Bike Adventure: Ambon-Ambon Falls, Laurel, Batangas

With the extended summer season, a group of friends and I wanted to do another short trip. In the past, we’ve done day rides to different waterfalls in Luzon. The problem though is that aside from the distances and elevation traveled, most of the time, trips would entail hikes limiting our appreciation of these landmarks of nature.

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This time, we set an overnight bike trip to Ambon-Ambon falls in Laurel Batangas, which is approximately 70km from Las Pinas (about 85km from Manila). Since one of our friends comes from the area.

For the first day, several riders and i met in Molito Alabang to pedal our way to Tagaytay. The fastest route was through Paliparan heading to Silang. Reaching the roundabout of Tagaytay city early afternoon, we went down via the Sampaloc road, an approximately 15km descent to Batangas.

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The meetup

Upon reaching Talisay, we pedaled our way to Laurel, Batangas (about 8 km and left our stuff in one of our friend’s house) and proceeded to the falls.

riding to the falls is both a rewarding yet physically challenging experience due to the mixed terrain of gravel, rock and mud and several stream crossings. This went about for approximately 2km. Good thing weather was dry and heading to the falls wasn’t much of a problem.

Hike, Bike, Hike

 

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otherwordly groupfie (courtesy of Ferd Mangubat)

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To end the first day, we spend the night at our friend, Ferd’s house on top of the mountain.

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dinner is served

The next day, we got back home by pedaling our way up to Tagaytay via the Sampalo-Talisay Road which is 15km of mostly climbs. The early part of the day was really hot but rain fell early afternoon making the climb more manageable. Heading home was a breeze as we simply backtracked our way.

Pic with Ferd’s Dad and Nephew at the house on the top of the mountain

Climbing home

Rider Notes:

  1. bike hikes can be demanding as you need to dismount constantly on varying terrain. In this case, it was good that we used slippers or sandals during the trek to Ambon-Ambon falls.
  2. It is advisable to make the trip 2  months after the rainy season as the falls wasn’t too strong during the summer. In fact, some friends said that the there isnt any water in the falls during the peak season of summer.
  3. Bringing a light bike helps when you carry your rig around during the hike. It is advised to set your bike rackless for trips like this.
  4. I’d say Ambon-Ambon falls is a good day trip if you’re looking for a good challenging ride with a taste of varied terrain in your adventure.

 

Strava route for the trip: https://www.strava.com/activities/1584026203

Featured image courtesy of Ferd Mangubat

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Bike Adventure: Tingloy, Batangas, Philippines

Batangas, which is located south of Luzon, Philippines features one of the best diving spots in the region. Though I have had a couple of day tours and a 2 days bike trip, a couple of friends and I organized a tour on the island of Tingloy in Batangas. I’ve heard of the enticing beach in this place but what intrigued me is the bike route that lies ahead. Given the summer season, this tour was  perfect to do cycling and swimming.

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Masasa Beach, Tingloy Batangas
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meetup at Buendia, Pasay

We were 13 riders in total and met at the Buendia bus station in Pasay and left 2 in the morning to catch the first trip of the day. After 3 hours, we arrived at Batangas Grand Terminal and pedaled roughly 20km on our way towards Anilao port passing by the town of Mabini and others.

heading to the port early morning

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lock and loaded (Courtesy of Rai Reyes)
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steel forks on sea water!

 

After going to the market for food and supplies, dealing with our boat captain, loading our bikes on the boat and We got to Tingloy island around 8 in the morning and started our trip towards Masasa beach, the popular public beach in the Island. While the route was quite straightforward and mostly paved, we were amazed with the site of the beach as well as the rock formation around the area.

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mini lagoon

heading to the rock formation

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climbing back

After a long climb back to head to the town proper, we decided to proceed to another beach in the island and explore the backroads after a light snack. The road to the beach was both an exciting yet challenging one as it was a combination of paved, hardpack and singletrack paths. Though it was estimated that the backroad to the other beach was about 7km, the intense heat, varying degrees of elevation of climbs and terrain made the trip an ordeal. We arrived at the beach early afternoon and setup camp. Good thing there was a nice homestay that allowed us to stay for the night.

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another beach (courtesy of Rai Reyes)
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taking a dip (courtesy of Rai Reyes)
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as the sun sets (Courtesy of Rai Reyes)
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Grilling it (courtesy of Julie Alparan)

For the second day, some friends went to the beach for another round of swimming while others just relaxed in different areas. After meals, we were picked up by the boat at 2pm and got to Anilao port an hour later. Getting to the terminal early evening, we left for Alabang terminal at 630pm and got back to the city around 9pm.

