Somehow I managed to convince the Amigos that after our 130 kilometre walk through Northern Spain, our next adventure should be a 1,100 + kilometre road trip through Northern Luzon. Thankfully, we would not be walking, we'd be riding in comfort and style.
Jay and I take this road trip every year -- travelling northeast to Tuguegarao City and going back home through the northwest, via Ilocos Norte and Sur. We go around the top of Luzon, sometimes as far as Aparri.
Because this is such a long trip, we've managed to scout out the best pit stops along the way. One such favourite is Mountain Oasis, just after Dalton Pass, in the municipality of Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya.
The rest rooms are clean and well maintained and there's a small convenience store where you can buy drinks and snacks. Because Jay and I are always on "hurtle" mode, we have never stayed longer than a few minutes. I had not seen much beyond the ladies' room and the freezers stocked with water and sodas in cans. I had no expectations and thus was very pleasantly surprised at what we discovered about the place.
Beyond the convenience store is a spacious restaurant with a large terrace where one can stretch one's legs, enjoy the cool mountain air and take in this bucolic view. Amazing what Jay and I had missed all these years!
The restaurant is not air-conditioned but well ventilated with huge windows. We found a table by the corner and soon, a huge yellow moth flitted in and joined our group. He attached himself to the wall and stayed there till we left.
Since we were on a North Luzon Camino, of course we had to have pinakbet, a regional vegetable dish. It was tasty -- with a good crisp bite to the vegetables, it wasn't too salty from the shrimp bagoong and was generously topped with slices of deep fried pork belly.
Crispy pata is the popular partner to pinakbet. The pork leg had been de-boned making it easier and more convenient to eat. It was an excellent crispy pata -- even better than most versions you can find in well known Manila restaurants. It was well seasoned, properly fried and not very oily. I could hear the collective crunch and crackle as everyone enjoyed the crisp pork skin. Cholesterol galore!
We took longer than we should have over our delicious lunch. Good food, lovely pastoral views and refreshing mountain breezes made this stop truly an oasis on our first day of our North Luzon Camino.
NB Thanks to my husband Jay for the last photo!