Outdoors with the Batibols Bikers

“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson. – Tom Bodett

After four nerve-wracking weeks, I finally had the ultimate luxury of hanging out in the woods, with the boys and the Batibols Bikers, a bunch of weekend downhill bikers. I had a chill time photographing them fly their bikes. The awesome Mini Batibols were just amazing – so confident and skilled at a very young age. Their mentors, the older members of the group, were really proud of them. It’s all about motivation.

10 year-old downhiller Bianco Reyes

MTB junkie Jackie de la Cruz.

The rolling terrain of Camandingan, Batac, is a nice playground for the extreme sport, though I expected a more lush environment. The earth was so dry, the bell peppers and eggplants looked like prunes and some, like loofahs.

The boys' seaweed lunch.

9 year-old Lucius Cunanan and Bianco.

So cute, Mini Batibols Bikers Dylan and Lucius:)

Life is a big adventure. Adventure or nothing…

Photographed by Blauearth © Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2012

Biking around Ilocos Norte

With its unique natural and cultural heritage destinations, Ilocos Norte in the extreme northern Philippines is one damn fine destination for the gutsy traveler on a bike.

Ready to hop on your bike? Let’s meet at the newly landscaped Aurora Park in Laoag (my hometown), a flourishing city where the calesa is still a means of getting around. Before getting ourselves all covered in sweat, let’s visit the old Spanish Tabacalera, now the Museo Ilocos Norte — a showcase of the Ilocano culture, with dioramas (depicting old local customs and traditions), artifacts from the past and a replica of an old Ilocano abode.

Let’s pedal to the western end of Laoag and marvel at the sand dunes of La Paz. If we’re lucky enough to chance upon sandboarders, we can have a little “sand”wich for another awesome kind of thrill. Or you might want to temporarily swap your hardtails for LEAD Movement’s beach cruisers?

Cruising along Barangay La Paz.

a recent visitor at the La Paz sand dunes.

Next, south, east or north, it’s your call.

To the southeast is old town Paoay, home to the UNESCO World Heritage Paoay Church, also known as St. Augustine Church, a most-photographed church with striking Earthquake-Baroque and Oriental design dating back to 1704. Coffee brews at the Herencia Café right across the church. What about a slice of the original pinakbet pizza?

Let’s go a little north to the 381.5-hectare Paoay Lake National Park, a northerly lake for migratory birds. A place of peace and tranquility, the  protected area is suitable for eco-friendly boating, kayaking and paddle boarding, afterwhich we revisit a part of history at the adjacent Malacañang of the North, the former Ilocos Norte residence of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

If you dare venture into the eastern towns, spread on the rolling terrain of Ilocos Norte, a charming countryside view with numerous points of interest such as a farmer’s daily grind makes the travel more engaging. Community immersion is another possibility.

Unleash your wild side and get your adrenalin all pumped up — hook up with extreme mountain biking groups, like the Batibols Bikers,  and go off the beaten track in Lagui and Bugnay, San Nicolas.

Up north are gorgeous must-sees. Beyond biking, a food trip will surely rejuvenate the bike explorer. Up on the list — freshly baked biscochos at the roadside Pasuquin Bakery!

The imposing Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is a  fine vantage point overlooking the South China Sea. Also in Burgos are excellent bike/hike trails leading to nature areas like Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Kaangrian Waterfall and Tanap-Avis Watershed Forest Reserve. Spelunking and rock climbing can be arranged with the Burgos tourism office.The neighboring town of Bangui is location to the first windmill farm in Southeast Asia. A coffee shop named KangKang by the windmills serves good coffee and refreshments.

Further in the north is Pagudpud, where a  strip of tropical resorts line the white-sand Saud Beach Cove. Ask around for diving equipment, surfboard, paddle board and skimboard rentals. The north coast gets surfers all stoked with Mairaira Point’s good waves. Closeby, breathtaking Blue Lagoon is a chill-out haven.If you get starved in Pagudpud, there are good eating places. Discover bagnet or kilawen with a German twist at Bergblick Deutsches Restaurant, organic greens at Kapuluan Vista Resort or savor freshly-caught seafood at Manang Yolly’s Mekeni’s Palutuan by the Blue Lagoon. Cruising the Patapat Viaduct offers a remarkable sea and mountain scape.

