5 September -
Zamboanga City, Mindanao, Philippines
First thing in the
morning I took to the streets, looking for a bank. On the boat I
changed my Malaysian Ringgit for Philippine Pesos, but I still
had to get some more local currency. I also desperately needed a
roadmap. The Philippines is the world´s second largest
archipelago (after Indonesia) with 7107 islands, and although
most are uninhabited, I planned to visit a good few.
This is a small
country with a fascinating history! In 1521 the islands were
claimed by Spain, the British occupied it for a while, but soon
gave it back to Spain. Then the U.S. came. The U.S. war
officially lasted for three years but skirmishes still went on
for another seven, killing 600 000 Philippines in the process.
After the U.S. eventually left, the Japanese troops came and
only in 1946 were the Philippines granted full
independence!!Sjoe, and then they still have to deal with
volcanos and typhoons! Today, political violence is still
widespread, and I’m constantly being told to be careful along
the road, and NOT to camp along the way.
about the heavens opened up, and everyone ran for cover. The
temperatures hover around the mid 30° C, and I understand that I
am now in the wet season (May to October). Fortunately, the rain
comes quick and hard and does not last very long.
I hailed a tricycle (more a bike
with a sidecar) and found the going not much faster than
walking. I found the bank but no roadmap.
6 September - Zamboanga City – Vitali - 72km
I joined the other tricycles, bicycles,
Jeepneys, busses and trucks and cycled out of town. As I was now
cycling on the right-hand side of the road, I first stopped at a
bike shop to change my mirror back to the left-hand side. (Once
again, the owner warned me not to camp next to the road and
advised me to rather to go to the small village of Vitali and
check with the Police for a room in the village.)
With the morning pollution hanging thick in
the air, I followed the road north, out of the large and busy
Zamboanga City. It was a stunning ride, past numerous small
villages flanking both sides of the highway; every now and again
the villages made way for emerald-green rice paddies. Water
buffalo waddled in the muddy puddles and tricycles carted small
kids to and from school. Amazingly, even the smallest village
had a large school.
As is always the case on my first day in a
new country, I stopped countless times to take photos. This is
an especially photogenic country and I could easily fill a 36GB
card in no time at all. Nothing much came of the mountains they
warned me about, and although hilly, it was not too steep.
At around 15h00 dark clouds gathered and I
was sure I was going to be caught in a thunderstorm. I made it
to Vitali without being rained upon, and found a fair-sized
village with plenty of roadside stalls. I stopped at the Police
Station to ask about a room in the village, and was directed to
a Karaoke Bar with rooms above. As was to be expected of a room
above a Karaoke Bar, it was noisy, dark and dingy, with
three-quarter cardboard walls. The owners were, however,
super-friendly. It had a bathroom at the end of the hallway with
a large drum filled with water, which one could scoop out and
pour over oneself. It was very refreshing!!!
That evening I got myself a takeaway
rice-meal. At first I sat on the balcony overlooking the road,
but soon three others joined me and watched every morsel I
consumed, so I removed myself to my half-private room, ate my
meal, and sat under the fan, writing my diary and editing
7 September - Vitali – Ipil - 65km
There was no need to hang around, and I soon
left my humble abode. Before I left I had a quick bite to eat
down the road. No sooner had I finished my meal when I was lead
off by the restaurant owner to view the corpse of her sister!!
I was informed that she died of a heart attack (fortunately not
from food poisoning) and I was encouraged to take pictures!! I
politely declined, and before they could escort me to the
funeral, I swiftly made my way out of there.
It was another stunning day. Although this
was the coastal road, the road did not run flush next to the
coast. But, every time I reached the top of a hill, I could see
the bright blue ocean below, sprinkled with tiny islands.
It felt that I was cycling through a long,
drawn-out village. There was hardly a time that I was out of the
public eye. It was a short ride, and I soon reached the larger
town of Ipil, where I found a nice hotel at a very reasonable
price. It also had a great restaurant and even a swimming pool.
Not bad for 600 Pesos.
8 September - Ipil – Buug - 75km
It rained for most of the day, and once or
twice I had to pull over and wait for the worst to pass. Once
again it was slightly hilly, but not as bad as expected. I
passed plenty of tiny villages where their main occupation
appeared to be doing the laundry. Palm-woven huts and Sari-Sari
stores, selling everything from crackers to shampoo sachets,
lined the road.
Once I reached Buug, it was easy to spot a
hotel, as it was not a very large town. It, however, had a very
large and interesting fish market, selling all kinds of fish -
fresh and dried, as well as big and small.
The fact that I’m frequently asked if I'm an
American journalist or a missionary, most likely indicates that
only foreigners ever visit Mindanao. Seeing that my answer to
both is negative leaves most people puzzled, and it is normally
followed by a polite: “What is your purpose in the
Philippines?” “Just travelling,” I answer, by which they appear
a bit disappointed and normally repeat: “Oh, just travelling,”
rubbing their chins, as if such a thing is not possible.
I am not taking as many pictures as usual,
for as soon as I take the camera out I can hear them whisper:
“journalist, journalist”. This is one part of the world where I
do not want to be mistaken for a journalist. The reason being
that through the years, the island Muslims (Moros) have launched
repeated attempts to establish autonomy on the island. Since the
Maguindinao massacre in 2009, when fifty seven civilians were
killed, amongst them four journalists, Mindanao ranks only
second to Iraq for being the most deadly country for
journalists. I now keep my camera well hidden!!
9/10 September - Buug – Pagadian - 63km
It was a rainy day as I headed for the
mountains. It was another scenic day, past more rice paddies and
farmers ploughing their land with Water buffalo. I cycled across
rivers and past waterfalls, while small kids along the way run
away as fast as their little legs could carry them. People in
palm-woven huts looked at me in utter amazement. In fact, I had
a little giggle all by myself today as I saw a man fall right
out of his hammock!! He was relaxing under a tree while
guarding his stall, selling petrol in Coca-Cola bottles, until
he spotted me - he spun around at such speed that he fell right
I felt a bit sluggish and struggled up the
hills - they were long and steep, (or at least that’s what it
felt like). Some days my legs don’t want to cooperate. I was
happy to reach the downhill into busy Pagadian. The roads were
jam-packed with tricycles and Jeepneys, and I weaved through
them like a pro!! I soon found a hotel room, had a quick
shower, and set off looking for a supermarket. Upon my return, I
also found that I seemingly made it out of Zamboanga City by the
skin of my teeth.
At least I found myself a map of Mindanao
Island. Taking into account all the trouble here I will be happy
to get off the island all together, but there is still a long
way to go. I also understand that the North-East coast is safe,
and once I get to Cagayan De Oro I should be fine.
I stayed in Pagadian the following day, did
laundry and ate just about anything I saw being sold on the
11 September - Pagadian – Tubod - 80km
At first it was a nice, easy cycle and then
the road turned inland along a rather steep road over the
mountain. I must have been climbing for the first forty
kilometres, as suddenly the road started winding down to the
ocean, which also came with fantastic views. Once on the coastal
plains, it was an easy ride into Tubod.
I was directed to a rather fancy and
expensive hotel. I thought: what the heck; I will stay for the
night! As the hotel was on the outskirts of the town, I also
ate at their restaurant that night which was also a bit pricy.
The food was excellent; well worth the price I paid!!
12 September - Tubod – Iligan - 66km
I had a thoroughly enjoyable day. It started
off with me meeting the nicest bunch of people one can imagine.
They stayed at the same hotel for a three-day conference, and
invited me to have breakfast with them. The Filipinos are so
hospitable and friendly and always ready to share a meal! They
are also terribly polite; always greeting me with a polite “good
It was a short and enjoyable day on the road,
as the road ran close to the ocean with excellent views. Just
before Iligan I turned off the road to view the Maria Cristina
falls - a magnificent sight. I was rather disappointed in the
outcome of my photos…. oh well, there is always another day.
13 September - Iligan – CDO - 88km
It was a particularly difficult day on the
road. The traffic was hectic, the road narrow, and the drivers
were on a suicide mission. I had to watch both oncoming traffic
and traffic coming from behind. Vehicles overtook without regard
for anyone, with the result that I had to dive off the road
quite a few times to avoid being road kill. In the process I
picked up a puncture from a metal pin - the pin was so tightly
lodged in the tyre that I had difficulty getting it out. I don’t
fix punctures with any elegance and came away with grease all
I was hot and sweaty, full of grease and in a
bad mood as I cycled into the large and busy city of CDO. To
make matters worse, I soon found myself amongst fume-belching
tricycles and Jeepneys, so tightly gridlocked that I could not
even get through on a bicycle.
At least that gave me plenty of opportunity
to ask a local where to find a hotel, as no one was going
anywhere. I was pointed down a hotel-kind-of-road and was lucky
to find a hotel at a very cheap rate. The air-con did not work
and I had to transfer to the next room (sigh) where the air-con
half worked, but the toilet kept running!! Instead of lying in
bed listening to a running toilet all night, I got up and fixed
the darn thing. As I crawled into bed a final time I had to
laugh at just how bizarre things can be some days. Just before
I finally fell asleep, I saw a mouse running across the floor….
I just giggled, ignored the mouse, and I slept soundly!!
The following day I did the laundry, bought
two new inner tubes, and on the way back spotted a river rafting
company. That was just what I needed; I decided to go rafting
the following day and what a good decision that was. It was a
great trip! The river was scenic and the guides very good - it
was such a good day that I changed my mind about CDO altogether.
(The mouse was still running around the room, poor thing!!)
16 September - CDO – Balingoan – ferry to
Benoni, Camiguin Island - 90km
It turned out quite an eventful day. Leaving
CDO was quite stressful as I weaved through the Jeepneys,
tricycles, busses and trucks to get out of the city. Along the
way I stopped, as usual, at one of the Sari-Sari stores to fill
up with water. This time, however, I decided to have one of the
boiled eggs on the counter (not so usual!). To my surprise and
utter horror (and to the amusement of my onlookers) it turned
out to be a Balut - a half-boiled duck embryo in the shell!! No
encouragement from the locals could get me to devour that soupy
fetus. I understand that a person is supposed to crack open the
top and drink the “soup” (embryonic fluid) before devouring the
fetus and its eggy surrounds.
