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

Review of Ortlieb bikepacking framebag

During a 37 day tour of the Philippines, one of the things that i took note of is particular pieces of gear used during the trip (check out the first entry here https://pedalpowerphilippines.com/2017/04/05/biketouring-the-philippines-preliminaries-and-leg-1-manila-to-matnog-sorsogon/). One of which is the Ortlieb bikepacking framebag (you can check the specs here https://www.ortlieb.com/en/Frame-Pack/). Ortlieb is one of the premiere companies providing quality touring bags for decades and its 100% waterproof! Similar to their panniers, the framebag uses the same fabric -PU laminated ripstop nylon-light, strong and durable.

There are a couple of features that makes the framebag an excellent piece of equipment for tours:

  1. adjustable straps to adapt to different frame designs and uses a combination of velcro and smooth cloth protecting your frame.
  2. The straps are robustly made-assuring you that you wont have problems making sure your framebag stays in place.
  3. The single compartment design with internal velcro strap prevents complicated use and even bulging when loaded.
  4. I particularly like this framebag as it fits the small Surly Troll perfectly and other similarly sloping downtube bikes in the market (i got the medium sized version)
  5. The heavy duty zipper is not only waterproof but can be locked  when closed making sure that rain will not enter the bag.
  6. The medium size that i got can fit about 4 liters of gear. In the case of the tour, i placed all my personal stuff, gadgets, small items and even a small tab and fits perfectly.
  7. During the tour, we experienced light to heavy rain and several boat trips and my gear remained dry throughout the trip.

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I got my framebag from Green Basikal in Singapore (https://www.facebook.com/theGreenBasikal/). You can check out other online shops for this item

Bike Touring the Philippines: Leg 4 (Cebu)

On our way back home from Cagayan de Oro, Northern Mindanao, we took a boat to the Island of Cebu, which is located mid-east of the Philippines. As a center of commerce in the Visayas, it is to a certain extent modernize yet keeping the countryside charm which every biketourer clamours for. In this entry, I detail our experience in this leg of our Philippine bike tour in Cebu

Day 20 Cebu port to Argao (Approximately 68km)

We arrived early morning (about 5am) at Cebu city port taking the Cokaliong liner (Php 890 per person, economy accommodation) and proceeded to southwest to Argao. Though we initially planned to just stay at Carcar City, our ride was quite fast compared to the previous days since the terrain was straightforward. Very few climbs and weather was perfect. Though we encountered moderate traffic in the city proper, we eventually speed past the slow build-up of vehicles as we went away from the center.

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heading south (courtesy of Rahnel Sison)

The day was special as we dropped by the popular Carcar city public market. For those (un)familiar, Cebu prides itself of its native Lechon (roasted pig) and we were told that Carcar public market sells them at a cheaper price and are very fresh from the grill (Php300 per kilo). After lunch, coffee and a nap at a nearby café, we headed to Argao, Cebu and ended up staying at Looc Beach Resort.

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Carcar City Market
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inside the market where the good stuff is!

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Jun excited for this roasted delicacy!
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Our accommodation for our first day in Cebu (1100 good for 4-5 persons, fan room)

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Jun and Rahnel by the Sea, Argao Cebu (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

Day 21 Argao to Oslob (approximately 52km)

Though it was hot that day, we managed to ride out early and enjoy the countryside. Heading south meant getting farther, deeper into the province where the sea and heavy patches of trees were commonplace. We spent time at the town of Boljoon which had an old church  and school constructed in earlier times. Eventually we reached Oslob and stayed at a pension home.

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early ride out (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)
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en route to Boljoon, Cebu
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Boljoon Town Proper
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Old school built in the 1900s

 

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our accommodation at Oslob (1,000 Php good for 4 persons, airconditioned room)

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Spanish Era Buildings in Oslob
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the old town buildings

 

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at the Oslob Museum (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

Day 22 Oslob to Santander port (approximately 34km)

The next morning, we decided to go around town and enjoy Oslob. Though we weren’t really in to the Whaleshark offering, we wanted to go to Tumanog falls only to find out that trips there via motorcycle were a ripoff. Instead, we went around the old buildings such as the church, old town walls built during the Spanish era. In the afternoon we proceeded to Santander port to take the next boat to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental.

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en route to Santander (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)
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S(Trolling) by the sea
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off to the next island

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Rider Notes and Reflections:

 

  1. I’ve biked in Cebu a few years ago and this province remains to be one of those havens for cyclists due to the many tourist spots and trails one can visit.
  2. As far as taking boats are concerned, the Cokaliong liner remains as the best so far as the boats are “bikefriendly” (plenty of ramps, accommodating and helpful staff and very clean and spacious)
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at the ship by Cokaliong Liner

3. In terms of cuisine, you might find food in Cebu a bit salty and you would need to brace yourself for this as the food experience might be a bit awkward at first.

