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6 Mayfred Avenue
Hope Valley, SA, 5090

The official website of adventurer and author of It Takes Two To Tandem, Louise George. Louise currently resides in Adelaide, South Australia with her husband. The two regularly travel and undertake many adventures together, including riding travelling 880 miles through the United Kingdom, from John O’Groats to Lands End.


Filtering by Tag: Cycle Touring Philippines

Philippines: Boracay Island and two of the Romblon Island group (Tablas Island and Romblon Island)

Louise George


Boracay Island

We had been told we might need a permit to take bicycles to Boracay as there are vehicle restrictions but we didn’t find that the case.

Our initial reaction to Boracay was shock! Apart from that it was a popular tourist destination, we knew little about it. The road was rough, dug up in places and congested with motor tricycles and electric passenger vehicles vying for customers. We found our accommodation after dodging open drains and a huge stagnant pond. Later, when we walked out looking for food, we first checked out Bulabong Beach nearest to our accommodation, only to be blasted by on-shore winds that were obviously favoured by kite surfers, because there were many, speeding from one end of the lagoon to the other. We were at the narrowest width of the island, so one kilometre later we had crossed to White Sand Beach, along with thousands of mostly Asian tourists, who like us, were out to marvel at the sunset.

Boracay had been spoiled by tourism. As a paradise discovered in the 60’s, Boracay had in recent years became wall to wall resorts, dive shops and restaurants all wanting beach frontage, visited by tourists wanting to participate in water sports during the day and beach parties at night. Two million tourists visited Boracay in 2017 and the island could no longer cope. Environmental issues such as algae bloom on the beaches and poor sewerage conditions forced the government to completely shut down the island to tourism for six months from April 2018. Now, January 2019, the island had only recently been reopened and we were witness to the continuing redevelopment program. Tourist numbers were now being limited to 6000 incoming people per day and proof of accommodation needed to be provided. Many accommodations had not reopened as they were not yet compliant with new sewage regulations. Roads, kerbs and pavements continued to be built around the tourist throng.

A local catch!

A local catch!

Boracay 15km, 202m ascent

With three days to relax before we rode again, we treated this tropical destination as a holiday. Days were filled with walks to the beach and seeking out restaurants with food flavours we enjoy.

Our favourite treat; fresh jel-like coconut flesh, scrapped off the shell, topped with mango, coconut ice-cream and black sesame seeds. We queued for one hour to get one on our last day!

Our favourite treat; fresh jel-like coconut flesh, scrapped off the shell, topped with mango, coconut ice-cream and black sesame seeds. We queued for one hour to get one on our last day!

The island is 7 kilometres long and offers every type of water activity imaginable: jet ski, sailing, paddle boarding, diving, mermaid lessons, helmet dive and parasailing to name a few so there was always people watching for our entertainment. On the second day we ventured out on the bikes to Diniwid Beach that we could access by ocean path from White Beach, and then rode to Puka Beach in the north. Many buildings in the north were uninhabited, and from signage we got the impression that some ancestral lands were now handed back to be in the possession of the Ati local tribes. Returning to our accommodation was disrupted by a traffic jam as the concrete kerb on one side of the road was being poured. We ducked down to the beach to ride our own highway!

Having watched the Kite surfers with envy and marveling at the strength they must need to rein the wind, we decided to ‘give it a go’. Our lesson was about controlling the kite, at first with a small kite on the sand and later knee deep in water with a full kite. We learned that a relaxed technique, rather than strength got the kite into the desired position and in a couple of hours got enough of a buzz to think about a future time back here to master the sport. I can’t believe that on our last evening at Boracay we were prepared to queue for an hour for a dessert treat that we had already had a serving of two days ago and I didn’t want to leave without satisfying the cravings for another one. Half a green coconut with the jelly flesh scrapped away from the husk, that now served as the bowl, topped with coconut Icecream, fresh mango and a sprinkling of nuts. Devine!

Boracay Island to near Alicantara (Tablas Island) 39km, 403m ascent

We were on the bikes before daybreak as we needed to be at Caticlan by 6 a.m. to change our ferry booking from 27th to today, 26th. We found that the Pump Boat would take bicycles so they were duly loaded on the roof of the boat cabin, and we sat inside with our panniers for the ten minute ride.