Along the way I passed many places with huge
piles of coconut shells, and smoke billowing from boilers or
shacks. My curiosity got the better of me and I finally stopped
to have a look at just what the heck they were doing. It turned
out that they make charcoal from the coconut shells, which
explained all the smoke coming from these sites.
Satisfied I set off again, past more stores,
all selling deliciously looking food as well as the famed Balut.
The Filipinos do like their food and I don’t think they can go
anywhere without it (albeit their portions are quite small).
Roadside stores, therefore, sell all the local favourites. On
the counters dishes are displayed neatly, from big to small.
These normally contain fried fish, fried chicken, pork (in
various forms), veggies and noodles.
I soon arrived in the small town of Balingoan,
from where the ferry departs to Camiguin Island. A ferry was
waiting, so I quickly bought a ticket and got on-board. It was a
short ferry ride to the island, but it was already 04h30 and too
late (I thought) to cycle to the main town. I found myself a
palm-woven hut on stilts over the water and settled in!! What a
First things first, and I got myself a San
Miguel Beer, put my legs up, sighed, and looked out over the
zip-line passing right in front of me, wondering whether I
should do that in the morning. Soon I was starving and went in
search of food. I had one of the local favourites - Pork adobo
with garlic rice - at a roadside restaurant. As usual, the food
is very tender, as in this part of the world they only eat with
a fork and spoon. With the fat still on the meat I, however,
found it way too fatty to my liking.
17 September - Benoni – Caves Dive Resort -
I loaded the bike and continued along the
coastal road. The road runs around the island, all along the
coast, for about seventy kilometres. Nothing is therefore very
I cycled into the tiny city of Mambajao, the
capital of the island. I found a bank (which was off-line), a
market, various stores, bakeries, and eateries. I continued down
the road and enquired at the popular Action Geckos about a room,
but they were rather expensive (900 Pesos) so I tried the
next-door Caves Dive resort, which was slightly cheaper at 700
Pesos. I was desperate to go for a dive and thought it a good
place to stay and to organize a dive.
In order to dive, I had to retrieve my dive
certificate and needed an internet connection. I soon found that
although they say they have internet, the internet is often not
working!! I was pissed-off, to say the least, as I felt that I
have now wasted a day and the money for the room. It really
takes some getting used to the laid-back manner of the
Filipinos! To me, having internet which is not connected is the
same as not having internet at all!! Give me strength!!!
18 September - 20km
The next morning there was still no internet,
so I packed up and went to Jasmin by the Sea, which was a much
better deal at 500 Pesos for a large room with a bathroom, right
on the water. They, at least, had an internet that was actually
connected, albeit a bit on the slow side. At last I managed to
retrieve my dive certificate with the help of my sister back
home. Besides editing and uploading pictures, I did absolutely
nothing for the rest of the day.
The south-western monsoon came in during the
night, and I woke to a howling wind and bucketing rain. There is
nothing quite like crawling back into bed in bad weather!!
Eventually, it cleared and I took a walk to the dive shop and
arranged a dive for the following day. Then I caught a tricycle
into town to do a bit of shopping, but I found the supermarket
closed, as it was lunchtime. At least the ATM woke from its
I thought of going to the internet café to
pass the time, but they were off-line, so the only thing left to
do was to have a pizza. It was not a bad pizza - I could only
eat half and saved the rest for supper. With my shopping done I
hopped on a tricycle back to Jasmin, which was about five
kilometres out of town. Once there, I discovered that the power
was out, so not much to do but sit down and have a beer. I must
admit it is not a bad place to wait out the weather.
The following day the weather looked much
better, so off I went for my first dive in ages! It was a
fantastic dive with an abundance of fish in all shapes, sizes
and colours. The coral was plentiful and of a wider variety that
I’ve ever seen before. The water temperature was at a very
comfortable 29°C, and I was in my element!!
After the dive I went off to explore the rest
of the island. It is truly a remarkable island, with active
volcanos, waterfalls, hot springs, a ruined church, an
underwater cemetery, and even a spring that squirts soda water.
I ended the day with a ride on the zip-line, which was so much
fun I nearly went twice!!!
I felt that is was time to get going again,
but could not resist one more dive. So, off I went to the dive
shop again. Along the way, the dive master came past and gave me
a lift on the back of his motorbike, to plenty of comments from
the locals. It was an interesting dive, as we went off in one of
the local boats, which was a novelty in itself. It was a short
ride out to White Island where, once again, there was an
abundance of sea life.
After the dive I went into town. The internet
was so slow and sporadic that it was better to go to the
internet café, which was slightly better. Once done with the
internet, I was starving. Again, I decided to have a pizza - I
was sure living the high life!! With all my money spent on
diving, zip-lines and pizzas, I desperately needed a bank, but
the ATM was off-line again. I could only hope that it would be
back on line in the morning, as I did not want to spend another
day on the island (I was spending way too much money).
I understood from the locals that is was
possible to get a ferry from the island to Bohol. Instead of
going back to the main land, I thought it a good idea to go to
Bohol instead. Apparently, there was a daily ferry at around
10h30 from the Port of Benoni to Jagna, Bohol.
22 September - Port of Benoni, Camiguin -
Jagna, Bohol - 25km & ferry
I had plenty of time to cycle to the port;
the ticket was 650 Pesos and 128 Pesos for the bike. We left at
around 11h00, and no sooner were we underway and the seas became
very rough. The ferry rolled and pitched, and people yelled and
hung on for dear life. Seasick bags were in high demand, as our
ferry rocked and rolled in the high seas. I started looking
around for some kind of floating device but did not see any.
There was not much one could do but sit tight
and hope for the best. To everyone’s relief we arrived at Jagna,
Bohol, two hours later. The wind was still pumping and I was in
no mood to battle into a head wind. I found a room for 250 pesos
and hoped that the weather would be better by the following
Bohol forms part of, what is known as, “The
Visayas”, a large cluster of islands in the middle of the
Philippines. The Visayas consists of thousands of islands, but
there are nine main islands, being Cebu, Bohol, Guimaras,
Samar, Leyte, Panay, Negros, Romblon and Siquijor. I
seriously feel I'm going to need more than one visa extension!!!
23 September - Jagna – Talibon - 90km
First thing in the morning I headed to the
Municipality to get a map of the island. While waiting for their
doors to open, I had breakfast at a roadside stall across the
way. Map in hand, I set off in an anti-clockwise direction
around the island. It was a fascinating ride and very different
to Mindanao. I passed mangrove swamps, strange looking hills, a
multitude of small villages, and sari-sari stores. I even
spotted a giant lizard or two.
Once in Talibon I was surprised to find yet
more history. The town is home to a beautiful old church built
with blocks of coral rocks (not very eco-friendly); ironically
it was also built by slaves! Construction started in 1852 and
was completed in 1899 (it sounds like they were not in a great
hurry). Even more bizarre is the history of Talibon: Ferdinand
Magellan escaped from the hands of Lapu-Lapu's men who were
seeking revenge for the raping of fifty virgins of Cebu. The
ship, Trinidad, sailed towards the direction of Getafe-Talibon,
where some of the crew disembarked and mingled with the natives,
educating them in Christianity!!!
24 September - Talibon–Tubigon - 60km
I packed my mobile home and continued on
around the island. It was boiling hot and the locals kept
calling me in to sit down and have something to drink, as they
were convinced that I was going to get heatstroke. Although it
was very hot I did not think I was going to suffer from
heatstroke!! I soon reached Tubigon and decided to go and have
a look at the famous Chocolate Hills.
Chocolate Hills - all 1268 of them, and there
is a legend! Apparently, these hills are the calcified tears of
a giant, whose heart was broken by the death of a mortal lover.
No sooner were I there and it started raining, so I did not come
away with any good pictures.
In Tubigon I looked around for a room and
cycled down a dirt road, past locals’ prized possessions, their
fighting cocks, until I reached Tubigon Beach Resort. Resorts
come in all shapes and sizes, from five-star to rickety huts on
stilts…. I guess this was the rickety hut on stilts. The walkway
did not look all that secure and the floor of the room was
rather springy, to say the least, but at 350 Pesos I could not
complain. It even had a shower and toilet. The water, however,
drained straight through a hole in the floor and ran out
underneath the hut. The toilet was halfway between a squat
toilet and a throne. I did not check the toilet to see where it
drained. I hope it was not the same as the shower!!!
25/27 September - Tubigon – Alona Beach,
Panglao Island - 75km
I knew it was not going to be a long day on
the road, so I took my time and stopped at each and every
conceivable place that looked interesting. I followed the coast
past small villages, each with its own fascinating history. The
road ran past large areas of mangrove swamps, which also turned
out to be the habitat of a species of crab-eating macaques.
I soon reached the busy city of Tagbilaran
from where there is a bridge to Panglao Island. About 25
kilometres down the road I found the famous Alona Beach, and saw
some European tourists for the first time since arriving in the
Philippines. Things were a bit more pricy than elsewhere in the
Philippines, but I found a room and settled in.
The following day I went to the Tarsier
Sanctuary - how very fascinating!! The Philippine tarsier is
tiny, measuring only about 85 to 160 millimetres (3.35 to 6.30
inches) in height, making it one of the smallest primates. It
was therefore rather difficult to spot and even harder to
photograph, as it is only about the size of a human fist and it
can easily fit into a person’s hand. The interesting thing is
that its eyes are fixed in its skull and cannot turn in their
sockets. Instead, the head can rotate 180 degrees. I also
understand that they have the largest eye-to-body-size ratio of
all mammals. The tarsier is a nocturnal animal and the big eyes
provide for excellent night vision. The tarsier may be small but
has a home range of 1 to 2 hectares, a lot of ground for such a
small animal. The females give birth to one thumb sized baby per
annum, and carry their infants in their mouths. These little
creatures are now sadly endangered.
