Laguna to Legaspi Trip

Bicol at Last!

(Article came out on March 2011 edition of Weekend Warrior Magazine)

This is our Laguna to Legaspi trip. A story of 3 weekend warriors who stepped out further from their weekend sorties and decided to bike from Laguna to Bicol in 4 days.

We were actually not real hard core riders, just wannabes; though we were into cycling outside of our juvenile biking since 2001. But more than cycling we were into adventure and exploration so it was natural for us to progress into long distance touring.

A few years back, I and Dindo were talking about cycling the entire Philippines in some undetermined future. That was really a proposition without any commitments as the most challenging part in doing this is time, which both of us doesn’t have the luxury of at this point in our life. But the plan was still in the back of our minds so every opportunity to do a portion of our future route is something we grabbed on. We joined the Tour of Hope last March doing the Manila to Baguio ride and then on we decided to continue at least doing a segment once or twice a year and maybe once confident enough, then do our Bike Philippines Project. For this coming All Saints day break, we decided to do the Manila to Bicol route. We posted the plan with other friends early on but as the day came close, only the three of us confirmed the ride. It was Dindo Narciso, me and another lady friend Deonitta Cas.

We decided to start our Bicol ride from Pagsanjan Laguna as we do not want to start in the busy, congested and polluted streets of Manila and the best route going to Quezon would be the Pagsanjan to Lukban route though it would entail a climb to Lukban.

Day 1

Unloading at Pagsanjan Parish Grounds

We left Manila at around 4:00 AM. We arrived at Pagsanjan at around 6:00 AM. We had our breakfast at Pagsanjan and at around 7 am, after biding goodbye to our service car, off we went to start our adventure. We already did the Pagsanjan to Lukban route about a year ago so the terrain was a bit familiar. It was really challenging and for us then; with newbies in tow, it took us half a day to reach Lukban. This time, we reached Lukban at around 9AM (a 30km of uphill climb). The route passed by Cavinti and Luisiana Laguna, dubbed as the little Baguio of Laguna, before reaching the popular

My Ride

tourist town of Lukban. Too early for lunch, we decided to just have a quick brake then proceed immediately towards Tayabas. Anyways, we already had our Lukban Longganisa at Pagsanjan so no need to taste the treat. From Lukban, we passed by Tayabas, then Lucena, then Pagbilao and it was in Pagbilao when we first felt the stress of our ride from legs to buttocks. Deo chanced upon a father and son tandem who were biking for a day from Liliw Laguna to Tagkawayan in Quezon for the All Saints Day traditions. They accompanied Deo up to

Gumaca Sea Scape

our designated re-group point and rest stop. After Pagbilao, it was then to Atimonan and taking the Quezon National Park route where the fabled “bitukang manok” is situated when; we were demoralized to see the steepness of the climb. It was not actually a long one but how it present itself gives you the shock and awe. We scaled the hills one stroke at a time, heads bowed down, until we finished the entire route. But this second mountain pass already took a toll at us. We were already tired after leaving the park and it was still about 70 kms to go. We had our lunch by 1:45 pm at Atimonan, around 90km along the way and then we proceeded to Plaridel. Riding the sea side roads of Plaridel, Gumaca and Lopez was refreshing but that was not able to take away the feeling of tiredness after a hundred kilometer ride. It was already dawn by the time we reached Calauag at 5:48 pm. We checked in at Villa Lin El Inn. Overall we biked a total of 145 kms from Pagsanjan to Calauag to cap off our day 1.

DAY 2

View from our Balcony

We woke up early and by 7:30 am and after taking our breakfast, we started our ride. The weather was cool, cloudy and pleasant, a wonderful day for riding. We took the Quirino Hi-way on our way to Camarines Sur. Though it was not a mountain climb, the numerous ups and downs on the hilly route were actually more challenging than the mountains of the first day. If we add up those hills, it may come out as steeper and higher. The towns are also sparsely located so in this 90 km stretch of Quirino Hi-way, we passed only 3 towns- Tagkawayan, Del Galliego and Ragay before reaching Sipocot. We decided to have our lunch at Tagkawayan, at a restaurant within the Petron gas station. It was around 11 am, exactly 50 km from our start at Calauag. We tried the Bicol Express, though technically we were still in Quezon. There was a short drizzle