Tablas Island

Day 1:
For a small fee our tickets to Tablas Island were reissued. The ferry wasn’t in port yet, and it didn’t sail until 8 a.m. so we had plenty of time for breakfast. I had rice, egg and bangas (small portion of fish, deep fried to a crisp), Nev ate pork pieces basted with a sweet sauce, egg and rice.

Wheeling our bikes, we were ushered to be first to board the ferry. The vehicle deck gaped open, and I said to Nev “thank goodness this will be easy” but no! Rather than push our bikes to the vehicle desk we had to enter the vessel through the side passenger door, wheeling the bikes, and then carried them, in relays, up two flights of stairs so they could stand in a corner of the ‘bunk room’. This was deck class. We found a spare bunk each, as centre of the ship as possible amongst rows of bunks, bottom and top, separated by aisles, in an area as large as a basketball court. Along the outside edge of the ship, most tarpaulins were down and taut, blocking out both view and wind. It was nice to walk to the edge railing occasionally, where some tarpaulins were raised, to see islands as we passed. We copied other passengers, making a pillow of the life jacket and settled back for hours of relaxation, to read and snooze. Disembarking was again in relay, but going down stairs was a little easier.

Our first stop was for lunch at Odiongan, a few kilometres from the port of the same name. Odiongan is a small town similar to the many we have ridden through on other islands that offered little in the way of food choices for our tastes. Eventually we found a cafe that sold us a burger as small as a dinner bun and a milkshake, that we hoped would sustain us the 23 kilometres to Aglicay Beach Resort. Because Nev was still suffering from a headcold, and the day was hot with the air temperature in the 30s, we elected to take a shorter route that went across the island rather than travel 42 kilometres along the coast. There were a couple of hills but generally pleasant riding beside former rice fields that were now meadows where cows grazed. From where we left the main road we had an interesting 5.8 kilometre track that alternated between concrete and dirt, with a couple of steep climbs, and then a lovely descent to the white sand beach at the resort, that for tonight we had to ourselves. We were the only guests. Evidently due to prevailing winds, the west coast is not so popular at this time of the year.

Day 2: Aglicay Resort - no riding

The three islands in the Romblon group are small but we had chosen to spend the next five days in the area because we can catch a ferry from Odiongan to Batangas, near Manila, from which we fly to New Zealand on 5th February. It felt a bit like ‘killing time’ as today was another ‘rest’ day. Apart from eating, reading and relaxing, we took a short walk to the next bay. The first photo below is of Aglicay Beach, our own little piece of paradise, and the 2nd is of the Tablas Island coast.

Around midday van loads of tourists arrived for a buffet lunch, and some locals arrived on motorbikes to swim, but by late afternoon we were alone again. We had been amazed at the amount of work that is done here on a daily basis as each high tide recedes, leaving a tide mark of rubbish, mostly small plastics that are swept into piles and then dumped behind the resort. We resolve to try to eliminate our own household waste, especially plastic, when we return home.

Day 3: Ride Aglicay Resort to San Agustin (ferry to Romblon Island) Ride Romblon Town to Talipasak Beach

59.1km, 621m ascent

Our day needed to start early as the last ferry left at 1 p.m. but we didn’t want to put our hosts to too much trouble with a super early start, so ordered breakfast for 7:30 a.m. We’d packed already so it was good to receive breakfast on time and have the bikes rolling out the gate at 8. We were feeling rested and the couple of climbs back to the main road weren’t too difficult. Then began a slog into a headwind, up and over a headland, then repeat. We kept moving, apart from a short stop at 24 km, that happened to be our halfway mark, to get our butts out of the saddle and stand in the shade for a while.

