Friday, June 10, 2011
A trip north, the Bojeador Lighthouse along the way
It was a relatively short foray up to the top of the island and back, less than a week in all, but we did a lot, saw plenty and learned even more.
We’ve been back now for four days but with so much to do upon our return—like renewing my driver’s license, putting the kids in school, and getting my dive photos and videos prepped for possible use by a Northern Luzon TV station—I’m only now getting around to writing and posting about the trip here.
The primary goal of this particular expedition was to dive in an area that has probably never been dove before, at least not by scuba divers. As it turns out, surprisingly, lots of people have been down to the deep places we dove, only by a slightly different method than by scuba. More on that later.
The quiet little town of Claveria was our final destination. To get there we drove almost the entire way up a road that Don simply calls The National Highway, which is called MacArthur Highway where it passes by us just 500 meters from where I now sit.
I'm not sure what that long stretch is actually called, but heading north from where we live on Central Luzon means Don's "National Highway" is THE only way to go north without deviating way to the east or west of here, no nearby expressways or back roads to provide a more or less alternate pathway in that direction.
Everyone who lives on or near this primary artery uses it, sometimes even for transportation. They walk on it to visit the next nearest sundry shop called a sari-sari store, and of course, while doing so they socialize along it. Dogs sleep on its tree shaded surface when it’s hot, and in the early morning chill they’ll bask on it in the warmth of the sun. On its shoulders and inner lanes farmers dry their rice and corn crops on it; but mostly, people travel to destinations far and near on it, in trikes, jeeps, cars, jeepneys and buses.
Based on all the above mostly daytime action, we decided to start out at 1:30 am to avoid most of the worst of the “speed bumps” and obstacles in our quest for unhindered travel. From 11 pm until just after sunup the road’s primary users are mid-sized semi-trucks, patiently tooling along at an economical 45 mph, sometimes even slower; which makes that timeframe a perfect time to travel almost unimpeded.
And that’s what we did. With me taking on the roll of “Chatty Cathy” I did my best to keep him alert as we sped north, easily passing every lumbering truck in our way. In the post midnight dark we zipped through Capas Tarlac and a few hours later through the blessedly empty streets of La Union.
When dawn broke we were almost to the ancient city of Vigan, where the plan was to have some breakfast at the McDonalds smack dab in the center of town. Down its still deserted streets at 6 am we found everyone’s favorite restaurant closed. Vigan’s McD’s doesn’t do early breakfast it seems. Oops.
So, we opted to keep driving. We knew that by the time we reached the city of Laoag a few more hours to the north that both of its Mickey D’s would be open and raring to serve us some egg McMuffins and hash browns.
The girls were wide awake when we turned right off the highway to the first McDonald’s in Laoag (pronounced Lawag), the second one being a bit more complicated to get to. It was still early enough that we were just about the only customers wanting to eat.
I hadn’t slept at all the night before but the now streaming sunlight tripped my brain’s wide awake trigger so that I was good to go. Don said that he had lay down for about five hours before getting up at just after midnight, so he was on all cylinders as well. Not bad for a couple of 50 something year olds.
North of Laoag the highway started to follow more closely the coastline, almost always giving us a pleasant view of The South China Sea off to our left. Seeing its rippling waters spreading blue out to the western horizon reminded us of scuba diving, our favorite pastime that we soon hoped to be doing that very same afternoon.
But first, Don said that I would most certainly enjoy a stop at the 120 year old Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, located near the town of Burgos. It was built by the Spanish in the 1890s and marks the most northwesterly spot of Luzon. Don was right. I loved it. And to prove it I took almost sixty photos of it. If you have a few minutes check out the set of them here using Flickr slideshow.
The ancient and the historical fascinate me, something this picturesque structure has both of. This lighthouse, according to this Wikipedia article on it, is a national cultural heritage structure. Unfortunately, despite this lofty designation, it appears to be dissolving into its basic elements fast—the wood is
rotting and the mortar disintegrating. Not much seems to have been done to preserve it. In light of that, if you get out that way then make a point to stop in and check it out, for its fading slowly, if not quickly, into ruination. Even so, the photos I’ve taken of the current evidence of its leisurely undoing are quite captivating.
More on the trip tomorrow or soon thereafter…