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.