Another long coast road; this one on Tablas Island

Another long coast road; this one on Tablas Island

We pulled into San Agustin Port and our bikes were whisked out from under us by enthusiastic porters. We purchased a ferry terminal ticket and will pay for the boat when on board. Even though we had enough time for lunch we couldn’t find anything to whet our appetite. This was often the case for us as a result of combined heat and weariness. Two boys had ordered a slice of chocolate cake coated in coconut. It looked tasty and we followed their lead, adding a normal plain bun each for a healthy option. The boat was a narrow wooden vessel that looked like it had been in service for many years. We each don a life jacket as the Coast Guard will not allow departure until this requirement is checked. As soon as we began moving, all life jackets were removed and hung again on the backs of the bench seats for cushioning comfort. The boat cut through the gentle swell and the one hour crossing was pleasant enough. As soon as we’d docked, a number of Porters stormed the boat trying to be the first to help with a suitcase or in this case, one motorcycle and two bicycles. There was no point taking ownership until both bikes were on land and just one person had their hand out for the carrying fee.

Unloading, and we are trying to keep an eye on who should be paid for the work!

Unloading, and we are trying to keep an eye on who should be paid for the work!

Romblon Island

Romblon Town looked interesting but we’d be back tomorrow, so we headed south, with the ocean on our right, riding passed some pretty beaches to arrive at the end of a narrow peninsula, at the very private white-sand Talipasak Beach, and a Nipa Hut overlooking the sea at San Pedro’s Beach Resort. The sun set over Tablas Island in the distance and the long coastline that we rode this morning was soon swallowed between the dark ocean and sky.

Day 3: Circuit of Romblon Island 43.3km, 587m ascent

My estimate of 42km turned out to be pretty close to the mark. First we had a steep climb from sea level to the high point of the headland, and then down to the main road. Riding south I found the sharp climbs along the east coast quite challenging. At least Romblon was a small island so I could focus on this not being a long day of riding.

Romblon Island; picture perfect!

Romblon Island; picture perfect!

The coast was very pretty with a number of white sand beaches and turquoise waters along which an occasional fishing boat, long and narrow, with noisy motor and the fisherman standing as if riding a stand-up paddle-board, wizzed by. We saw small quantities of little fish displayed in full sun, on narrow tables at the roadside, and wondered how long such a perishable food would sit out like that, and if the entire catch would be sold.

The main road back north cut through the centre of Romblon and took us up the edge of a broad valley cloaked in coconut trees and jungle.

Large piles of coconut meat were being tipped from bags and laid out to dry at the side of the road. We passed a marble quarry and the zinging of circular saws, and tapping of chisels as craftsman cut and shaped the stone, filled the valley. Many nipa huts were covered in white dust as if it had snowed.

There was very little traffic on the island, mostly motor tricycles that stopped often to pick up and drop off passengers. There were sections of road works, with roads being widened, or restored, where a lane had become narrow because the outside edge had broken, or where a landslide had blocked part of the inside lane. We climbed long and steady until eventually we dropped passed another marble quarry, down into Romblon Town. A cruise ship had anchored offshore but we didn’t notice any increase in the numbers of people in town. It was 2:00 p.m. by the time we sought out some lunch and the restaurants were quiet. Maybe the cruise passengers had already returned to the ship.

Day 4: Talipasak Beach loop, 24km

The purpose of our ride was to explore Romblon Town, that was a trading post during the Spanish period but first we stop at picturesque Bonbon Beach, riding out as far as we could in the soft sand to where two white-sand beaches met, forming a sandbar.

Romblon is one of the most intack old Filipino-Spanish towns in the country. There are many tradional houses and a coral-bricked cathedral. The restored Spanish Fort San Andres, looks over the town and harbour. We climbed the many stairs and were just in time to be met by a man who who proudly opens the gates to tourists. He took part in the renovation and was happy for us to climb over the balastrades for a view of the town.

Romblon Town from the 17th Century San Andres Fort

Romblon Town from the 17th Century San Andres Fort

Romblon is a quiet quaint town with few tourists even though it offers scuba diving at marine sanctuaries and access to other pristine islands nearby. The short time we had on Romblon Island was our favourite time in the Philippines.

Day 5: Talipasak Beach (Romblon Island) to Calunacon (Tablas Island)

We rode into town early as we wanted to catch the 8 o’clock ferry. The large boat was already docked. We paid for the ferry and then found that it leaves at 12:30, not the time we’d expected. We were told that If we wanted to leave at 8 we need to go to the local terminal and catch the Bangka, so we apologised, collected our money and went there. As soon as we pulled into the kerb a porter offered his service and we happily passed over the bikes. At the time of boarding we walked a narrow plank, with an unsteady handrail. I noticed the bamboo rail was not even fixed, it was just held by one man at each end! The bikes were tied to a pole on the roof. We were seated and don the life jackets, just to copy everyone else and remove them when the vessel was underway.

