Sometimes you just have to do things on your own—like biking in a strange beautiful island for instance. Last April, I went to Batanes for a week’s worth of biking. After savoring the sights, sounds and vibe of the province’s main island of Batan for several days, I thought it was time to hoist the anchor and sail to another equally incredible island—Sabtang. (Actually, I would have preferred to bike with someone, but my traveling partner took off on her own for the island of Itbayat.)
This small island municipality lies just a few kilometers from Batanes’ main island. Sabtang is easily accessible by boat. The trip however can last anywhere from half an hour to almost an hour depending on how rough the waves are.
But even if you easily get seasick, you should not forego the chance to see Sabtang. If you loved what you saw in Batan, the honest truth is: Sabtang has got more of them and then some. Skip Sabtang and you’ll be cursing yourself for life. The rolling hills, the cliffs, the quaint villages with stone houses, the friendly locals, and the quiet idyllic scenery that have come to define Batanes—Sabtang has all of that. But it also has the best beaches in Batanes, and rock formations which you can’t see anywhere else.
I woke up at 5AM, rode my bike all the way from Basco to the neighboring town of Ivana to wait for the boat that would take me and my bike to the island. If you plan to ride your bike all the way to the port, you need to allot at least an hour for your bike trip. I made it just in time to catch the 6AM trip that day.
On the boat, I braced myself for a ride akin to Enchanted Kingdom’s “Anchors Away!” I picked a spot on the side where I wouldn’t disturb others in case my breakfast started coming out of my nose. But surprisingly, the experience was nothing like that. Sure there were swells, but nothing that required a barf bag.
Minutes later, Sabtang’s picture-perfect lighthouse came into focus. A voice at the back of head told me that it was gonna be a great great day.
Almost Looping Sabtang
After registering at the tourism office, I went off to explore the southern part of the island to see the villages of Savidug and Chavayan. I was actually planning to do a bike loop of Sabtang thinking that this small island would be easy enough. But I didn’t know that Sabtang’s terrain would prove too formidable.
Anyway, first stop was the village of Savidug. A picture says a thousand words according to some, so I’ll just leave this photo here.
Next stop was the Chamantad viewpoint. I spied a trail leading to the cliff, and I just had to let it rip. I let go of my brakes and surfed the awesome flowing ground on my bike.
You know the feeling–that sweet sugar rush in the blood, the burst of clarity in your head, and a big big grin on your face. That kind of thing.
From the edge of a cliff I saw a white sand beach down below. There was no trail leading to the beach so I had to improvise, which wasn’t that big a problem because the ground was firm and just incredibly rideable. I could keep riding here for hours and never get tired of the terrain and the scenery.
But I had to move on. I was planning to have lunch in the village of Chavayan. This is supposedly one of the most picturesque (that word again!) villages in Batanes. But even the paved road to Chavayan was already worthy of several Instagrams.
Chavayan village exceeded my imagination. This little village felt like the distillation of everything Ivatan. The rows of stone houses looked like they were wrenched from another period in time, when life was far simpler.
I arranged for a lunch of fried fish and rice with one of the locals there. I asked them if there was a road going through to the other side of Sabtang. They told me that there was a trail that snakes through the mountains and leads you to the village of Sumnanga on the other side.
The heat of the midnoon sun however overcame me and forced me to have a siesta in the welcome kubo. Around 1:30, I woke up and proceeded to climb the trail. The climb wasn’t so hard at first. It seemed like a narrower version of the trail going up to Puray–hard but not impossible. But it kept getting harder and harder, until finally I was hike-a-biking almost all the way. An hour later I didn’t even know what trail I needed to follow because the trail forked this way and that.
This was crazy. Another hour later and I didn’t know if I was half way through or just going around in circles. I decided to double back instead of risking getting lost alone in those hills. Maybe another time.
The trip back to the town center didn’t take me too long.Since I couldn’t punch through the hills of Chavayan, I thought I might as well visit Sabtang’s poster-worthy lighthouse.
And after that, I visited the even more picturesque Ahau Rock Arch in Nakabuang beach. I’ve been to a lot of places in the Philippines, but I’ve seen nothing quite like this rock formation. It’s like some mad artist took a slice of Utah or Colorado and spliced it on a white sand beach. Nature is just amazing.
I wasn’t planning on taking a dip, but foregoing a swim in that most beautiful beach seemed like sacrilege. The setting sun made the arch glow with a kind of magic that seemed like the most perfect way to end the day.
The next morning, I woke up early with the intention of making it all the way to the village of Sumnanga and back. I paid another visit to the Nakabuang rock arch, because I love rock formations like that and I needed to say my goodbyes to it.
After that, it was a grueling climb through the hills en route to Sumnanga. The high hills afforded a spectacular view of the town.
An hour later, I was already in Sumnanga. It was not exactly a loop, but I could still say that I was able to travel all around the island. I had a champion’s breakfast of instant noodles and coke, and then made my way back to the town center to wait for the boat that would take me back to Batan.
Batanes really is a special place.
Check out these other posts on Biking in Batanes
And if you want to bring your own bike to Batanes, check out these tips on how to pack your bike for a plane ride.