The long hard road to Aurora
By The Pinoy Rider
If there is one thing I long for, but at the same time try to avoid in doing my epic rides, it would be to put myself in difficult situations. You might be actually saying how weird that statement is, but the fact of the matter is sometimes we all tend to do boring, routing stuff so a little adventure once in a while might actually be good. But oh boy, what adventure I got in this Epic Ride.
For those who have been following my journey, you should know that I’ve been to all 30 provinces in the island of Luzon, save for one – Aurora. From Matnog, Sorsogon all the way to Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. Countless trips going up north, doing the Northern Luzon Loop several times – there is always one destination missing and the only one I haven’t crossed out in my Luzon island bucket list – and that is the province of Aurora. I always seem to sort of skip one particular province for one reason or another. But now that I have a chance, I made sure I would conquer Aurora.
One boring Sunday afternoon, and that’s what I thought. I didn’t know that a routine ride would be a trip of a lifetime for me.
I needed to bring all the necessary things for a roadtrip – extra clothes, food and water, tools, emergency kit, among others. Good thing that for this ride, I had Givi’s E340MotoGP top box. I know the topbox will prove to be very sturdy and dependable on a long ride such as this. Furthermore, it provides the needed space for all the things I need to bring, with room to spare!
The night before I left and as part of my preparation, I had my final gas up before leaving. I loaded up on Shell V Power 95 octane for my bike. Followers from my Facebook fan page were asking why I switched from another brand to Shell, well to answer you guys directly my only consideration is the free SM Advantage Card points a user gets whenever they gas up at Shell. For this trip, I will consistently load up on the same brand and same type of fuel so I could accurately compute my fuel consumption.
I also received a call from one of my riding buddies, Jun “JRSpeed” Reyes asking if he could come along, and since it was my first time going to Aurora, I said why not?
Route to Aurora
From Manila, you can get to Baler, Aurora via McArthur Highway and Daang Maharlika, or thru NLEX ( EXIT at Mabalacat toll gate) and SCTEX ( ENTRY at LaPaz, Tarlac toll gate) until you get to Cabanatuan City. If you will be taking a sub-400 cc bike, the more direct approach would be to take the McArthur Highway in Monumento all the way up to Baliwag then going straight until you reach Gapan, Nueva Ecija. From Cabanatuan, take the Nueva Ecija-Aurora highway, passing thru the towns of Talavera , Rizal, and Pantabangan until you reach the Aurora border.
The long hard road to Aurora
Sounds very easy huh? Not quite. I made the mistake of turning right in Bongabon all the way to the mountain pass of Nueva Ecija – Aurora border. I know it’s my fault but the road going to the Bongabon mountain pass sure looked like the National highway so that’s the route that I took. Alam ko na pwede naming magtanong, kaso mali rin ang natanong ko. Tinanong ko yung isang lokal duon kung tama ba yung daan na iyon papuntang Baler, sumagot naman siya ng oo. Tama nga naman siya, yun nga lang hindi niya sinabi na sa maputik na bundok na pala ako dadaan. Dapat tinanong ko pala kung saan ang bus route para sigurado ko na madaming dumadaan at hindi ako maliligaw.
