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.)

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