Palawan

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Rene Ybardolaza, Jun 23, 2008.

  1. Rene Ybardolaza

    Rene Ybardolaza Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Southern California
    Its been a while since I've posted a ride report so here goes. This one happened a few months ago and the it is in the island of Palawan, which is located is the Philippines.

    Below is a Wikipedia description of Palawan.

    Palawan is an island province of the Philippines located in the Southern Tagalog region. Its capital is Puerto Princesa City and it is the largest province in terms of land area. The islands of Palawan stretch from Mindoro to Borneo in the southwest. It lies between the South China Sea in the northwest and Sulu Sea in the southeast. The province is named after its largest island, Palawan Island.

    Palawan, the only Philippine island cited, is rated by National Geographic Traveler magazine as the best island destination in East and Southeast Asia region in 2007, and the 13th best island in the world having "incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes. One of the most biodiverse (terrestrial and marine) islands in the Philippines...The island has had a Biosphere Reserve status since early 1990s, showing local interest for conservation and sustainable development".

    To get there, I took a little boat ride. The WG&A Superferry is the looooong way to go, taking 28 hours from Manila to Puerto Princesa.
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    Up the stairs we go. I was diverted to the lower section where one of the crew grabbed my bag and led me to my room. Never having been in one of these, the accommodations are quite nice. A separate dining area greets me as we open the door. In another room, there’s a bedroom with a queen size bed and a separate bathroom with a shower is included. There also a small television with stations. The room is air-conditioned. The only minor tit is the continuous play of the Super Ferry jingle through the ceiling speaker. I hope they turn that off when its time to sleep or else, I’ll be singing that tune for the rest of the week.

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    I keep an eye on the Africa Twin as it sits with its smaller siblings waiting to be loaded inside the bowels of the ferry.

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    #1
  2. Rene Ybardolaza

    Rene Ybardolaza Adventurer

    Joined:
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    The ferry left Manila around 5pm and offered us a great view of the city as the ship head south.

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    I might not look excited about the trip, but I really am..... really!

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    Watching people go about their business is another form of entertainment.

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    #2
  3. Rene Ybardolaza

    Rene Ybardolaza Adventurer

    Joined:
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    I walked around the ship and found several classes of accommodations, in addition to the cabin and stateroom. The top covered deck is the Red section with bunk beds and vinyl covered pads where it's open and fresh sea air is the source of cooling. This is similar to the Ro-Ros (Roll On, Roll Off) I rode back in 2005 when I went to island hopping to Mindanao.

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    Below the Red section are the Cabins and Staterooms. The Orange section is one floor down and the difference between Orange and Red is the air conditioned environment.

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    The tourist section is in the same level as the Orange. The sleeping areas in this section are more compartmentalized, giving extra privacy between passengers. Fortunately, there is no hammock section. I guess I’ll have to find another ship for those.

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    #3
  4. Rene Ybardolaza

    Rene Ybardolaza Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Saturday

    At 6 am, a big piece of land fills my window. I rush up the deck and the little town of Coron greets the passengers of the USS Minow. Gilligan!!! Houses on stilts line the coast. Some are literally on the water. Boats are parked in front of houses similar to cars parked in front of garages with the land bound counterparts.

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    We picked up more passengers. The trip is halfway over. For the rest of the day, this is what most passengers did.

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    Looking at sights like this.

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    While the crew did their best to keep the ferry afloat.

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    Around 8pm, the ferry finally arrives at Puerto Princesa. What a welcome sight to see the lights of the city. After an hour of brain damage dealing with port authorities, I am at one with my Africa Twin and we find refuge at a local hotel.

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    #4
  5. Josh69

    Josh69 Uhhh

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    Nice report so far - I've been to the Philippines several times, so good to see a trip report from there :lurk
    #5
  6. Rene Ybardolaza

    Rene Ybardolaza Adventurer

    Joined:
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    The next day, I head north to check out the underground river of Sabang. Halfway there, the road turns into dirt.

