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Sunday, June 06, 2010

Biking in Puerto Galera: The BMB Legends' First Reunion Ride

How it all started
It all started with an idea of doing a Puerto Galera reunion ride with the old BMB members. We were playing with the idea for a long time already through texts, but we only got to talk about it during a fellow member's wake. We haven't seen each other, more so rode with each other, for a long time that we decided that should have a nice classic ride - just like the old days.

From there, the idea took a life of its own and after a few weeks we had something solid. Through the magic of Facebook, we agreed on a date, an itinerary (more or less) and even came up with an event invite to selected members of the old group.

That date was this weekend - an overnight trip from June 5 to 6, 2010.

The Batangas City Pier
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We met at Jollibee at the corner of D. Silang and P. Burgos Streets in Batangas City at 5:30 Saturday morning and pedaled to the Pier to take a boat to Puerto Galera. There were 10 of us: Domeng, Eric, Michael, Topher, Noli, Bonnielee, Davison, Onad, his cousin (wasn't able to get his name) and me.

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The experience of getting a ticket, entering the terminal and getting to the boat felt like a theme park visit with all the hidden fees that you have to pay. The ride going to Puerto Galera cost us P380 each and it's broken down like this: P200 for the passenger, P100 for the bike, P30 for the terminal fee and P50 for environmental fee. It's not that big but it's the hassle of lining up separately for the boat ticket, the terminal fee and the environmental fee that sucks. To make it more efficient, they should've done the whole payment when we got the ticket. Also, I feel there's a need to let people know what these fees mean. Some of the guys from my group can't seem to grasp why they have to pay for an environmental fee when "there are no trees involved."

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We had some minor bumps with the whole process of loading the bikes on the boat. There were 10 bikes and the coast guard wouldn't approve it. His point was these boats are meant for people and not for "rolling items". The port manager of the shipping line had to talk to them to get their approval.

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After a few minutes of waiting, we were off to the Mindoro to start day one of our reunion ride.

Puerto Galera, finally!
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The sea was calm and so the boat ride took only hour. We were in the Muelle pier of Puerto Galera by around 8:30 in the morning.

First in the itinerary was to pedal up to the Ponderosa Golf Club. This is a very nasty climb. It starts with a killer grade and goes on for seven kilometers. Before, this stretch was composed of loose stones, rocks and some marble (yes, you read that right - marble. Welcome to Mindoro!), but now it's cemented all the way up.

BMB Legends: Puerto Galera Ride - 009
Of course we cannot do that on an empty stomach, so we stopped and had breakfast in one of the carinderias in Puerto Galera. The owners were from Batangas City too, and after chatting with them, we asked if we could leave some of our stuff with them and pick these up on our way to Bulabod. They happily agreed.

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After we're finished, we pedaled about four or five kilometers before we reached the foot of the climb near a gas station.

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An epic ride isn't epic without a mechanical, right? We had our share. On one of the uphill stretches on the main highway, Bonnielie's bike chain broke. They were asking if any of us brought extra links. They weren't so lucky. Being oldies, they just pulled out a chain tool and fixed the chain in a few minutes.

Actually, their unfortunate incident was a welcome blessing for some of us as it was a chance for us to rest. The Mindoro heat was getting more and more intense.

The Ponderosa Attempt
True enough the whole Ponderosa climb was a killer. Add the tropical heat with that monster gradient and you have one potent mixture. I already rode this climb twice before so I knew what to expect. Doing an all-out effort right from the start would mean digging my own grave. So I shifted to my granniest gear (I think this is a 24x34 gear combo) and pedaled at my own pace.

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The whole package didn't affect the likes of Topher, Noli and Michael. They made it to the top. That's no surprise with the amount of riding these boys are doing regularly. Eric and I are still OK, riding at a slow but steady pace. Too bad I can't say the same for Domeng, Bonnielee, Onad and Davison. The climb was just too much that three kilometers up, we had to call it quits. It's quite understandable as some of them don't have much in their legs to conquer an "epic" climb such as this.

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It's a reunion ride and we figured we don't have to punish ourselves to enjoy each other's company. So we called those who managed to get to the top to go back down, and together rode to White Beach.

White Beach
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White Beach is home to a well-known Puerto Galeran mountain biker - Ka Dante Rubia. This great soul guides fellow mountain bikers to nearby trails and treats them like family. It doesn't matter if they're locals or tourists. He welcomed us to his home on all our trips to Puerto Galera so we paid homage to him and dropped by for a visit.

