Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gumaca, Philippines

Choosing to bypass Manila by going east around the huge Laguna de Bay, I had stumbled upon the favorite riding route for Manila's cycling clan.  And it being the weekend they were out in mass, so many it almost seemed as if I was caught up in some annual sanctioned ride.  There was still a steady steam of motorized traffic on the shoulderless two-lane road, but we all cohabited harmoniously.  Legions and legions of cyclists passed me, all decked out in Lycra, most with a companion or two or in full-fledged packs, many wearing matching jerseys.  It was most heartening to be a part of this thriving throng of pedaling diehards.  I received a greeting from many, but only a couple slowed for a conversation.

"Is that a Surly you're riding?" one asked.  

"It is," I replied.

"I used to have one," he said, "But I broke the frame when I was on a tour in Germany.  It was my fault.  I took a turn too hard, hit my pedal on the pavement, and crashed.  I was thrown onto the grass and wasn't hurt, but it was the first day of the tour so I had to replace the bike."

He liked Germany enough that he is returning in April with his wife.  He was out for a 150 kilometer ride today with two of his cohorts.  Usually they only ride 100 kilometers, but they wished to ride further today to some waterfall.  I asked if they would double back on this road or if there was an alternate route back.  He said they would return the same way, but only for fifty kilometers, as their turn-around point came after 100 kilometers.  When they reached 150 for the day they would put their bikes in the support vehicle accompanying them.  

"You have someone following you?" I asked.

"Yes, that white van behind us," he replied, then added, "In the Philippines you have to be concerned about your safety."  I glanced back and yes indeed there was a white van trailing us with its blinkers on.

They were the only ones I noticed though with a support vehicle other than a young woman who was riding hard and had a guy, evidently her coach, on a motorcycle urging her on.

The road had some climbs, including a big one of nearly five miles, so when the next ascent began, the guys with the support vehicle left me behind.  I could have expended a little extra energy and stuck with them, but I would soon be done in if I did that.  As much as I was enjoying the conversation and looking forward to some cold drinks from the white van, I let them go.

A while later a rare solo rider slowed to my speed for a few words. He was wearing a Caisse d'Epargne jersey of the French bank that once sponsored a Tour de France team and is also the favored jersey of my great French friend Yvon.  "How did you know about this road?" he asked.  I told him it was just luck, not mentioning the bandana that awaited me on the road the day before and all that it signified.  He said he rode this route every day for fifty kilometers.  He'd like to do more but he had a family to support.  He marketed fish.  He said he ordinarily stopped just up the road for a coconut and invited me to join him.

After we finished the coconuts the lady we bought them from split them open with a machete so we could scoop out the juicy meat for a little extra nourishment.  No drink could have been more refreshing.

After the five mile climb the traffic thinned out considerably, both cyclists and motorized vehicles.  Basketball hoops began appearing along the road just as I had seen in the mountains on lightly trafficked roads. 

Not too many people have driveways nor do many communities have the available space for a court, so the road had to do.  This one had NBA etched into it.

Occasionally there was a little space between the road and the hoop, so the players didn't have to be so wary of traffic.

When I saw a couple adults shooting hoops, I paused to put up a few myself.

During this lull three cyclists saw my loaded bike and stopped to ask where I was going and where I was from and if they could take my picture, as others had done along the road.

One of them had just returned from a ride around Vietnam and Laos, the fellow on the left.

The woman asked if she could be a Facebook friend.  I wondered if they followed The Tour de France.  They did, but not closely enough to know about The Devil. The woman thought it was Robin Williams.  I told her that The Devil is actually a German and that my Facebook photo is of the two of us in the Pyrennes.

It had been a great, great day, so much so that I had gotten too caught up in the riding and hadn't stopped to eat and rest often enough.  Late in the afternoon I realized I had been pedaling for three hours and was beginning to wane.  There had been some potential wild camping spots amongst palm trees and the junglish terrain, but not when dark began to threaten.  I was closing in on Tayabas, but before I reached it I came upon a resort.  It advertised camping but I was told it was under construction and not available just yet.  I was fatigued and didn't much want to push on, and said any spot would be okay for my tent, but the young man tending the registration desk didn't care to oblige me.  He politely said there was another resort called Graceland a little ways further that offered camping as well.