Many different boat styles make travel interesting. The man in the yellow T-shirt is one end of the hand-rail!

Many different boat styles make travel interesting. The man in the yellow T-shirt is one end of the hand-rail!

Tablas Island

It was drizzling as we docked at San Agustin and the sky was dark, threatening more rain. By the time our bikes were rolling and heading in a northerly direction we had dodged a drenching from rain, and instead slick-wet with sweat as we climbed for seven kilometres and then dropped, to cross Tablas to the west coast.

A typical Filipino Island scene; rice and jungle

A typical Filipino Island scene; rice and jungle

Once at the coast the road leveled and we cruised along at a good pace, enjoying the flat terrain and windless day. It hadn’t been easy finding accommodation only a couple of hours from Odiongan but eventually, using Agoda, we found Footprints Beach Resort, at Calunacon, a few kilometres before San Andres. We had an afternoon of swimming and relaxing, and our last night on Tablas Island was delightful as we chatted with our hosts and another guest and settled into our comfortable room at the three year old resort.

Day 6: Calunacon to Odiongan, 27.4km 85m Ascent

“Be at the port four hours before the departure time” was the last detail we were given as the lady handed us the tickets, days ago in Caticlan. The fine print on the second page also mentioned this. Hmmm! Locals assured us the early requirement wasn’t necessary so we relaxed over breakfast, had some photos taken with our friendly hosts and left Footprints, expecting to have one hour to wait when we reached the port.

This was our last day cycling in the Philippines and our last day in a rural area. The route was mostly flat on a smooth surface. I relaxed and let my senses obsorb the vibrancy of the rice paddies and green bunches of bananas bending from the centre of the trees. Coconut palms stood like sentinels dividing the fields from the jungle clad hills. My gaze constantly flicked back to the roadside, always looking out for dogs, chickens, children, motorcyclists, that may at any time, appear as obstacles on the road.

We arrived at the port at 9:30 a.m. to be told the ferry would depart at 1200, and yes, there was plenty of time to go the two kilometres to Odiongan, get some lunch, and return. Later, back at the passenger terminal, we waited until 1300 for the 2GO ferry. This time porters lugged our bikes up to the deck bunk room. We however, had tourist class for this journey, on a lower level. Tourist Class was an enclosed room, so no views. Like deck class there was no seating. Travel comfort was achieved by lying on the bunk identified by the number that matched our tickets. Even though the rows of bunks were close together, in this more superior class, rigid panels between bunks gave privacy and blankets were provided. We set sail while information was being broadcast over the communication system; details about evacuation procedures, the knots per hour that we would travel that should still deliver us to Batangas at our initial expected time of arrival, and then a prayer asking for the voyage to be blessed. Then followed a very long afternoon!

A 2Go ferry, that we used on a couple of longer distance transfers between islands.

A 2Go ferry, that we used on a couple of longer distance transfers between islands.

Now on the island of Luzon, our next section of travel was by bus from Batangas to Manila. In Manilla we were dumped unceremoniously at the side of the road on a bridge that crossed a river that was black with pollution. The footpath that our bags sat upon was slushy with grey filth. We packed up and decided not to contend with the traffic for the short distance to our accommodation. Nev later noticed the photo below, snapped by someone out of their vehicle window, on a Philippines Cycling Facebook page.


We left the Philippines, the day following the death of a 20 people and injury to 102 by an attack at a Roman Catholic Cathedral on Mindinao Island. Mindinao has a long history of conflict as muslim insurgents want to re-establish the Islamic state on that island. Even though Mindinao is a long way from Manila it was a sad note on which to finish our travels.

We were subject to delays at the airport as security had been increased and every bag, both check in and carry on, had to be opened and swabbed with a bomb detecting wand. We had taken ages to back the bikes in boxes only to have the boxes opened for swabbing. Both the gladwrap and duck tape we carried was consficated at the airport at check-in as we might have used it to hold an abducted person securely while in flight.

