25 October 2013

CYCLING THE PHILIPPINES - NEGROS



5 October - Moalboal – San Carlos, Negros- 60km

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 cheesecake!

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 me.
That evening the bike shop phoned to say they were still working on the bike and I could pick it up the following day.

10 OcktoberBacolod –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 sugarcane.

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 polite.


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 world!

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 Hills.
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- 57 km

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 ferry

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- 92 km

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.

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