It's been years since the last time we stayed in White Beach and so we got lost in the mazes of alleys and cottages looking for Ka Dante's place. (You will see this in the GPS map below.) Eventually, we found it after we asked someone from the beachfront.

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We were surprised by what we saw. The old hut where we stayed several times before is now a two-floor resthouse with a big green lawn. Wow! And as always, Ka Dante was there to welcome us.

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We settled down on his lawn, parked our bikes, dropped our things and rested for a while, trying to recover the energy we lost in our our failed effort to conquer Ponderosa.

It was almost lunchtime then and we felt we've pretty much burned the breakfast that we had. Based from our past experience, we know how jacked up the food prices are with the beachfront restos, so we left our bikes with Ka Dante and walked to the main road. We ended up in another carinderia, and as with the first, gobbled up a rice meal together with a glass of ice-cold softdrink.

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After hanging out a bit in the carinderia, some of us decided that it was time to check out the scene in the White Beach beach. Now that most of us are married, we need to buy gifts for our wives and kids, or as Onad calls it - "giveaways".

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We shopped for about 30 minutes. We bought shirts, sandos, souvenir magnets, cellphone slings and even flip-flops. Some of us were even thinking of getting a Henna tattoo. This leisurely shopping spree was cut short when the rain started to pour. Bummed, we rushed back to Ka Dante's place.

The weather was weird but it was OK, in a way. It was hot and sunny in the morning and then the rain clouds came in shortly after lunch. We welcomed it because the weather was cooler and made the next part of our trip more bearable.

The Ride from White Beach to Puerto Galera
Topher was supposed to go home that afternoon. We were supposed to accompany him to the Balatero pier, where he would take a Roro ferry back to Batangas City. But because the waves were getting bigger, we egged him into joining our overnight trip.

We left White Beach for Bulabod at around 2:45 in the afternoon. This was where we're supposed to stay for the night. The plan was to go drop by the market of Puerto Galera to buy our ingredients and do the cooking when we get there. Ka Dante and his biker friend and neighbor, Stephen, joined us for this trip.

We arrived in Puerto Galera at around 4:00 p.m. and stopped at the carinderia where we left our things to have some pancit guisado for merienda. After getting our stuff and loading it in our bags, Topher, Noli and I bought some supplies in the nearby store.

I'm just a bit amazed with the prices of the goods that I bought: a P10 toothbrush and an P18 Good Morning towel. Not a bad deal at all!

The Ride from Puerto Galera to Bulabod
The ride to Bulabod was nice because the weather was cooler than what it was in the morning. Still, it was no joke. When we turned left from the main highway to Dulangan Road, it was three and a half kilometers of uphill climbing on rough road. It wasn't that steep, but with all the stuff in my backpack plus the riding that we did to get there, it felt more difficult than my usual weekend ride.

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Finally, we had the opportunity to unlock our suspension forks! As if they were administered a shot of adrenalin, almost everyone were flying up the climbs. Soon I was left to ride on my own. After the climbing, the road transformed into a fast and fun downhill ride which ended into a beautiful secluded beach cove.

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There were hardly any people on the beach. Aside from us, there was only one group enjoying the water. In short, we've got the whole beach practically to ourselves. Awesome!

What's different with Bulabon beach is that instead of having fine white sand, the beach is made up of fine round pebbles. There's also another fascinating feature that other beaches in Puerto Galera don't have - a small fresh water pool with a short channel that mixes it with salt water from the sea. It's nature's own infinity pool and it looked so refreshing and beautiful.

This was a truly amazing place to spend the night... if we actually had a place to sleep.

Apparently there was a miscommunication between Domeng and his brother-in-law. Domeng thought that his brother-in-law was getting us a nice cottage. The other thought all we need was a couple of nipa huts with benches. Yes, there's a cottage available but they're charging us an arm and a leg for it.

We weighed the pros and cons, and at this point we decided to head back to White Beach and just bunk in Ka Dante's place. At least there, we're sure that we have the basic facilities (i.e., bathroom, running water and electricity) and we don't need to ride in the morning to get to the pier and catch a boat.

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Now we have another dilemma - not everyone can ride back to White Beach. Fortunately, the small truck that Domeng's brother-in-law brought with him when they shopped for supplies in Puerto Galera was still there. We were not sure, though, if it can carry all twelve of us together with our bikes. We immediately realized the answer the moment we started loading our bikes - not all of us will fit. Some would have to ride back to White Beach on their bikes in the dark.