Philippines: Panay Island

Louise George

Iloilo contrasts: Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral and Jeepney transport vehicles

Iloilo contrasts: Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral and Jeepney transport vehicles

Iloilo was in darkness when we arrived after the two hour ferry ride from Bacolod (Negros Island), and we made our way to Injap Tower Hotel. What a contrast to everything we had experienced so far! The hotel was a modern high-rise, directly opposite the SM Mall with cinemas, cafes and shops of every franchise that can be found at any mall in the world.

Day 1: Iloilo: No riding

When we booked our flights into, and out of the Philippines, we chose a six week stay, but we hadn’t realised that at our point of entry we would only be given a 30 day Visitors Visa. In Iloilo we chose to rectify the days of shortfall by applying for a Philippines Department of Immigration Visa Extension. The process took a few hours, most of which was waiting our turn to be seen, waiting to lodge the completed application form, waiting for approval, waiting to pay the fee, waiting for our passports to be returned. The office had run out of stickers to update the passports so we left with an accompanying letter to be produced when we exited the Philippines, if it was asked for. It wasn´t!

Day 2: Exploring Iloilo. 19km

Iloilo is a large city with a modern appearance but as soon as we left the main road, the surface became dirt, punctuated with potholes. Traffic moved at walking pace and there were a couple of traffic jams. With defensive riding we mostly managed to keep moving. Jeepneys constantly pulled in to pick up passengers, but usually a metre was left between the vehicle and the kerb, and with passengers alighting the Jeepney from the rear, we found cautiously undertaking them was a safe manoeuvre. At times we noticed we were the fastest moving vehicles on the road! In this manner we made our way from one area of interest to another, following a tourist brochure and saw what one of the Philippines major cities had to offer tourists. Iloilo was colonised by the Spanish in 1569 and had been an important port and religious base.

Our ride took us to Jaro Metropolitan Cathedral and then through a tight traffic jam towards Lizares Mansion. We had difficulty locating that building, and ended up at a dead end in an area that was clearly a poorer part of town. The rather run down La Paz market was our next stop and then to Molo Church. We sat for a while in the shade at a park and watched young people practicing their dance moves. Unfortunately our timing to visit Iloilo meant that we would miss the city’s most significant event that would be held next weekend. The Dinagyang Festival is held on the fourth weekend in January. It is a religious and cultural celebration with vibrantly colourful costumes, street dancing and accompanying loud drumming music. Mind you, we would not have been able to find accommodation here then.

Day 3: Iloilo to Sari-an Hot Springs Resort near Anin-y 86.8km, 452m ascent

Although we know what direction we intend to travel, we’re not sure where we’ll stay tonight. There are only a couple of options that we are aware of, but we’re not sure how far we’ll ride, so haven’t booked anything.

Once we’d negotiated the early morning traffic in Iloilo we rode the National Highway, fortunately with a shoulder most of the time. It appears that most towns on Panay Island have a 7/11 so we habitually made a mid-morning stop at these convenience stores for coffee and doughnuts. The 7/11 toilets were often signed ‘out of order’ but when I asked to use them, they were unlocked for me. The Philippines is a country I have found it very hard to ‘go bush’ in. Men are often seen with their backs to the road, nose facing a tree, but for a female there is limited privacy because there are always people about, or houses in sight. Mid morning we noticed a car wash, and pulled in to get the salt spray cleaned from our bikes. A man and his young son worked diligently and 100p later we left on two shiny bikes and we’d had a nice chat with the owner while we waited. Later we were passed by a motorcycle with a stainless steel container on the back, we passed it, it passed us. The next time we saw the motorcycle at the side of the road and the chap was selling ice-cream. We caught up again later and purchased ice-cream for us and for the young children who were staring at us curiously.

Not far south of San Joaquin the main road headed west to cross the island. We continued south through many small villages that were having festivals on different days in this week. Banners displaying religious icons and with family names printed on them, fluttered outside every home. At Cata-an we came across many high school students, outside their school, only clad in dried banana leaves folded to form the appearance of scales. These youths were going to a dance competition, as baby crocodiles, as part of their festival. We chatted with the teacher supervising the loading of a papier-mâché lizard that was as long as the truck tray, then the many excited bodies climbed on board, and we called “good luck” as we waved goodbye to the students and their supporters.

