Monday, February 19, 2018

Traverse Hike from Chavayan to Sumnanga Batanes

The Batanes group of islands is the northernmost part of the Philippines. But the waters in between the mainland Luzon and Batanes is wide and not very friendly for travelers, so the only option for tourists is by plane. There is even a joke that Batanes is even nearer Taiwan than the mainland Luzon. Not many Filipinos reach Batanes because of the difficulty going there and the cost of travel. The main island is Batan whose capital is Basco, where the airport is located, Sabtang is the 2nd most inhabited island and often visited by tourists aside from Basco. Sabtang is 30-40 min boat ride from Basco depending on the conditions of the waters.

Our stay in Chavayan, Sabtang, Batanes would not have been very significant if not for the trek we did to Sumnanga, a residential area at the other side of the mountains. We decided to do a traverse to look for butterflies, so we left our Homestay at 8:00am after breakfast. The path was the old Procession Route considered short cut because there was a longer path starting from the other end of Chavayan. The start was laden with medium sized stones, i assumed put there because it was so muddy during rainy days. The farmers also use the path going to their farms in the mountains, bringing their cattles or goats to pasture, and people in Sumnanga said they passed that road to attend fiesta in Chavayan.
This is just maybe a few hundred meters uphill from Chavayan, the road is still 
clear and we still see some farmers going to their farms.

We climbed inclines, crossed creeks, scrutinized vegetation to discern the real path, 
and as we get higher we get better views of the mountain ranges. We only stopped 
when we see some butterflies, of course we will take all possibilities just
 to take their pictures.  . 

we stop if there are some interesting something even not butterflies

it is easier if there are trees like this, with signs of being trimmed in the past

It is amazing to have a travel buddy who has GPS in her feet, because they seem to know where to go in cases like the above! We encountered lots of these chaos throughout this hike.  I didn't put on rash guards on my arms, so i had some itchy markings that are still with me even after 2 weeks.

There are crossings where we spent a few minutes looking for the real original path and not just another path to individual farms. As we go higher the vegetation becomes denser and the real path got lost to weeds and bushes. Of course we were walking slow specially if there are butterflies, and we saw some though most are on top of the trees, sunning themselves there to dry. At the summit we had a little dilemma as the paths really got lost, aggravated by a fire consuming the cogon grasses. We were lucky most of the grasses are still green, so we were able to cross it, downward at the mountain side. In these parts there really was no path anymore. We passed by a fern-landscaped area, a cogonal area, and some tree-tunneled areas delineating the old route. It is easier if those trees are still there, showing the signs of trimming creating the tunnel effect. We joked that there was the proverbial "light at the end of the tunnel".

OMG, there is fire! How can we cross that?

downward now to wherever our feet will lead us

at last we saw Vuhus Island at the horizon, we are on the right track, just down there is Sumnanga

We walked relentlessly, and we reached Sumnanga after 5 hrs. After a few minutes of looking for tricycles to bring us to Chavayan, we learned that there are only 2 there and the owners are at the other island tending cattles. We had no choice but to go back to the path where we just came by. OMG! My travel buddy was worried for me, so she took all the contents of my backpack leaving only my small camera on my neck. At 2 pm we left Sumnanga for the return hike, this time we did it faster for 2 hours, already forgetting the butterflies. Or else we might really get lost if it gets dark. 
That really brought me some sore muscles!

can you imagine this as a path?!!!

that is my backpack clinging now at my buddy's backpack

i can now appreciate the quality of the paths and i documented them on our return

At last that is already Chavayan beach, and in a little while we can rest. A few 
hundred meters and we are already home for dinner and sleep. 

Below are some butterflies we saw, and some other interesting finds. 

 a wasp moth

 a white tiger butterfly, Danaus melanipus edmondii

  an extremely dry season form of Bush Brown, Mycalesis igoleta

lovely mushrooms on decaying trunk

(Post Script: This would not have been possible if not for my very responsible, effcient, caring, very good mountaineer buddy Linda Alisto, whose intuition in finding the path is very concise.)

Monday, February 5, 2018

A hurried visit to Sumnanga

Upon arrival at Sabtang Island after lunch,  our guide tricyle took us to Sumnanga, a fishing village at the other side of the mountains from Sabtang Centro. It was through the north side. We did not go there during my first 2 visits. Roads to Sumnanga are more difficult than other roads in Sabtang Island. The roads are more narrow and steeper, and there are also some roads under construction.

We did not have the usual itinerary so we can tell the guide where we want to go. We actually have only 3 hours to spare before it gets dark, so we were actually hurried.

Above is one of the steep rockies on the roadside to Sumnanga.  Tricycles there now have cogon roofs that entice tourists. That is ours, i rode at the side car, while my buddy rode at the back side of the driver. My travel buddy has a penchance for a little extreme, she is not scared of depths nor heights, and she wants these feats documented. I do not share such, so i normally do the photography. 