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    I have to hire a boat to reach the mouth of the underground river or walk about an hour over the monkey trail. These guys clowning around for the camera will do it for 700 pesos ($15) per boat.

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    Twenty minutes later, we are there.

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    At the jump off point are shacks. The natives don’t mind the visitors walking around their area. These natives are five foot long lizards called "Bayawak" and monkeys who are too busy looking for a tasty morsel to eat than pay attention to tourists. As long as it’s not my toes they are looking to munch. One of the guides reads the anxiety on my face and he reassures me that they are harmless so I get close to one of the lizards to take a frontal picture.

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    I got assigned to a group of Chinese tourists from Hong Kong and we all jumped into this boat that will take us to the underground river. The green helmet and orange life jacket is the fashion statement for the day. According to the boatman, the helmet is to protect the hanging rocks in case we bump our heads against it.

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    This is the mouth of the underground river.

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    The underground river is over 8 kilometers long, snaking deep into the mountains, but we are only allowed to go 2.5 kilometers inside. I take the front of the boat and turned on the car battery operated light as we enter the mouth of the underwater river. Inside is pure darkness. We turned the light off for a brief moment and there is nothing to see. Duh! A sense of claustrophobia takes over me. Quickly I switch the light back on. Whew! If this battery fails, we might be stuck here for the next month or so. Rock formation inside depicts different images. There’s a roman candle. A nativity scene. Hull of a ship. A shark.

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    Bats are the constant companion here, but they are asleep. They hang in every nook and cranny of the ceiling. “Look up but keep your mouth closed,” says out boatman. “That stuff dripping from the ceiling is not always water". Given the darkness of the cave, I wonder how the bats can tell when it is nighttime outside, the time when they go out to look for food. The chief bat probably has an alarm clock that goes off at 6 p.m. He yells at the rest of the bats to wake them up and off they go to the local insect buffet. Swallows also inhabits the caves. They chirp as they maneuver through the darkness, using sound to bounce off rock walls.

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    We paddle along for over two kilometers inside the cave. There are six more to go, but this is as far as we go so we turn around. The tour inside the underground river took nearly an hour. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is not a figure of speech here, but a welcome reality.

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    #6
  7. Rene Ybardolaza

    Rene Ybardolaza Adventurer

    Joined:
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    I left the capital city of Puerto Princesa two days later and headed north to Fort Barton. The road north to Roxas is a beautiful piece of work. There are ocean vistas to the right and mountains to the left. In between are small towns full of people to watch. The road is empty of vehicles most of the time. I noticed that most don’t use their horns here. Nobody gets upset. They are just more laid back than city folks. Nice.

    Rode past the Fort Barton exit and half a kilometer later, I realize what I thought I read and turned back to take the exit. This road has no pretensions, it is dirt road from the start.

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    I ask a group of young students how far is it to Fort Barton. Approximately 14 kilometers. Trying to get a better estimation of road conditions, I ask how long will it take to ride a tricycle there? “Sir, no tricycles can make it there.” Uh oh! Do I hear alarm bells ringing inside my head?

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    Soon, I'm up to my axels in mud.

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    We all know what happens next.

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    #7
  8. GB

    GB . Administrator Super Moderator Super Supporter

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    The Africa Twin working hard in the Philippines!! Thanks for showing us your part of the world :thumb

    :lurk
    #8
  9. aztec06

    aztec06 mono loco

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    for sure! beautiful people. beautiful place
    #9
  10. Rene Ybardolaza

    Rene Ybardolaza Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Fortunately, a father and son on a bike came along and helped me get the bike unstuck. I thought I would have to spend the night with my bike in the middle of the jungle.

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    At Fort Barton, I find out what the fuss is all about. Check out the glass smooth bay and relaxing view from the back of Summer Homes, where a room can be had for 450 pesos ($10).

