Just like any sequel, this one promises to be bigger. Yes, bigger- new cast members, more drinks, more parties- wilder parties, new exotic locations, more van and tricycle rides plus new modes of transportation- boat and motorcycle; and more parcels sent. But wait! There’s more!- more skin shown…by Lea. The budget for making this possible has been doubled from the first one, though I don’t think we were happy with that one.
But on the more important matter- it has lesser bike rides! So instead of calling this the “Palawan Bike Ride with Side Tours”, it was decided to call this the reverse- “Palawan Tour with Bike Ride in the Sidelines”- to be politically correct about it. It could not have earned a place in this blog but on my blog, any kind of bike ride would do so bear with me. If we have space for bike-lamon and papogi rides, then we can accommodate this one.
Returning riders – Dindo Narciso, Lea Latayan, Jon Lloyd and myself- were also upgraded- heavier and of course a year older. Though that description does not fall under the “new and improved” category. We were like veterans called from semi-retirement to face new challenges; a noble way of saying- we haven’t been riding for a while or candidly- we were out of shape! This was the main reason why there were lesser rides this time.
The same crew who did the Palawan 1.0 were joined by two crazier people- Ichay Bulaong, a riding buddy of Dindo in Coron which seems more of a drinking buddy and JP Cunada, a new MMS recruit to cross-over MMS Bikers with all the expectations on riding with the older members whom he might not be aware of- were on their cycling menopausal stage. So I wonder what bike-life lessons he can pick-up from “The Indispensables” of MMS Bikers. As supporting casts, the team was joined by Ann Cortes and Kenneth Ang who went there to assist them in the ensuing party at El Nido. Yeah Right.
When we did Palawan a year ago- we were enticed by the other parts unknown. It was at the back of our heads or hearts to someday go back and explore those remaining blank patches on our explorer’s map. In less than a year and after not having any planned bike tour somewhere else, we decided to give Palawan a second look. A sequel. This time we will be concentrating on the Northern Territories as the Aussies would say. We will also be concentrating on the western side particularly Sabang, Port Barton and San Vicente and then redeem ourselves by riding what we have left off from last year- the Taytay to El Nido segment. Our initial plan would be to ride Sabang from Puerto Princesa at 36 KMS, then Sabang to Port Barton at 155 KMS and then from Port Barton to Taytay for another 119 KMS and then from Taytay to El Nido at 75 KMS. We made this rough plan based on Google Maps and later we will find out that using Google Maps is inaccurate as it has weird reference points. So besides the term GMT (Google Mo Tanga), there should also be a term- GAT (Google Ang Tanga).
Going back to the route- the plan was still ambitious for our state of fitness with a total of 385 KMS. But in the back of our heads- these plans were as fluid as water and bailouts were openly discussed this time. No worries.
When the plan was first laid out to our FB group, it seemed nobody was interested. I personally confirmed with Dindo since we had been biking before even if it was only the two of us so if he and I are confirmed then it will happen. The FB post is only a formality in our group and if somebody will join from there, then that would be great. JP confirmed earlier on. A week before the ride, Jon contacted me and then Lea contacted Dindo so were now 5. Then Ichay also confirmed with Dindo so there will be 6 joining the ride. We initially pegged the last week of October but I forgot I had tickets to the Sagada Music and Arts Fair happening that weekend so we moved it to the first weekend after November 1. We were still targeting the holidays of the All Saint’s Day week so it was then set to November 1 to 8.
Day 1 Nov 1. WED
Because Ichay’s flight from Coron was diverted, we ended up riding the same flight coming from Manila. With the convenience of FB Messenger, we were already updating each one on the day we were traveling to Puerto Princesa. We all met at the Airport and while waiting for our flight, we had some few drinks at the airport (in the tradition of the first article, I will keep a tab so- Drinks 1, Ride 0). In our flight, the Cebu Pacific promotional game was about millennial hashtags- so I guess it will either be a boring or a learning experience for most of them (as in THEM…not me). After we arrived at the new Puerto Princesa Airport and being handed with a few days to expire Maxx Chewing Gum, we looked for our van ride to Sabang. Yes, we have decided to ride a van to Sabang since it was already too late for a bike ride. We also found out, and by Lea’s insistence that Puerto Princesa to Sabang was actually 70+ Kms and not 36 Kms only. I just remembered the same error from last year that if you search for Puerto Princesa in Google Maps, for strange reasons, it shows the intersection of the road to Sabang, 30+ km away from the Provincial Capitol which was supposed to be the kilometer zero when you type Puerto Princesa.