I stayed on the island one more day, not
doing much at all, just hanging around.
28 Setember - Alona Beach, Panglao Island -
Cebu City, Cebu Island - 26km
I cycled the short distance to the ferry port
in Tagbilaran from where there was a ferry nearly every hour to
the island of Cebu. I bought my ticket (P500) and pushed my bike
on board. The weather was perfect and the sea as smooth as
anyone can wish for.
Two hours later we arrived at the large and
chaotic city of Cebu. I quickly found myself a room and set off
to one of the multitude of malls in the city. The purpose was to
see if I could find a GoPro camera. There are so many shopping
centres around that I reckoned if I could not find it in Cebu,
then it does not exist at all. I spent more money than what I
should have, but was now the proud owner of a GoPro camera!!
The only drawback was that I could not find a handlebar mount
for it. I understood that there was one in Bacolod, which they
promised to keep for me until I got there.
I spent the entire evening trying to figure
out how it works and how to change the waterproof housing. Quite
a nifty, little thing!!
29 September - Cebu City – Blue Pot Resort -
I was a bit sleepy as I went to bed rather
late but eventually got underway. I first stopped off at the Old
Fort, took a few pictures and then cycled through the old part
out of the city. The old part of Cebu is rather interesting,
with its narrow lanes and what smells like open sewerage canals.
Soon, I was on the highway out of town, heading clockwise around
The going was a bit on the slow side as the
traffic was hectic (although it was a Sunday). The road was
jam-packed with busses, cars, trucks (loaded to the hilt),
tricycles and colourful Jeepneys. I kept as much to the side of
the road as possible, but still had to veer off the road from
time to time to make way for oncoming traffic overtaking. I
spotted many cyclists along the way and guessed that they must
be part of a cycle race. Soon, I saw one of the participants
pushing his bike along and stopped to ask if he needed help.
Fortunately, all he needed was an inner tube, of which I had two,
and I could help him out.
Just after passing the town of Argao it
started raining, and right there I saw a sign for the Blue Pot
Resort!! I turned off to see if they had a room. It was not
much of a resort, just a few rooms, but I was happy to be out of
the rain and in a very comfortable room. I cooked myself some
pasta, had a beer and played with my new toy.
30 September - Blue Pot Resort – Moalboal -
It was a long day on the road, past roadside
gasoline stalls selling petrol by the liter in Coca-Cola
bottles. Amazingly enough, the price is similar to what you’d
find at the gas stations. Judging by the number of motorcycles
and tricycles that stop at these stalls, business is booming.
I passed drying crops taking up the entire
one lane!! It’s not the fact that they use the road for drying
their produce that surprised me, but that no one ever drives
over it. In fact, busses and trucks will come to a complete halt
and carefully manoeuvre around it before continuing.
Eventually, I arrived in Moalboal and turned
off for Panagsama Beach, about 4 kilometres down the road. It is
a real diver’s hangout with plenty of accommodation and a few
dive shops. A couple of bars and restaurants line the single
dirt road. It is a laid-back place where the beers are cheap and
dive boats are eagerly waiting to take divers off to the nearby
1/3 October - Moalboal
I was eager for a dive and to try out my new
camera. There were, however, still a few things I wanted to
check online, just to make sure I had it all correct. I did my
laundry and went into town to draw more money, diving is an
expensive business!! Again, it felt that I spent just about the
entire day eating.
The following morning I was up and at the
dive shop first thing in the morning. Oh, and what a fantastic
dive it was!! We went out to the near Pascador Island and dived
for about an hour. Taking pictures underwater, however, turned
out to be more difficult than expected and I came away with a
flat battery and hardly anything to show for it. Lots to
learn!!! The second dive was just off the beach and even more
amazing. It turned out that the Sardine Run was on at the time
and we saw the most amazing formations of thousands and
thousands of sardines! Unfortunately, by that time my battery
was flat so no pictures to show for it.
Oh, the underwater world is so amazing and so
incredibly rewarding. When I’m underwater, I experience this
amazing feeling of peace and calm; it feels like I could just
stay there forever…. it is completely surreal. Being located in
the Tañon Strait, the dives around Moalboal tend to be along
steep, near-vertical walls. The strait drops to around 600
metres (I’ve been told) yet currents were non-existent while we
were there. Visibility was not crystal clear but the water was
around a very comfortable 28º C. I'm going again tomorrow - this
will be my last dive for a while as I'm spending all my money on
diving! Time to move on!!
In the process I made some friends and
together with three other travellers we set off on a tricycle to
the Whale shark diving area. Getting there was a bit of a pain,
as first we took the tricycle and then two busses, only arriving
at the dive site at around 11h00, if not later. It was, however,
quite a unique experience diving with as many as 9 or 10 whale
sharks in close proximity. They lazily floated about, looking
for food, sucking in each and every morsel floating around. With
their huge mouths wide open it, from time to time, seemed that
they could easily suck me right in!! I played with my camera and
in the process learned a few things, but still was not happy
with my shots.
After an hour or so it was time to get going
again, and after a bite to eat we went back to the roadside to
wait for the next bus back to Moalboal. That night we had
something to eat, shared pictures, and had a few beers at one of
the local joints.
4 October - Moalboal
I did not waste any time in the morning. I
just had a quick breakfast and then headed to the main road for
a bus to Cebu. The bus ride was very comfortable and the bus
even had Wi-Fi on-board, not bad at all. We arrived in Cebu
about 2.5/3 hours later.
I took a taxi to the Immigration Office,
where I found a room packed full of people all needing a visa or
visa extension. As usual, it was a long and slow process but the
day passed quickly and at 15h00 I was on the bus back to
Moalboal, visa extension securely stamped into my passport.
5 October - Moalboal – San Carlos, Negros -
I was reluctant to leave Moalboal, but
eventually I packed up and headed north along the coast. A mere
20 kilometres down the road I saw a sign for a ferry to Negros.
As there was no reason I wanted to venture further north along
the Cebu coast (except for getting the ferry to Negros) I
decided to cross at this point. It was a short ride (about and
1.5 hour) to the small village of Basak.
Negros seemed to have a more rural feel and I
passed children carrying firewood on their heads and people
bathing in canals next to the road. The road was less congested
than in Cebu and it was an easy ride to San Carolos, where I
found a rather comfortable room at the Traveller’s Inn.
6 October - San Carlos – Cadiz - 85km
After a quick breakfast I followed the road
north past sugarcane fields and small villages. The road
deteriorated considerably and the going was rather slow!
Overloaded sugarcane trucks wreaked havoc with the road and it
seemed that all attempts by the authorities to repair the road
were in vain. The going was rather slow, as I tried to avoid
most of the potholes. It rained on and off during the day,
making the road a rather slippery and muddy mess. By the time I
reached Cadiz, I kind of had enough for the day and found a
cheap room at the Pension house in town.
7 October - Cadiz – Bacolod - 67km
It was a boiling hot day but I soldered on
past Silay and Talisay, known for its Ruins. I kept an eye open
but did not see it. I was also too hot and bothered to explore.
I rolled into Bacolod to find the city at the
start of its annual Masskara festival (meaning a multitude of
faces). The word is also a pun on mascara (Filipino for "mask"),
a prominent feature of the festival. The masks worn by
participants (I understand) are always adorned with smiling
faces. Fortunately, it was only the start and I could still
easily find accommodation.
I found a room down one of the side streets
off the main road - a wonderful place in the middle of a
residential area where bicycle rickshaws carted people up and
down the narrow lanes. Dogs lay sleeping next to their owners,
who sold kebabs from small fires in front of their houses. Kids
ran out in the road to have a wee (LOL, good thing it rains a
lot in this part of the world). I guess it’s easier than going
to the toilet.
8 October - Bacolod
I stayed in Bacolod the following day and
took my bicycle to the very professional Dan's Bike Shop for a
good service. I, in any case, had to pick up the handlebar mount
for the GoPro from them. I zooted up and down the main road in
Jeepneys, which ran the length of the main road. I took myself
off to one of the malls (of which there was no shortage in
Bacolod) while leaving the work to the professionals.
At the mall I had my laptop cleaned, as the
keyboard seems to get stuck from time to time. They gave it a
thorough cleaning and did not even charge me for it. I put the
money to good use at a real café and had a delicious slice of
Then it was off to the market area, which was
hardly 5 minutes away, but miles apart from the mall and all its
fancy lights and shops. This, however, was where I took most of
the pictures for the day. At one of the stalls a friendly man
offered me a bread roll- it was oven fresh and still piping
hot…….delicious! How very kind of him. How much can a bicycle
rickshaw man make? He most likely needed the bread more than
That evening the bike shop phoned to say they
were still working on the bike and I could pick it up the
10 Ocktober - Bacolod – Kabankalan - 90 km
With my bike running like new, I headed
further south, across large rivers, past rice paddies and
sugarcane fields. Once out of the city and back in the rural
area everyone seemed very busy as they harvested both sugarcane
and rice. The poor old water buffalo was in high demand, pulling
and tugging in both the rice paddies and the sugarcane fields.
Large trucks, loaded sky high with sugarcane, dropped bits as
they drove along, leaving the road littered with pieces of
I passed Bago, Valladolid, Pontevedra and
Hinigaran, all with century-old churches. I stopped at a few to
have a look and once again was so impressed with the children of
the Philippines. They came running along, asking intelligent
questions and wanting their picture taken, all while extremely
One of my 365 friends lives in Kabankalan and
I was hoping to meet up with her. It proved, however, more
difficult than expected to find a complete stranger in town,
LOL. With no phone and an intermitted internet connection I was
sadly unable to contact her.