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    The rooms are clean and the staff are courteous and beautiful. They even allowed me to park my muddy pig inside the fence. The first thing to do was wash off the mud. A quick shower and the rider is refreshed again. A short nap and I’m re-energized. I meet the proprietor, Dick who is an Englishman married to a Filipina. He says he spends four months (English winter months) out of the year here.

    While doing computer work in the garden overlooking the bay, I meet several people. Catherine is in a bikini sunbathing next to me. She is from Germany. She wonders if I’m doing work while on vacation. Just typing a travelogue, I tell her. As we talk, she mindlessly kept pulling her short towel up and down her legs and I find myself getting distracted. Next comes Basil. He is walking up and down the beach looking for a place he can afford. Basil is a New Yorker whose job is to drive horse drawn carriages around Central Park. A very interesting character. He has been to every nook and cranny on this face of the earth. Dean is resting on the hammock and he joins Basil and I for some conversation when the subject moved on to motorcycles. He is from Vancouver, Canada. He has tattoos up and down his arm and more hiding under his shirt. He rented a 200R in Puerto for 170 pesos. Smart.

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    Surprisingly, there are Europeans and Americans everywhere, walking around in backpacks, hanging off jeepneys, eating pancakes at local restaurants.

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    Below is Walther. He is German and married to a Filipina. He has lived here for over 20 years and he speaks fluent Tagalog, the local tongue. I spent the evening to enjoy dinner at his place.

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    #10
  11. Rene Ybardolaza

    Rene Ybardolaza Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Sleeping last night was a little tough. The neighborhood dogs decided to have a gang fight outside and the resulting chaos was a lot of snarling, howling barking and biting. The consistent crashing of the waves to the shore made up for the dogs.

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    At the hotel, the bags are packed and loaded on the AT. Just when I was about to leave, one of the staff runs up to me and hands me my money belt and some pocket change I left in the drawer. I could not thank her enough for such honesty. Dick, you have an excellent staff and a great operation.

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    Its the same way out as the same way in. Fortunately, one day of no rain helps dry out the muddy road.

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    Another day, another destination - El Nido.

    Along the way, I see all kinds of interesting sights. Below is one man's definition of a castle.

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    Soon, I’m in the city of Roxas. A gas stop always creates an opportunity to meet people who are interested in knowing what I’m doing, where I’m going and what I’m riding. People guess the size of the Honda… four hundred, five hundred. When I tell them that it’s a 750, they gasp in disbelief. Size is relative, of course. In the U.S. where engines over 1000 is common, a 750 is no longer considered large. The owner of the station tells me that the road to Taytay is dirt. How far? He is not sure, but he thinks it is about two hours. Most assume the big bike can do it faster than most. Not always, especially if the going is rough when small is better than big.

    Past Roxas, the beautiful ribbon of cement turns to dirt. Something to appreciate is the amount of work being done to the infrastructure. Bridges are being upgraded or built, cement is poured – thick ones that would last more than a dozen rainy seasons. Potholes (on dirt roads) are filed and rough roads are being graded. It is good to see the government spending money on infrastructure that will help develop the island in the long run.

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    #11
  12. Ridesolo

    Ridesolo cereal lurker

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    Pre, thanks for posting and showing the beauty of Palawan. :thumb:wings
    #12
  13. dorkpunch

    dorkpunch Oops...

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    Masarap daw ang bayawak... totoo ba? Maganda din ang motor ninyo! Kailangan natin ng mga litrato pa! (grabe... my tagalog sucks now... :cry )
    #13
  14. Rene Ybardolaza

    Rene Ybardolaza Adventurer

    Joined:
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    El Nido

    When I reached Taytay, the road pointed to the left for El Nido and right to enter the city of Taytay. I went left. It might sound like an oxymoron, but the dirt road to El Nido is smooth. I see 60-70 on the speedometer most of the time with clouds of dust billowing up behind me like a small storm.