It was a deluxe, recently opened, resort that looked too snazzy for camping but a security guard at the entrance told me there was.  I had to pass a second guard post and leave some ID with the pair of guards there.  I was afraid to ask how much it would cost, as dark was imminent and I didn't have much choice in the matter.  I didn't flinch too badly at the 400 peso charge, more than I ususlly pay for a hotel.  At least I would be perfectly safe here and it promised to be a quiet night and I didn't have a twelve-hour limit on my stay.  I wouldn't need to set my alarm and for a change could get as much sleep as my body needed.  

A guy on a motorcycle led me to the campgrounds past grand villa buildings and a lake with boats and a separate restaurant.  I had the camping space all to my self.  Another young man helped me set up my tent and provided me an electrical outlet on a long extension chord for my iPad.  The WIFI password was Memphis.  Some time that evening it occurred to me that this is a place I would have no qualms about asking for the twenty per cent senior discount that Dud and Pearl had told me about a couple of days ago and that I wasn't sure if I would ever care to use.

The next morning I returned to the registration building and told them I'd just learned from a Philippino friend that I might be entitled to a senior discount.  The two people in the office didn't quibble in the least and refunded me eighty pesos, enough to pay for my breakfast and lunch later in the day. I would have liked to have spent some of it on a halo-halo in honor of Dud and Pearl, but I didn't come upon any.  

I didn't want to make a habit of asking for the discount, but I took advantage of it again the next night when I stopped too early to feasibly pay for the twelve-hour plan, not wanting to get up at three a.m.  The three extra hours I had to pay for cost just a little bit more than the discount.  I don't know how far I will go with this.  I have a series of ferries coming up that I'll use it on, as Lonely Planet mentioned that, though nothing beyond.  Its possible its a new law passed since my edition.  

Only once have I shopped at a real supermarket.  All the others have been smaller mom-and-pop operations.  But that large corporate supermarket had a special line for seniors complete with benches so they could sit while waiting.  I didn't know about the discount then and if it was being applied there.  Food is so inexpensive, there's hardly a need for a discount, but I may give that senior line a try if I ever end up in a supermarket chain store again and see if the discount is available to seniors there as well.

I'm now headed down the southeastern arm of Luzon to Mount Mayon, a perfectly shaped volcano that is the most photographed site in the Philippines.  The traffic has been thinning and the riding becoming more and more pleasant.  I've had some cloud cover blunting the intensity of the sun and even a little rain.  Now that I'm into week three of the Philippines at the halfway point of these travels, I don't want this trip to end.


Dud said...

G'Day George. We (Dud & Pearl) are now home in Canberra missing the people and food (and morning buko juice) but not the inevitable resulting over eating. Nice to read that you are still enjoying your ride. Our niece, Bianca, will take a bus with her friends to Baler this weekend. Best wishes.

Skippy mc carthy said...

G'day ALL ,
Whilst you are galivanting aroundf the Philippines , i am in Wintery Austria . Normally i would expect to be Ski Touring , but since 1st Jan i have ridden every day , with in excess of 4000Km so far .

With it being " winter " i rarely see other Cyclists in shorts / Summer Wear . But with in excess of 12C most days the only time i need a wind jacket is when the mountains get in the way of the sun .

Traffic on the other hand seems to be annoyed to find a cyclist on the roads ! Those interested to have some Placard reminding of the 1 1)2M should visit ^ https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vision-ZERO-Worldwide/540123632761709

Leave a * LIKE * and tell zour friends !

When the Philippine Disaster happened i had thought that ALL the Bike Shops around Tacloban would be destroyed , had hoped to find a waz to send Bike Spare Parts to some Org. for distribution , but nothing seemed to be available at Both Ends , to ensure a viable supplz line .

Enjoy the remaining time , i expect to go to the Tirreno/Adriatico in the next weeks .


Skippy mc carthy said...

Computer plazing up and so @is the exclamation and z is the y !