4. I was a little disappointed with our experience in Oslob as tours offered by the locals change in prices and are aimed at foreigners. For instance, as claimed by the caretaker of our pension home, the motorcycle ride we were supposed to take at Tumanog falls costs just 50 pesos but when we got to deal with the drivers, they claim it is Php150. Morover, though many suggested the whaleshark tour, we weren’t in favor of it as it is against sustainable tourism practice, -feeding the whalesharks-effectively disrupting their natural patterns of living.

5. I’d say, this leg of the biketour is the start of our “food coma” as cuisine is definitely memorable as with the remaining destinations of our tour going home.

6. for the previous leg in our tour, check this out https://pedalpowerphilippines.com/2017/04/14/bike-touring-the-philippines-leg-3-bohol-cagayan-de-oro/

7. The Santander port is a small and you may need to seek the help of locals who can direct you to the area. The fee for the trip from Cebu to Dumaguete is 70 Php.

 

Biketouring the Philippines: Leg 2 (Samar-Leyte)

In this entry, I detail our second leg of our biketour around the Philippines. If you’d like to know what happened during the first part, just click on this https://pedalpowerphilippines.com/2017/04/05/biketouring-the-philippines-preliminaries-and-leg-1-manila-to-matnog-sorsogon/?frame-nonce=e178fb8396

Our friends from Irosin, Sorsogon (approximately 600km away from Manila) brought us to the Mateo Cold and Hot Springs resort for a well-deserved R and R (we’re eternally grateful to Cyrk, Natalie and Paolo for the food, warm welcome and guidance) and the next day they brought us to Bulusan Lake and after a proper send off, we took the boat to Allen, Samar…

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our lodging at Irosin, Sorsogon
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Cyrk and Natalie sending us off to Matnog port (Courtesy of Natalie Grace Gestre)

Day 8 Allen to Calbayog

After taking the boat from Matnog we proceeded to Cyrk’s house in Allen, Samar for the night (we took the 8pm trip and the fare is Php170-fare and bike fee-don’t forget a bungee cord to secure your bikes at the cargo bay)

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off to Eastern Visayas
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All bikes secured

The next morning, we proceeded to Calbayog (approximately 50km away from Allen Port). The road was bumpy and it was particularly hot during the day making the climbs a bit difficult yet the view which gives a glimpse of the seaside makes the ordeal less miserable.

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Loving the climb! (courtesy of Rahnel Sison)
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Seaside view after a tiring climb in Samar (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)
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a long way to go

We decided to stay at the Coral reef beach resort…though it had a view of the beach we didn’t have access to the shore! Facilities were fairly ok but we managed to get through the night with a wonderful open cottage (1500 for a night and can fit as many as you can) (https://www.facebook.com/TCRBeachResort/).

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Entrance of the Resort

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Still sleeping!

photo op before leaving (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

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Day 9 Calbayog to Catbalogan, Samar

Traveling approximately 90kms, the trip to Catbalogan, Samar was even more challenging as we encountered several rolling hills and heat seemed to intensify as the day progressed…good thing though there were several stores along the way where we could rest and take advantage of the shade…Upon the recommendation of Cyrk, we proceeded to the fame hotel located in the heart of the city (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fame-Hotel/130987193726452). The facility had the basics, but it took an effort for us to bring our bikes to the second floor as the stairs were narrow and steep.

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Capitol Building in Catbalogan, Samar

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Fame Hotel Lobby

Day 10 Catbalogan to Calbiga, Samar (approximately 55km)

Our fortunes changed when weather turned out a bit better as we encountered fair skies…though the terrain had still the occasional climbs, it was fairly manageable…for this day we were greeted with  late afternoon rain (and it was freaking cold!)…we hoped to get to Tacloban but it was getting late and after I sustained a flat tire on my rear, we decided to call it a day at Calbiga, Samar…luckily the town is quite big and had many homestays (at least Php 200 per person per day) and people are eager to point you to the right direction.

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Enjoying soup while stranded
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the homestay at Calbiga-seems to be a home refurbished for lodging-air conditioned rooms are spacious and clean!

Day 11-12

Calbiga to Tacloban, Samar

I remember Mark (who does fieldwork in Mindanao and Visayas) reminding the group that as we approach Leyte, weather is far different compared to the Metro-and he was right-I recall waking up early and it was raining and it was unclear whether we’d be able to get to Tacloban on that day. Though we only needed to bike 60-65 kms to Tacloban, I was concerned about not reaching the Iconic San Juanico Bridge before sunset…True enough, we got to Tacloban at around 7 or 8pm and we weren’t able to get good photos of the longest bridge in the country…good thing the group decided to stay a bit longer as we wanted to go around town.