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heading home

 

Rider Notes:

While i’d recommend Tingloy Batangas as a short get away tour for those who have limited days off and budget, there are several considerations:

 

  1. For an island trip that runs around approximately 15km, this has got to be one of the most challenging routes for me due to the heat, climbs and terrain. Aside from steep climbs on paved and trail paths, we had to contend with fist sized rocks throughout the offroad parts (about 40%) and in some of the steep descents. Though CX bikes can manage this, plus/fat bikes are very much capable of handling the terrain in the island. Of course, skills in trail riding helps.

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  1. The cost of the bus from Buendia to Batangas is 160Php but we were ripped off by the DLTB bus as they charged 200 pesos per bike! Good thing the ALPS bus service going back home didn’t charge any for bike storage.
  2. Heading to the Tingloy Island from Anilao port can be tricky as boat trip schedules can be tight . Though you can take the regular trips for as little as 70 Php (which you may arrive late morning in the island as we have seen with other bikers during our trip), it is advised to go with a group and arrange transfers with other boats and negotiate the price. For our trip, we spent 730 per person for roundtrip transfers. Sure it may be pricey, but we chose our own schedules our stuff was secured by the staff throughout the trip as we were the only passengers on the boat.
  3. Since bike tours help you manage expectations, it is best that items such as cooksets, canned food and water filters are brought when you do this as stores charge higher for items in the island and there are very few them. Also, the island cuts power at 12 midnight and resumes at 12 noon.
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camp food! (Courtesy of Julie Alparan)

Check out the strava route here:

https://www.strava.com/activities/1539231565

 

 

 

Corregidor Biketour

Historically, the Philippines has been instrumental in the Second World War due to its strategic location for the western allies. Corregidor island is one of those sites that has not only been used by the American and Filipino forces to defend the country, but is a historically rich island filled with stories of valour and hardship.

Converted into a tourist destination, I’ve heard stories from friends that Corregidor Island offers bikers a chance to go and experience history on two wheels.

A month ago, a couple of friends and I availed of the Corregidor biketour offered by Sun Cruises (you can check out the details here http://www.corregidorphilippines.com/activities.html)

Leaving early morning from the Seaside terminal near Mall of Asia, the ferry trip lasted about 2 hours. Once we got to Corregidor, our guide met us and gave us an orientation on what to expect during the tour.

From different military buildings established by the Americans, to heavy cannons, the spooky tunnel to a Japanese memorial and the local museum, Corregidor island has everything to offer for the history buff. Aside from great sites, the ride is pretty straightforward-a climb here and there, a nice view of the beach and plenty of scenery!

We opted to stay for the night and had a good time going around the island the  next morning. Overall, the Corregidor biketour is an ideal itinerary for those intending to do relaxing cycling trips in preparation for longer biketours.

 

Fully loaded and all aboard

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The start of the tour

Ride Orientation

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the beach
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up the war memorial zone

Some of the Military Structures destroyed during the War

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The Cannons of Corregidor

Japanese Memorial and War Museum

 

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the  Spooky Tunnel

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Hostel and mealtime

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Lovin the Buffet
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Strike a pose
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heading home

Ride notes:

  1. The ferrytrip costs Php 2000. this includes the roundtrip fare, bike stowage fees (the staff will load your bikes), buffet lunch and guide (it’s advised to give a tip to your guide after the tour). It is also advised to book your tickets early as ferries that shuttle from Manila to Corregidor have a limit on the number of bikes allowed on the cargo. Also, you’ll need to fill out a waiver and bring the necessary gear (helmet, tools etc before loading).
  2. Sun Cruises can also help you with reservations in the hostel (good for 25 people). the hostel charges Php500 per person for overnight stay. The hostel is quite basic, a large air-conditioned room, with plenty of  double deck beds, a shared bath,  and drinking water dispenser is provided.
  3. The buffet is the only meal provided in the tour. though there are several stores around the island, it is advised to bring food with you. In our case, we brought food and cooked in the hostel

Basketpacking Baguio

In the Philippines, Baguio is considered as one of the foremost destinations if one decides to do serious cycle touring. Located north of Luzon, it is the one of the places that offers stunning views amidst challenging terrain and weather conditions.

In 2015, together with several friends, I went on my first multiday tour but failed to reach our destination due to bad weather. Late last year, I wanted to complete the trip but with a different setup. Ive heard of basketpacking from friends who have done tours and have read initial experiences from their trips

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my disc trucker with a basketpacking setup

So, with two friends Edan and Prixie, we took off early morning and we’re lucky to be accompanied by Dennis of Bulacan. For day 1, our trip was fairly straightforward- riding through 180 plus km of flat road. Good thing cycling to the Pozzorubio, Pangasinan was less miserable as the weather was cool even in the afternoon.