If we did ride this section, we could have been cursing one another at the middle of a dark forest, tired, hungry and afraid. Dindo was concerned of hiring just one van for the 6 bikes and 6 persons, but we were able to fit all in one van by having the two bikes with cases as top load. From our route, we searched for a store to have some drinks while traveling to Sabang (Drinks 2, Ride 0). After we arrived at Sabang, we have asked the driver to take the two bike cases to their terminal at Puerto Princesa for our pick-up on our last day while the rest of our stuff to be delivered to El Nido. Yes, we have learned the power of the van courier service in Palawan and their graciousness to store your stuff for a given time. But the quick sorting was a stressful exercise as if you were given a few seconds to separate the lambs from the goat. We checked in to our hotel- Dayunan Tourist Inn, not to be confused with the more expensive Daluyon Beach Resort. We then had our late dinner at Tara Resto-Bar and again had our drinks there (Drinks 3, Ride 0). We then continued our session at the hotel lobby (Drink 4, Ride 0) and after emptying the bottle, we called it the night but we will later find out, two members of the team sneaked out for a few more drinks with the locals at Tara.
Day 2 Nov 2. THU
We started early with a breakfast at Tara (No Mr X, solo drinking does not count on our tally) and then prepared for the impending Under Ground River Tour. Being inducted as one of the new 7 wonders of the world, doing this trip is a must for whatever reason that would be. We waited for our tour guide and after she arrived, she introduced herself as Mona- the namesake of Dindo’s wife. We were told that all river tours were canceled the day before due to bad weather so there was more tourist doing the tour that day. The underground river was an interesting natural phenomenon. Only 3 kilometers of the mapped 8 kilometers system can be ridden by boat while the tour is only about 2 kilometers in length. After finishing the trip and partaking in the included buffet meals less the Tamilok, our next concern was taking the boat from Sabang to Port Barton. The bad weather was a concern but apparently, today was a good day to ride the boat for such a long trip.
We decided to ride a boat because the map seems to show that it’s reasonable and closer to do a boat ride than bike a total of 155 kilometers to Port Barton. But we will find out later that it’s actually cheaper and maybe faster to just take a van from Sabang to Port Barton. We have also got confused that Port Barton is near San Vicente. That is another story- the rough roads from Port Barton to San Vicente is only about 30 kilometers of rough and muddy roads that are not passable by vehicles that time. The usual route from Port Barton to San Vicente is by going back to the main HI way- a whopping 100+ kilometers apart. We have also booked our accommodation at San Vicente so we ended up deciding to ride the boat to San Vicente instead of Port Barton. These confusion and others were actually things that made this trip more exciting and gives the feeling of exploration so overall- all’s well that ends well and these made the trip more memorable.
However, as I have said, even the trip from Sabang to San Vicente should have been done via Van. It was a long 5-hour boat trip with an unmuffled motorboat that breaks your eardrum and with the rough waves, it was actually uncomfortable. But the sights especially upon entering the Port-Barton-San Vicente Cove makes you forget that earlier suffering. Prior to leaving the port, when we were just a few meters offshore, we told the captain we forgot to buy some drinks so he immediately gave the life vest to the lowest ranking crew and asked him to swim ashore and buy our drinks. He was then seen returning to the boat with one hand with some snacks and the other with a bottle of Emperador. We were a bit guilty of that episode but was also amazed and appreciative of the star crew.
As I have said, it was a long and difficult boat ride. We tried doing everything from sleeping to listening to our iPods and eating but what nobody dared to is to drink the Emperador that the crew painstakingly acquired. The rough waves were enough to give us our dose of “tama.” We arrived at San Vicente a little before dawn. We rode our bikes to our Hotel at San Vicente, interestingly named- Peace and Love Hotel. I was holding the bottle of Emperador in my right hand and my small bag for my bike shoes to my left when suddenly, that bag went inside the front wheel making me go flying over my handlebar. My knees were bruised and aching but I composed myself immediately since there were bystanders looking- dyahe. My knees actually ached the entire trip from thereon and up to this day that I was writing this article. The owner of the hotel was a European named Steve. He was accommodating and had given us useful information for our days ahead. It was advertised that they had the best pizza in town (as if there were others) so we had our pizza dinner (and of course- drinks 5, ride 0) and over dinner, we have decided to cut our days in San Vicente and just ride our way to Taytay the next day. That would give us an extra day in El Nido and ample time to travel back to Puerto Princesa on our last day. So everyone was excited about our first ride on our third day of the trip. As usual, it comes to excuses in terms of performance the next day. JP as the newbie to these talks had no excuse so we asked him to create one. That night before bed, I went to the reception to ask for some betadine for my bruises. After treating my wounds, I went to bed as JP was left in the Veranda beside 3 European women who were loudly talking about what nationalities they had sex with.
Day 3 Nov 3. FRI
Everyone was tense but excited for the first ride. After our breakfast, we packed our things and we have asked Peace and Love to send some of our stuff, including the Emperador to El Nido to further lighten up our loads. After the customary group picture, we rode to Long Beach to check the place out- a 14 kilometer stretch of beach that made San Vicente famous. Then we started our ride to Taytay.
Our total ride will be 66 kilometers. The first 20 kilometers was flat with some muddy sections. Then when we started the hills. I struggled on the climbs and from being in the lead during the flats, I then went to the last. We reached the intersection of the main hi-way which will then be the same route we already rode last year. Our concern from there was the two big hills, one, we named- Jon’s Hill or the Fall of Australia, which was the spot where Jon gave up last year. Passing by those hills, Jon redeemed himself and I was again on the tail as I was struggling with the heat, my breathing, and my knee injury. After a quick rest along the roadside, we continuedly crawled towards the end of the day’s route.
