Wednesday, February 6, 2013


(This post below by Bryce)

     We found a nice place to stay on Saud beach, a picturesque crescent white sand beach dotted with hotels of various value. We de-booted, unpacked our bikes and went to the restaurant downstairs where we experienced the least impressive meal yet. That night we got on the bikes and cruised a road that parallels the beach in search of some socializing and cold beers. We found the latter, and learned that night life here is yet to be developed. As we pulled into our hotel area that night I met a local girl who wouldn't let me go without agreeing to hangout the next day. We made a plan to meet on the town basketball court at 4.

      The next morning there were beautiful head high waves curling into the  bay with a slight offshore breeze and not a single person out. Pumped up, I rather frantically searched for a board to rent or borrow at the hotel/restaurants along the beach. Much to my surprise, given the perfect waves, i was repeatedly informed that boards were not rented anywhere on Saud beach. So we ate some squid, pork and rice and watched the waves roll in.

      With the surf bug itching hard, CJ and I rode 20km north to Blue Lagoon where we were told there were boards for rent and  even better waves. When we got there the smaller bay was blown out with white caps all over and smaller choppy waves. We went out for an hour anyway and caught a few  mushy waves, but the setting was so pleasant it was still a joy. This South China Sea is by far the warmest I've experienced, there is not even the slightest of chills when getting in or out.

     Back in Saud beach Chris and CJ rode into some nearby mountains and I walked down the road to meet up with Gema, the girl who invited me to dinner the evening prior. She lives in a small dirt floor shack made of palm frauns, mud, wood scraps and some sheet metal. The kitchen, parent, and kids room are separated by hanging blankets. I spent some time there meeting aunts, uncles siblings and community members as she tried to translate with her limited english. It was a little awkward because it felt like she was showing me off, when I showed up on foot she made me go back and bring my motorcycle (which is a very nice machine for these parts) to park it in front of her house like a status symbol.

     She climbed on the back of the bike and we rode to see her best friend in the next town where we trecked around harvesting wild ferns, ginger and a fruit that i've never seen before high out of trees with a saw on a pole.

      We said our goodbyes, took some pictures and headed back to her house to eat. On the ride back I saw Chris and CJ come out of a trail head from their ride, right onto the road in front of us. I pulled up next to them and we had a good laugh about the coincidence.

     Back at the homestead, her mother had prepared a table for two with rice, seaweed, and some other unidentifiable greens. Mom watched over my shoulder as we ate, making comments that I didn't understand throughout. 

      Around this time I attempted to excuse myself to bed, motioning with my head in hands like a pillow but it was not happening. We rode into the town and got empanadas at her aunts street food stand that were delicious and ate them on the beach.
       After walking Gema back to her house, her mother insisted on walking me home with her big wood stick to beat off any dogs that bark or snap at me, it was comforting and a very sweet notion. Such kindness from the people here is what has impressed me more than anything in the Philippines. They are always looking to help however they can, often dropping their task at hand or changing their day to assist us. 

(This post below by Chris)

     While Bryce was off on his local experience CJ and I had our own little adventure. I had scouted some trails earlier that I wanted to check out so we headed for the hills. The trail which was just a cow path wound through a green grassy field that ended at the bottom of a very large and steep mountain. The top looked like a great place to watch the sunset so we tried to find a way up.

       I thought I could see a trail on the far side but there was defiantly no trail to get to it just a large overgrown patch of tall grass and shrubs. I think I can make it through so I pound it 1st gear through head high grass not being able to see where I'm going. As the bike goes over the very tall grass it lifts the front tire off the ground so you felt like you were in a wheelie the whole time. Went as far as the bike would go until it came to a dead stop and I fell over. CJ got a running start and plowed past me and made it through leaving me a trail to follow.

      Once out of that death trap we headed further through the field which was littered in large rocks hidden under the grass. CJ took a unlucky line and hit a rock head on which stop him dead in his tracks and he almost went over the front and fell sideways pinning his knee between a rock and his bike. I rushed over to help him get the bike off him and saw how bad it could of been. His knee was being hyper extended between the weight of the bike and rock, he was hurt but not bad.

     The mountain we were trying to get up kept getting worse and worse so we gave up on that plan and rode the trail towards the ocean where we found some awesome deserted beaches and great dirt trails and roads.

