It’s been a dream of mine for quite some time to set off on a bike-packing adventure. But with the need for a full bike setup and a month or two of spare time, it never really happened. This was the moment that was all about to change.
I’d finally got it all together. Bike all set up, route loosely planned, and 1.5 months of unchartered adventures. I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for. I’d never ridden a bike before with a heavy load. I’d never done multiple days back to the back of riding. I’d never done a hike and bike trip. I’d also never visited Negros and Panay. There were a lot of unknowns, but the Philippines is a friendly and gentle country in which to figure it all out.
On the first day, I set off out of Cebu City. Within minutes, I was on the Transcentral Highway, ascending up still hills on my way to the top of Cebu. It was a grueling day with a steaming sun making it a tough introduction to bike packing. However, there were never any excruciating or difficult moments where I thought I had made a mistake. Just tough physical work in hot conditions.
I climbed 1300m of incline on the bike on this first day. Often I had to jump off the bike and push in the steepest sections. There’s no shame in that when you have a full camping setup and digital nomad workspace attached to your bike!
I made it up to a nice camping site/resort for the night in Balamban where I would base for two days. For 300 pesos I had a campsite, shower, and toilet access, and a restaurant on site. Perfect.
The next day, I rode out in the rain to try and hike Mt. Mauyog. That was kind of the plan for this trip. The riding aspect of the journey would be from each hike to hike as I explored my way through these three large islands in the Visayas region.
I hit a roadblock on this day with the trail being closed apparently. I was going to call it quits and head back but it was quite a hilly journey to get there. I found a trail around the back and bushwhacked my way to the top. I think this is the most scratched-up I’ve ever been on a hike! I could hardly use my hands to wash all the plants out of my hair that night because of how many cuts were on them.
The next day was the first day of proper downhill. Maybe it was a little too much downhill. The journey from Balamban to Toledo was so steep my hands were sore from slamming the brakes for the entire descent. It’s hard with a heavy load on the bike as you don’t want to pick up too much speed and not be able to stop. I took it slowly trying not to knock out any more teeth.
I made it just in time to Toledo Port to catch a ferry over to Negros. I’ve explored Cebu a lot in the past so it was mainly the starting point of the trip due to that being the bike’s original location.
Once in San Carlos City of Negros, I made my first real adventure of the trip that wasn’t transit. I rode 835m of incline up into the hills and then down a muddy track to reach the trailhead of Mayana Peak. Here, I set off on a very short 15-minute trail to reach the summit where I solo camped overnight. It wasn’t a huge adventure or very wild but It’s good to warm up slowly and including the bike journey it was still quite a hefty adventure overall.
I survived the night in the rain and was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise. I could look down toward San Carlos City where I had just ridden up from. That morning I actually made it back down to the city just after 8 am, cruising down the winding descent from Mayana Peak.
The final days of the week were spent along the coastal highway of Negros. I was making my way down to Manjuyod Sandbar where I would meet Pema, who was coming across from Bohol for a week of adventures. This was the first flat section of my entire journey and I put in 60km one day and 50km the next. It surprised me as it only took a couple of hours each day. I think my mind was used to the steep uphills where I am cycling at a walking pace.
So far, I’m enjoying the rhythm of bike packing and the freedom that comes with having a vehicle at all times. The Philippines is as friendly as I remember it and I’m energized on the bike by the genuine smiles I receive from those on the sides of the road. I’m learning a lot about bike packing and how I like to organize my journey.
Pacing it is my focus and I’m trying not to overdo it by throwing in a rest day here and there. I haven’t made any huge blunders or come off the bike yet, but there is always next week…