BY RICKY MONTECILLO
April 12, 2018
Our motorcycle adventure ride to Tubo, Abra is by far my most difficult and challenging motor-experience.
It was supposed to be only a 3-day affair but it extended to another day due to unavoidable circumstances and also the nature of the routes itself.
THE LONG RIDERS dared to ride to Bangued, Abra’s provincial Capitol about 400 km from Manila and on to faraway sleepy poblacion of Boliney. From Boliney, we proceeded to Tubo, Abra.
Don’t bother looking for routes via Google Map or Waze, there ain’t any.
Riding mostly BMW GS big bikes and other big bike brands like the KTM and Kawasaki, we conquered the rough roads through the mountains of Abra and ventured into the communities of Bangued, Boliney and finally, Tubo.
In the process, we met the friendliest people and community leaders who welcomed us as if we were family.
In Bangued, after riding from Manila for more than 8 hours, we arrived at our destination at river side of Calaba.
Restie Renia, TLR’s ride director and the group’s pasimuno, already surveyed the place a few weeks back and he found the river side as good place to camp.
Bangued is Abra’s provincial capital and it is fairly progressive. It has many commercial establishments and some small hotels. But since it was an adventure ride, we chose to rough it up, pitch tents and stay right beside the river.
The locals gladly and graciously served our needs during our stay. We had drinks on the floating cottage and dinner was prepared by our local friends.
The night was cold and breezy and with the soothing sounds of the gushing river, we slept comfortably even without our comfy beds. Some in their tents and some of us with just blankets on top of the benches in the cottages.
The following day, the trip from Bangued to Boliney took us through mountain roads with a few unpaved portions. Riding through mountains with its views is always a treat, fueling our juices and getting us all hyped-up.
Riding is an addiction. As many motorcycle riders will tell you, it gives us a high triggered by dopamine or endorphins in our brains. Maybe it’s because it gives as the feeling of flying, add to that is the thrill of constantly facing risk coupled with the magnificent views of mountain ranges, valleys and rivers.
No wonder riders throw caution to the wind and keep on doing it. David Norman exclaimed during one of our stopovers, “I love riding man!”
Upon reaching Boliney, a sleepy poblacion located in the inner mountains of Abra, we stopped by the house of Barangay Captain. It was a hot afternoon and we were all feeling tired from the ride.
They invited us to join the community in the house of a family whose three children graduated from grade school. For Filipinos, education is very important and graduations are special occasions.
The celebration was held in a small house and local food was prepared. They had freshly cooked pork, done in different ways. Dinuguan, Papaitan, Nilaga and also fresh Macaroni Salad.
There were many people lining up for the food as the elders and local ladies scooped food and rice on their plates.
It was a community event much like a fiesta, with locals from all ages partaking of food and drinks.
After the meal, we set off to see the Bani Hot Springs. We rode our bikes and brought some snacks. It was just nearby and we parked our bikes on the road side and went down to the river which had hot springs too.
It is a river with flowing cold water but at its sides, there is hot, really hot water coming out from the rocks and flowing into the river. Sometimes they boil eggs in the hot springs.
We spent sometime in the river, soaking and swimming and chattering. Robert played with his new hover drone camera for some bird’s eye view videos and photos. It’s nice to have someone in the group who brings such a high tech photography gadget.
Back in Boliney, we came just in time to attend a local tribal wedding. In their culture, it is the community which weds the couple. There are gong dances held and everyone joins in.
The men, both young and old strikes their gongs and dances in cadence as the women folk dances with them in a circling motion. It is like a chicken mating dance.
They also made us riders join in and dance with them, including letting us perform the gong dance.
The people in Boliney take their culture and tradition to heart and pass on their beliefs and rituals to the next generation.
Riding with the Long Riders, these are the adventures we come across. The people in the mountains may not be as comfortable as we are, but their sense of community and family are what makes them strong and resilient.
We were deeply touched and honored by their hospitality. They treat us not as intruders or mere visitors. We were treated with so much honor and genuine hospitality.
The morning after, as we prepared to start our journey to far flung Tubo, two of our riders’ bikes had some problems. Doc Von’s bike had an oil leak of the front shock absorber while David’s Kawasaki Versys had a broken fuel injection and wouldn’t start.
After trying to repair them, they decided to leave the bikes in one of the houses and just come back for them another time. This ate up a few hours of our time for our ride to Tubo.
The ride from Boliney to Tubo was the most challenging big bike ride in my experience. There were practically no paved roads just mostly rough mountain dirt roads.
We had to ride through steep dirt roads with rocks and stones and loose soil, by the mountain sides.
It was very difficult, scary and challenging. There was no turning back and the only way was forward. The Boliney – Tubo route is not for the faint-hearted.
For me, it made me believe that the BMW GS big bikes are truly the best motorcycles for tough adventures. It is simply built tough and its design and performance are unbeatable. All one needs is courage to brave whatever terrain comes along. Look far ahead, twist the throttle and go!
We came out of that route like changed men. The guys said it was suicide mountain! Gladly, we all came out of it roughed up but intact. By the time we arrived in Tubo, it was close to sundown and that meant another extra night lay-over.
As a footnote, I had to back ride 100 Kg David half way through (because we left his bike in Boliney). While Doc Von also back rode with Restie, making it doubly challenging for us.
The Mayor Guilbert Ballanga, the Vice Mayor and Police Chief all welcomed us and were our gracious hosts. Again there was a local wedding so we attended the dinner. The Parish priest was also very hospitable and he even offered a mass in the morning for us.
The following morning, we decided to go ahead and check-out the Kili Falls, but instead of riding our bikes, to save time, we rented a 4X4 Hilux pick-up truck to take us there.
Kili Falls is our trophy. So far away and secluded. At the road’s dead end, and after a 10-minute walk, there she was, Kili Falls in all splendor.
With the mountains, green rice terraces and blue skies as back drop, the mighty Kili Falls stood. It’s raging waters falling onto a big pool of clear fresh mountain water. There is also hot spring water coming out from the rocks beside the pool. It is nature at its best.
From Tubo, the fastest route going home was to traverse to San Emelio onto Candon, Ilocos Sur. It would take us 14 hours of dirt roads and deep water crossings to finally reach our homes.
This ride was overwhelming. There were many lessons learned both in riding, of getting to know friends and meeting all sorts of people along the way.
Riding is addicting and the thrill of adventure overwhelms as it literally transports your whole being to another world, to another plane. We text each other upon reaching our respective homes, “Home safe bros, thanks!”.
No matter where we go, being home safe caps another wonderful adventure experience.