On a motorcycle, the scorching heat can only be countered by movement. You feel the worst of it when you’re stuck in traffic. Even if you’re wearing a jacket or jeans, you can feel the sun just burn through layers of clothes. You wait for the light to flash from red to green flanked by rows of hulking trucks. Once it’s green, you navigate to avoid jeeps that stop without any warning or taxis that recklessly swerve and cut you off. But in the mountains, there are no traffic lights. The road is a blur and all you feel is the breeze rushing by even at the height of noon.
I usually like having a clear end destination in mind for rides because it makes writing about the ride easier. One weekend, it’s a waterfall hidden in the mountains. Another time, it’s a restaurant along the highway. But lately, because of the madness that is Metro Manila traffic, I’ve been going on random rides without any real plan. If I find something interesting along the way, that’s just a bonus. Sometimes, the road itself is the destination.
For those looking for that kind of ride — Marifanta or the Marikina-Infanta Highway — is a driver’s dream. Marifanta is a scenic 110-kilometer mountain highway connecting Metro Manila with Infanta in Quezon province through Marikina and Rizal.
I remember years ago, when I had to go to Infanta for a work assignment. Back then, I rode a non-aircon bus from Legarda station that passed through Lucena. I didn’t get much sleep through the bumpy 6 hour bus ride as it made numerous stops in different towns on Quezon on the way to Infanta.
Driving there on a motorcycle felt so much better. From Quezon City, you can get to Infanta in less than 3 hours at a very relaxed touring pace with lots of photo op stops.
The usual photo op stops for riders and cyclists early in the route include Boso-Boso Highlands Resort in Antipolo, Garden Cottages Residences Look-Out Point in Tanay and the view of the mountains from Cafe Katerina or across Pranjetto Hills. But more scenic spots await further on. While there are still a couple of patches of rough road leading to Jariel’s Peak Hotel and Restobar, the rest of the road is smooth, paved and great for driving especially if you like twisties.
The lush hills just towered on the road in front of us which was lined with golden weeds and tall grass swaying in the wind. At times, there would be a clearing along the road, which offered stunning views of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges. One interesting spot was a small store that had a couple of benches and a great view overlooking the lush landscape. Free selfie!
Across Jariel’s Peak and Marquez Bulalohan, which are popular pit stops for riders, is a quarrying site that make photos look like you rode in some epic desert landscape.
Then it’s more scenic driving through zigzag roads. “Parang Cordillera!” I thought to myself as we passed through groves of pine-like trees sloped from the mountains. The scenery reminded me of our ride from Sagada to Bontoc in the Mountain Province. Wooden cabins in the middle of nowhere were surrounded by perfectly landscaped pocket gardens and flowers. At one high point on the road, we got an overlooking view of Marifanta which could rival the Halsema Highway.
What amazes me most about this road is the sheer lack of cars and other vehicles. There’s zero traffic. Aside from the occasional jeep with people piled on top or the lone tricycle we encountered, we pretty much had the highway to ourselves.
The weather in the mountains can be really unpredictable. It could be scorching hot in Manila, but in some spots here the temperatures dips down to 15-20 degrees. If it rains, parts of the road get blanketed in thick fog that makes the place look like a scene out of Silent HIll. Parts of the road are also prone to landslides. Thankfully, the weather was really good throughout our ride.
We got a clear view of rivers and streams below as the refreshing mountain climate gave way to warmer temperatures and groves of coconut trees that Quezon province is known for. A couple of bridges later, we arrived at the town center of Infanta. Woohoo! From here, you can loop back to Manila through Real and Famy at the road intersecting the marker, but we decided to take the same route going back since it was just so scenic.
I’ve been going back and forth from Quezon City to Marilaque for years now on solo rides, with the furthest point being Jariel’s Peak. I can’t believe it took me so long to ride all the way to Infanta on this road. I guess part of me was afraid of riding alone in case something happened. But now that I have a riding buddy again, it definitely won’t be the last. Riding through Marifanta actually restored my faith in our roads and highways. I think that this is really one of the most scenic routes you can drive through near Manila.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Here’s the route we took. Open the map on Googlemaps to adjust the route where you’re coming from.
TRAVEL TIPS AND USEFUL INFO:
- From the intersection of Aurora Boulevard and Katipunan to the town proper of Infanta, it’s 120 km (total 240 km back and forth).
- It’s possible to do this on a half-day to whole-day riding trip in good weather.
- Gas up before your ride in Marikina. Refuel whenever you can.
- There are gas stations in the Sampaloc town proper and in Infanta, Quezon. Gas is also sold in bottles in some houses and stores along the way.
- There are a few vulcanizing shops along the way, but it’s better if you have tools with you just in case of emergencies.
- Be careful while driving through the twisties and tricky corners.
- Bring plastic bags for your gadgets in case it rains. Rain gear would also be helpful.
- For safety purposes, it’s better to have a companion when doing this ride.
- There is no phone signal in some areas.
- The beach resorts in Infanta can be a good destination for group club rides and weekend picnics/outings. Watch out for my next post on this!
NEXT: Beaches in Infanta, Quezon
UPDATE (October 2016): According to a video by Pinoy Adventure Rider posted on September 26, 2016, the broken bridge at Sierra Madre Marilaque which was damaged by the landslide last December 2015 is now passable to motorcycles for P25/bike. The bridge is still not passable for cars and other vehicles.
NOTE: All photos taken with the Samsung Galaxy S6 powered by Sun Cellular. For Sun promos and postpaid plans, visit http://suncellular.com.ph. #ChooseBetter