11 October - Kabakala –Sipalay - 83 km
It was a misty morning with smoke from
pre-harvest burning hanging thick in the air. Sugarcane field
burning is carried out before harvesting the cane. To make the
process easier the leaves are burned off the stalks. The
pre-harvest burning of sugarcane leaves is a common practice all
over the world that enables manual pickers to collect the crop
quickly and with less personal injury.
12 October - Sipalay
The reason for me coming to Sipalay was to
visit the nearby beaches. The weather, however, came in and it
was pouring with rain all day. I was happy to stay put and enjoy
a day of doing nothing.
13 October Sipalay – Bayawan - 79 km
I left early, as I wanted to get across what
looked like a mountainous bit on the map, before it became too
hot. It was a nice ride in the morning air, still nice and cool
from the heavy rain the night before. Once over the hilly bit,
it was a flat ride along the coast.
It felt like a real Sunday afternoon cycle as
I pedaled along, past Nipa houses on stilts, sari-sari stores,
and buffalos lazily grazing in the rice paddies. Past small
villages where joyous singing was coming from makeshift churches
and where Sunday markets were in full swing along the main road.
14 October - Bayawan – Malatapay - ferry to
Apo Island - 77 km
It was another easy day of cycling; the road
ran flush next to the coast for most of the day, offering
stunning views. The heavy rain of the past few days caused large
landslides, taking with them some electrical cables. Road
workers were frantically busy clearing the road; it’s quite
amazing to see what big chunks can just slide off a mountain.
Around midday, I arrived at the tiny
settlement of Malatapay (not even indicated on my map) and saw a
road sign for Apo Island. Down a narrow lane, I found boats
ready to whisk me off to the nearby and pea-sized island of Apo.
With bike and bags loaded on the boat, we sailed away. The boat
dropped me at a spot straight out of a tourist brochure,
complete with a beautiful beach, palm trees and turquoise water.
On the island, I found a tiny village with
friendly folk, a few homestays, and the rather well-organized
Liberty’s resort and dive centre. The price for the room was 800
Pesos (at first I thought it expensive) but it included three
meals. The best of all was that dive prices were 1 000 Pesos a
dive (which is considered very cheap). Once again, I sighed
deeply, put my feet up and ordered a San Miguel beer!! As they
say…………. “It’s hell in the tropics”!
I soon discovered that the food was
fantastic; freshly caught fish was at the order of the day. I
wasted no time in organizing a dive and subsequently learned
that Apo Island counts as one of the top dive spots in the
15 October - Apo Island
The following morning I woke early for the 8
o’clock dive. It was a short boat ride to the dive site and soon
we plunged happily into the lukewarm waters of the Visayan Sea.
After arriving back, I discovered that a strong earthquake had
hit the region. Although it was felt on Apo Island, I was
unaware of it while diving. I understood that the epicentre of
the quake was in Bohol, where I took the pictures of Chocolate
We sat around chatting for a while and then
geared up for the 11h00 dive at Coco Point. Once again, it was a
great dive and I even had a glimpse of a coral snake, which I
have never seen before, but sadly failed to capture it on film.
16 October - Apo Island – Malatapay by ferry
Malatapay – Dumaguete City - 25 km
After a breakfast of pancake and fruit, it
was time for me to leave the island and head back to the
mainland. I cycled the short distance into the city where I
found a room at Harold’s Mansion. My notebook packed up and I
went in search of a replacement. The new tablets looked rather
nice but it was much cheaper (less than half the price) to get
another notebook. The shop assistant was rather nice and
suggested that I use my old hard drive as an external hard
drive. How clever of him - I would have never thought of it.
Paying proved more difficult than expected as the card machine
was off-line and so were most of the banks. In the end I managed
to find a working ATM which was prepared to spit out some money.
Back at my room, I was looking forward to
connecting to the internet after a few days of no connection,
but the connection was so intermittend that I soon gave up and
rather went in search of food.
17 October - Dumaguete – Siquijor Island (by
ferry) – Sandugan Beach - 20 km
There was no need to stay in Dumaguete, and
so I loaded the bike, not knowing exactly where I was going. I
first made a stop at the ATM to draw more money and on my way a
Swedish guy, who was having breakfast with his girlfriend,
stopped me. He invited me for coffee and as he is also a cyclist
(when in Europe), he was quite interested in what I was doing.
He also told me that Siquijor Island is very nice and only an
hour by ferry from Dumaguete. So that was my problem solved, and
I had plenty of time to get the 12h00 ferry.
Once in Siquijor town I set off in a
clockwise direction around the island. Just about 20 kilometres
down the road I spotted Sandugan Beach with a few places to
stay. All these places were smack bang on the beach, and I could
not resist and parked off for the night. Soon, I was sipping an
ice cold beer while watching the sunset ….gorgeous.
18 October - Sandugan Beach – Siquijor Town -
I had a quick breakfast and continued my tour
around the island. The interesting thing about the island is
that even today, many Filipinos refuse to visit the island due
to its reputation for witchcraft and black magic. I’m sure that
the annual Folk Healing Festival contributes to this
superstition. I did not see any such thing, except for a store
or two selling herbal remedies. LOL. I kept my eyes open for the
magic Lumay (Love Potion - one never knows when such a potion
may come in handy). I understand that a mere sip or sniff by the
target will have the desired effect!!
What I did find was a rather friendly island
where people were constantly calling me to come have a rest and
a drink of water. The road workers looked disappointed that I
did not want to join them. I explained that I don’t normally eat
during the day, which totally blew their minds!! It appears
that eating three full meals a day is considered too little for
the average Filipino, and that one needs to eat smaller snacks
between meals, let alone skip lunch!! LOL, as one commented:
“You are starving.”
The island was smaller than expected and
after 57 kilometres I was back in Siquijor town. It was only
midday but I did not feel like going back to the city. It was
rather easy to find a room for the night, as there was plenty of
accommodation scattered along the coast. It therefore took no
time at all to find myself a nipa-hut overlooking the ocean.
19 October - Siquijor - Dumaguete City - By
I cycled the short distance to the jetty and
waited for the ferry back to Dumaguete City. Once in Dumaguete,
I went back to Harold’s for the night. There was no ferry to
Iloilo and the only option was to cycle back to Bacolod from
where I know there is a ferry to Iloilo. There was, however, a
rather nice street party that night, so I took a walk to the
waterfront where things were rather lively.
20 October - Dumaguete – Hanseatic Resort -
Instead of going exactly the same way back to
Bacolod, I continued in an anti-clockwise direction around the
island. It was a surprisingly scenic ride as the road ran next
to the coast for most of the day. I was in no particular hurry
and continued at leisure until I reached a rather nice looking
place right on the water. The lady was quite friendly and we sat
talking for a while until the sun started setting. I had a much
needed shower and a beer before consuming a rather large plate
of fried rice.
21 October - Hanseatic Resort – San Carlos
- 82 km
While having my early morning coffee there
was a frantic knocking on my door. It was the owner who thought
my bike was stolen! I put it inside the room whenever possible.
The reason for her concern was that the guests, who arrived
after I did, left without paying. I guess she thought we were
all in cahoots. I felt sorry for her as I thought she really
needed the money.
It was once again an easy ride along the
coast and soon I passed the ferry port where I first arrived.
There is not much fun in doing the same route twice, this time,
however, it started raining and I cycled the last 40 kilometres
to San Carlos in bucketing rain. I went straight to Amu Tourist
Inn, where I stayed previously. As I was early I did some
laundry and then went in search of food. That also completed my
cycle around the island of Negros. I now had to get myself back
to Bacolod where I can get a ferry to the next island.
22 October - San Carlos – Bacolot – Dumangas
– Iloilo, Panay - 30 km
I took a ride back to Bacolod where I could
get a ferry to Panay. The ferry was cheap but went to Dumangas
instead of Iloilo City. It was not a disaster as it was only a
25 kilometre ride into the city. Along the way I met Roger
Gonzales Aristoki, who was planning to cycle to Ajuy the
following day. We cycled into the city together and he was kind
enough to point a cheap place for me to stay. There is nothing
like local knowledge and he saved me a good few Pesos.
23 October - Iloilo – Altavas - 120 km
I, for once, managed to get up early and was
on the road earlier than normal. It was a great day for cycling
as I had a slight cloud cover all day, making things much
easier. I felt good and the kilometres ticked by without me
noticing. I zooted across large rivers and past small villages,
past basketball playing kids, rice paddies and grazing water
buffalo, never even wanting to stop.
By the time I reached Altavas, I reckoned I
had enough for the day and looked for a room. There was only one
place but the owner was out of town, and there was no one to let
me in. Normally, people think that cycling to the next town is
too far to reach by bicycle. Today, however, I was told that the
next town (which was 40 kilometres away) could be reached within
an hour!! The man was quite convinced that cyclists travel at
45km/h!! There I was, thinking I did well for the day, but was
quickly put in my place….. LOL.
I was pointed in the direction of the
hardware store, which had some rooms above. Although basic, it
was cheap and had a fan! People here always call it an electric
fan…. I wonder if one can get any other type of fan??
I had a quick wash and then, to the delight
of the villagers, went on a walkabout around town. I had quite a
following and felt something like the Pied Piper!!
24 October - Altivas – Caticlan - 107km -
Caticlan by ferry to Boracay
Again, I woke up early (what is
happening!?). Good thing too, as it is much nicer to cycle in
the early morning. I’m sad to say that it took me much longer
than an hour to get to Kalibo!!! The last part of the day the
road ran next to the coast, and although hilly, it was
absolutely stunning. I can say very little else about the
Philippines, other than that it is beautiful! Again I felt good
and sped up and down the hills, past more villages and roadside
stalls, until I reached the small village of Caticlan.
At Caticlan I had a taste of what was to
come!! Bangka boats lay ready to cart the many tourists to and
from idyllic Boracay Island. It felt a bit like a madhouse
compared to the last few days. I joined the crowds and boarded a
boat for the short ride to Boracay Island. On the island, the
madness continued and there were tourists everywhere!! They ate
and they drank, they swam and they shopped!!! Bali is nothing
compared to this!!!