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    This dust cloud is a real risk when opposing traffic, like a bus, turns my vision to near zero, preventing any way of seeing what’s following the bus, if any. All I can do is slow down to a crawl and move farthest to the right until the dust settles. Sometimes, I take the turn a little on the fast side and the rear tire steps out and tries to get ahead of the front.

    An hour north of Taytay, I see the towering profiles of limestone rocks that tell me I’m getting close to El Nido. In town, I find a new hotel called El Nido Beach Hotel. They just opened this month. This hotel is right on the beach. Ocean waves crashing to the shore is a pleasing sound I can sleep with. The price is 3,000 pesos per night, cash or credit card plus 5%. The owners are Koreans. Work is still ongoing in some parts of the hotel. I check out my room and the plastic strips covering the air conditioner are still in place.

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    After a shower, the electricity went out at 4 p.m. Dondie, the young man who checked me in said the power is turned off from 4 to 6 pm. I walk to the center of town to eat an early dinner. My meal routine while riding has been breakfast, no lunch and an early dinner. Adobo chicken and rice for 120 pesos at the corner restaurant fills me up. I walk around town to enjoy the simple life. There’s a full court game of basketball going on in a covered court across the school. Most of the guys are playing barefoot on smooth cement.

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    A fish vendor is selling the catch of the day at the corner of the street. Small boys walk in pairs with a basket yelling “Balut” (Duck Eggs) on top of their lungs. I check out a bike rental place and they have Honda 200Rs for 1,000 pesos per day and XRMs for 700. Why so much in comparison to Puerto? The roads here are rougher so the bikes take more punishment. I spot a CRF450 in the corner. That’s not for hire. It’s the owner’s personal bike.

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    Western tourists can be seen walking around the area enjoying the sights and sounds of El Nido. Most look guarded, never making eye contact or cracking a smile. The locals seem oblivious or used to it. Bought a pair of flipflops from a local merchant whose name is also Rene. He is originally from Manila. He tells me that there are millions of pesos hidden inside those towering hills. The first thought that comes to me is another Japanese hidden treasure legend. Rene snaps me out of the thought by saying, “Birds Nest.” He says local climbers scale the steep limestone rocks in search of bird’s nest.

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    They are paid a few hundred pesos per kilo by middle men who in turn sell it to Manila for thousands. Rene tells me that there are lots of western tourists coming in lately. They are getting smarter, he says, staying at bargain basement accommodations instead of the pricey haunts. Some even start their own local businesses. How do they get around the regulation that prevents foreign ownership? “They find ways as long as money is involved, they will find ways,” Rene said. He further reinforces that statement by reminding me that I’m staying at a Korean owned establishment.

    Internet at the hotel is in Korean. Interesting. Even the keyboard has Korean characters. I find my way around by clicking on familiar locations. The Korean General Manager is very friendly, Mr. Won. There two other Koreans on site, both are owners busily directing the local staff with the finishing touches of the construction to the building. The TV in my room only shows three channels – BBC, a Korean only Channel and HBO. Dondie and Ching, the local staff, are there to make my stay as pleasant as possible.

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    Wednesday

    The staff asks me if I want to take a boat tour and do some island hopping. Not this time. The treat for me is dirt, more dirt riding. After breakfast, I went to the local gas station to see if there is water where I can wash the mud off the bike. No water. Strange, what kind of gas station is there with no water? Dondie offered to take me to his home where there is water. After getting permission from the General Manager he hops on the back of the bike and we ride up the hill a kilometer away. There we find a low pressure hose that adequately scrubbed 10 pounds worth of dirt from the bike. Met Dondie’s father who told me, as mud falls off the bike, that the high content of silica in the dirt is very tough on vehicles here in Palawan. Where do they get their water? Rain and river water are collected in a tank which is shared by the neighborhood. Lately, water has been scarce due to lack of rainfall.

    Back in the hotel, I checked the bike’s chain and found a lot of slack. To the center stand it goes and the adjustment is done in less than five minutes. Simple and effective engineering is very much appreciated especially in the middle of nowhere.

