The Wawa Epic Adventure Mountain Bike Ride

Yesterday's mountain bike ride was definitely epic. It was a day of firsts for me - first time to suffer climb up AFP as well my first time to visit Wawa dam.

I parked at Aling Tina's Eatery at the foot of Maarat in San Mateo at 6:45 a.m. and came back at 4:00 p.m. It took us a little more than nine hours to finish the ride but seeing how glorious the dam was made it all worth the suffering.
The Climb Up AFP
Don't I still look fresh?
I've been biking in Maarat for a long time already but this is my first time to ride up through the AFP village. Blame it on me for giving in to the temptation of driving up the wall and parking at the Timberland Clubhouse instead of riding it. (And yes, include Shotgun in my list, too.)

I know this was going to be an epic ride, and so I let King ride his own pace as I spin my granny gear.

Going up, I've been thinking about SRAM XX's 2x9 drivetrain and how I'm so not the target market for it. How does a 26 x 36 chainring-cog combination translate to my 22 x 34 gearing? I don't know. Maybe Toots Chua would let me try it.

The first part was just all on cemented road, and so it was just OK for me. If I cannot handle the grade, I would just zigzag my way up. That technique was effective until the road transformed into dirt and loose gravel. This was the last part of the climb. It's pretty steep and I have to admit I had to walk most of the way.

We were supposed to meet up with Gary and his group at 8:00 a.m. in Giant, but it was already 8:30 a.m. and I'm still suffering up the climb.

Calling it quits?
Route to Pestaño Farm
When I got to the top, Gary, SJ and King were waiting for me. I barely had time to rest when they pedaled off. I can rest in Giant, they said.

The route was mostly downhill and connects to the route going to Ka Vergel, but I was just recovering so I decided to ride at my own pace rather than try to keep up with the three and blow up in the process. At this point I was thinking of abandoning the ride when we reach Giant. The thought running in my head was "If I'm suffering now, just imagine how much I'm going to suffer going to Wawa."

Of course, when I got Giant they said it was all downhill and that the biggest climb is over. So I decided to stick it out. My reasons for this are:
  • I've got my Camelbak all filled up anyway.

  • If I won't push through, then when will I ride to Wawa?

  • It's a nice addition to my growing GPS routes.

  • Who will eat the four bars that I brought?

  • Sayang ang pag-charge ko ng batteries ng Flip Video.

  • Reunions and Additions
    The Cannondale Super V
    My brother-in-law, Ricky, was there in Giant together with his friend Glenn. It was a big surprise when I saw what bike Glenn was riding - It was my old Cannondale Super V! It was nice to see her back in action. I sold her years ago to have funds for my wedding. They upgraded some of her parts but she still looks very good. Throughout the ride, I was wondering if her current owners would sell her back to me. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

    Anyway, King and I invited Ricky and Glenn to join us, and they accepted. We left Giant at around 9:25 a.m.

    It's All Downhill from Here. Not.
    Heading downhill
    They were right. From Giant, it was almost all downhill going to the river. There were two options: the wet and the dry route, and we took the latter.

    I thought it was all fun from then on. I couldn't be more wrong.

    Yes, it was almost all downhill but it's no walk in the park. You really need to be experienced and confident with your skills if you want to take this route. Made up of dust, loose dirt, sand and gravel, one mistake can instantly turn flesh into tocino or worse, take you a few hundred meters down the mountain. During these situations, I learned how to trust my equipment and skill. On the way down, there was one point where I was thinking: "No, my brake fluid won't burst! My brake fluid won't burst!" There were also many instances when I had to override my instinct to squeeze the brakes and just let it all flow.

    Thank God I was able to get down in one piece. That downhill was tense and not at all recommended for beginners.

    So where's the Panday
    The first river crossing
    When we got to the river, the sight was breathtaking. It was so amazing that I just can't imagine how something this beautiful can be so relatively near Metro Manila and yet not look it. This marvel was like something out of a movie.

    Here I go again with my thoughts and how far away they were from reality: I thought from the river, we would just be pedaling our way to the area where we'll have lunch. Yes, we would have to do some river crossings but how hard is that, right? I've done some biking on dry riverbeds in Batangas going to Lobo several times before. Well, it wasn't that simple. Batangas was rideable. This one wasn't. Here, we would have to endure pedaling on sand and stones of all sizes. And if that's not enough, add some stretches where you have to maneuver and avoid thorny bushes (known in Batangas as Aroma) and you're in for a treat.

    Ricky did a nice endo
    Our experience with the sand was OK at first. We were even joking with Gary, telling him that they don't have to go to Boracay to experience fine, white sands. But as the ride progressed, we realized that it wasn't that fun anymore.

    We walked. We biked. We crossed the knee-deep river carrying our bikes on our shoulders. For situations like these, I was thankful that I'm riding a light hardtail. It would've been a burden for me if it were the 27-pound Super V.


    Lunch was at this small store made of bamboo and coconut leaves by the riverside called Shimanong. It was a girl who was manning the store so I would think she's Shimanang.

    While waiting for them to cook our lunch of tinola and rice, we treated ourselves to halo-halo, lemon soda and buko juice. At that time, it was the best halo-halo in the world! They only charged us P15 for a large glass but I would've paid P50 at that point. It was such a refreshing way to cool down from all the walking and carrying.

    We waited more than an hour for the tinola. When it arrived, I have to say that the taste was disappointing. It's still lunch though, and so we ate and carbo-loaded as much as we could for the final stretch to the dam.

    Looking back, for a wait that long we could've had some halo-halo and then have a monstrous lunch at one of the stores at Wawa. Maybe we'll do that next time.

    We left the place at 1:30 p.m. It was hot as hell. Thank God we were blessed with every now and then with some cool mountain breeze.

    We're here Frodo!
    Doesn't that look like a scene from Lord of the Rings?
    From Shimanong, it was a mix of riding, walking, and river crossing again.

    The fun started on the last part of the trip leading to the dam itself. It was a hardpack track that's used by the locals. It was semi-technical and was partly covered by trees. Truly awesome!

    The Wawa Dam
    Then the fruit of our labor slowly showed itself in front of our eyes - the Wawa dam.

    This wonderful sight reminded so much of the Lord of the Rings. It just needs the two monuments of the ancient kings and it's good to go!

    Seeing this made everything worth it.

    I know that we could've cut hours from the trip if we opted for the dry route, but I'm glad we took the wet route because it made this enchanting place more beautiful.

    From here, it was an 11-kilometer ride on the highway to San Mateo.

    I arrived in the condo at 5:00 p.m. and took my dirty bike up our flat. I didn't bother going back for my other stuff in the trunk.

    As I blog a day after the ride, I'm happy that I joined and didn't flake out.

    Unlike the previous weekend, I'm surprised that I don't feel as tired or as sore as I should be. These crazy rides are starting to help build my fitness level. But that's not the whole of it. Somehow, these rides gives me a glimpse of who I am - my character, what I'm made of - and I'm happy with what I see.

    Thanks for reading.

    All photos in this blog was taken by Gary and SJ. Thanks guys!

    Here's the full map of our epic route:

    There are more pictures of the ride here.


    Anonymous said…
    thanks for sharing the gps file.
    Jovan Puyo said…
    No problem! Medyo nagka-error siya sa bandang Wawa Dam na pero na-correct ko naman before we left for the highway.