We then arrived the Taytay AUV terminal where we had our lunch last year and we also had our lunch there. One of the sales girls insisted that I was Efren “Bata” Reyes. It was not really a compliment for me. After lunch, we went to the Hotel Steve from Peace and Love suggested- Casa Rosa. But they no longer have aircon rooms so we asked for referrals and ended up at Promise Keeper’s Suite. So from Peace and Love then Promise Keepers- cool names! The view from Casa Rosa was awesome with the view of the cove and of Port Isabel so we decided to have our dinner and drinks at Casa Rosa (drinks 6, ride 1). Earlier we tried going to Port Isabel but we arrived past 5 PM so it was already closed. Some blamed the Friday flag ceremony where we were stopped to pay respect but it was actually due to going out too late in the afternoon. Port Isabel was actually an interesting place with an interesting historical background. I will not write about it here but I suggest you look at it at Wikipedia.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel and negotiated for them to prepare breakfast for us. Lea was concerned of the second-day distance and hills but I think it was easier. It so happened that Jon recorded our van ride from last year from Taytay to El Nido and we found out that it was half of the hills from the previous ride (our first ride had about 1000 meters elevation gain while this one has around 500 meters only). It was also only about 60 km in total distance.
Day 4 Nov 4 SAT
We woke up early to avoid the same heat of the day we encountered the previous day. But we were delayed by one hour after waiting for the early morning rain to lighten up. We started our ride with a very light drizzle. After leaving town, the first marker says its 58 kilometers to El Nido so I was happy. Also since we already know the hills profile from Jon’s Strava record, we were already anticipating the hills. From my end, I feel better this day as if my old form came back so I did well this section. So old riders without training only need a day to shake off the rust from the armor. We were lucky having some sections with the misty cool environment but had about 3 dog chase encounters. We had a quick break at the midpoint and after around 3+ hours, I was surprised to saw Marimegmeg.
I was expecting a long climb to Marimegmeg but it was not as expected. We waited for the rest of the team to arrive to get our team photo at the “Welcome El Nido” sign. We then searched for our Hotel which Ann booked- Sophia’s Beach Guest House.
Our stuff from Taytay was already there. Our stuff from Sabang was on the terminal for pick-up while the one from San Vicente took a long route via Puerto Princesa and got delayed for a day. After freshening up, we went to the town proper to have our lunch (drinks 7, ride 2). We then returned back to the hotel for a siesta. We converged that afternoon to visit Marimegmeg beach (drinks 8, ride 2). There was this Moon Party happening at the beach but being old people we are, we left before the party started. We went back to town and had some few more drinks (drinks 9, ride 2). We then parted ways while some continued partying the night away.
Day 5 Nov 5 SUN
Since this is a free day, everyone was encouraged to do what suits them. For Jon and JP, being newbies to the El Nido Islands, they went off to join their island tours. For the rest, we decided to rent a motorcycle to explore the Kayawyaw Falls south of El Nido then Lio to the north. The last time I rode a motorcycle was in 1999. I was a bit tense if I still have it. Lea was also a newbie but knowing Lea- she is more liberal in terms of experiencing new stuff- even risky endeavors. Ken was also the same. Ann decided to try her luck but the rentals denied her as she was obviously a newbie the company may get sued later on if ever they let her handle a motorcycle. So she ended up a broke-back rider. Kayawyaw Falls was 32+ km south so my first ride after a long time would be 70+ km in total. Kayawyaw was a big and impressive waterfall. But since I have seen a lot of waterfall in my life, it was not really that big a deal for me. It was just a checklist that needs to be done. Going back to El Nido, I was more relaxed and of course slower partly because my hands were already aching being tense as a newbie in handling the motorbike.
At El Nido, we decided to proceed to Lio, the ambitious resort facility by Ayala near the El Nido Airport. The facilities were impressive and there were several “Manila-grade” bars. We went to Manille Bar since Ichay knew the bartender. We later found out the bartender was a former contestant on Pinoy Got Talent. We had good foods and great drinks (drinks 10, ride 2). And before alcohol would make it dangerous to ride our bikes, we left to return our bikes to the rentals. We went back to our hotel to freshen up and then returned town, this time with Jon and JP for our last night of parties. We started at Pukka Bar (drinks 11, ride 2) where we met Ichays daughter who was now residing at El Nido. We then transferred to another bar near Arts Café and finally finished off our night at Sava (drinks 13, ride 2).
DAY 6 NOV 6, MON
We left El Nido at around 6 AM for our trip back to Manila. Everyone was there when we were leaving as if we were OFWs on our way to Saudi. Well, I guess- bike riding and drinking bonds people. In the words of Ichay- our bunch were drinkers with bike problems- see drinks 13, ride 2. I got the feeling this will not be the last of it.
By the way, I had the Emperador back home in Manila safe and sound.