Tiring but fun still
This is what I live for
Sa umpisa, nagulat ako kung bakit tila may parang bundok na hinahati at tila ba gusto patagin. Madaming tractor at bulldozer. Sa loob loob ko, mukhang hindi ito ang main highway ah, kasi bakit parang walang ibang dumadaan maliban sa mangilan ngilang motor na dala ng mga taong doon na nakatira. Sa first few kilometers , ay halos ayos pa ang daanan, kahit na ba lupa lang ito, sa isip ko ay okay na rin ito, total di naman umuulan eh so walang problema. After 30 minutes or so, napansin ko parang nag iiba ang pavement. Kung kanina lamang ay puro lupa ang nadadaanan ko, parang napapansin ko na nagiging malubak na ang daanan, kahit na ba may mga senyales na magiging maputik ang mga kasunod na dadaanan ko, dahil habang pataas ako ng pataas, lumalakas din ang fog and mist na dala ng bundok ng Bongabon, so pati ang lupa ay nababasa rin. Sa ngayon, medyo nagdadalawang isip na ako kung babalik ako o hindi, kasi ang sabi ko sa sarili ko total nandito na rin lang ako ay itutuloy ko na lang, at saka nagugutom na ako dahil halos tanghaling tapat na so baka mas matagalan pa kung babalik lang. Akala ko ay ayos pa, yun pala ay hindi na. Yung mga nakwentong kong maliliit na lubak at kaunting putik, ngayon naging matatalim na bato na. At hindi lang yan, papalit palit ng stretch yung matatalim na bato at maputik na lupa. At hindi lang basta bastang putik ang sinasabi ko, ito yung putik na makakapal at lulubog ka kapag masyadong mabigat ang motor mo, kaya kailangan ay dahan dahan lang. Nakalimutan ko palang sabihin na sa gawing kaliwa ko ay matarik na bangin na. I wouldn’t even recommend this to those with SUVs or 4×4’s lalo na at parang quicksand ang lupa dito sa taas. If you are taking the bus route, madami pa rin rough road combination ng putik on one stretch tapos next stretch sharp rocks. But nothing any 4-wheel vehicle can’t handle. If via Bongabon – Nueva Ecija – Aurora mountain pass 99% unpaved with a big chance of being stuck in the mud.
Rider’s POV of the muddy terrain
25 kilometers into the muddy mountain pass, nasilayan ko rin ang boundary ng Nueva Ecija at Aurora. Sa totoo lang, may dalawang boundary sila: ang una ay sa mas sikat na route via Pantabangan. Itong nadaanan ko ang pangalawang daan. Kahit na tanghali pa, sinabihan ako ng isang local duon na wag daw ako magpapaabot ng gabi sa daan na iyon, at mahirap na daw at baka daw ako ma checkpoint. Kung military checkpoint ang sinasabi niya, hindi na niya ako bibigyan ng ganong klaseng warning, kaya naintindihan ko kagad ang nais niyang ipunto. Sa sobrang hirap ng daanan, umabot ako sa point na pimipilit ko nalang ang sarili ko, dahilan sa sobrang gutom na ako pero wala naming mabilhan ng pagkain, sa pagod na rin dahil ang expectation ko ay kaya ng 5 to 6 hours ang biyahe lalo pa at sa NLEX ako dumaan, at mabilis ang pacing namin kanina.
Kahit na minsan ay nakakaparanoid dumaan sa mga bundok bundok, lalo na at wala naman talagang daan dito, nakuha ko pa magpapicture sa boundary ng Bongabon, Nueva Ecija at Maria Aurora, Aurora. Ito ang exact same spot kung saan inambush ng Hukbalahap ang military convoy ng Asawa ni President Manuel Quezon na si Aurora, at ang kanilang anak na si Maria Aurora, where the town was named after. Kung napanood mo ang pelikulang Silent Hill ay hindi ako magtataka kung isipin mong ito ang location ng movie na iyon dahil nakakatakot talaga na kahit tanghaling tapat ay halos takip-silim nagmistula ang lugar dahil sa kapal ng fog, at kawalan ng tao sa paligid.
Somewhere along the mountains
I can do this
Tanghaling tapat na ay nakikipagsapalaran pa rin ako sa bundok na ito sa Nueva Ecija – Aurora. Di naglaon, may na encounter akong sobrang kitid na daanan na kasya lang siguro ang isang kotse o isang maliit na trak, ngunit pang 2-way pa ito. Two way kung makakadaan ka. Bawat pihit ko ng silinyador ay lumulubog sa putik ang motor ko. Kung nasusundan mo ang mga adventures ko sa pinoyrider.com o kaya sa Facebook.com/PinoyRider, makikita mo kung gaano kalaki yung dala kong motor na ER-6N.
