Detailed Trip Planing
With bike preparation well underway, thanks to Martin (Herc) Gino in Manila, it was time for the more detailed planning of our trip.
Note: Since purchasing our bikes, a motorcycle rental business (Nice Bike) for touring foreigners has opened in Angeles, north of Manila. Their bikes range from scooters up to Suzuki DR750's. Prices are very reasonable at under USD30 per day (August 2005). The only downside is no insurance is available, if you break or loose it, you pay for it.
To assist with this trip planning, a summary of the proposed trip was first posted on the Motorcycle Philippines forum. Replies from the forum assisted in refining the plan.
When planning anything in the Philippines, you must remember that everything happens at "Filipino" pace. If you expect that something will take half a day, plan on it taking full day.
The first thing we needed to know was the distances to be covered. For this, I purchased a Hema map of the Philippines (scale 1:1,750,000). This map was quite up-to-date, however some of the distances printed on the map were nowhere near accurate.
Fortunately, I have an old road map of the Philippines (by an unknown publisher) that I salvaged from one of my earlier trips to the Philippines. This map was not very up-to-date, however the distances shown where very detailed and reasonably accurate.
Combining information from the two maps provided a reasonably good approximation of the distances we would need to travel.
Long-distances buses in the Philippines generally average about 50kph. We decided to also make this speed our average touring speed in determining time frames.
Another thing to consider are the ferry (RoRo) crossings between islands. Although these trips generally only take a few hours, it is best to allow a full day per crossing. This allows for loading and unloading the bikes, and the paperwork at each end. Two of the longer crossings will be between Mindanoa to Negros and Panay to Mindoro. Hopefully both of these crossing can be made at night, giving us more time to explore on land.
Philippines Tour Map
LUZON (6 – 7 days)
The first day of our tour will be to get out of Manila and ride north to Lucap, just outside of Alaminos, the gateway to Hundred Islands Nation Park. There are two routs to Lucap, inland through Talac (240km) or via the west coast of Luzon through Iba (330km). Either of these routs is doable in a day. Which one we take, will be decided upon after we get out of Manila.
After Manila, Hundred Islands NP should provide a welcome respite to get our thoughts together for the rest of our tour. This will be our first and only scheduled overnight stop on the tour. All future overnight stops will be decided upon as we go.
From Lucap, we will ride north through Baguio to Bontoc. The road from Baguio to Bontoc takes us over the highest road in the Philippines at 2,255m. From Bontoc we head south again taking in the famous 2,000-year-old rice terraces before heading back towards Manila via San Jose.
We don't intend to actually return into Manila, more to skirt around it via Marikina before heading south along the eastern shore of Laguna de Bay. We should then join up with the main highway into southern Luzon at Lucena. Making our way south to Matnog may include a side trip along the way to the active Mayon volcano.
Estimated distance on the island f Luzon is 1,700km.
SAMAR & LEYTE (3 – 4 days)
From Matnog, we catch our first RoRo to Allen (1 hour) on the island of Samar. These RoRo's depart Matnog at 0600, 0700, 1000, 1300 & 1400 hrs (Nov. 2005). We will then be travelling down the west coast of Samar to the 2km long bridge that joins Samar with island of Leyte.
Travelling through Leyte, we will make our way to Liloan to catch the RoRo from Liloan to Surigao. There is only a passenger service from Maasin to Surigao, no RoRo.
Estimated distance on the islands of Samar and Leyte is 450km.
MINDANAO (3 – 4 days)
From Maasin, we will catch the RoRo across to Surigao (6 hours) on the northeastern tip of the island of Mindanao. Mindanao is unfortunately noted for its political unrest, particularly kidnappings, murders and armed resistance to government forces. Most of this unrest occurs in the southern parts of the island. Our tour takes us along the (hopefully safer) northern coast of the island to Dapitan.
Estimated distance on the island of Mindanao is 700km.
NEGROS (3 – 4 days)
From Dapitan, we will catch the RoRo across to Dumaguete (4 hours) on the southeastern tip of the island of Negros. There are three alternative routs to take through Negros to Bacolod, our port of departure. One is north along the eastern coast, through Silay to Bacolod. The second (and shortest) is north along the east coast to Tabon, crossing the island through Canlaon to the west coast and then north again to Bacolod. The third rout is around the southern coast of the island and then north along the west coast to Bacolod.
The month of our travel, November, is the sugar cane harvesting season on Negros. This will mean lots of heavy traffic, cane-hauling trucks. Most of this activity will be along the east coast and northern end of the island.
The actual rout taken will depend on available time, however we will probably opt for the southern/western rout to avoid the traffic.
Estimated distance on the island of Negros is 350km – 400km.
PANAY (3 – 4 days)
From Bacolod, we will catch the RoRo across to Iloilo (2 hours) on the southeastern tip the island of Panay. Panay offers us three choices to get to our next RoRo crossing at Caticlan on the northwestern tip of the island. One rout takes you north along the eastern coastline then west along the northern coast to Caticlan. The shortest rout takes you through the centre of the island to join up with the north coastal road to Caticlan. The third offer is west along the southern coast then north along the western coast to Caticlan.
Again, the month of November is the sugar cane harvesting season on this island. Like Negros, most of this activity will be along the east coast and northern end of the island.
Like Negros, the actual rout taken will depend on available time, however we will probably opt for the southern/western rout to avoid the traffic.
