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Old 09-14-2012, 03:58 PM   #1
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Getting dirty in the Philippines: 12 days, 1200 miles of fun

Been a long-time lurker on the site and have enjoyed many of the threads started by the folks here. In particular, the ride reports have been very interesting. It is great to see the places other folks have been and the adventures they encountered.

I enjoy exploring the various cultures of Asia, and any chance to get away from the chaos of the cities is a welcome thing. Nothing better than picking your way down a lonely isolated trail for hours and turning up in a remote village where everyone is happy to see you even if nobody understands the same languages!

With that in mind, I thought the folks here might enjoy a report about a 12 day offroad ride I did in the Philippines back in March. Philippines is a bit different than mainland Asia in that it is much more what you would expect when you think SE Asia and “tropical” – lush green and no dust. However, that comes with a downside. It rains often, and instead of dust you then end up with mud. Not bike-swallowing bogs like Cambodia in the wet season, but greasy wet clay that just adds another “challenge” factor to the ride There is no well defined “dry season” like in mainland Asia, but there is a time where it rains LESS, and also during this time you can expect there to be no typhoons, which is very important on a ride that depends on marine transportation!

Cambodia and Laos, and to some extent Viet Nam seem to be fairly well represented in the ride reports, but the Philippines does not seem to get much attention from the offroad crowd. Not sure why, maybe it is more difficult to go there versus mainland Asia, with it being a nation of 7100 islands? Not sure… I have done multi-week rides in Cambodia twice, and while I enjoyed it the “dust bowl” conditions took a bit of fun out of it and made it seem more like Baja Mexico or some other desert location rather than southeast Asia. Riding in Philippines was quite enjoyable with the elevation changes, shaded jungle trails, beautiful but isolated beaches and shorelines and wide variety of experiences. Even in these modern times of internet and cell phones, some things do not change very fast. The cultures in the remote areas remain a throwback to older, simpler times, and even from island-to-island there are cultural differences. The island makeup of the country has kept distinctive pockets of diverse cultures somewhat isolated from each other. With modern conveniences becoming prevalent in all corners of Asia the blending is underway, but for now it is still very interesting. For our trip, each island was different enough you could feel you were in a different place. Even different dialects of language were in use.

This is my first real attempt at a ride report, and while it may lack the “style” of Swamp’s ride reports, I hope you will bear with me and still find it enjoyable. I will do a separate post in this thread for each day of the trip. I have quite a bit of helmet cam footage as well, and if I can figure out a reasonably easy way to distill it down to something folks can download I can try to post some of that as well.

The ride we did was an organized annual ride run by these folks:

http://www.philippineoffroadadventures.com


So without further ado, on to the report….

We began our ride near Cebu City. This is the second largest city in the Philippines, albeit a rather distant second behind Manila. Located on the island of Cebu, in the middle of the island chain (called the “Visayas”) Our ride was a 12 day loop of the Visayas region, visiting six different islands, and coming out to right around 1200 miles total (about 2000kms) not counting the miles over water.





Day 1 - Launch!

Here we are as we begin the tour in Liloan, Cebu near the main city of Cebu City.


Left to right we have Jim, Ray, Darren, Paul and Boyd. Not pictured is Johnny, our Filipino guide. Yamaha dominates on this ride, with two WR450s, a WR250 and a XT225. Johnny’s ride was a Honda XR, and the oddball in the group was on a Husky.




We did about 100 miles/160kms of very nice mountain trails as we worked our way to the northern tip of Cebu island. Many elevation changes as we went from sea level to over 3000 feet and back again more than once. Great views and some great trails. Unfortunately we were more focused on helmet cams today and didn't get that many stills.






This was parked outside the guest house we stayed at the first night. Would you think this was worth stealing? Someone REALLY thought so! I think the padlock and the chain are worth more than the bike.



After a good meal of Philippine barbecue and cold beer we rested up from our long day

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Old 09-14-2012, 07:00 PM   #2
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Interesting report. Continue please.
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Old 09-14-2012, 07:02 PM   #3
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Day 2


Today we will cross from Cebu island to Leyte island. Early start to fuel up the bikes and get ready to get on the boat to go to Leyte. Leyte is the site of some of the bloodiest battles of WWII in the pacific. You can see the shadow of Leyte in the distance, and you can also see the clouds. The weather did not play nice today.



After we got off the boat it was straight to the dirt and trails because we had a lot of ground to cover before our next stop. As we started out the weather was OK, but the ground was a bit damp in places due to rain earlier. Spectacular scenery… the top of the “grassy knoll” is much higher than it looks in the picture and a great spot for views.









We had a bridge to cross... it has a problem. Bonus points if you can spot it.





Unfortunately, the dry weather was only temporary and once we got well into the trails it started raining on us. No big deal though, this is expected in the tropics. Just put on light waterproof jacket and press on. Plus, the rain is warm and isn’t really too bothersome if you should happen to get soaked. Clothes dry out quickly when the sun comes back out.