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with Dennis (right) of Bulacan
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Steel Bridge to Tarlac

Day 2 was a challenge as we had to get to Baguio via Kennon road which was a narrow road varying grades of climbs in addition to the many vehicles passing by.

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With Donald Uy of Pozzorubio, Pangasinan (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

The trip was quite fine-though we had difficulty looking for accommodation on the second day as many people were in Baguio during the holiday season.

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the sleepy dog
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Bridal Veil Falls (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers
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The Iconic Lion 
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heading home

Below are some insights on the use baskets for cycle touring:

  1. I used a wald 137-a medium sized basket attached to a surly 8 pack rack using zipties. For storage, two drybags for clothes and items for the trip. Given the generous space of a basket for goods and stuff, I found this as a big plus as I don’t need to remove all the bags whenever I need specific items. Easy access even while pedaling is an advantage when you’re riding using a basket.
  2. Given that all the stuff is just in one place, securing the load is fairly easy (I used a bungee cord for my bags). No need for attaching different bags on parts of your bike.
  3. In terms of durability using a basket works best when it is attached to a front rack. During the trip, the basket didn’t move or sway even on bumpy roads.
  4. However, there are two issues when using baskets. First, though I have experience in riding with light to heavy loads, steering with a basket can sometimes get twitchy. And second, basket commuting can pose issues in tight spaces during heavy traffic. So far,I don’t find these bothersome in the overall quality of the ride.

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Cover Image Courtesy of Sagada Loopers

Infanta Loop

This past week, we had a long week vacation due to the ASEAN summit. There were several groups and individuals who had multi-day trips and a couple of friends and i decided to do the Infanta Loop in Quezon province, southeast of Luzon, Philippines.

 

Almost a hundred Kms of flats before the climb to Real, Quezon

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Starting in Alabang, we proceeded further south by traveling to Laguna until reaching Famy, Laguna early afternoon. The climb from Famy to Real, Quezon was approximately 15km and luckily it was drizzling making the climb more manageable. After descending a good distance (about 10km), we reached Real around 630pm. We checked in at the Pacific Recreation Kamp and were welcomed by a pack of white dogs (who were really nice by the way)

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Resting en route to Real, Quezon (courtesy of JT Tanangonan)
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a long way to go

 

At the Camp with our white doggy hosts

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Rates at the homestay, there is a store that serve home cooked meals as well

the long way home

We left the resort at 730 and it was nice 20km stroll to Infanta, Quezon and started our climb back to Manila (via the Marilaque highway). As far as i recall, it was a long stretch of climbs of gradual and some steep sections (around 20km in total at least). As a consolation though, weather was fair (certain parts of the route had a different climate due to the elevation and land mass-that’s why we encountered rain all day) and very few vehicles would pass…the view was stunning as well.

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along the Marilaque Highway (courtesy of JT Tanangonan)

Silent Hill Cycling (Courtesy of JT Tanangonan)

 

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more climbs over weird weather

Road Construction-what do we get to the other side?!

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Still figuring it out LOL (Courtesy of Cholo Reyes)

One challenge though is that the bridge connecting Infanta to the next part of the highway heading home was under construction and good thing is, the locals and workers helped us transport our bikes to the other side.

At Jariel’s peak heading home (courtesy of JT Tanangonan)

The road home was a bit slow and we got home quite late but the trip was well worth it.

Rider Notes:

  1. The Infanta Loop is a nice quick tour if pressed for time and for someone looking for training for longer trips, this one is a worthy challenge.
  2. The area is also connected to other off road cycling routes worthy of explorations
  3. Weather is one issue that needs to be considered as there are areas with a micro-climate. That is, it can be scorching hot in the lowlands and heavy rain when you get up.
  4. Since the area is less frequented by vehicles in the evening it is advised that you bring strong lights as there are very few street lamps on the way.

 

Cover Photo courtesy of JT Tanangonan

Infanta Loop Route

https://www.strava.com/activities/1273800814

Lobo-Laiya, Batangas biketour

It’s been 4 month since I did a biketour and I’ve been itching to do a short one before I go from a year long break for work.

Since I started doing long distance trips in 2015, I’ve heard of this famous route among mountain bikers-the laiya-lobo loop in Batangas, Southern Luzon in the Philippines.

Perhaps what makes the ride special is the coastal route and challenging off road sections of this loop…so with some friends, we decided to do this trip in a shortened fashion by starting at Lobo and ending in San Juan, Batangas.