    Still, I gathered up my tool kit in preparation for the ride north. It always pays to be prepared. The road out to town is cement. Four kilometers later and a few feet past the Lio Airport, the road turns to dirt again. What I want to do this morning is explore the northern part of the peninsula. A few kilometers later, I stopped to take some pictures and made a conscious effort to recheck the chain. The darn thing is tight as a guitar string. What felt like the right slack when the bike is on the center stand is not the same when the bike is on its side stand. Another five minutes spent on adjustment and it is back to the ideal slack.

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    The dirt road up Pasadena and Barutuan is easy to ride. I got off the beaten track and visited a small village called Bucana. There I met a group of 1st year high school students digging dirt on the side of the road. These 13 year olds reminded me of myself when I left the Philippines for the United States. They are a little bit shy especially the girls when asked for a picture. The boys are more game. I wanted to see Duli Beach but the road is steep and deeply rutted by water runoff, a bad combination for a heavy bike to negotiate.

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    Instead, I went back to the main road and pursued my goal of going around the peninsula. Spectacular views can be had on the tip of the island as I near the town of San Fernando. The road begins to deteriorate as I make my trip south. Large, loose chunks of fist size rocks play havoc on traction. The bike dances up and down, side to side, with the finesse of a 500 pound ballerina. The CRF450 or XR650R at home will be a better tool here. The road is also narrower, single track. Along the way, population is scarce. Small villages can be found but their names are not on the map. I encountered only three vehicles along the way. I turn left at New Ibahay. Going straight would have taken me down to Mabini then Taytay. Crossing the peninsula back to El Nido took less than half an hour. Along the way, I encountered a rider in full-motocross gear blasting from the opposite direction on a Honda CRF450. It must be the American who owned the bike rental in El Nido. Now, I’m really envious.

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    Living in America, I see chicken and pork only when they are ready to eat. Here in Palawan, they take on a different image.

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    Along the way, I wave to the young and old. With the full-face helmet and enduro jacket on, most assumed that I’m white so some would yell back “Hey” or “Joe”. The informal greeting changes when I sometimes stop and remove the helmet and they realize that it’s a Filipino on the bike. Two and a half hours later, I’m back in town, tired and hungry. Art Café is one of the places that come highly recommended by Lonely Planet. I ordered garlic rice and Lapu-Lapu. Not so good this time. The rice was sticky and tasteless and the Lapu-lapu was also bland. The guy seated next to me ordered Pizza and it looked good. He confirms it also. His name is Steve, from Miami, Florida. This former Peace Corp volunteer is on vacation from his teaching job in China. We spent the rest the afternoon talking and sharing ideas.

    Back at the hotel, I parked myself outside to do some computer work. The view is never tiring and watching people walk by is entertainment in itself. A familiar face came along asking Ching, the front desk lady, for the price. It is Basil, the horse carriage operator from Central Park. We shook hands like long lost friends. When he heard the price, it is time for him to keep looking for a better deal. We agreed to meet later at Art Café for dinner.

    At the Art Café I listened to a singer playing a guitar with a deep soothing voice. A couple of Englishmen sat next to me on the counter. Like Steve, the American teaching English in China, these two are also English teachers teaching in Istanbul. There must be an English teachers’ convention happening in town. There is wireless here. I do my internet through the IPhone while listening to the beautiful music. Basil stopped by and invited me to join him for a game of pool somewhere in town. He doesn’t remember the name but he assures me that it’s easy to find. No such luck.
    #14
  15. Fustercluck

    Fustercluck Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Asheville, NC/ Muntinlupa City, Philippines
    Awesome report and pics. I haven't made it to Palawan yet but plan to one of these days soon. I love it there, great people and country.
    #15
  16. Pigsticker