 She likes high places. At her left is a very steep wall to the sea, and my phobia will not
 allow me to stand on that ledge. Sometimes when she does that, 
my knees want to buckle down and I actually feel them weaken !

After about 40 min. we are in the fishing village of Sumnanga. There are the typical legendary stone houses of Batanes. Only a few houses are in this village. Above is another group of houses at the other side of a hill, and they call this Little Hongkong. I have been to Hongkong, but i don't see the comparison. Maybe it is in a part of Hongkong that is far from the tourists usual destinations. Actually it is a small cove. 

This is the view immediately catching one's attention in entering the village. Those rockies are very typical hardened lava from some volcanic eruption. I think Batanes in the past are under water, just emerged by some volcanic eruptions and tectonic movements. Those white patches on the rocks are drying cuttlefish backbones. That is a small falowa boat for fishing. 

Most men from this village are also cattle raisers at the Vuhus Island, which is only devoted for cattle grazing. It is about 30min from Sumnanga Island by smaller falowa boats.

 A small red falowa boat; and a very big papaya that fell off the tree because of its heavy weight. It is almost as long as the cart, at 2 ft long.

My travel buddy tried pushing the cart of the local resident.

 typical stone house in Batanes, but this one is smaller than those in other parts of Sabtang

 those are flying fish being dried; one-day old fish like these are preferred by the Ivatans

This is on our way back to Sabtang Centro from Sumnanga. There is still an hour before dusk so we can still have some photo opportunities.  The width of these roads are only wider than a tricycle so they cannot be on opposite sides at the same time. There are some wider lay-by portions where one has to stop to let the opposite one go ahead. 

The nice thing about Batanes Islands is that most of their roads are cemented even if they are in the remotest barangay. Even some roads to the fields are paved. 

 This mountain has to be cracked at the middle for the road to pass through. The road is a bit steep but still manageable by the tricycles, although we hear the engine complaining.

 It is after sunset when we finally reached Morong Beach and Nakabuang Arch on our way back to Sabtang Centro. It is cloudy and we did not sea a nice sunset. I remember having our lunch of lobsters, fresh fish and turmeric rice during my first trip here in 2008. Our guide then joined the three of us to a group so we can partake of the famous Sabtang Arch lunch. That time there are no huts or restaurants here in this area, in contrast to what they have now. A few resto huts are already built above this area.

 the expanse of Morong Beach

my fascination in expanded beaches, documenting the lacey waters

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Stopover in Ivana on the way to Sabtang, Batanes

I went to Batanes for the third time, now with only one companion who is visiting for her first.  Because my brain hasn't been defragged for sometime i was left by the plane on the designated day. The ETD in my brain was wrong, as the schedule for Palawan for April 2018 is left lingering there, so i left home late for the 6:15 flight. That means i purchased another ticke for the next day, while my companion went ahead. From the airport she proceeded immediately to Sabtang Island by boat, slept at the Lighthouse Homestay on her own. The day i arrived she fetched me from the airport in Basco, because she wants the roller-coaster boat ride between the two islands and of course to give me company as i am scared of these waters. Her fancy for the boat ride is the opposite of my fear for rugged sea trips. 

The view of the very beautiful clouds at sunrise even if i am under the plane's wing.

We just took a regular passenger tricycle from Basco to Ivana because we are just going to the port. It is common in Batanes to have van or tricycle drivers who double as tourist guides. These days, the local Tourism Office conducts formal tour guiding trainings and licensure examinations. A guide told me that her batch has more than 200 trainees, but only 58 passed the examination. They are now the supposedly "licensed tour guides". 

It was a circuitous ride from Basco to Ivana, following the contour of the island along the coast

We took the noon boat to Sabtang as the first boat trip was very early in the morning. We were at the Ivana port a few hours before noon, so we had some time to look for the local Ivana views and of course searched for butterflies. The port of Ivana i saw last in 2010 looks almost the same now; except for some expansion of a reclaimed area at the town center to be their sports complex. The distinct landmark at the port is the jackstone concrete pile serving as breakwater. Our search for lunch walking almost 2km ended with a very sweet "sweet potato" sweets!  Can you imagine that? And fried sticky rice we call "maruya". That sufficed for lunch. 

Ivana port

the concrete jackstone pile as breakwater, the island at the background is Sabtang

There are two falowa boats plying this route, Sta. Ines and Sto. Tomas. Another boat caters to passengers at the other port of San Vicente. However, more passengers use this Ivana port. 

Sta. Ines falowa boat

The boat ride here is just 30-40 min., but during my first 2 rides in the past i remember the big waves that really got me scared. That length for me seemed to be 2 hours. Waters in these areas are famous because of the opposite currents at the middle, one from the Pacific Ocean and the other from the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).  Falowa boats are designed such to conform with these currents. Outrigger boats will not do in these waters. That is what the residents told us earlier on. 