      We found a perfect exploration road that went through unreal lush green rice fields surrounded by palm trees and jungle mountains. With dusk approaching it was truly a magical serene scene complete with rainbows and wild animals running around. Was like something out of a national geographic nature show but even better in real life.The pictures don't do it justice.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vigan To Pagudpud (La Paz Sand Dunes)

     We had spent two days in Vigan and were ready to hit the beach again so off we went north along the coastal road. I had read about some massive sand dunes we would be passing through which was a must do for us. The directions were vauge at first but after a couple hours on the road we found them.
      As we pulled up over the hill where you could first see the ocean and seemingly endless dunes the wind started blowing at about 50mph and we were now in the middle of a full on sand storm. Large grains of sand pelted us in the face like little missiles but we did not care as we were just excited to be there and see this new landscape.

     We aired down our tires for better flotation and slipped and slid through the sand. We came to a large hill, Bryce hit it first trying to get enough speed. As he neared the top he went into a wheelie and then did a full 180 and was now facing back down the hill. It looked like he meant to do it but he most defiantly did not.

    Once at the top we were greeted with an amazing view of the ocean and surrounding dunes. The beach and dunes literally went as far as you could see.

    As we explored more I noticed I had got a flat front tire!  This is not a welcome sight way out here. Hopefully it is just a leak so I try to pump it back up.

   The tire seems to be holding air so back into the dunes we go, once you get away from the ocean the sand gets extremely soft and deep. Our poor bikes are kept at redline just trying to gain ground.

   You really need a more powerful bike for this kind of riding so we decide to head back and get the tires properly fixed before we are really stranded out here. Find a little vulcanizing shack back towards town and through semi successful body language get the tire off and the guy goes to work on the tube. What they do here for flats is melt another piece of rubber over the hole in the tube with pressure and a small oil fire over the tube in this strange contraption. I have never seen anything like this and was skeptical at first but it worked great!

    With the bikes back in business northward we went to Pagudpud. As we neared our destination the terrain changed drastically from arid desert to lush and tropical, I felt like I was in Hawaii again.

We arrived right at sunset and this beach is incredible! White sand, clear water and completely empty.

Friday, January 25, 2013


      We had heard there was a festival going on in the city of Vigan which is a old colonial town with a lot of Spanish influence. Set our sights north and took off. Its hard for me to ride and not constantly be looking at every dirt road and trail we pass and not wonder what cool things they might lead to. I see my opportunity and guide the rest of the group down a narrow road going through farms and small villages. Getting off the beaten path and not knowing what you are going to find is the best feeling in the world for me.
     The trail gets smaller and smaller until we come to a foot bridge That goes across a river and shrimp farm that looks like it leads to the ocean. This if definitely not a bridge for vehicles but I think we can make it across so I walk part of it first. The boards creak and stresses with just my body weight but I'm to excited to see where it leads to not try! I go first and I feel confident but in the back of my mind I'm preparing to have the bike fall through a broken board. I make it across and give Bryce and CJ the go ahead to come across.

      We climb a sandy hill and are now overlooking a enormous beach even larger than the first we rode on. Off we go riding along the shoreline just knowing we are going in the right general direction. Locals out fishing the shores wave and smile as we ride by and even lift up ropes going across the beach that secure the boats for us to go under.
      We come to a large river crossing and ride up the river a bit to see if we can find a place to cross but it is much to deep. We then notice the waves are breaking very far out to sea and there must be a sand bar that goes across. Without much hesitation I start riding directly into the ocean which is a strange feeling. Sure enough there is a relatively shallow sand bar that connects to the other side of the river. I take the lead knowing the water could get really deep at any moment so am on high alert. We make it across in about motor level high water and all have huge smiles on our faces when we reach the shore again.

     Ride about another 2 miles down the beach and come to another river crossing. I take off my boots and walk across but this one is much to deep to cross. We try to find another bridge up the river but it turns into a impassable mud swamp. End up finding a trail off the beach heading east and take it into another dirt village. We eventually find our way back to the main road and get all the sand and dried salt washed off our bikes from a cool guy on the side of the road. Full wash and detail for $2!

      Further towards Vigan we cross a bridge going over the largest river I have seen yet. There is a dirt road zig zigging along the river that we take which leads to this awesome view!

      As we enter old town Vigan the streets are made of cobblestone and delapatated buildings from the 1500's line the streets. Very interesting town with a lot of history. We find a nice old hotel built in the 1700's with a lot of charm and ambiance. A big festival is going on tonight but first we get on one of the horse drawn carriage's and have a nice tour of the city and its old churches and Spanish architecture.

San Juan

     With CJ being cleared as all good to go by the doctor it was time to hit the road again to our next destination which was San Juan. San Juan is known as the best surfing in this country and we were excited to check it out. On the ride up we passed many beautiful beaches and country scenery but once we reached San Juan we saw what all the hype was about. As we rode down a dirt road we came to San Juan bay and saw a bunch of people out surfing and enjoying the day.