I soon found myself a room and it was hardly
anytime at all before I sat wriggling my toes in the sand,
sipping a beer and ordering a pizza!! Fitting in with the rest
of the tourists did not take me anytime at all!!!
25/26 October - Boracay
Things are rather expensive and I suppose I
could get a dorm room for much cheaper, but I had a rather nice
room at a good discount, so I stayed put. I did not dive, or do
any of the other nice looking things on the island, as the
prices were nearly double than what they were anywhere else in
the Philippines. Only the beers were the same price, if you have
one at one of the places that advertised specials, so I had a
beer or two and sat watching the madness.
Sometimes I feel like such an outsider - I’m
not Filipino but I’m not a proper tourist, either.
27 October - Boracay – Roxas, Mindoro Island
- By ferry
I was getting the hang of things around
Boracay, but it was time to move on and I cycled the short
distance to the ferry port where I got a Bangka boat back to
Caticlan. Once in Caticlan, I looked out for a ferry heading
north. The tourist information in Boracay told me that there was
a ferry to the port of Batangas City every two hours. This was,
however, not the case, and there was only one ferry leaving for
the small port of Roxas on Mindoro Island. There’s not much I
could do but get on-board.
The trip took about five hours and I had
plenty of time to haul out the old iPod and listen to some very
old music. Once again, I must admit that I really enjoy
listening to these old albums. I went through them all: The
Who, Rolling Stones, Queen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The
At around five o’clock we sailed into the sad
looking port of Roxas. There was a tourist office but it was
closed (it was Sunday). If I wanted to cycle to the northern
part of the island, I needed a map of Mindoro. I understood from
the locals that the following day was to be Election Day and
that the tourist office would therefore be closed. It was too
late to take to the road, so I found myself a room for the
28 October- Roxas – Calapan - 128km
I headed north in the direction of Calapan.
From Calapan ferries sail to the main land at Batangas City. No
one could really tell me exactly how far it was, but as soon as
I left the city limits the road signs indicated that it was
around 126 kilometres (so I did not need the map after all). It
was Election Day and a public holiday in the Philippines; even
the rice mills were closed. It was amazingly peaceful on the
I was pleasantly surprised to find that there
are still indigenous tribes living on Mindoro Island.
Collectively known as Mangyans they comprise of twelve tribes,
each with its own language, culture, and way of life. For
centuries, they lived peacefully along the coastal areas of
Oriental Mindoro, where they fished for a living. That was until
migrants from nearby islands settled on the island. To avoid
disputes, the mild-mannered and peace-loving people gave up
their land, moved to the mountains, and came down only for food
and other necessities. Sadly, they have been treated as
second-class citizens, similar to other indigenous people of the
world – often exploited, neglected, and discriminated against by
lowlanders. They have experienced being misjudged as uneducated
and uncivilized people.
It also turned out not to be as mountainous
as I first believed, and with that in my favour I continued on
to Calapan. It was a long day but I made it to Calapan in good
29/30 October - Calapan – Sabang Beach,
Puerto Galera - 54km
As I’ve said before, each island seems to
come with its own vibe. Mindoro seemed more tribal/traditional
than the other islands. I passed farmers riding their water
buffalo, and villagers working the fields in ways that are more
traditional than elsewhere in the Philippines.
I learned that Puerto Galera is the place to
go, and that the area’s extensive and diverse coral reefs have
been declared a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve. It sounded
good and I set off in the direction of Sabang Beach. It was more
mountainous as I headed for Puerto Galera, but, as always, it
came with stunning views. There is nothing like huffing and
puffing up a hill, then rounding a corner to see the most
beautiful waterfall cascading down the mountain.
After more hills I finally arrived in Puerto
Galera from where it was another six hilly kilometres to Sabang
Beach. I was totally blown away by what I saw: A tiny beach
settlement geared for diving with as much as thirty dive shops,
numerous restaurants, and places to stay. It was a beautiful
setting, with turquoise water, cliffs, beaches, coves, etc.,
Once again I found myself a room on the water
(I could have gotten away much cheaper if I took a back room)
and I just drank it all in. To think I nearly gave the island a
The following morning I went for a dive and,
as promised, it was stunning. I dived with Capt ’n Gregg’s and
we went out by boat at around 09h00 to Sabang Point. The dive
lasted sixty-five minutes and the average depth was around
twenty meters. It was a pleasant dive on the local reef, with
plenty of coral and fish. The water was a rather comfortable
28°c and I was very comfortable in a three millimeter wetsuit.
I can’t believe something stung me on my lip
again!!! Years ago, the same thing happened and up until this
day, I have a small scar across my lip. The most amazing thing
is that every week or so it forms a small, loose skin that I can
pull off…. thank the Lord it’s not a hair or something worse!!!!
Besides the diving, Sabang Beach also seems
to be the place where mostly (older) western men hangout. The
trend seems to be for them to settle here for an extended
period, may it be a few weeks or a few months. They all seem to
have Filipino girlfriends for the time they’re here, and I
cringe as I watch how the girls cater to their every need!!!
31 October - Sabang Beach
I stayed one more day as I realized that the
time has come for me to renew my visa again. On closer
inspection, I realized that my current visa expired on the 2nd
and I therefore had to do something quickly. The local tour
operator also acted as a visa consultant and I handed my
passport over and left it to them to organize. The problem was
that I could only pick it up on the following Tuesday. That’s
five days of waiting, but I did not mind as there was plenty of
diving to be done while waiting.
I again dived with Capt ’n Gregg’s at around
09h00. It was a rather short boat ride to Sabang Wrecks where we
did a drift dive for around fifty-five minutes. Again, the depth
was around twenty meters and it was an interesting dive with
plenty of fish. I took hundreds of photos but have now realized
that one needs to be very close in order to get any kind of
1 November - Sabang Beach
I thought I was spending too much money so
went snorkeling instead. The colours were amazing in the shallow
waters. The problem with scuba diving is that one loses the
colours so quickly. Red is the first to go at around fifteen
feet, followed by orange at twenty-five feet, yellow at
thirty-five to forty-five feet, and green at around seventy to
seventy-five feet. (The colours disappear underwater in the
same order as they appear in the colour spectrum.) Strobes are
normally used to add colour back to subjects. Objects can also
appear up to 25% closer underwater than they actually are, and
up to 33% larger.
2 November - Sabang Beach
Today’s dive was a bit of a pain as my BC
kept self-inflating and the dump valve did not want to expel the
air. Bummer….. It did however half-worked when I turned on my
back. Any kind of equipment malfunctions always makes for a
stressful dive. Besides the equipment, it was a lovely dive with
plenty of colourful fish and coral.
3 November - Sabang Beach
I, as has now become the norm, went out for
an early morning dive to Dungon Wall, a pleasant dive with loads
of fish and interesting corals. In the afternoon I did a rather
unusual thing: I went to watch a cockfight!
Cockfighting is, after basketball, the most
popular hobby/sport in the Philippines. I was a bit hesitant to
enter the arena, but found a well-organized setup with a proper
“ring”, surrounded by ascending rows of concrete benches. I sat
down and after a while two men entered the ring, each clasping a
cock under their arms. They placed the cocks in the middle of
the ring, and with neck feathers erect they suddenly hurled
themselves at each other. There was a flurry of feathers and
razor blades, blood squirted from open wounds, spectators
cheered, money changed hands, and all I wanted to do was get the
hell out of there. LOL, I’m such a wimp!!
4 November - Sabang Beach
I went completely overboard and did two
dives. Firstly, we dived out to the wreck of the Alma Jane. She
was scuttled in 2003 and now rests upright at a depth of thirty
meters. Currents on the wreck can sometimes be strong (and the
visibility not always so good). Local skippers therefore
maintain a buoy line which is tied to the wreck, making it easy
for divers to descend along the line without floating away into
the blue yonder, never to be seen again. On the second dive we
went to the Dungon Wall.
Both were wonderful dives. During the first
dive I teamed up with our dive master, Mads, who has the best
buoyancy control I have ever seen in any person.
5 November- Sabang Beach
I finally collected my passport from the
travel agent and was now ready to move on. It was, however,
quite late so I decided to stay for the night and get the ferry
to Batangas City in the morning.
I gathered my stuff and headed to the tiny
ferry jetty from where large motorized Bangka boats departed for
the “Mainland” or Luzon Island. It was a quick crossing (about
an hour) and once in Batangas City I headed north in the
direction of Manila.
Unfortunately, the toll road does not allow
bicycles (which is a pity) and I had no option but to take the
much smaller and narrower road. Strange how the dangerous roads
allow bicycles and the safer ones, with the wide shoulder,
It felt like I was going slightly uphill
(maybe I was, ha-ha). I continued on, past Lipa City, and once I
reached Tanauan I decided to turn off and cycle to Talisay and
see if I could get a boat across the Taal Lake to the Taal
Volcano. I was rather disappointed, as the price for the boat to
the island was quite steep and more than what I wanted to spent.
I hate it when I get a feeling that I’m being ripped off. I took
a rather basic room on the lake and just sat and watched the sun
set over the volcano.
I really wanted to
walk to the top of this tiny volcano as I find it quite
fascinating. It is reputed to be the world’s smallest active
volcano. It also (like all volcanoes in the Philippines) forms
part of The Pacific Ring of Fire, a horseshoe-shaped area of
about 40 000 kilometres where a large number of earthquakes and
volcanic eruptions occur. The Ring of Fire has 452 volcanoes and
is home to over 75% of the world's active and dormant volcanoes.
7 November -
Talisay – Manila - 88km
I was not looking
forward to cycling up the hill I came down the previous day, but
it turned out not as bad as expected. Far worse was the traffic
into Manila. I followed what is known as the National Highway,
which runs through all the towns and villages along the way. The
traffic was bumper-to-bumper and Jeepney-to-Jeepney, all the way
into the city. It took me nearly the entire day to cycle the
short distance of 88 kilometres into Manila. Hectic stuff!!
