Completing the North Luzon Loop

The North Luzon has been one of the favorite tourist destinations in the Philippines.  Although it pertains mostly to the Ilocos Region, there are still many places to explore beyond Pagudpud. To motorcycle riders, getting to Ilocos is only a portion of it. “Looping” the northern Luzon Island is the main goal. It is easily 1200 kms from Manila and takes at least 2 days to complete. I’m almost done with it as I approach the last leg of this trip.

halsema_pose

For the remaining 400 kms, I intended to be more of a rider than a tourist. In fact, I wanted to keep the stops to a minimum so much, I missed a crucial gas stop.

I refuelled in Bontoc and then started heading up to Sagada.

I refueled in Bontoc and then started heading up to Sagada.

Before I head home, I took a little sidetrip to Sagada to buy a sticker. That’s right, a sticker. There’s more to Sagada than stickers of course, but like I said the last time I was here: Sagada is best (read as “cheaper”) explored with a group. 

I almost got hypnotized by  the Dalican Terraces marker. Unknowingly, I started heading up the trail. I came to my senses  after about 100 meters. Next time perhaps.

I almost got hypnotized by the Dalican Terraces marker. Unknowingly, I started heading up the trail. I came to my senses after about 100 meters and turned around back  to the main road. Next time perhaps.

How do you fit a truck in there? Answer... you don't!

How do you fit a truck in there? Answer… you don’t!

The road carved on the mountain going up to Sagada.

The road carved on the mountain going up to Sagada.

So, I reached Sagada and hopped from one store to another. They have the usual Sagada stickers but not the “Igorot on Board” like the one I have on my top box. I would like to think I have lived up to it. “Igorot” means “mountain dweller” .

Looking for a replacement for my beat up sticker.

Looking for a replacement for my beat up sticker.

After over an hour, I still don’t have a new sticker and I’m on the last souvenir shop. Defeated, I left without even eating lunch.

A consolation prize for dropping by Sagada.

A consolation prize for dropping by Sagada.

Some portion o the road was still under construction.

Some portion o the road was still under construction.

The obligatory photo at the Sagada marker.

The obligatory photo at the Sagada marker.

I have already been on Halsema Highway once and already got the feel of what it’s like on one of the World’s Most Dangerous Road. That by the way, is really absurd. Yes, it is a mountain trail but it has been so much better  since it opened in 1930.  Aside from a few landslides or construction, it is completely paved from Baguio to Bontoc. It is purely 130+ kms of heavenly, twisty roads. Time to shred some chicken strips!

Bathroom break at Benenas Park

Bathroom break at Benenas Park

Another pit stop an hour later

Another pit stop 30mins later

I know I should be making fewer stops but leaning side to side constantly is exhausting.

I know I should be making fewer stops but leaning side to side constantly is exhausting.

I also dropped by Mt Data Hotel just for the heck of it.

I also dropped by Mt Data Hotel just for the heck of it.

Crossing the Mountain Province and Benguet boundary.

Crossing the Mountain Province and Benguet boundary.

I was enjoying the curves so much, I forgot to refuel here in Abatan. This is midway Bontoc-Baguio.

I was enjoying the curves so much, I forgot to refuel here in Abatan. This is midway Bontoc-Baguio.

Thirty minutes from Abatan, I noticed an extensive terracing of the mountains. I probably didn’t see this the first time I passed here because of the fog. There’s some forest fire so it’s still a little hazy.

halsema_panorama

halsema_ridgeterraces

halsema_trees

halsema_faraway

halsema_farthest

A little later, I’m at the top! The Highest Point of the Philippine Highway System.

This is a must-stop when you're on Halsema.

This is a must-stop when you’re on Halsema.

My rear tire is just about done. Good thing I was making use of its sides more often.

My rear tire is just about done. Good thing I was making use of its sides more often.

It took me another hour to reach the end of the Baguio-Bontoc Road. I breathed a sigh of relief when I spotted a Petron gas station.

baguio_leakWhile resting, I checked on Dhona as I normally do and found a leak on my rear suspension. I have been braking more often coming from Atok down to Baguio so the rear brake caliper was overworked and somehow was making contact with the suspension and eventually dented and busted it. I don’t know if my body is so sore from all the riding, but I didn’t feel it has affected the handling very much so I decided a fix or replacement is not necessary.