Now that we had left the main road, as we headed towards the far south-west point of Panay, we felt like we were more in the backwaters. The road was narrow and there was not much traffic. We had coastal views and rice paddies that were now terraced meadows, where the occasional cow or goats grazed.

Youngsters on bikes joined us for a couple of kilometres, five of them, aged 13 and 14. They had no trouble keeping up without gears, even on the hills, and showed off riding no-hands.

It was late afternoon by the time we arrived at Sira-an Hot Spring Resort where we got a room. The resort had seen better days as the waterslide was not functioning and the pool at the base was empty. There were a couple of cool larger pools set up for swimming. Groups of small pools, just big enough for couples to soak in, looked inviting however the temperatures varied from cool to tepid. The pools were situated on a rocky outcrop with ocean views across to Nogas Island, popular for snorkeling and scuba diving, and we watched the closing day deliver a beautiful sunset while soaking in a sulphurous pool.

The resort had a restaurant, that had mixed Internet reviews. Our meal was okay but the dining experience was spoiled by an uncomfortably loud videoke and three Filipino guests with tuneless voices enthusiastically following the lyrics on the screen. The tide was out next morning and the beachside did not look at all appealing for swimming.

Day 4: Anin-y to San Jose (aka Antique) 49.3km, 193m ascent

It´s mid January and to avoid riding in the heat later in the day we were on the bikes before the resort staff rose to serve breakfast. At Anin-y we stopped at a local restaurant, but the soupy stew being served to locals didn’t appeal. We asked for, and were served breakfast of rice and eggs; still we were given some of the liquid from the soup, in a separate bowl, as a ‘tea’.

Rice production is the main industry here and the following set of photos shows how much labour is put into the production of small holdings of rice. We were surprised to see that rice comes in many different grades with price relating to the type of grain and the quality.


Flat terrain got us quickly to San Jose and the Robinson Mall, that with a number of franchise type restaurants was an attractive place to stop for lunch. Temperatures were in the mid 30C, with no cloud cover, and we were both hot and dehydrated. Acommodation is sparse along the west coast; especially when we don’t want to pay premium prices. We got the shabbiest room we have had to date. The building was made of concrete blocks, the room was small, with a separate bucket washroom. With the bonus of aircon, we managed to cool the hot room and rest for the afternoon. Later we rode along what we thought was the coast road, but it was actually a very narrow lane-type road, bordered by shabby houses in what appeared to be a very poor suburb. There were people about, we could see children playing at the beach when there was a gap between dwellings, but we had the feeling that people were looking at us with a ´what are you doing here´ expression.

Day 5: San Jose to Tibiao 91.6km, 443m ascent

Our room certainly hadn´t been attractive enough to hang about in, so we made another early start. McDonalds offered breakfast: garlic rice, fried chicken, hash browns and eggs.

By now we were very familiar with island countryside but never tired of passing through rice paddies, passed grazing cattle and through ‘dots’ of villages. We loved the coastline and at an elevated point near Bugasong stopped to take a photo.

From a garden over the road, ¨hello¨, was called. We were invited indoors by Rose, who had lived in San Francisco for 55 years. A former Registered Nurse, Rose was now retired to the village of her youth. Tomorrow Rose will be celebrating 76 years of age. She was fit from gardening for long hours on a daily basis. We enjoyed her warm hospitality and left loaded with fruit and chocolate treats. Further along we stopped for our usual lunch of bread, bananas, and peanut butter. We were sitting in the best shade we could find; at a bus stop, beside an enormous bill-board promoting the current controversial leader, President Rodrigo Duterte, to be reelected in May this year. A man, curious about why we were sitting there, came over for a chat. He used to work on coal ships out from Newcastle in Australia.

Roads in the Philippines on each of the islands we visited were undergoing significant rebuilding. Concrete surfaces were being replaced, dirt roads were being turned into concrete. Stone drains were being laid and stone retaining walls being built against cliffsides. This work, apart from the pouring of concrete was always done manually. We were grateful to usually have a good surface to ride on, and often a very wide shoulder to ourselves.