Once in the city I
looked for the suburb of Melati and found myself a
decent-looking place to stay. I was happy to be in a
solid-looking room ahead of the forecasted typhoon. A super
typhoon was forecasted and the weather people estimated that it
would be the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall in the
Due to the
typhoon, most flights and ferries were cancelled. I stayed at
Pension Natividad, not the cheapest, but very comfortable and
centrally located. The place was packed with people who missed
their flights and ferries. A kind of jovial mood prevailed while
everyone was waiting to see what to do next.
8 November -
Although it was
overcast and rainy, Manila was out of harm’s way and nothing
came of the predicted high winds. The islands to the south were
more affected and judging by the pictures on the internet, many
islands were hit badly. Still people waited to see when flights
and ferries would be operating again. Many of the guests in the
pension could not make contact with their families, as lines
were down and there was no way of contacting them. There was not
much one could do but wait it out and see what will happen next.
I went with John and Matthew (both living on Coron Island and
waiting for a ferry) to the harbour to see if there was any
other ship going to Palawan. There was none so we returned to
the Pension and had a beer instead.
9 November -
The weather was
much better on this day so I took a walk around town. Manila is
a very populated city (20 million people!!) and the city is
therefore plagued by traffic and pollution. I was surprised to
see an extraordinary large amount of homeless people. They,
however, seemed very friendly and content living on the pavement
amidst the fume belching trucks and Jeepneys. I ventured on
along the seafront, past Rizal Park, to what is known as “Intramuros”,
the old Spanish capital. A crumbling wall still half surrounds
the area, and although it was mostly destroyed in World War II,
it was an interesting area in which to wonder about.
I walked back past
Robertson’s Mall and picked up a few supplies, seeing that they
have a rather well-stocked supermarket. Back at the Pension I
sat talking to John, Mathew and Bjorn; we shared a pizza and had
a few beers. I also learned that there will be a boat leaving
for Coron Island on the Wednesday which sounded like a good
10 November -
I took a walk with
Bjorn to the National Museum, which turned out to be rather
interesting. I found the discovery of the Butuan Boats
fascinating. The boats were excavated in 1997 and dates back to
320AD. These boats are evidence that early man in the
Philippines was seafaring and that they were relatively
technologically advanced. The discovery also revealed that they
had contact and traded with areas outside the Philippines, as
shown by the artifacts found on site. Even more fascinating is
the fact that the largest sailing vessel of its kind yet
discovered is currently being unearthed in Butuan City in
Mindanao. Estimated to be around 800 years old, the plank vessel
may be centuries older than the ships used by European explorers
in the 16th century when they first came upon the Philippines.
After nibbling on
some street food, we wondered off in the direction the Palace to
see if we could have a glimpse at the 3 000 pairs of shoes,
ha-ha. Along the way we passed a Sikh Temple celebrating the
544th birthday of Shri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, founder of the Sikh
Religion. We went inside and were soon issued with headscarves
and invited to sit down and partake in the festivities. I had
the best Indian food since leaving India. What a wonderful
We walked past the
Palace but there was nothing much to see, so we carried on to
Chinatown which was a bit more interesting. Back at the Pension,
I heard that another storm was moving in and once again the
ferries and boats were not going anywhere.
11 November -
It was Monday and
I waited to see what the new storm was going to do. I took to
the streets and cycled around the city looking for a bike shop
but was unable to find the one I was looking for. It was not
important so I gave up and returned to the Pension. I wanted to
take a few pictures of the city skyline at night but was unlucky
as it started raining, so I returned to my room with nothing to
show for my efforts.
I had one more
boring thing to do and that was to contact my bank to arrange
with them the use of my bankcards in a foreign country.
Apparently, there is now a new ruling. The South African Reserve
Bank has made the ruling that South African bankcards cannot be
used by clients living (i.e. temporarily, permanently, working
or studying) overseas. Clients will be required, by law, to
apply for permission from the SARB to be able to use their cards
abroad. I, therefore, had to contact the card division, who then
wanted to speak to me in person. I emailed them my telephone
details and sat waiting, hoping that they would return my call
while I’m still in Manila.
12 November -
I had a rather
interesting day as I braved the sea of Jeepneys and cycled (what
felt like) straight into the lion’s den, LOL. I found the bike
shop down a small residential lane, and while the professionals
worked on my bike, I took a walk down the street. The street was
blocked off, as a TV crew was moving in the following day to
record a programme. In the meantime, a choreographer gathered
the locals and in no time at all had them doing a wonderful
routine! Professionals can make everything look easy!!!
Once my bike was
done, it was already dark and it was quite an experience cycling
back, without lights, in the heavy traffic!! Best was to follow
a bicycle rickshaw (pedicab) as they don’t have lights either
and they are pretty good at weaving in and out of the traffic. I
was quite pleased with myself for making it back in one piece.
13 - 14
November – Manila
I took a stroll to
Robinson’s Mall and found the ticket office for the ferry
company. Friday was just two days away and so I bought a ticket
to Puerto Princesa, on Palawan Island. The weather should be
much better by Friday and hopefully the ferry will not be
Back at my Pension
I was pleasantly surprised by a phone call from the card
division regarding my bankcard authorization. That now seems to
be taken care of for the next six months and then I will have to
contact them again.
I was a bit
baffled by the large contingent of American Peace Corps staff
that moved into the Pension. They have been evacuated from
Central Visayas after the typhoon and are now, indefinitely, in
Manila. They are staying here for free and still they are
complaining that some of them have to sleep in the dormitory!
When I asked one of them when they will be returning he answered
that the situation is uncertain as there is no way they can be
taken care of!! ……… Should they not be the ones taking care of
the people who need help??
I thought of going
there to help and spent the entire day on the internet in order
to locate someone to contact, but all to no avail! That is not
good - asking for help and then there is no way of contacting
15 - 16
November - Manila, Luzon – Puerto Princesa, Palawan
I cycled off to
the pier and was pleasantly surprised by the ferry. It was large
and very nice with air-con sleeping quarters, entertainment on
the deck, and we even had the staff dancing for us as we left;
very cool!! We sailed out of Manila Bay in perfect weather; I
sat outside on the deck listening to music, dressed in shorts
and a T-shirt, until after midnight, fantastic!!!
I awoke the next
morning to find that we were surrounded by islands; it was quite
a spectacular sight and it looked strangely more Mediterranean
than tropical. Food was included in the ticket and we all lined
up to receive our polystyrene container with a boiled egg, rice
and……ummm, now what was that? Mince of some sort…. it was very
We only arrived in
Puerto Princesa at 0h30, but unlike the other ferries, we all
managed to get off quickly and orderly. I cycled up the road
looking for accommodation and found the recommended Casa Luna.
The rooms were reasonably priced and were conveniently situated
around a quart yard. That was just what I needed so I had a
quick shower and dived into bed.
17 November -
I arranged a trip
to the underground river for the following day, went to the mall
to draw as much money as possible (this is the only ATM on the
island), and just hung around, not doing very much.
18 November -
Puerto Princesa and the underground river
Early morning I
was collected and we drove the hour or two to the underground
river. On the way we stopped at Ugong Cave which I could not
resist exploring. Ugong Rock stands about 75 feet high and you
can climb through caves and crevices (with the help of some
ropes) right to the top. Instead of walking all the way back, I
used the zip-line!! In a mere 20 seconds or so, I was back on
the ground, how cool is that? Once at Sabang Beach we had a
buffet lunch (all included) which was delicious.
river is located in a national park and although the whole
affair was very touristy, the underground river was definitely
worth it! It is also a UNESCO world heritage site and therefore
very well protected. Turquoise, crystal clear water disappears
into the darkness of the mountain and runs for about eight
kilometres. The river winds through the cave before flowing
directly into the South China Sea. We only explored 1.5
kilometres of it before turning around and heading back the way
we came. It was rather spectacular to row past stalagmites,
stalactites and strange limestone formations, created millions
of years ago.
19 November -
Puerto Princesa – Honda Bay - 13km
What a remarkable
day it turned out to be. I left Puerto Princesa, prepared for a
long day on the road. In the end, I cycled a record breaking 13
kilometers!! Shortly after leaving the city, I saw a road sign
for Honda Bay; I turned down (only to have a look). I found a
small jetty with boats leaving for the nearby islands. I
enquired about a boat trip to these islands and in the process
met Edna (who is in charge of selling the boat tickets). She had
a small property with two nipa rooms (and a pig in the yard) and
offered me one of the rooms for the night at 200 pesos (R50.00)
and she offered to make me supper (all included!).
The boat ticket
was a bit expensive for one person and in no time at all Edna
arranged for me to go to the islands with another group. A
lovely family from Manila was kind enough to allow me to join
them and what a wonderful day it turned out to be. They were the
nicest people out, and invited me to share their food and
drinks. I got to eat typical Filipino food including salted
eggs, eggplant in garlic and chili, fried fish, and loads of
other things I can’t remember the names of!! We had a wonderful
time, visiting three of the nearly islands before returning to
Edna was waiting
for me at the jetty and together we walked the short distance to
her house. While she prepared the rice, fresh fish and octopus
for supper, the power went out but that was no problem as she
quickly carried the food next door to where they were having a
barbeque and continued cooking there.
After dark, a few
visitors came to have a look at the stranger in their village,
and to make matters even more interesting we took a walk up the
road to the nearby basketball court, the centre of town and all
activities in the area! On one half of the court youngsters
were shooting for the net and on the other half kids were doing
cartwheels and jumping elastic rope. On the sideline, you could
get something to nibble on, or take part in one of the many
games on offer. Kids hopped, skipped and jumped in the street or
did silly tricks on their bicycles while the older ones just
hung around, trying to look cool!
What a wonderful
village. In the short walk to and from the basketball court, I
am sure, I met the entire community. I love travelling!!!