After a while on the trail we came to this little village. Some of these villages seem to scrape together enough cash to concrete the road for the length of the village, maybe 100 meters if that. Then it is right back to dirt.



Another bridge to cross. In the dark this time. Actually turned out to be one of the nicer bridges! Or maybe it just seemed that way since it was dark and we could not see just how bad the situation was…







After a full day of riding we finally arrive at our destination of the town of Kananga in the interior of Leyte. This will be our stop for the night.

As is the case everywhere we went, fans quickly congregate!

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Old 09-15-2012, 12:38 AM   #4
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thanks for visiting our country, try the northern part ( cordilleras) -it's cooler to ride
the best time to ride is from december to february.
thanks for sharing. cheers and goodluck!



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Old 09-15-2012, 08:36 AM   #5
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Day 3

We slept like rocks, having had quite the workout on the trail. Here we have our typical asian breakfast of champions... noodles, eggs, toast and coffee. Also, karaoke if you are so inclined. Karaoke can be found literally everywhere, even in the most remote areas.


One of our many water crossings… very common is the sight of folks washing clothes in the water as we go by. A couple places we went had girls bathing in the run-off from the mountains shortly after a rainfail… unfortunately they were in t-shirts and shorts though!







Here we have Paul and Darren recharging after tackling a long section of trail. The locals were very friendly everywhere we went, and this one had brought some water for the guys to refill their camelbaks.



Paul taking another break while the rest of the group catches up.





Rice. Lots of it.



Lunch stop in a small remote village only accessible by a gnarly dirt trail. The rain that fell on Leyte the day before made accessing this location “more interesting” since the trail had not yet fully dried out. We carried tuna and bread with us from Kananga, and the locals went up the trees to get us some coconuts for drinks.





Enjoying the survival drink of the tropics... The locals on request will climb right up the palm trees and cut down some fresh coconuts for everyone to enjoy. Hits the spot on a hot day!





This local guy had no issues with the muddy trail we just struggled with



Our goal today... photo op at the General MacArthur shrine near Tacloban, Leyte. Leyte is most famous for its role in the reconquest of the Philippines in World War II. On 20 October 1944, General Douglas MacArthur waded ashore on Leyte, saying "I have returned". However, the Japanese did not give up so easily, as the ensuing Battle of Leyte proved, and convergence of naval forces resulted in the four-day Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in history. MacArthur cemented his position as a hero of the Philippines and the statues behind us recreate his famous walk ashore.





Washing the bikes for 75 cents each. One of two times they were this clean on the trip.

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Old 09-15-2012, 09:00 AM   #6
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Day 4

Today we cross from Leyte to the island of Samar. No boat this time since the island is close enough to Leyte to have a bridge. It is claimed to be the longest bridge in this area of Asia.

Still clean as we prepare to leave the guest house.


Our easiest island-to-island transition on the entire trip. This is the San Juanico bridge connecting Leyte and Samar.





On the dirt after crossing into Samar... Darren poses with a future supermodel.



Gulliver with the little people



A nice bridge... looking like a superhighway with two lanes!



"main street" in a remote village in the middle of nowhere after a few hours on some nice trails in the jungle.





Yep, it is raining again. Samar is said to have the last remaining rain forest in the Philippines. Don’t know if that is true, but was forest, and it rained! Wasn’t a major problem today though, just short showers then the sun would reappear.



More bridges...







Johnny demonstrates the technique required to successfully cross this "bridge" This guy is like the energizer bunny... unstoppable



No bridge here… bridges? We don’t need no stinking bridges…



Oooops!



Darren ponders the best line as we work through another creek crossing.







Always seem to draw a crowd of curious spectators. But the cool part is if we run into trouble they jump right in and help. Very friendly! We always offered some money if folks helped us, and more than 50% of the time they just refused to accept it. I guess the entertainment of the crazy foreigners dressed like power rangers coming through their village was payment enough!



Paul goes swimming but forgets to get off the bike first. Some water got into the motor, but we were able to drain it out and after a few kicks the engine sputtered to life.



So here we are in the middle of the Philippine jungle on full tilt late model Japanese dirt bikes, big knobby tires and full riding gear working our way up this mountain trail. But is all that stuff really required? Hell no... 30 year old honda and flipflops for the win. We were not successful securing cute tank girls for ourselves though.


After spending the day working our way through the jungles of Samar we end up at our stop for the night, which is the town of Borongan on the east coast of Samar.
Darren and Paul engaged in diplomatic relations outside our guest house.



After all the rain in the jungle Darren contemplates trading the WR for something with a roof.



As we go to dinner we encounter an opportunity for Fresh McNuggets



The kick starter of the Husky fell off earlier in the day. Now it has a new problem... I know Husky is big in chain saws but did not know they branched out into circular saws now also. I have never seen this happen to a brake rotor on a bike.