Stephen brought his headlamp so he's ready for the ride back. Ka Dante was supposed to ride with him going back to White Beach after accompanying us to Bulabon. That was their plan. But since we're staying in Ka Dante's place, we asked him to ride in the truck with the others so that they can prepare the place and cook dinner as soon as they get there.

In the end, there were four people doing the night ride: Stephen, Topher, Noli and Myself.

For adventures like these, I try to bring some emergency equipment for those just in case moments. Before, I even had a sleeping bag with me, which I carried on my back from Calapan to Puerto Galera. Remember the handlebar-mounted light that bought for the La Mesa night ride? Well, I brought it with me this time. It seemed that extra weight was worth it after all.

The Bulabon-White Beach Night Ride
Stephen and I were the only ones with lights and I'm the only one with a rear blinker. Topher and Noli didn't have anything with them except for the reflectors at the back of their shoes. With this set-up, we decided to ride in a nice tight pack so that no one gets left behind and also to avoid any accidents. I didn't bring any replacement batteries too, so we needed to conserve the ones installed whenever we can.

There was hardly any sunlight left when we started pedaling and the first kilometers were on rough road. Since it rained there were puddles and slippery sections going back to the main highway. On uphills I was the one at the back (and the guys soft pedaled a bit to make sure I kept up). On downhills, I was the one at the front. On both occasions I try to make sure that everyone's there and no one gets left behind. That means no blasting down on downhills for me or else there's one less light for my three other bikemates.

To help save the batteries, I put the headlights into strobe mode when we go uphill or approach areas where there are street lights. I didn't turn off the lights completely because I know that it serves two purposes: first, for us to be able to see where we're going, and second, for us to be seen by oncoming traffic.

Our first stopover was at Puerto Galera. It was around 7:30 p.m. We were looking for a place to eat but it seemed like all the shops and eateries were already closed, save for the tourist restos by the pier. I was feeling a bit hungry then so I knew I had to eat something. I don't want to risk bonking in the dark. The blessing from heaven came in the form of the Nature Valley Trail Mix bars that I brought. I had four bars in my bag, which was enough for all of us.

After eating and resting for a while, we saddled up and started pedaling again.

Our next stop was in a town called Balatero. Noli stopped by his cousin's place for a short while. As for us, we visited the local bakery called Bread Talk, had some Kalihim, biked to the corner store and waited for him there.

We were surprised that some of the stores here are still open when their counterparts in Puerto Galera town were already closed. We chatted with the sari-sari store owner and she said that sometimes they close as late as 9:00 p.m. Nice!

Our stopover took around 15 minutes. It was great because I was able to rest and recover. When Noli got back, we all pedaled to White Beach.

I can't explain how thrilled I was when I saw the lighted arc that says "Welcome to White Beach." I had to stop myself for sprinting because I knew I would've suffered from cramps the minute I jump! We arrived at Ka Dante's place at around 8:30 p.m.

In all honesty, to me this night ride was the best adventure of the whole trip. I couldn't be happier. Thinking about it, what's great with this night ride is that I didn't feel as tired compared to our daytime riding. The weather was cooler and there were hardly any traffic on the road. I'm happy that I brought the lights with me or I would've missed this unique experience.

Resting Time
After doing all that riding, I decided that I'm going to treat myself a bit. Everyone was planning on bunking in Ka Dante's place and sleeping on the carpet, but after 30+ kilometers of riding around Puerto Galera I felt I deserved a nice airconditioned room and a massage. And that's just what I did after dinner. While they were drinking (a luxury I can't enjoy anymore), I was getting a nice and soothing rubdown from one of the masseuse manangs of White Beach.

Ka Dante was able to talk to the owners of the room and managed to get a deal of P1,200 for one night. When I checked it out, it was so big, six people can fit and sleep inside comfortably. It was so wonderful that I invited the rest of the group to join me. Well, as usual, most of them were nahihiya so only Eric, Michael, Noli and Domeng's brother-in-law slept in the room.

The Trip Back
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We woke up at 7:00 in the morning and took the 8:00 a.m. trip from White Beach to Batangas City. We thanked Ka Dante for his hospitality and went on our way. The trip took more than an hour and we were in Batangas City by 9:30 a.m.

It was time to go to home. In the end, it was just Noli, Eric, Michael and me who ended up in the local panciteria and gobbled a plateful of pancit guisado for breakfast. After that, I loaded my stuff in the car and drove back to Manila.

This is where our trip to Puerto Galera ends. Thanks for reading!

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You can view the pictures in my Flickr album here.

Check out the GPS map of our Puerto Galera mountain bike ride below:

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