Another “must see” is Boracay, a small island off the coast near Caticlan. Boracay is about 9km long by 1km to 2km wide. It is very much a tourist island but still with some charm left for the weary traveller.
Estimated distance on the island of Panay is 250km – 300km.
MINDORO (5 days)
From Caticlan, we will catch the RoRo across to Roxas (6 hours) on the southeastern tip the island of Mindano. This needs to be on or about day 24 of our tour so that we can arrive back in Manila for our scheduled departure back home.
The island of Mindano is known as the breadbasket of the Philippines. This island provides most of the fresh produce for Manila. There is not much to see or do at Roxas, so straight after arrival we will be making our way north to one of the best-kept secrets of the Philippines. This is the little known area around the town of Pola, about halfway along and 6km off the main road to Casiligan. Pola is a very friendly and, by Philippines standards, clean town servicing the local fishing industry and surrounding rural area.
A few days will be spend in and around Pola before continuing our journey north to Calipan. Further north from Calipan is the well-known and frequented Puerto Galera tourist area. If time permits, a short visit may be made there.
Estimated distance on the island of Mindoro is 150km – 200km.
BACK TO MANILA (1 day)
From Calipan, we will catch the RoRo across to Batangas (3 hours) and back onto the island of Luzon for our final return leg to Manila. Again there are alternate routs to Manila from Batangas. One is to the west of Lake Taal and the other is to the east of the lake. The western rout takes you through Cavite, an area of lowland swamp that has been converted into many aquaculture farms. The eastern rout is the main one taken by the regular transport between Manila and Batangas. Not being particularly keen on fish farms and lowland swamp, we will probably take the western rout, calling in to see the Taal volcano.
Estimated distance from Batangas to Manila is 100km.
That is the trip planning done. Mind you, what is planned and what actually happens may be quite different; but then that's all part of the adventure.
Next will be the packing and final preparation before we leave for Manila.
Being on call for jury service over three weeks has limited my riding somewhat. On Thursday 22 September 2005 at 3:30pm Patrick Peck (of Patrick & Belinda Peck fame) and I left Cairns and headed south along the highway to Kennedy. I was riding my Suzuki DL650 and Patrick was on his Yamaha Super Tenere. Kennedy is about 180km south of Cairns.
Arriving at Kennedy at about 5:30pm, I was able to check to determine if I was required for jury service in Cairns the next day. I wasn’t, so I was free to ride. Patrick stocked up on his food supply at the Kennedy store ( I had come properly prepared) before we started our westward jurney inland to the foot of the Great Dividing Range.
About 3km west of Kennedy, we took the turnoff to Blencoe Falls. The road to Blencoe Falls is 67km of rough dirt road climbing from the coastal plain to about 850m above. This road was built by the Australian army during WWII and is now only seldom used. The first 40km take you through dense rainforest (Wet Tropics National Park) as you climb the mountain range before the country opens up into cattle country.
By 7:00pm the light was fading and we came to a small clearing by the side of the track next to a stream. It was here that we made camp for the night. Dinner was cooked over an open campfire. Patrick brought out his Kennedy store tin of beef stew only to find that he had no can opener or anything to heat it up in. Luckily I was better prepared so Patrick was able to have his hot stew for dinner.
Waking at 6:00am on Friday morning, we had cups of tea and coffee for breakfast before breaking camp and heading on our way.
The track up the mountain range was not too bad and the weather had been kind to us. The track was dry all the way. After about 2 hours of riding, we reached Blencoe falls. Even in the dry season, these falls are quite spectacular. Near the falls there is a campsite with basic facilities. We finished a cold breakfast at the top of Blencoe Falls.
Blencoe Falls plunge 90m to a pool below before cascading 230m to the start of the Herbert River gorge. These falls are one of the most stunning waterfalls in Australia. The falls are on part of the traditional land of the Warungnu Aboriginal people.
As you take the short 200m stroll to the lookout and listen carefully, a distant dull rumble becomes a roar as you get closer to the falls. At the lookout, you soak up the sights and sounds of Blencoe Falls as the water races towards the Herbert River. Here, relic hoop pines shrouded in mist create as eerie feeling.
From Blencoe Falls we rode the 100km of dirt road to Mt. Garnet. Without stopping at Mt. Garnet, we travelled the 15km of sealed road east to Innot Hot Springs. It was here that we had lunch and spent an hour or so relaxing in the hot spring thermal pools.
After lunch and a relaxing soak, we rode 5km out of Innot Hot Springs turning left onto the Silver Valley Road. This dirt road takes you the 45km to near Herberton. As we approached Herberton, we came to another dirt road that lead towards historic Irvinbank, an old tin mining town now almost deserted. Not having visited Irvinbank for some 20 years, we decided to head that way and from Irvinbank to Petford.
It was getting later in the day. Patrick and I wanted to get back to Cairns before dark. At about 10km from Irvinbank we came across another dirt track that bypassed Irvinbank and made straight for Petford. With time against us, we decided to give Irvinbank a miss this trip and head straight for Petford.
We arrived at Petford at about 4:00pm. Back on the sealed road again we took 2 hours to travel the final 140km to Cairns through Mareeba. We arrived home at about 6:00pm, tired but exhilarated.
In a little over one day, we covered 750km including about 400km of dirt.
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