As in the previous trips here, we laso saw the flying fish flying along for a few seconds with the boat.  That is always an awesome pacifier when the going gets rough, for the spirits like mine. 

the church of Ivana is the most imposing landmark in town because it is on the high ground with long fascade facing the street and the port

inside the Ivana church 

This is the Ivana landscape viewed from the port. At the back is the church, and those cargo on a local jeep are the supplies for Sabtang, including food and other supplies. All cargo go to the boat including a few motorbikes and some long steel bars handled by a crane. 

Of course, i've told you we are going to Batanes to document butterflies. So every minute and opportunity counts.  My companion, Linda here, is busy and seriously using up the moments. The front of the church has lots of nectaring plants. We were curious as there are very few butterflies flying around, except for the low flying very tiny ones. We found 2 bigger ones, Catopsilia and another, but they are very flighty and did not alight on anything for us to photograph. 

We contented ourselves in chasing the very elusive little ones like those below, the Pale Grass Blue and the Lesser Grass Blue. There was still the tiniest among the blues, Tiny Grass Blue, which are also here, but they are truly difficult to pin on camera. 

Psudozizeeria maha okinawana Matsumura 1929
Lycaenidae; Lycaeninae; Polyommatini

Zizina otis oriens Butler 1883
Lycaenidae; Lycaeninae; Polyommatini

 We also scrutinized the plants and hedges near the church. We found this lovely moth larva on a vine. There are actually two of them there.

... and this lovely attractive jewel beetle also caught our attention. We exchanged positions and delve on trying to let it show its full good angle, until it flew where we cannot anymore follow. 

The few hours before our boat ride to Sabtang was productive, despite the really very few butterflies in the area during that time. Maybe the salty breeze or wind is harsh for them that they are obliged to stay at the higher vegetation. We intended to follow observations on higher elevation, but we lack the time. Maybe next time, on my fourth visit. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

January Blooms 2018

I love gardening for butterflies!

January here in our hot tropics is still within the rainy season months, but rains only come when there is a typhoon. Fortunately, typhoons are not as prevalent as during the end of the year. The easterly winds coming from cold countries are still here, so we don't feel yet the essence of the dry season, the heat. Even if our day temperatures are still around the 30Cs, our nights are still comfortable, even without the airconditioning.

However, our annuals are already near the end of their lives, they have to seed in preparation for the dry season. But many weeds are blooming well this time, and the insects are also multiplying well for the continuity of their species. Being a butterfly hobbyist, i love whatever blooms there are, even the invasives. The following photos include the weeds, some native and also some introduced species.

 Above is a small flower around 1cm in diameter, but small butterflies and insects love it. I just haven't taken time for their identities. These are plants always seen in our property. Picture at the bottom is their normal stand.

 Above looks so dainty and found in our wild areas, or fallowed areas. I think it is the white plumbago. But i am not sure if it is native or introduced here. The bottom picture is its natural stand in the wild. I have not seen it in domestication. I just let it be in the yard in the biodiversity garden.

Another weed commonly found in the abandoned fields. The flowers are very small about maybe 3-4mm in length. It is a favorite of the small lycaenid butterflies.

This is an unintentionally introduced species, very invasive and poisonous to animals. Locally it is called 'hagonoy', Chromolaena odorata. It has very deep sturdy roots that withstand long dry season, helping it to become more invasive. I tolerate it because the butterflies love them too.

Another bushy flowers that i am not familiar with the ID. It is a bushy vine at the vegetative stage, entangling the lower bushes until they fully cover them. Insects also visit the blooms often

 this is a domestic plant in my garden, Pentas lanceolata, specifically sought after by this swallowtail butterfly, Menelaides deiphobus rumanzovia

 The ever present blooming Bougainvillea, a permanent fixture in tropical gardens, is also loved by this red butterfly, Menelaides deiphobus rumanzovia

Impatiens balsamina gets invasive during the rainy season, has at least triple generation before the season ends. We have 3 colors in my garden, and the seeds are naturally stored in the ground waiting for the next rainy season. They have short roots making them easier to pull out when needed.

 Justicia plant adds lovely colors in the garden too, but i haven't seen butterflies nectaring on them.

Indian beads at left are dainty little fairies dancing with the wind. Lots of those hanging bunches are so nice if blooming simultaneously. At the right is Hoya diversifolia at the top of the lanzones trees. They continuously bloom for months until February.

 This Episcia is struggling to grow in my garden. It loves high humidity in the environment which might not be maintained in ours, as it is mostly windy these days.

Above is not a blooming plant, but the variegated foliage makes a substitute color in a dull corner. It is very easy to maintain so we always have them. Locally called 'kutsarita', it is Alternanthera sp.

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