    Pigsticker 94LC80 Bundoker

    Joined:
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    Rene,
    Nice pics. Been lurking forever and am glad to see more reports from the Philippines popping up now and again. I'm a good ol boy from N ATL,GA since '71, via Butuan City, Mindanao. Know what you mean about the buses with visibility and dust. Spent a lot of time riding the Davao City, CDO, Butuan City triangle when most of the mtn roads weren't paved. Crazy bus drivers would drift all wheels on the dirt roads in the mountains. Before they are periodically graded, the corners would have these nice berms you can rail on from the dirt and gravel the buses pushed up. When it rains, the mud kind of reminded me of GA clay, felt like home. Those where good times during the three years I spent there in the early 90s. If you have the chance you should check out the riding around the base of Mt Apo and the Bukidnon region. Nice break from the heat.


    Fustercluck, see you are in Asheville. Planning on riding from Cherokee on the BRP to Asheville next month. Is 151 open all the way from BRP to 23?

    Thanks,
    CAS
    #16
  17. Rene Ybardolaza

    Rene Ybardolaza Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Your Tagalog sounds great to me. Yes, that Bayawak tastes like chicken! :lol3
    #17
  18. Rene Ybardolaza

    Rene Ybardolaza Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Southern California
    Thanks Josh89. I'm also enjoying your Vietnam report. Keep it coming.
    #18
  19. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

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    Good job Rene, very interesting and beautiful pictures. Never been to Palawan, neither to any of the islands. I've been wanting to buy a property there and plan to spend some time there as well. I grew up in Metro Mla but lives in CA for the last 25 yrs.

    Have you met Butch Chase, ex moto x champion, there? He owns a restaurant in Puerto Princesa? and was featured on the Food Network?

    How did you get the Africa Q there? Is that locally plated?

    Anyway, continue on with your report...and more pix please.

    When you return to LA, send me a PM, same thing applies to all Fil FFs.

    Joel
    #19
  20. Rene Ybardolaza

    Rene Ybardolaza Adventurer

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Southern California
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    I woke up as soon as I felt the air conditioner power off. El Nido's Barangay turns off the electricity at 6am. Packed the bags and by 7:11, I am back on the road. It seems like the return trips are always shorter mentally so I took it slow. Slow means getting passed by other vehicles, churning up chocking dust storms. Slow means getting to appreciate the sights without spending full concentration on the road that can easily bite you in a form of a pothole or loose gravel. In an hour and a half, I was meandering my way through the town of Taytay. This town used to be the capital of Palawan. At the end of town is a beautiful prize.

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    A 300+ year old Spanish fort made of rock, Fuerza De Santa Isabel. According to the brochure provided by the caretaker, the Spanish built the fort to defend itself from the invading Moros from the south. These Moro pirates from Sulu “hide from the mask of piracy to fight the spread of Spanish colonization and the growth of Christianity. The Spanish occupation was also a threat to the long standing trade relationship among the Moros, Chinese, Malaysians and the local inhabitants.” Some things just never change. Religion and commerce always get in the way to peaceful co-existence.

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    Continuing on…… “From 1730 to 1739 Datu Bigotillo and 3,800 Moro pirates were sent by Maulana-Diafar Sabiesa, the Sultan of Jolo to take over the Fortress of Taytay. The fort was a colossal obstacle in their piratical forays.

    The Fort is roughly quadrilateral with bastions and garitas at the corners. Each bastion is named after San Toribio, Sta. Isabel, San Juan and San Manuel. The fort was molded and wrought out of the contour of a solid rock, it is a magnificent edifice that stands as a lasting symbol of a rich historical heritage.

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    Don Geronimom Sundillon was the first hero of Taytay. During the 21 day siege posted by the Moro pirates in 1739, Sundillon was captured. The pirates asked him to point the secret passage of the fort, but instead, exposed the pirates to the fort sentries, thus curtailing their plan of a surprised attack. Bigotillo, thinking he was betrayed by Sundillon, commanded his me to torture him. He died as a martyr and saved the local inhabitants and the Spanish people from further aggression.