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At the entrance of the bridge with the ever accommodating Police Officers

The next day, aside from running errands we had our chance to see this beautiful bridge (it is said that the San Juanico Bridge is about 2.16kms long) that connects and Samar and Leyte.

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(S)Trolling the Bridge
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Crossing that iconic bridge (courtesy of Sagada Loopers)

 

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We stayed at the Luxury Suites hotel ((https://www.facebook.com/pages/Luxury-Suite-Hotel-Tacloban-Leyte/174721859269170)) and Yellow doors hostel (https://www.facebook.com/helloyellowdh/) in those days in Tacloban. Both had decent facilities, was quite accessible to other sites in downtown Tacloban and prices were fine (Php 1000 for 5 people at Luxury, and 550 per person at Yellow doors hostel)  compared to others around the area (some charged as high as Php 7,000 per room fit for two people!)

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Walking around Tacloban

I had a reunion of sorts with my former student and her family and i recall talking about the devastation brought about by Yolanda (typhoon Haiyan) several years ago…and she directed me to some sites which served as a reminder of that calamity…

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A nice reunion with my former graduate student, Glenda and her Family

Day 13 Tacloban to Mahaplag, Leyte

After a day’s rest we were up and pedaling again into the heart of Leyte and as we passed by different towns, we got to see different sites that commemorated those who were affected by typhoon Haiyan…

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MacArthur Park, Palo Leyte

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Among the many days in the loop, this stands out perhaps as a heavy day for me as we passed by the mass grave at Palo (which is said to be one of the most severely struck during the typhoon) and memorial marker at Tanuan to pay our respects to those who passed away because of this calamity…

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Memorial at Palo Cathedral

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Memorial marker at Tanuan, Leyte

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I recall this was a  long and physically challenging day as we needed to get to Mahaplag (approximately 90km away from Tacloban) and though the majority of the road was flat, things changed when we got to Abuyog, Leyte where unrelentless climbs were encountered…though weather was cool and breezy, very little lighting was present and made the trip more challenging. We ended this day at the Mahaplag inland resort, (https://www.facebook.com/MahaplagInlandResort/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf) a nice government run facility which charged a decent price (Php 1000 for four people) but was a fine accommodation.

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Mahaplag Inland Resort before leaving for Bato, Leyte

Day 14 Mahaplag Leyte to Port of Bato

Though we only needed to pedal  about 60kms, we took time in taking photos at the 1000km mark as well as the famous Agas-Agas bridge which is the highest in the country, I remember that aside from several kilometers of climbs, rain was light to heavy prompting us to stop several times to take shelter…The roads are wide and very few vehicles would pass by making our trip to the port of Bato manageable…good thing there was a police station at the town of Bato and led us to a lodging house beside the port (800 Php for four persons) and from there we rested for the next day’s boat trip to another part of the Philippines.

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1000km marker, Mahaplag, Leyte
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With the boys of Southern Leyte (Courtesy of Sagada Loopers)
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Agas Agas Bridge
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View from afar
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Courtesy of Sagada Loopers

Some rider notes:

  1. Interestingly, the Samar-Leyte leg gives you a hint that foreigners often biketour  the area as we were often shouted at with expressions such as “Hey Joe”. Upon interviewing, some locals in different areas, this seems to validate the observation as indeed many European and American biketourers have frequented the area (which seems to be the case in other parts of the country as well).
  2. Roads are tolerable but certain sections are ridden with potholes (specifically ,the stretch from Allen to Calbayog due to many trucks travelling along the area as well as in Tacloban due to frequent road constructions). Be prepared as well to ride with EXTRA caution as traffic is a bit chaotic in the areas of Catbalogan and Tacloban.
  3. If you intend to biketour these regions, February is the perfect time as typhoon season is relatively over and summer heat isn’t as excruciating compared to the ones experienced in April and May (I am grateful to Glenda, my graduate student for reminding me to reschedule the loop from November to February as typhoon season is at its peak in the area during the closing months of the year).
  4. The path from Samar to Leyte is a scenic one. That is, you’ve got a combination of seaside views while riding and mountainous areas as you get deep into the heart of Leyte.
  5. This is where we first encountered a change in itinerary as we were supposed to head to Maasin City, Leyte for the Mindanao leg but we had to change our route due to reported skirmishes between rebel and government forces in Mindanao. Good thing, Cyrk and Natalie recommended that since we were heading to the port of Bato, we would also pass by Agas Agas bridge which was a nice landmark in this leg.

Cover photo courtesy of Sagada Loopers (taken at San Joaquin, Samar)