“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!” –Dr. Seuss
I’m sure you’ve woken up in the morning, and laid in bed just scrolling through your Instagram, or Facebook looking at all the adventures everybody in world is having. I had one of those mornings, where I noticed the world is experiencing many of its wonders through screens. I decided to have the most beautiful of sunrises the next morning. At Sagada, in the Cordillera Mountains.
Luckily I had the Ford Everest Titanium+ 3.2L 4WD being delivered to me within the day. Everybody and their Aunt, has read about the Ford Everest, which translated to all the ones you see on the road. What exactly is the appeal? I was in for a 24hour drive to figure out how this SUV became the best selling blue oval.
And it Begins
It’s about 8PM at a service station along the North Luzon Express Way (NLEX). I’m eating my take out dinner in the front seat while the Everest gets her tank filled. Multitasking at it’s best, because I had more than just the challenge of driving 444km, I had to drive through landslide infested mountain roads, with trucks, thick fog, and steep cliff drop-offs in minimal to no lighting conditions. There have been road closures to the quickest way up to the mountains, because of all the rain that has been pouring down for the past week. Click! The diesel nozzle finishes topping off the 71Liter tank. Perfect, because I was just about to finish my dinner, and chug down my Red Bull. A new problem dawned on me, when I dialed in the destination on the navigation. Will I make it to sunrise, or will this effort just be half-assed?
Town after Town
Swiftly clearing the NLEX and the TPLEX, the navigation system made me turn off into Tarlac, it being the safest route up to Sagada. Passing through provincial roads, the lanes went from 3 to 1. A single lane shared by everybody going the same direction. After you make a swift passing maneuver, another vehicle is on the road slowing you down. I could’ve seen every sort of driver on that road, a tricycle driver leisurely straddling his bike sideways, private motorists suddenly stopping at the sight of a souvenir shop, and at one point in time a cow decided to cross the street. The further I drove the less and less the cars and SUVs were around. Trucks replaced them on the road. Passing now became a calculated move. It was 10PM, and I was not even near the foot of any mountain pass. Luck wasn’t on my side right now.
Do The Twist
For every car there would be 3 trucks. Passing now became a game of chicken. Speeding down the blind curves in the opposite direction were trucks and buses. Not a fair fight if you decide to come into contact with one rushing down this mountain pass. I set the Everest’s Terrain Management System (TMS) to Mud and Snow, since there were patches of dirt, and a light layer of rainwater from the drizzle on the road. I downshifted, and let her rip. The strong 3.2L engine shot me past trucks like a bat out of hell. Even the smallest of gaps became no challenge to the 200Horsepower Ford TDCi engine. It was never short of breath, or gave me a reason to think twice during overtaking.
My worst fear happens. During a downhill left hand hairpin curve all traffic came to a stop. It was now midnight, and with 5 hours to go till sunrise. All I could do was pray. But I’ve gone too far to turn back, and call it a night. Thankfully, I could see the reason why the traffic came to a halt. A 22-wheeler truck was having a hard time going through hairpins, making sure it didn’t hit the oncoming traffic. The truck stopped both sides of traffic at this point in time, and it was my chance. I stepped on the accelerator and instantly you could feel all 420nm of torque pull you out of a standstill and hurl you towards the littlest of openings to make the pass.
Finally passing the problematic trucks, I thought I had my chance to make up time, but no. The heavens opened up and a thick fog crept its way onto the road. It haunted every corner like a phantom waiting to throw someone off the side. I had to slow to a crawl, but I didn’t worry for a second, because the HID projector headlamps lit the road beyond the fog. It was 2AM when I emerged from the fog, only to realize, I was the only vehicle on the road.
No headlights from the rearview mirror, no taillights to follow. I was basically alone. In the middle of this mountain with 3 hours to go till sunrise. Rain started to ease up to a drizzle, so I decided to make up some time. Using all of the road I put my trust in the Ford Everest. She did not let me down even for a second. 3AM rolled by, and I crossed an arch, which said, “Welcome to Banaue.” I had hope in the fact I could actually make it. I did the oddest thing, and stopped at the site of the Banaue Rice Terraces. Trust me when I say, it’s nothing spectacular to look at when it’s 3AM, and pitch black. After a quick photo, I jumped back into the Everest, and really let it go. It seemed there was nothing in my way till about 45mins after Banaue. I had to come to a complete stop and let it all in. A landslide eroded the side of the road ahead of me. I wasn’t going to let this stop me, because I was in one of the most capable SUV in the market.
The road now turned into rock, and mud. I was ascending into the final few corners of Mount Kiltepan, Sagada, but now I slowed to a crawl. Not a challenge to the Ford Everest’s 4WD system. It was now 5AM. I made it with time to spare. The sky was now a dark blue, as I passed hikers going up to the peak to watch the sunrise too. My problem with making it on time was now replaced with a new trouble, weather. The rain was coming down, which made a thick fog over the surrounding mountains, blocking the sunlight. I came to park the Ford Everest in a muddy makeshift parking lot, in front of food stalls. I walked over to the viewing deck where a crowd was forming waiting for the same thing I drove over 9 hours for. Like it was asked to do so, the clouds parted just enough to let a little ray of sunshine in, at the same time stopping the rain. For just 5mins Mother Nature put on one of the most beautiful shows. Clouds pouring out into the valleys from the peaks of the other mountains, like a thick slow moving marshmallow. The orange of the sunlight just peering over the mountains, accenting the soft edges of the clouds. I could’ve lived in the moment forever, when 9 hours of pressure summed up in the 5mins of beauty.
Breakfast to Lunch to Dinner
A lovely lady called me over to try her ‘champorado’ (chocolate breakfast rice porridge), which was different, because they made it with a native type of chocolate. Her smile warmed, what already was a cold, and wet morning. More than willing to sit down, and entertain with her morning conversation about how the sun just came out for me. I looked at my watch, only to reveal I’ve actually spent 2 hours already at Mount Kiltepan. I was already thinking about lunch, since I had another 9 hour or so drive back down to reality.
San Juan, La Union. I typed it into my navigation system, planning on having lunch by the beach, and get out of all the cold and wet hills. For some reason all the navigation apps are telling me to go back down to Tarlac, and back up to La Union, totaling to another 9 hours just to get there. I couldn’t believe it, because I knew it should be a quick cut through the mountains. I bypassed my navigation, and quickly found out why it diverted me from the direct route. The reality of the news of landslides can only be fully absorbed once you see it in front of you. Landslides riddled the mountain pass, and for the next 4 hours I was doing nothing but weaving in and out of corners constantly avoiding the aftermath of the previous week’s weather. According to the DPWH, the mountain pass, which I traversed was actually closed off to traffic, but my confidence did not waiver in the Ford Everest. All worth it, because I got to San Juan, just in time for lunch, and a little sun.
Driving back to Manila during any road trip is always a quite journey. Everybody in the vehicle reflecting on what a great trip they just experienced, and promising themselves to be more adventurous, even if we all know the reality of that. It all sets in once you hit traffic coming off of the NLEX. You know you’re back in Manila, because your average speed in now down from triple digits. After I parked the Ford Everest at my house, with dirt literally on every panel of the SUV, I stared at the Everest for a while. I didn’t want to wash it. I wanted the dirt to be there as a trophy, and show off to everybody that I couldn’t have trusted my life to any other SUV out there during this trip, but to the Ford Everest.
Want to see more? Check out our Instagram, and the featured story on the Sagada Loop! @Yield.Ph