Tagkawayan Grind

while we were having lunch and it stopped by the time we started our ride so the weather up to this point was still pretty much cooperative. Counting the kilometer markers in Quirino Hi-way is heart breaking as the towns are far apart. I must have been dreaming when I declared to Dindo and Deo that after Ragay, it’s all downhill. Though it was actually more on the downhill side, the terrain was still pretty much the same. I stopped at a store 2 km

Pleasant Ride

before the junction at Sipocot for a re-group and I was glad I did as the resort we about to stay was actually a few meters back track from that store. We reached Sipocot by 4:30 pm, a total of 118 km (6hrs ride time). We stayed at Villa Esperanza, the only lodging in the place. But based on our experience in terms of cleanliness and service, we would rather bike another 30 km than stay in this place. The challenge with this segment is that Quirino Hi-way is a hundred plus kilometers. From Sipocot, the next town is still 35+ kilometers and it’s also not as urban as Sipocot (Pamplona). The next best place is Naga which is another 40+ km. It’s actually doable but really challenging and for mortals like us- Sipocot is our only option. We spent the night at the store where we re-grouped as they have better meal offers than the resort and beers were also available.

Day 3

Rainy Start of the Day

We left Sipocot at around 8:15 AM. It was a little bit late due to lack of sleep from the noise from Villa Esperanza’s karaoke machine which was up until 2 in the morning. It was raining hard this day so we wore our rain gears. Since the route for day three is the shortest at around 44 km, we were thinking of extending further to Iriga thus equalizing the distances between this day and the last day. We rode from Sipocot to Naga and arrived there at around 10:30 am. We looked for Biggs fast food outlet, to try something different while in Bicol. After the lunch we passed by some errands- ATM machine to replenish the beer money and a trip to a bike shop to fix Dindo’s rack. Then we decided to go to Iriga while considering ending the day at Pili. If we felt like resting in Pili, then we will stay at Pili

At CWC

than Iriga which according to locals is still 30 to 40 kms down to Legaspi. When we arrived at Pili, we decided to look at CWC since Dindo and I haven’t been there. While we were inside, we were enchanted by the place especially the cabins that seems really cozy. We met Jun De Leon, the famous photographer who covered our Tour of Hope ride earlier this year, wakeboarding in CWC. He further convinced us to stay at CWC. So for day three, the total ride was only 57 kms. We spend the rest of the day discovering CWC, drinking and a short visit to SM Naga to buy food, supplies and beer.

The next day, we found out that Iriga was not really that far. But still, considering the accommodations at CWC, we felt it was still better to stay at CWC.

Day 4

Local Power Bars

After a good nights’ rest and a packed breakfast from last night’s dinner, we left CWC at around 7 am. It was still raining so we still wore our rain gear. But this time, we decided to leave our packs at CWC and just asked the car that will fetch us later in the day to pick it up on its way to Legaspi. It was a classic example of “desperate times brings out the creativity within a person.” All of us were already tired with muscles aching. Our first stop was at Nabua passing by Bato and

Approaching Mayon at Camiling

Iriga. The weather improved from hereon so we removed our suffocating rain gears. Mayon Volcano became visible from Libong so the more we got excited. From Libong, the towns were near each other except Polangui which has the longest stretch in this leg. Jollibee stores were also already present in these small towns so it was another visible counter for us. From Libong to Oas to Ligao City, we had a couple of picture taking stops whenever we see wonderful views of Mayon. Then in Guinobatan and Camaling, grades become steeper and since we were already tired, it was painful doing those segments. Head winds were also strong thus adding the challenge. I was really struggling this fourth day and I found out the next day after going home that the disc brake locked up thus the wheel was not

Mayon Saudi Shot!

free spinning. We decided to go straight to Cagsawa ruins to have our lunch so we arrived there at around 11:30 am. After several pictures we proceeded to Legaspi where we looked for a motel to freshen up and wait for our service car. After the car arrived, we decided to celebrate the ride at Gerry’s Grill Embarkadero, with beer in one hand and the refreshing sea breeze and Mayon’s shadow on one end. We headed home the same day arriving Manila at around 2 AM. With ego’s satisfied- we wanted more. We have also officially christened out team, “the drunken bikers.” GPS data and other information at my Everytrail site (everytrail.com). Just search using related key words.

Victory Party and Welcome Drinks!

OK one last picture shot:

Sorry guys, this is not Dindo and me- It’s Hans Rey and Brian Lopes when they visited Mayon Volcano. (Photo by Bill Freeman)

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