From Pansian, Pagudpud, a 45-minute uphill cycling to the town of Adams, within the northeastern end of the Cordillera Mountain Range, is a prerequisite for the daring visitor in Ilocos. Stunning high biodiversity primary forests are ideal for hardcore trekking and biking. The rustic town has four DOT-accredited homestays. Natural and cultural attractions include ancient hanging bridges, the pellucid Bulu River, numerous waterfalls, a flourishing wine-making industry, exotic food and a fascinating amalgam of  indigenous cultures.

Cryptic Ilocos Norte demystified! Hope to see you unravel more… happy biking!

Photo credits: LEAD Movement, Ilocos Sand Boarding, Batibol Bikers and BlauEarth

© Blauearth™ All Rights Reserved 2009-2012

Extreme Pagudpud-Adams mountain bike challenge

A few years back, the LEAD Movement planned out an intense biking exploration at the northernmost Cordillera mountains. For the first time, mountain bikes sped on the challenging terrain of two of the most exotic towns in Ilocos Norte — Pagudpud and Adams. Always in search of a new thrill, the group explored one of the old backdoor trails in Adams that led back to Pagudpud. They named it the Badyang Trail in honor of their lead man, Badjang. The “Pagudams” turnaround proved to be a mountain biker’s dream come true for them.

Barangay Pansian in Pagudpud is the starting point. Spinning your bike high up into the mountains of Adams for three long hours seems like an agonizing idea, but not when your destination is the Eden of the North. While surviving the uphill struggle, marvel at the superfluous volume of pure beauty — cool breeze, chirping birds, lush green mountains and numerous cascading spring waters. Inch your way through shoulderless roads and ancient rusty creaky hanging bridges. The sight of the crystal clear Bulo River is inviting enough for a full stop, then, perhaps, a dive-in or a lunch by the riverbank. Or one can just simply chill out to the Zen feel of the surroundings.

For those who want to experience a taste of Adams’s unique cooking, ask around for the Lenie. She might be able to whip-up an exciting exotic meal of whatever is in season like boiled eel, crawfish (or crayfish), kukutit (crablets),  and palileng (upland fish) caught fresh from the streams, wild bittermelon salad, rattan kilaw, raw banana heart dinakdakan, pickled balbalusa (tiny wild eggplants), glutinous mountain rice cake, and an assortment of local produce such as wild strawberries, barbados cherries, lanzones, bananas, rambutan, mandarin oranges, and dwarf pineapples — pure bliss for the adventurous tongue. A glass of fresh young coconut sherbet and a cup of homegrown coffee brew is a perfect cap to the whole gastronomic experience.

Cruising along the Adams Poblacion-Sitio Sinidangan route is like touring the countyside in an earlier era. The charming village of Sinidangan reminds us to thank Our Maker for such beautiful places on earth still undisturbed by the artificialities of the modern world. After a friendly encounter with the village folk, gear up for a wild ride. The next leg is only for those who dare the extreme — from slippery mossy creeks to boulders upon boulders, through giant wild flora with humongous roots throughout the ditches and yes, brace yourself… happy welcoming limatiks (mountain leeches)! Don’t get panicky finding your way through. Losing control is way more difficult than keeping an eye on the ball.

Exit Adams and enter Pagudpud through Barangay Pasaleng. The adventure continues with a dip at the natural jacuzzi-like Kiwat Falls. The rejuvenating break conditions you for the next bumpy leg — a long stretch of riverbed. Surely, rock and roll! And back to starting point. After the gruelling ride, head for home or spend an extra day or two for another stirring experience at the beach.

Pagudpud is home to extraordinary beaches. It boasts of spectacular sunrises and sunsets over the bluest oceans lined with pebble-sand shores. Cool accomodations abound in this lovely town. Check out Pansian, Saud or Blue Lagoon in Maira-ira. The breathtakingly serene town named Pagudpud, after the Tagalog word pagod, which means tired, ironically, spells out E-X-H-I-L-A-R-A-T-I-O-N.

A must for this “mild to wild” adventure is a camera; never leave home without it!