20 November -
Honda Bay – Roxas - 128 km
It was a rather
tough day on the road. Not only was it extremely hot, the hills
were also rather steep. I, for some reason, did not feel very
well and had an upset stomach and felt nauseous all day. Halfway
through the day I started vomiting and soon afterwards started
cramping, something that has never happened before! What a
terrible day! Pushing the bike up the steep hills, cramping,
rubbing legs, pushing, cramping, and rubbing!!!!
What a day!! It
took me nearly the entire day to reach my destination. I found a
room and collapsed exhausted on the bed. I had no appetite,
which was also not a good thing. I tried to eat a bit of food
but was in no mood for stuffing food down my throat.
21 - 22
November - Roxas – Taytay - 80 km
I expected the day
to be difficult but did not expect it to be so hard. My lack of
food intake did not help and still I felt nauseous. At least I
stopped at the chemist to get some medication for cramps and in
the process also stocked up on some vitamins (for what it’s
I struggled along
all day and had no energy. The hills were rather steep and once
again I had to push up the hills, stopping every few metres to
take a rest. What an awful day on the road. I was more than
happy to reach Taytay, an old colonial town with an old fort and
I found myself a
room and flopped down in utter exhaustion. Fortunately, there
was a restaurant on site and I ordered some soup which seemed to
do the trick. I also got some rehydration salt from the chemist
and drank as much water as I possibly could.
I stayed in Taytay
the next day as well, trying to get my strength back for the
road to El Nido. By the evening I felt a lot better and could
only hope that I would be back to normal the following day.
I visited the
historic Taytay Fort, (Fuerza de Santa Isabel) built in 1667 and
named in honour of Spain's Queen Isabela II (it was completed in
1738). The fort's small chapel and cannons are still intact.
23 - 24
November - Taytay – El Nido - 70km
Most people warned
me about this stretch of road (that it is gravel and very hilly)
and I was not particularly looking forward to it. I was,
however, pleasantly surprised that it was not as hilly as
expected, and it was only a dirt road in places. In fact, I
found most of the road to El Nido paved. Once in El Nido there
was no shortage of accommodation as it is a rather popular
place, and rightly so as well. I found a lovely place a street
or two back from the beach at a reasonable price and with very
It rained on and
off the following day so I did nothing - just hung around and
explored the tiny village of El Nido. It is famed for its diving
so I booked myself a dive drip for the following day to the
nearly islands. The trip cost 3 000 pesos and included three
dives, the boat trip to the islands, and lunch. That night I
spent some money and had food and a beer on the beach.
25 November -
We left El Nido at
around 8.30/9.00 a.m. The first dive was along a wall and as
beautiful as it was, it was nothing spectacular. I was, in fact,
quite surprised at the lack of coral and life down below. The
scenery above water was, however, rather spectacular, with
limestone pinnacles and steep cliff faces. It is so spectacular
that it is also the location of choice for a good few movies.
Our second dive
was far more interesting, with very large fish, octopus, giant
shrimp and many more. Both dives were about 55 minutes, around
25 metres with a water temperature of 28c. After the second
dive we had a lunch break at a tiny white beach with crystal
clear turquoise water…..just like in a movie!!! The time flew
by and soon it was time for our last dive - A wonderful dive
amongst large coral and other sea creatures.
Once back on the
boat the strangest thing happened - I became complete dizzy and
disorientated, with blurred vision and a strange distant
sensation. WOW, that was the weirdest thing ever!!! I drank
some water, laid down, and by the time we got ashore I was
already feeling better. How weird was that?!! All I can think
is that it was some or other balance disorder. I have had a
sinus infection for some time now and took some medication for
it just before I left, or it could be plain dehydration!
26 November -
El Nido – Coron Town, Busuanga Island
The ferry from El
Nido to Busuanga Island (Coron Town) was a lengthy seven-hour
affair. At least it was scenic and they gave us food (a small
piece of fish and a large amount of rice). The area around Coron
town is famous for its World War II wreck-diving.
In September 1944,
a fleet of Japanese ships hiding in the harbour was sunk in a
daring raid by the US Navy. The result is around ten
well-preserved underwater shipwrecks surrounded with coral reef.
There is truly not much to do but dive and watch the sun set
over Coron Bay. I found myself a room at SeaDive Resort, a large
ramshackle place with rooms, a restaurant, bar and dive shop.
The diving looked well organized so I booked myself on a three
boat dive for the following day.
- Coron Town
Our first dive was
to a very interesting and unusual spot; a lake/hot spring. The
dive, firstly, involved a boat ride, then a short swim to the
shore, after which we climbed (in full diving gear!!) over a
rocky outcrop to the lake. We entered the rather scenic lake and
after descending for about 15 metres the water temperature shot
up to a boiling 38c!!! The variation in temperature is so large
that one can see the thermoclines! We followed the wall for
about 20 minutes, and then turned around, making it a 40 minute
dive in total. Back on the boat we were given brunch for our
Our next dive was
the Olympia Maru - a WW2 Japanese shipwreck. She lies on her
starboard side at 25 metres. Like all the other Japanese ships
in the Bay it was sunk on 24 September 1944 by an US Air Attack.
The Olympia Maru was a 112 meter supply ship. We had appalling
vision but penetrated the wreck and headed through the prop
shaft and into the engine room past two huge boilers. We even
saw a crocodile fish hiding away as we passed old kaolin bricks,
used for firing up the boilers.
Our 3rd and last
dive for the day was the Tangat Wreck, a small gunboat or
submarine hunter 40 metres long. She was lying in shallow
waters, making it a good 3rd dive.
- Coron Town
It was another
3-wreck boat dive and as the wrecks were quite far out it was a
whole day affair. First up was the IJN Akitsushima, a seaplane
carrier. She is now lying on her portside at 37 metres. The ship
displaced 4724 tons, had a length of 118 meters and was 15.7
meters wide. The ship was powered by four diesel engines driving
twin props, a total of 8000 hp, giving a maximum speed of 19
armed with ten 25 mm anti-aircraft guns, four five inch guns and
carried one large Kanwanishi flying boat. She was hit near the
stern where the flying boat rested on the metal tracks and sank
immediately. The flying boat unfortunately disappeared; it is
assumed that it took off before the sinking. The crane used for
lifting the seaplane out of the water is intact. The crane is
lying on the sandy bottom and attracts large schools of fish.
One mounting of a 3-barreled AA (anti-aircraft) gun is still
present at the front of the flying boat tracks. We entered the
wreck and swam along on the inside until we reached the huge
crack that almost split the ship in half. We maneuvered through
the crack and continued on to the engine room through dark and
narrow nooks and crannies.
Then it was the
Taiei Maru, a Japanese freighter 137 meters long, lying on her
starboard side. The big cargo rooms and the engine room allowed
for easy penetration of the wreck and it was a fun dive.
Lastly it was the
Lusong Gunboat. She is lying in shallow water of between 3 – 18
metres, making it a perfect 3rd dive. The wreck is nicely
covered with hard corals and although the vision was poor we saw
plenty of fish. At least today was a fun bunch of divers and we
had loads of fun between dives. That evening we were all too
lazy to go anywhere, so we sat in the restaurant, drank beer and
SeaDive Resort is
situated in the middle of town and right on the water’s edge. It
is a rather convenient place to hang out at, and the days came
and went without me noticing. I met the nicest bunch of divers
one can imagine - they were as crazy as hell. We ate, we drank,
we dived and we laughed!! It’s always a bit sad to say goodbye
after having such a good time, as you know you will most likely
never see each other again.
1 December -
Coron – Manila - By ferry
I settled my bill,
loaded the bike, and after lots of hugs and kisses cycled the
short distance to the ferry. The ferry was late and we only
left at around 19h00 instead of at 15h30. It gave me time to
wonder around town. Coron Town was very much in the eye of the
storm and the damage from typhoon Yolanda is still clearly
2 - 7 December - Manila
It was a comfortable journey and we arrived
back in Manila at around 8h00 or 9h00. I cycled the short
distance in the heavy traffic to the Pension where I stayed
before. By 10h00 I was all settled in at Pension Navadidad.
The following day I went to Makati, a
completely different part of the city with a totally different
vibe. Makati is the heart of the financial district and
jam-packed with high-rise buildings. The area is surprisingly
orderly and clean. I applied for a Taiwanese visa and was
surprised at the large amount of people in the waiting room.
Surprisingly enough, it seems that Filipinos need a visa for
Taiwan. I patiently waited my turn and it was 13h30 by the time
I walked out of there. The visa would be ready in three days’
time so I had some time to kill. I had a haircut for 150 pesos
and while they were cutting my hair another lady gave me a
pedicure for 100 pesos (40 pesos = $1). Not bad!!
The following morning I woke at 4h00 to
paddle with the Manila Dragons. Pam, from the South African
Dragon Boat team, put me in contact with Sandy. Sandy kindly
invited me to join them in practice and what an awesome
experience it was. I knew I was going to be incredibly sore the
It was good to be back in the boat after many
years and it was equally nice to hear the familiar “Crew.……………,
are you ready? Attentiooooooooooooon! GO!!!”
I bummed around town for a few days until it
was time to collect my visa from the Taiwanese Embassy. Again it
was a lengthy process and it was after 17h00 that I finally got
out of the building. It was peak hour on a Friday in Manila City
and the traffic was bumper to bumper. It took forever to get
back to my Pension. I was finally ready to leave Manila.
8 December - Manila – San Fernando City -
It took forever to pack up but finally I left
the Pension and cycled to the waterfront where I knew the Dragon
Boat races were on. I watched for a while, cheering for my
favourite team, took a few pics, and then got on my way. It was
a Sunday morning and the traffic was much better than in the
week. It is, however, an eye-opener to see the other side of the
city. The shacks encroached onto the road and the three-lane
highway has become a two-lane road. It was fairly easy to get
out of the city (or at least that is what it felt like). If I
did go wrong I knew nothing about it, as I was blissfully
ignorant whether I was on the right road or not.
