I have mentioned it many times in this blog that most of the best bike adventure touring destinations in the country are those up north- in the cordilleras, the high mountains of the Philippines. There are networks of trails and old rough roads that interconnects the villages but these are rapidly becoming extinct as most of these places, even those I never thought would be developed in my life time are now paved (i.e. Pacdal Road). This is the same case as in this planned Sagada to Tagudin ride as almost 95+% of the route are now paved. Though there are still alternate routes that can be used, if you still want to experience the ruggedness of unpaved roads; but by the next 5-10 years- all of these may already disappear.
Our plan was to ride from Sagada to Tagudin Ilocos Sur. We rode from Manila the day before, at around 10 in the evening and arrived at Banaue early the next day. We skipped riding from Banaue to conserve our energy for the climbs ahead (our actual itinerary) but some of the team members didn’t waste the opportunity of the long exhilarating downhill descent from the boundary of Ifugao and Bontoc to Bontoc town proper. We arrived at Bontoc just in time for lunch. We searched for a decent place to eat and after lunch, all of us decided to ride our bike for the climb from Bontoc to Sagada; sort of a warm up for the real long ride the next day.
The 14+ km uphill to Sagada has proven enough challenge for the day. We spent the entire day enjoying our nth time in Sagada while some newbies went to the usual tourist must do list.
While in Sagada we did some research if it would be better to ride via Besao than Bauko-Tadian via Halsema (Besao also ends up in Tadian) and we found out that the road via Besao is still rough, which is actually more exiting but we decided not to explore it this time as it may delay us and that we should just stick to the original plan of Bauko-Tadian via Halsema.
So early the next day, from Sagada, we descended down to the junction and back to Halsema towards the junction that leads to Bauko-Tadian-Cervates. We found out that it was still a long climb to Tadian as we were told it was supposed to be flats. We had our lunch at Tadian and after lunch, it was another long exhilarating descent to the town of Cervantes Ilocos Sur. We arrived at Cervantes mid noon and looked for our place to stay. There were a few resorts in Cervantes but we have chosen the more homely Evergreen Resort. The owners prepared our Tinola dinner as we celebrated our fist day at Cervantes with some food and drinks.
The next day, it was a tense day for all due to the dreaded Besang Pass, a climb atop the mountain pass that is around 17 km steep uphill. When we actually started, the kilometer markers indicated 34 KM to the next center so it was a bit of a confusion on how long the climb will be.
A 34 kilometer climb is really dreadful so we were all in that tense mood. At the onset, the steep climb blown our team, spreading it over a few kilometers along the road. Upon reaching Besang Pass (which we found out as only 17 KMs), it was a big sigh of relief. We had our lunch at the historical marker of the Battle of Besang Pass. Then it started to rain while the descent was really steep so it was a bit scary of us who are not really “downhillers.” Imagine a steep and wet slope! One members of the team slid due to the wet condition of the road- a proof that its no joke to descend in this grade and condition. Again we were split and spread a few kilometers along the road from the daredevils and mortals.
Upon reaching the flats, the arrangement again changed between those who can pedal fast on flats and those who can do it much faster. We reached Tagudin late in the afternoon fully drenched. Instead of staying at Tagudin, as per original plan, we decided to go towards the tourist town of San Juan La Union, one of the surfing capital of the Philippines so that there will be more option for accommodations and it will be a better ending for the great adventure trip as San Juan is more tourist friendly with available night life activities than the quieter Tagudin. There we celebrated another successful ride by having a party that coincides with Kaluna’s (San Juan resort) anniversary party.
Great views, wonderful friendship and tremendous ride!
For more map details please visit my Everytrail at: http://www.everytrail.com/my_trips.php?user_id=46765