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    During the siege of the Moro pirates, the legend of Santa Monica, the patron saint, dressed in white garment, her identity unknown, advised them to boil water and fat extracted from the slaughtered cows and carabaos. It was poured down on the scaling pirates causing the walls to be slippery and scalding the marauders as well. It sent the attackers to their surrender. They re-embarked and sail back to Jolo, never to bother the Taytayanos.”

    While touring the fort, I asked the woman cutting the front lawn for advice on where I can stay. She points up and down. There are two competing places where one can stay. For a better view, I chose the lodging on top of the hill. Casa Rosa it is. Getting there is the challenge. On a big Africa Twin, it was quite a handful trying to negotiate up the narrow walkway to reach the site. But it was well worth it. A small cottage is priced at 900 pesos ($20).

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    From this vantage point, I get to see down below.

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    These two are also enjoying the view.

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    Near the fort, this architectural nightmare competes for attention in the center of town.

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    In search of an internet cafe, I wandered all over town and met some interest folks.

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    After a shower and a lunch of rice and garlic shrimp, I hopped back on the bike for more exploration. I went further south and found a sign pointing to Lake Danao, only three kilometers from the main road. I asked the man at a nearby hut for advice. How good/bad is the road? He says four wheel vehicles can make it there and my bike should be able to do it as well. This road is different from the others I’ve seen so far. The surface quality is better than the mud pits to Fort Barton, but it is used very little by vehicles. Leaves and vegetation covered most of the surface and a single track used by foot traffic is the best path for me to follow.

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    There is thick, lush and impassable jungle on both sides of the road. I imagine that no one will find me here if I ran into problems. There is one small water crossing. As I negotiate my way through this road, the jungle opens up to a little village in the middle of a small valley. The folks there were just as surprised to see me as I am to see them, but they wave to me with a smile.... always a good sign. Only a month ago, while preparing for the trip, I read in the news that a group of military personnel was ambushed and killed by local insurgents in this town.

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    Further down, the road continues to deteriorate until there is no place to go but the water. Next to the road is a small house where a couple of fishermen are cleaning the morning’s catch. A fat cat is there to enjoy the mess. A woman is washing clothes as she keeps an eye on a small child playing near the water. The fishermen assure me that there is no more road to follow. There’s another village on the other side of the lake, but one can only get there by boat. I bid the men goodbye, but as I try to make a u-turn, I lost momentum and traction and the bike falls gently to the ground. Picking the beast up is not easy. One of the fishermen came to my rescue.

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    Back in Taytay, I encounter a couple of riders who I hope will graduate to the motorized version when they get older.

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    When night falls, there is really not much to do in a small provincial town like Taytay. The internet becomes a place of refuge and entertainment. Thanks to satellite link.

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    Back at Casa Rosa, as I get ready for my nightly bout with the computer, I sprayed mosquito repellent all over my exposed skin and the wet greasy feeling spreads all over me. As I close the wooden blinds to minimize the noise from the town below, a three inch long flying cockroach comes in to say hello. He lands on the mosquito net where I gave him a quick flick back out of the window. There is a lot of racket going on outside. The bugs are in full choir tonight. There is not much to do but sleep and relax. As enjoyable as it may sound, too much of this good thing can get boring quickly.

    Power went out unexpectedly for an hour. When the lights came back on, I got to see some of the critters that came in to share my little cottage. I didn’t know I had arachnophobia until I saw a spider the size of a small hand scamper from the wall and to the bottom of my bed. No amount of bug spray or banging of the broom can convince him to come out and face me man-to-spider. I guess I’ll have to depend on the false security of my mosquito net to keep these critters at bay. I just hope nothing bigger and slithery comes in uninvited later on.

    As I lay in bed, listening to nature outside, I think about what life of comfort can do to a person. I look back twenty odd years ago when I served in the U.S. Army.... sleeping in the jungle, hearing the same sound, was another life and another man.
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