I was never quite out of the traffic and it
was a busy road all the way to San Fernando where I found a
room, got something to eat, and relaxed for the rest of the
9 December - San Fernando – Santa Juliana -
I had a relatively slow start to the day as I
was in a windowless room and only woke at around 8h00. I packed
up and stopped for breakfast just down the road at the 7-11.
The area immediately north of Manila is so
completely different from the rest of the country that I was
wondering if I was still in the same country.
Along the way I met up with Ray Cayabyab who
was cycling to his home town at San Carlos. He was doing quite
well on his old bike with a basket in the front. He had to stop
at every petrol station to pump his back tire. We chatted away
(when the traffic allowed) as he spoke quite good English.
I wanted to visit Mount Pinatubo and soon had
to wave him goodbye and turned off for Santa Juliana. Mt.
Pinatubo is a volcanic crater lake. On April 2, 1991, people
from the lower slopes of Mount Pinatubo witnessed small
explosions, followed by steam coming from the upper slopes of
the supposedly dormant volcano (the last known eruption was 600
years ago). On June 12, the first of several major explosions
took place. The eruption was so violent that shockwaves were
felt in the Visayas. A giant ash cloud rose 35 kilometres into
It was quite an interesting ride as I noticed
the kilometre marker-boards for the “Death March”. A short while
later I found the Death March Memorial site.
Santa Juliana is a rather small settlement
with just a few houses and a tourist office. They gave me all
the info and pointed me in the direction of Bognot Homestay, a
rather comfortable place run by Alvin and his wife Angie. As it
is the only place where one can stay, I soon met other
travellers and we made arrangements to go to the crater together
in the morning, as it is much cheaper that way.
10 December - Santa Juliana Mt Pinatubo
We were up shortly after 5h00, had breakfast,
and then took a walk down the road to the tourist office where
we got into a 4x4 for the hour long drive to the crater. It was
a rather bumpy and dusty ride along a riverbed. The scenery was
stark and barren with just the odd water buffalo.
Interestingly enough there are some people
living up in the hills and they look completely different to the
Filipinos in the rest of the country. They are known as the Aeta
and are indigenous people who live in scattered, isolated,
mountainous parts of Luzon, Philippines. They are thought to be
among the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines. One theory
suggests that the Aeta are the descendants of the original
inhabitants of the Philippines, who, contrary to their
sea-faring Austronesian neighbours, arrived through land bridges
that linked the country with the Asian mainland about 30,000
years ago. Unlike many of their Austronesian counterparts, the
Aetas have shown resistance to change. The attempts of the
Spaniards to settle them in reservations all throughout Spanish
We continued on until the 4x4 could go no
further and then it was an hour’s walk to the top. It was an
easy walk along a stream until we finally reached the Crater
Lake. The lake was much larger than expected; we took a few pics,
sat chatting for a while, and then retraced our steps back to
the jeep again.
By the time we got back to Santa Juliana it
was already after midday and I was too lazy to carry on, so I
stayed the night.
11 December - Santa Juliana – Camiling - 77
On my way back to the main road I stopped at
the Death March Memorial and what a depressing site it was. It
was the final stage of the tragic Death March and a
concentration camp. Thousands died and today they are remembered
by a large memorial and a wall bearing all the names of those
who died. War is such a sad thing!
The rest of the day was a nice and easy ride.
I got to Camiling around midday - it was boiling hot and there
was a cheap place to stay and, as there was no reason for me to
push on, I stayed for the night.
12/13 December - Camiling – Lucap - 88km
I knew it was not very far to the 100 Islands
National Park so I took my time in packing up. I first had
breakfast, my normal Philippine breakfast of garlic rice, a
fried egg and a Longanesa sausage. Again the road was fairly
flat and it was an enjoyable ride to where I met up with the
coast at the Lingayen Gulf. I throw a left and headed in a
westerly direction to the small village of Lucap.
Lucap is the gateway to the 100 Islands
National Park and I was keen to see what it all entailed. Once
in Lucap I found everything rather well-organized. I found a
reasonably priced room at Sweet Honey’s and this family run
place was rather welcoming, and they soon organised a boat to
take me to the islands the following day.
When I woke the following morning the boatman
was already waiting. My host had packed lunch and water (all
nicely in a cooler box) and I was ready for a full day of island
hopping. It was a stunning and very interesting day. The islands
(there are actually 123 of them) are mostly tiny,
mushroomed-shaped islands with a few shrubs. A few of them are
larger and have beaches and some even have caves. We explored a
good few of them and there was plenty of time to swim and
snorkel. The snorkelling was wonderful and there were plenty of
fish and fantastic corals to be seen. Giant clams are being
reintroduced in the area after dynamite fishing destroyed most
of them. I was a fantastic day - well worth the money I paid.
14 December - Lucap – Agoo - 111km
I backtracked the 35 kilometres to the
junction and then headed in a northerly direction along the
coast. Past small villages with interesting looking churches,
past the furniture makers and the crab sellers. Again it was
easy riding and the slight headwind did not bother me; it was a
kind of a blessing in the heat. It was a rather fishy day as I
crossed many rivers and interesting and ingenious fishing
methods. I cycled past many stalls selling clams, oysters, dried
fish, fresh fish, crabs, and just about anything that comes from
Once I reached the tiny village of Agoo with
its Basilica it looked interesting and a good place to
overnight. Finding a room was, however, more difficult than
expected. I first cycled the few kilometres to the beach but
only found one dilapidated and overpriced establishment. I
headed back to the village looking for a “Transient Room”; a
room by any other name is only for a few hours and for a
completely different purpose than what I had in mind.
I find a room for 300 pesos with a rather
nice restaurant across the road. I had a quick shower and then
headed in the direction of the restaurant, as by that time I was
starving. The waitresses, decked out in their Christmas hats,
looked wary of me and I suspect that I was their first
western-looking client. They kept their distance as they took my
order and I was very tempted to go “BHA!!!!.... (making claws
and big eyes) LOL. I refrained from any such behaviour as I was
far too hungry and was afraid that I would not see them or my
food ever again.
15 - 18 December - Agoo – San Juan - 50 km
I had a quick bite to eat down the road and
then ambled along to the tiny village of San Juan. San Juan is
known for its surfing and I was keen to take a lesson or two. At
first I cycled around looking for a room, and in the end settled
for a rather pricy room (but known as a surfing hangout and a
place where one can get surfing lessons). I found the place
rather dreary (maybe it was just the “cool surf” attitude,
looking bored and disinterested).
The next morning I moved to a cheaper and
friendlier looking place. While having a bite to eat I also
bumped into Lionel (from Coron) again. It was a pleasant
surprise to see a friendly, smiley face amongst all the other
I had the grand plan of taking the bus into
the mountains to see the rice terraces and the famous hanging
coffins. I packed up, arranged to leave my bicycle and bags at
the Inn where I was staying, and with just a small bag headed to
the bus stop. I waited and waited for the bus, got so irritated
and decided there and then to give it up and return to my room!!
The following morning I woke with a sore
throat and blocked nose. The weather came in and it was raining
and the wind howled. I stayed put in my room, took a few flu
tablets, and hoped that I would feel better the following
morning. I looked into the options of cycling north to the city
of Laoag and fly from there to Taiwan, but it did not look like
a good choice as all the flights from there appeared to be going
via Manila, making it rather expensive.
19 December - San Juan – Urdaneta City - 100
I was getting bored and was happy to be back
on the bike. I swallowed a few flu tablets and headed back in
the direction of Manila along a slightly different road. The day
was marked by slow traffic, road works and loads of dust. It was
a frustrating and dusty day, and by the time I reached Urdaneta
City I was ready to find a room. I found a good room, went
looking for food, and then spent the rest of the night watching
TV, something I have not done in a long time.
20 December - Urdaneta City – San Fernando
City - 120km
Cycling with a cold is probability not the
best thing to do but I swallowed some more flu tablets and got
back on the road. Fortunately, it was easy cycling. I passed
some rather interesting roadside stalls, some selling dried fish
and all sorts of interesting things. I even passed a place where
they were making huge statues! In the end I found myself back
in San Fernando and at the same hotel where I stayed on my way
21 December - San Fernando City – Manila - 76
The last leg of my Filipino journey in Manila
was marred by slow moving traffic and more dusty road works. I
cycled into the city and somehow found myself in the middle of
China Town, midday on the last Saturday before Christmas!! My
word, what chaos! I ducked and dived and maneuvered through the
traffic, avoiding Jeepneys and tricycles like a pro.
22 December - Manila
Back in Manila I found the city in a festive
mood. The waterfront was packed with food stalls, people
strolled and biked along the promenade, and hawkers peddled
I achieved very little in the way of
organising my trip to Taiwan, as both the bike shop and the
travel agents were closed on a Sunday. I did, however, find out
that I can upgrade my luggage to 45 kilograms for a small fee.
That was good news as flying with the bike is always an
23 December - Manila
I finally bought my ticket from Manila to
Taipei, Taiwan. I took the bike to the bike shop so they could
box it and spent the rest of the day sorting out my gear. That
evening I went down to the promenade again and I can understand
why Manila was called the “Pearl of the Orient”. It was a
stunning evening, and the sun set like a huge ball of fire, not
a drop of wind and a very agreeable 28°C.
24 December - Manila, Philippines – Taipei,
My flight was only at 10:40 p.m. so I had the
entire day to play in Manila. Actually, I did not play much but
rather did some much needed catching up on both my social and
business side of things. I went to the bike shop to pick up my
bike and had to take a Jeepney back to the Pension. LOL, what a
I went to the airport rather early as I
thought I could still have my bags wrapped but the wrapping
stall was deserted. Fortunately, there was no restriction on the
amount of bags one may load, and as I upgraded to 45 kilograms
of luggage I was not worried about being overweight. I jugged
well as my baggage came to exactly 45 kilograms. Not bad, taking
that it included the bike.