hungry, I felt that I needed to eat soon in order to have the energy for the trip back.  At this point, I noticed that the left pedal of the bike was wobbling.  Apparently, the nut connecting the pedal to the bike was loosening itself with each pedal stroke.

the part of the bike that gave me problems

This setback definitely was the cause of much delay as I had to stop more frequently to screw tight the nut lest the pedal completely disconnects.  Along the way, I actually met Erwin on his motorcycle going in the opposite direction. After exchanging pleasantries and tips, I continued towards Ivana.

I reached the port at San Vicente at around 12:30 and stopped by the roadside store.  I no longer had water so I was already thirsty at this point.  After drinking two bottles of mineral water, I continued towards the Ivana town proper to eat lunch.  Erwin gave me instructions on how to find a small canteen where I can eat there, and I intended to look for it.

the canteen in Ivana where I had “lunch”

I reached Ivana around 15 minutes later under scorching heat.  It was a bit difficult to find the canteen that Erwin was talking about because it was in a side street and not along the National Road.  When I finally reached it, more bad news met me.  Apparently they ran out of food.  My suspicions that Erwin ate everything were given some credence when I showed the storekeepers a picture of Erwin in my camera and they confirmed that he indeed was the last one who came in the canteen before me.  (Damn you, Erwin!!!  Hahaha!)

So I learned a valuable lesson about small canteens in Batanes.   Unlike canteens in more urbanized centers that can afford to cook for a lot of people even if there are a lot of leftovers, Batanes canteens have a carefully calculated idea of how many people will eat at a particular hour.  I suppose it has something to do with the careful management of available resources, i.e. money.  Luckily, I remembered that I had some oatmeal cookies with me as my baon, so I just ordered soft drinks, while exchanging stories with the store owner.

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