      The scene here reminded me of small surfing towns in Costa Rica, it was a nice spot. We got a room on the beach and CJ and Bryce went out surfing and played some volleyball. I like this place!

Tandaligan Beach (CJ goes to hospital)

     The next morning CJ was still not feeling to good so we decided it was best to take him to the hospital and make sure he was alright. Bryce went with him while I stayed behind to fix the bike. I ended up having to run all over town trying to find the right tools for the job but got the bike all fixed up by the time the boys got back later in the day.
        He ended up getting a CT scan to check for any brain hemorrhaging but the results would not be ready till later in the evening so we just kicked it at the beach and put finishing touches on the bike repairs.

     When 6pm rolled around Bryce and CJ went back to the hospital, I'll let Bryce tell that story.

     To our relief he was cleared with no brain damage but I'm glad we checked as riding a motorcycle is not exactly smooth sailing on your body. Plus he gets this cool souvenir of his skull!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dagupan (Day of Disaster)

     Up at the crack of dawn to load up the bikes and we backtrack the way we came the other day to go around the bay and north up the coast. About 2 hours in I see a trail off the road that looks like it leads to the beach so we take a sharp left down the sandy trail. This was our first time off road on the trip so it felt really good. As we reached the beach I looked out and the sand went as far as you could see in either direction, it was huge!

      CJ took off in front and we had a ton of fun riding through the water and exploring the beach with no idea where we were going.

      CJ was going much faster than us and just as I started to get worried he was pushing the limit to hard his front tire dug into a soft spot and he flipped end over end in a huge explosion of sand at full speed 4th gear. It was very scary to watch and I was sure he would be hurt. I ran over to him where he was sitting next to his bike with a shocked look on his face.

      He got up and did and initial body check to make sure all his parts were there. He seemed to be OK but had hit his head pretty hard and his adrenaline was pumping at maximum capacity. I was very relived he seemed alright, the bike on the other hand was thrashed. The headlight and taillight were both broke and the front brake lever and master cylinder were ripped off the bike.

      Like a trusty Honda the bike started right back up and we rode slowly this time down the beach to a small shack to further assess the damage. As we were looking over CJ and the bike a local lady came up to us and asked if we wanted some food and water. She cooked us up an amazing whole fish with rice which was delicious. As the shock from the accident subsided I looked around and realized we were in absolute paradise! Some young kids came up to us acting giddy and excited and we hung out with them for a while playing around the bikes. They saw all our moto gear which I'm sure they had not seen before and started trying it on, we got some great pictures with them.

      Ok now we have some damage control to do, we need to find a new master cylinder which is not going to be easy. We ride into town and start asking around for a Honda dealership. Eventually we are pointed to a moto shop in the city proper which we end up finding and they have all the parts we need in stock, its a miracle!

     Its getting late in the day so we get a room down by the beach with a incredibly friendly woman who runs the place. We head down to the water to watch the sunset and get some dinner which was really good. Since the accident CJ has been acting kind of  spacing out and his personality just seems off which are symptoms of a concussion. This really concerns me as he hit his head during the crash so we need to keep a close eye on him.

100 Islands

     I chartered a boat for 10am to take us out to the islands and things got interesting quickly. The boat was hand made from scrap wood and had an extremely loud motor which sounded like it was from a 1920 ford model T with no muffler. As we are nearing the first small island which looked absolutely beautiful there was a loud bang and the motor came to a stop. Uh oh that is not good. The captain surveyed the damage and found the motor mounts (which was a old tire) had broke and the motor fell to the bottom of the boat breaking the driveshaft, we were dead in the water with no other boats around or form of communication. Oh well we got a cooler full of beer and its a beautiful day out. We crack some beers and then jump in the water and swim the boat into shore.

      Another boat ends up coming along later and tows us about 10 minutes to another larger island where they tell us to wait there and they will be back with a new boat.

      This island had giant clams off the shore I had heard of so we jumped in with the snorkels. I was surprised with how big they were. I'm not sure if these are only indigenous to Philippines but they were huge, about 4 feet across and all sorts of neon colors. If you touched the sides they would snap closed very quickly which got me thinking that if you got your hand or foot caught in there you would probably drown!

     We walked to the top of the island up a steep trail which gave way to a incredible view over the islands, it was truly picture perfect in every way, wow what an awesome place in the world this is.

      The boat came back and took us all around the small islands which seemed to have just popped up out of nowhere and were scattered randomly. We stopped on another picturesque beach and climbed up the side which led to a huge underground cave that went into the ocean. It looked a lot like the cenotes in the Yucatan of Mexico but sea water instead of fresh. We jumped in about 10 feet off the rock and swam through the cave into the ocean.