I initially planned to get out of Baguio via Aritao to Nueva Ecija but since it is already 5:30 PM, I didn’t have the safety of daylight. I won’t be able to enjoy the scenery anyway so I ditched the planned route and asked for the fastest way to Manila.

Baguio City has traffic almost like Manila. I hate it and I can’t find my way out. I really didn’t know where to go. Someone has pointed me down a steep, twisty road with a bunch cars passing each other on blind turns not minding the uphill traffic who was just as aggressive. All this in pitch black darkness in the foggy mountains. Then there’s a lion.. Ah! I remember now. This is Kennon Road.

baguio_lion

We also exited Baguio via Kennon Road during  my first North Luzon Loop but during daytime. It’s much more different at night. For the next 20-something kilometers down Kennon Road, I was dead scared. Cages (cars) were passing me as if I’m standstill. I look at my speedometer and I was already doing 80kph. Trucks and buses would flash their lights on high beam and I have about 10 seconds to get out of their way. Oncoming vehicles wasn’t making it easier either with their high beams or HIDs.

baguio_lastfewstops

I was shaken but intact nonetheless as I reached level ground. Some 260 kms more to go. I rested in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan then refueled in Mabalacat City, Pampanga. It was supposed to be my last stop but as soon as I entered EDSA, I was too exhausted to effectively dodge the jeepneys and buses I just had to pull over.

I know too well that the last few kilometers is critical on long trips.  I rested for almost an hour at a gas station until I can almost sleep that I didn’t want to get back on the saddle. A gulp of a bottle of an energy drink quickly solved that.

I reached  Laguna just before 3AM and my body just shut down instantly. Even today, as I look back at how that felt drains my energy I can’t even come up with a nice ending for this post. So, like how that Parokya ni Edgar song goes.. kaya ganito na lang bigla na lang mawawala.

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About Dom de la Torre

The rider is a 20-something Filipino that rides a Honda Wave 125cc underbone. He knows little about motorcycles yet loves the experience going places on two wheels. Rider Ako is a motorcycle-slash-travel blog. The rider not only shares to you travel destinations and what to see there but also the experience of getting there. You will read about the thrills and adventure when he rides solo, the romance of riding in tandem, the camaraderie riding with a group, the excitement participating in events, and anything that he thinks you might find interesting.When he's broke and the fuel's empty, he will share stories about motorcycling how he sees it through his helmet visor.
This entry was posted in Long Ride, Rides, Solo Ride and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Completing the North Luzon Loop

  1. Uncle Spike says:

    I clicked ‘like’, but I’m gonna reread this properly later after work. Looks like a great post and you spent a considerable amount of time to share your adventure with us – Thank you… 🙂

  2. Are you still in the Philippines? I pray for all those devastated by that horrific cyclone.

    • I am based in Laguna, some 500 kms from Samar and Leyte that bore the brunt of Yolanda. We had it easy here with a few uprooted small trees. I know relief operations are on-going and we are very grateful for all the help and prayers everyone is sending to that part of Phils.

  3. nomad says:

    I lived in Baguio for 4 years but never went to Sagada because of horror stories of travelling through Halsema. But with your account of paved mountain roads, I definitely will schedule a trip there one of these days.
    Thanks for one heck of a ride. Keep the adventures coming…

    • Good for you, Nomad! Halsema is as busy as any major route nowadays. The only real danger are the jerks that do not respect the road and the other motorists on it.

      I hope you enjoy Sagada to the fullest!

  4. wow…your long journey’s done…
    i wish i can also do the same…
    looking forward to your future travels…
    cheers

    • a long journey (4 days) that took over half a year to get updated here.. Haha! I promise to be more serious about blogging my rides.

      I am sure you will do better. I’m looking forward to your first post. 🙂

  5. nyak…hahaha
    long overdue na nga…
    wala lang talaga akong maisulat…
    nakakahiya…

  6. aj says:

    gud day sir.. me and my friends plan for a trip to sagada.. from cebu city.. .. can u give us tips… salamat !!!

  7. Fred says:

    Love your blog, dude!

  8. Aries Marvin Ortiz says:

    Sir, can i ask the route of the north luzon loop ride. thanks

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