We left Saturday early morning and took the bus  at South Station Alabang (we took the Goldstar bus and they charged Php180-ticket and bike storage included)

Starting in Batangas City Grand Terminal we headed to Lobo Batangas and passed by a Church up the hill…the climbs and pavement were fine though we got stuck when rain hit hard…

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At South Station Alabang
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At the Batangas City Grand Terminal
heading to lobo
with the gang (L-R Fechi Fajardo, Arnel Marasigan & Arnie Herrera)

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loving the climb and view
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The Statue near the Chapel 

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Good thing it was early afternoon (about 230pm) when we reached Lobo town proper and had late lunch…we got to Punta Malabrigo Beach Resort in Lobo Batangas at 5pm and enjoyed the beach.

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at the beach

 

One of the nice things in this trip is that this was the first time that we got supplies from the town market and cooked our meals (thank goodness to our companions Arnie and Fechi for cooking our dinner and breakfast the next day!)

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a well cooked meal!
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a rare unicorn! hahaha

The next day, we headed to Laiya and this is where the (off road) adventure began…

The Malabrigo Lighthouse, Lobo Batangas

Aside from brutal climbs, we had to contend with off road terrain but we were rewarded with a great coastline view of this place. Though weather was generally pleasant there were stretches where we needed to stop and take a break from the intense heat…

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Loving that climb

Off road cycling (Courtesy of Fechi Fajardo)

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With Fellow Surly fffinas member- Jong who did a camping trip with his son
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Lunch
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Finally at Laiya!
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Loading our bikes at the Alps Bus

We were able to reach San Juan Batangas around 430pm and took the bus at the Alps Station and got back to Alabang around 730 in the evening.

Though we only traveled 110km in total, the off road section which spanned about 20-25km was a great but physically challenging experience and I look forward to doing more off road tours in the future.

Ride Notes:

  1. Many recommend the full loop which is about 270-300km if coming from Manila (distance depends on where you’re coming from) but I believe the off road sections will definitely be a test of physical endurance as the terrain can vary from light to harsh (fireroads, rocky paths filled with goatheads which are notorious in causing flats and even unfinished pavement). Therefore, it is strategic to get to Batangas City or San Juan via bus to conserve that needed energy for the climbs and off road sections.
  2. Very few stores can be seen along the way and therefore it is important to stock on water and small snack items to keep you going.
  3. Punta Malabrigo Beach resort charges 2500 for a night good for 4 people in its cottage. You could also camp for a cheaper rate as they have a wide variety of options. We just got a room since weather wasn’t really all sunny.
  4. There are very few restaurants along the way and it’s advisable to get food to cook from the public market in Lobo Town Proper.
  5. Suspension forks will be a great plus as the rocky terrain will definitely shake your body during the trip.

Here’s the strava route of our trip if you’re interested in doing this as well

https://www.strava.com/activities/1143153528

Cycling Yogyakarta, Indonesia

This was one trip where i regret not bringing a bicycle…I was fortunate to attend a conference in Yogyarkta, Indonesia and on the side, i was able to take a stroll around the city on foot and on two wheels. Luckily, the hotel where i stayed (Royal Ambarrukmo Hotel. http://www.royalambarrukmo.com/) had bikes to use for free for guests (Ms. Awalia, one of the hotel staff helped me out with my route and other concerns during my stay).

Since traffic was heavy in the city, it was manageable to stroll through roads considering that vehicles were slow (had to be careful though with motorcycles and most of the streets are one-way)…from the hotel, i got to Malioboro Street, the popular tourist location where many key sites are found.

 

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one of the few bikeshops in Yogyakarta
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the ever busy Malioboro Street
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riding on two wheels with the conquer top tube bag for gadgets and small stuff

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If you intend to visit Yogyakarta, you can’t miss the temples at Borobudur and Prambanan as well. I wasn’t on a bike but these massive sites will definitely give you a great workout as you walk through these structures.

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Perhaps next time, i’ll bring my rig and tour Indonesia as it is definitely worth it!

Some tips:

  1. Cycling may be a bit of an adjustment since vehicles move with a left hand drive orientation (it’s right hand in the Philippines).
  2. Uber works in Yogyakarta! since Borobudur and Prambanan was about 40km away from my hotel the driver struck a deal with me to drive me on both sites and bring me back to the hotel on a lower price.
  3. If you visit Borobudur and Prambanan, consider getting the combo ticket (about usd 40 to save 10 dollars)
  4. Food is cheap but very spicy so dont forget when you order to say ‘gak pedas’/’tidak pedas’ or not spicy