After a few more stops we headed back to the mainland and ended the day with a massage. Great day!

it begins....

      After many months of patiently waiting for this trip to happen I hopped on a plane mid afternoon in Honolulu with Chris Johnson (now known as CJ) and had a nice but very long 11 hour flight to Manila, Philippines. When we arrived I got my 60 day visa which ran about 70USD since I planned to see all the places I missed on my last trip to SE Asia.
      We were staying at a new hostel called Pink Manila which turned out to be very hard to find for our cab driver. When we arrived I was impressed at how nice it was. This was a old penthouse of someone very wealthy that they had turned into a hostel. There was a pool, bar and great view of Metro Manila. We quickly made friends with the others staying there as well as met up with Bryce, Zev and Ali who had all flown in from different parts of California.
     I was very jet lagged from the 16 hour time change so made it a early night.


      Everyone was up early the next morning and we walked into the city with no idea where we were going. Ended up in a little barrio street with all the locals starting their days working on projects, carting supplies and cooking food. Our group of 5 Californians was quite a scene here and everyone stopped what they were doing to say good morning and stare as we passed. The genuine smiles and curiosity of the locals was great.

        Stopped at a little food stand in a alleyway and ordered whatever it was they were cooking, I did not really know what it was but it looked good. The cook woman invited us into her house and she served us a huge meal at their dining table while the rest of the family smiled and laughed and took pictures of us. I take it they had never had foreigners over as we were in a place you would never normally come.

      The woman's son spoke good English and offered to take us on a walk around the city to show us his home sector. We gladly accepted and walked about 3 miles through little alleyways and across chaotic intersections. The level of poverty in some of the areas is horrible but everyone is still smiling like they are millionaires. That's what enticed me to come back to the Philippines again is its amazing local people and their positive and content outlook on life.

Angeles City

     We had a very late night out on the town with the other hostel folk so was not up till almost noon today. Our reservations to pick up the dirt bikes was the next day and we needed to get up to Angeles City about 80km north to pick them up. Hopped in a taxi that was going to take us to the bus station but after negotiating with the driver we ended up just paying a bit extra to drive us all the way there.
     Angeles City is known as the sketchy sex tourism capital of the Philippines and it lived up to its name. We had to see what all the hype was about so we took a walk down the main street which was also the red light district. Brightly lit neon clubs lined the street as far as you could see with hundreds of scantily clad girls constantly yelling and grabbing at you to come inside. We cruised around for a while until it got to hectic and headed back to our hotel to get ready for the long day of riding ahead of us.

Picking Up The Bikes (the moment of truth)

      Up early today and packed up all our gear with what we were bringing on the motorcycles and what we would leave at the shop and walked to the bikes. I was quite apprehensive about what the condition of the bikes would be but was pleasantly surprised to see rather new and in good shape Honda XR200s.
      I had reserved these bike about 4 months prior and was constantly emailed them to say we really needed the bikes in good shape and with good dirt tires as we were going to be riding about 1500km on and off road and the last thing you want is a breakdown in a foreign country. Guess the message got across :)

     Packed up the bikes with our wolfman moto luggage and waterproof bags and set off north with the destination of 100 islands about 150km away.

     Traffic was instantly insane and there seem to be no rules at all on the road, no stop signs or lights at massive intersections you just have to go for it and avoid everyone else as they try to avoid you. It was rather intimidating but we quickly got the hang of it and soon were driving just like the locals. You have to be very aggressive yet also defensive, its a fine line that could easily end in disaster but somehow just works!
      Now mind you we did not have a good map so were basically just heading the direction we thought we need to go and ended up way off course. I learned that when you ask for directions you have to ask 3 different people to get a correct answer. The locals are so polite they would never just say they don't know but rather would point in any random direction. You learn to read their face to know if they are guessing or actually know where to go.

      Everywhere we stopped we were instant celebrities. An XR200 in this country is like a Ferrari and is the top of line motorcycle here so when you mix that with 3 tall white guys its quite a spectacle for everyone. People are constantly cheering, yelling, waving and staring as we ride by like the circus is coming through town, its rather fun.
      Back on track we headed through rice fields, small villages and more crazy cities until we reached Alaminos which is the staging area to get out to 100 islands on a boat. Arrived in this small coastal village and found a hotel room by the water that was sweet with a pool and everything. Riding in the intense heat and constantly trying to stay alive on the road really takes it out of you. We hit the pool to clean off all the excess dirt, smog and grime off of us and the met up with my friend Connor whom I had met in Nicaragua 4 years ago. We happened to be in the same place this evening so we hung out and caught up over beers, it was great to see him again. The world is a small place if you chose to explore it.