This would go on for miles and miles
I bravely faced the Bongabon-Nueva Ecija-Aurora road passing through several mountains. 30 kms of unpaved roads, muddy terrain, sharp rocks all on zigzags while raining and running low on fuel. In the end it proved too much with me being on a street bike. . Add this all up with that eerie thought that people are watching you silently from the mountains above. I just had to stop and turn around when I noticed that the past few meters of mud would make my rear tire sink by at least a few inches. There is the determination, but I was still in the right state of mind at the time, which was good. It wouldn’t be safe for me to continue. What if I slide down the ravine? I’ve been having an off-road experience the past couple of hours so what happens if I have a spill, how am I going to life my bike up? Too many questions and too many uncertainties. There is a point when you say enough is enough. I definitely won’t forget this one.
The point when you say enough is enough
My suspension took a lot of beating in this trip
With that decision, I saw myself again taking all the different terrains I encountered as I went all the way back again to take the Pantabangan route and took the easier route this time to Baler. What seemed to be a 5 hour fast-paced leisurely trip, is now looming to become a 13 hour roadtrip worth 2 Aurora routes in one single day of adventurous riding!
The spot where President Quezon’s family was assassinated by Hukbalahap
The Pantabangan route will lead you to the famous Aurora twisties wherein not only your cornering skills will be tested, but also your patience! Ha ha. It seemingly didn’t want to end, so if you are actually looking for a place to do your banking, baka umabot ka sa punto na magsawa ka dito.
Somewhere in Maria Aurora after taking the Pantabangan route
My tire after the Aurora twisties
And finally Aurora. The last province in Luzon island I haven’t reached.
Five to six hours away from Manila is a small town called Baler. It has its share of historical sights, natural attractions and physical activities everyone will definitely enjoy. Baler is a worthwhile weekend getaway to any type of person.
According to Wikipedia, Baler is a second-class municipality in the province of Aurora, Philippines. It is the provincial capital of Aurora. It is located some 230 kilometers (140 miles) northeast of Manila via a mountain pass accessible by bus and private vehicle. It is host to spectacular geographic formations and is situated on a vast plain at the south end of Baler Bay, a contiguous segment of the Philippine Sea.
It became the capital of Aurora on 14 June 1951 under Republic Act No. 648 signed by President Elpidio R. Quirino. It remained the seat of government of Aurora on 21 November 1978 under Batas Pambansa Blg. 7 signed by President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
It was identified by Google, Inc. in 2009 as topping the list of beach destinations in the Philippines. It was described by Yahoo! Southeast Asia in March 2013 as one of the “top surf spots” in the Philippines. Nine-feet waves serve as its main tourist asset, attracting hundreds of surfers during the surfing season from September to February.
The famous Maria Aurora twisties on the way to Baler. It’s not just left and right but also up and down!
Baler I finally reached you
As I was on a budget trip, as soon as I arrived in Baler, I started scouting for a budget inn or apartelle, but apparently there was none available as it was the weekend wherein the local government of Baler was sponsoring the yearly surfing competition of the province, an event so huge that even surfers from Mindanao travel all the way to Aurora just to join. Well, it wasn’t too bad at all, the room that I got in Aliya Surf Camp was worth the 3400 pesos per night that I spent. I had a great time as the resort was on the beachfront of Sabang in Baler.
According to the locals there, surfing in Baler is year-round. Sometimes they hit an off-season from June to July, but even then, you can still spot some waves. With me not being the surfer type of guy, I was content with walking along the shore and swimming with strong waves wanting to swallow me whole. Over-all it was a fun first timer experience to experience the waters of Baler.
By the way Baler Aurora is also one of the best surfing spot here in the Philippines, the waves there are crazy! Surfers from all over the world love visiting the province of Baler, so we could do that great fact some justice by visiting Baler ourselves!
I forgot the long hard road to Aurora when I saw how beautiful this province is.
They always say that tt is always the journey, not the destination. But in this case, I say both.
– Erik Gatmaitan is the author of http://www.pinoyrider.com – Journeying the Philippines SOLO on a motorbike.
Follow his adventures on his website or through his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/PinoyRider