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Old 09-16-2012, 08:54 AM   #7
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Day 5

Today we finished up with Samar island... some great offroading here, but again it seemed we were in the "zone" again and we did not get many still photos. Samar was very interesting. One of the larger Philippine islands, but seems to also be one of the more sparsely populated. The people we encountered were mostly in small villages, and in some areas there were quite a few miles between villages. Most of the fuel we got in Samar was from 1 liter pepsi bottles. Really could feel that Samar was a different place than Cebu or Leyte.

A very typical sight as we worked along the east coast of Samar... fish drying in the sun:


Some great riding and great views as we moved up the coast...


As we passed through a small village we stopped at this house to do a couple bike tweaks. This little girl was busy with her rice sorting project:



Our reward for a long day on the bikes: Camping on the beach with horrible views....



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Old 09-16-2012, 09:48 AM   #8
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Looks like alot of fun - I'm in for this one
Have to put the philippines on my bucket list

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Old 09-16-2012, 10:30 AM   #9
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Thanks for sharing the great photos of the great locals!
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Old 09-16-2012, 11:02 AM   #10
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Great report thanks for posting +1 on the locals photos. 7,100 islands, wow did not know there was that many.
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Old 09-16-2012, 11:40 AM   #11
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awesome to see a RR from the PI.

was born there, but never been to those places. thanks for the posting.
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Old 09-16-2012, 01:37 PM   #12
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Day 6

Today we move from Samar island to the island of Masbate. It is a relatively small island about 40 miles over water from Samar. We hire a boat to take us there.




Jim feeling confident the boat probably won't sink


Loading the bikes...






Boat loaded, we get underway. The engine is a 4 cylinder Isuzu diesel which was started by three guys with a big rope.

A relaxing trip at a blistering pace of probably 10mph tops. Nice views as we pass other remote islands and see small fishing villages.





A few hours to kill, bike maintenance is performed on the boat.



After the bike maintenance Johnny takes it easy for a change



Unloading the bikes after reaching Masbate island. No shortage of people in the Philippines to help with any task you may have, and they make short work of getting the bikes off the boat.



We covered Masbate island pretty quickly due to the small size. Some good trails but between all the cameras we didn't get much from here. Guess we were all too busy riding.

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Old 09-16-2012, 01:49 PM   #13
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Day 7

Masbate is a relatively isolated island and as such is not as developed as the other islands. Not much in the way of guest houses or other facilities here so we do the next best thing and camp on the beach again.




Here we see Darren with his volunteer guard dog and overnight head warmer.



Another day, another problem with the Husky. This time the rear sprocket is toast. From the looks of the front brake rotor, it could probably be swapped to the back wheel to do further duty as a sprocket



A crowd gathers for the Husky sprocket repair show. Seems to be the most entertainment this remote location has had in quite a while.


This day we will move from Masbate island to Panay island. Panay is another 40 or so miles over water to the southwest of Masbate. Panay is most famous for the biggest tourist area in the Philippines known as Boracay. We cover a lot of area on Panay but we won’t be going to Boracay. Tourist area == place for us to avoid

Some fine beach riding as we move on to meet the boat that will take us from Masbate to Panay.


Loading the bikes again. Boat doesn’t look like much but these Philippine outrigger style boats are VERY stable even in rough water.







A few hours later, we arrive at Panay island and head upriver. The river invokes visions of Apocalypse Now and soon we are all expecting Charlie to start shooting at us from the riverbank, hueys to come over the tree line, and possibly an overweight Marlon Brando waiting at the end of the river...


After we arrive and unload the bikes we ride for a couple hours and again nobody gets many pictures. Although we do have one of the beach at the guest house we stayed at this night:

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Old 09-16-2012, 02:29 PM   #14
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Really nice trip!

:

But tell us.. What happened with the Husky's front disk and rear sproket?
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Old 09-16-2012, 03:10 PM   #15
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Day 8

Panay island... lots of ground to cover today. Some great trails, awesome views and some challenging single track.













Gary Gitter made it back to Asia…





Another coconut break at a remote village in the mountains of Panay. Nice break before tackling a tricky uphill.





Darren waiting for his turn at the uphill. Got some interesting video of the assault on this hill


The views that awaited us after the hillclimbs



On top of the world



But still a bit more to go…





We spent a few hours working the single track up through the mountain ridge, and finally made it out to the other side...



The trail is like a highway now compared to the goat path we were just on



We descend the mountain to arrive at San Remegio, a small town in the hills of Panay. Well, actually large compared to some of the villages we have visited. They at least have a market and electricity. We will stay here for the night. We had planned to go further but trouble with a wheel bearing on one of the WRs put a stop to that. We decide better to just use the remaining daylight to work on the bikes and relax a bit with some barbecue and beer.

Here we have the town drunk helping remove the front wheel so the damage can be assessed.


Fans… everywhere we go. Easy to feel like rock stars as we travel through these areas!



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