North Luzon Tour (7-14 July 2009) Back to Valhalla's Adventures
7 July (395 KM)
We departed Subic Bay Yacht Club in the morning and with the company of Ellie Brooks (wife of Bob Brooks, SV CAT HOUSE) whom we were giving a ride to Bolinao, Luzon. The Brooks have a house on a nearby island that was damaged by the recent Typhoon EMONG and is under repair. We dropped Ellie off at the public pier and continued on to Lucap, Aliminos, on the Lingayan Gulf. This is the nearest town to the 100 Islands National Park.
We booked into the modern and friendly Vistas de la Islas hotel (low season rates of PHP1900) and booked our tour of the 100 islands for the next morning.
Our transportation was in JR's 'pump boat' ... a noisy, vibrating boat locally called a 'banca'. These boats are powered by a single cylinder gasoline engine directly connected to a shaft and small propellor. The original boats of this type were constructed following WWII using water pump engines (most likely Briggs and Stratton), hence the name 'pump boat'.
JR's engine was of Chinese origin and was balky to start ... often accompanied by a loud backfire that got your attention!
When running the vibration tickled the nose ... often to the point of discomfort. But hey! What do you expect for PHP800 for a 4 hour tour?
Our first (of three) stops was at Governor's Island.
A short but steep climb to the top gave a good view of the surrounding islands.
These islands are of karst formation; a limestone island that gets undercut by a small mollusk and often look like mushrooms growing out of the water.
A small cave with soot-blackened overhead gave evidence of some previous habitation ... probably overnight campers.
The second stop was at Children's Island where we were delighted to find some moorings (circled in red) that, according to the local staff, were often used by yachts going to or from Hong Kong.
We were assured the moorings were strong ... hmmmmm.
The last stop was at Quezon Island. It's actually two islands connected by a sandbar. It's here that you pay the Marine Park fee ... a whopping PHP20 per person!
Overnight accommodation is available here.
As with the previous islands we found everything well maintined, absolutely clean of rubbish and only inside one place was there evidence of grafitti. VERY IMPRESSIVE!!
The islands have numerous paths leading to secluded areas.
We found a swimming spot to cool off in the clear water.
Click HERE for a YouTube video of the tour.
Finishing our tour of the islands in late morning we checked out and drove north to the San Juan, la Union area.
This is the surfing area for the west coast of Luzon. Here we checked into the Little Surfmaid Resort.
Yachtie friends Joe and Carina Thor (SV La Hune) live nearby and Carina's family own the resort. They left Port Bonbonon when we did on 20 June but put into Port Caltom, Busuanga for repairs, flew home and were here to greet us.
9 July (140 KM)
Joe had visa business in Baguio City and we drove there for another visit to this mountainous resort and university city. A good road connects Bauang with Baguio, taking about an hour's drive from the coast. It was there that the rains announced the deterioration in the weather ... with torrential downpours on our return to the resort. Once again, our travel plans were affected by the weather ... in this case Tropical Depression 5W (Gorio) which passed over the north tip of Luzon during the night and the next day.
We accompanied Joe and Carina to town for some errands then sheltered at the resort the rest of the day
Click HERE for a YouTube video of the surfing.
11 July (130 KM)
Our destination this day was Vigan, Ilocos Sur. This historic city is famous for the Spanish-era mansions and cobblestone streets. It was spared bombing in WWII and is considered the finest surviving example of a Spanish colonial town in Asia. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. On the recommendation of the Lonely Planet Guide we booked into the Villa Angela. This B&B is quite unique with Spanish architecture, ornately carved four poster beds, dining and sitting rooms filled with antiques and several chairs (butaka) with arms that extend beyond reach ... for some reason we haven't learned!
We did a short tour by tricycle to a weaving factory and then by horse drawn buggy (kalesa) to a pottery factory.
The pottery factory was making open ended jars for salt production. No worries about a brownout here ... the pottery wheel is turned by leg power! The kiln stretches back into the shed for 50 meters ... and was being loaded for future firing while we were there.
Click HERE for a YouTube video of the RG Jar factory in operation.
12 July (228 KM)
Following a sumptuous breakfast we headed north again.
First stop was the church of Paoay, Ilocos Norte. Built in 'earthquake baroque' style the walls are made of coral blocks and stucco-plastered bricks, sealed with a mixture of limestone mortar and sugarcane juice. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site in 1993.
Next stop was the Marcos Museum and Mausoleum at Batac, Ilocos Norte. Cameras are not allowed in the mausoleum which is a haunting place with choral music in a dimly lit room with spotlights on Marcos' body ... so they say but Terry thinks it's a wax dummy ... no pun intended. Nearby is a building with good representation of the Spanish architecture of carved facade and capiz shell sliding windows.
Further along at Bangui, Ilocos Norte, is a windmill farm.
Lunch at the Saud Beach Resort, Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, was splendid. But Rose didn't get a very long nap ... Terry was anxious to hit the road.
It was the day of the Formula 1 race in Germany and Terry wanted to view it on TV. We searched several resorts at Claveria, Cagayan and found they had cable TV ... BUT NOT ESPN! We were told the nearest ESPN on cable was 100 KM away. We booked into the El Dia Beach Resthouse (No restaurant but comfortable and at least they had HBO) and Terry 'watched' the race via Live Timing on the Formula 1 website using our GPRS connection to the internet. .
13 July (428 KM)
A nine hour drive got us to Banaue, Ifugao, to see the famous rice terraces. Numerous landslides along the road in the mountains bore evidence of the previous week's rain associated with Tropical Depression 5W .. the one that delayed us in San Juan, La Union. We booked into the Sanafe Hotel which was underwhelming. No electrical outlets in the room and a very limited menu ... but at PHP 1000 it was almost a bargain. The menu had many choices listed but only a few available.
The view from the terrace was excellent. Rain kept us indoors with the hope that tomorrow would allow some better views of the rice terraces.
14 July (359 km)
After a very good Filipino breakfast we drove to the view points above the valley. Amazing!
And we discovered where the image on the back of a PHP 1,000 note is from!
With relatively good driving conditions we decided to go back 'home'. The trip total distance was 1680 KM. A big disappointment on arrival was to discover that a cat had adopted the boat as a toilet. Several hours of washing shit and piss from the covers and rolled up awnings was not fun ... but quicker than the previous birdshit mess at Port Bonbonon!!