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

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