Had I been sucked in by the Eco in the Tibiao Ecoadventure Park? I booked accommodation within the park as it offered kayaking, and white-water kayaking was a sport Nev participated in when he was younger, and this week Nev celebrates his birthday. To get there we had a 4km ride from the main road. There were two significant climbs; short but steep at gradients reaching 18% and 16%. I was proud to ride both, but it was an effort at the end of an 87km day. Fortunately the temperature hadn’t exceeded 30C, but we still arrived at the accommodation in a lather of sweat.

We were shown to our room that was simply a large replica of a local nipa hut. Here the Nipa Huts hang out from the high riverbank giving a view beyond a curtain of huge trees, to the beautiful river. I wind the clock back to when we traveled in Asia in our mid twenties and try to feel a little excited about the mattress on the springy, split-bamboo, slat floor, with gaps between big enough for any number of creatures to crawl through. At least there was electricity. There was an open sided veranda between the bedroom and the stone walls of the bathroom facilities. A separate toilet (no seat) with water tap and bucket for flushing, and a separate washroom where a tap, placed quite low, filled a scoop with water for washing. We sat on the veranda, admired the river and the mountain beyond until we felt recovered enough to walk down to the river for a cool swim. Back at our room we had a bucket wash and dressed quickly to avoid being eaten alive by mosquitoes. We were told mosquitoes would be active between 6 and 7 p.m., and compliant insects that they are, that was exactly the period of time we found them after our blood. At other times they were not a problem. After dinner we took a Kawa hot bath, a famous tourism draw-card to this area. A large steel bowl is filled with water and local herbs, seeped to a rather hot, but bearable bathing temperature tea, by fire lit under the bowl.

Day 6: Tibiao to Pandan, 63.6km, 251m ascent

The two of us squeezed on the back of a motorbike and were driven a short distance up the hill to the end of the road. We hiked to the seven tiered Bugtong Falls with our guide Christa. We chatted as we walked. Christa lived at the mountain village and was rostered to guide four times a week. She had a one month old daughter. Villager´s income was from farming and tourism. It was a beautiful walk to the falls and then a bit challenging to negotiate two of the climbs to look into pools at the base of the falling water. We were interested to see that locals lived in the same type of building as we had stayed in last night. It was Sunday and some people were worshipping at a small church. Young children appeared to be amusing themselves, without adult supervision. We stopped and bought a green coconut for the refreshing water, before walking back to collect our bicycles from our accommodation, feeling like we had a very fortunate life.

Our ride began with a ´no-pedalling´ drop, down to the main road. The way north to Pandan, was then into head-on wind. To our right, mountains were shrouded in moisture loaded cloud, that dropped only a smattering of rain, enough to keep us cool riding in a temperature of about 27C; but with humidity high. The dark sky illuminated the young rice to luminous green. Then the wind intensified and I took my mind off the riding by focusing on the scenery, watching the grain stalks move as if hands waving at a joyous music concert. Our expected 52km ride extended to 62km when we identified our accommodation was north of Pandan. The map showed one squiggle in the road, that always meant a hill. Fortunately the final 10km was rather pleasant and the hill, definitely a zig-zag but not too difficult. Settled into our room, we looked out to see the wind whip the surrounding trees into a fury. We were happy to be enjoying a little luxury. It seems our preference, after months of cycle touring, that in itself can be challenging, is to end the day with a nice room, hot shower and comfortable bed such as we had at H&P Inn . We also had a comfortable lounge suite to sit on in the shared lounge, and access to Wifi!

Day 7: Pandan - No cycling today

Itś Nev’s birthday and a non riding day for us. We handed over our laundry and will collect it this evening. We have an admin morning, a swim in the pool, pack up and change our accommodation to Phaidon Beach Resort, over the road that we had booked in advance, a few days ago. We had initially planned an afternoon at Malupati Spring but figured we’d be riding that direction tomorrow and may as well see that area on route. Phaidon is a lovely white sand beach. We swim, eat lunch then catch a motor tricycle to Pandan to buy a birthday cake. The picture of Nev beside the Jeepney was taken the day before his birthday. Jeepneys always have a name blazoned across the windscreen and often have quirky sayings or biblical text adorning the panels.

It pours with rain while we are in town so Nev gets a haircut to pass away some time. On the return motor tricycle we got a warning that the ride was coming to an interesting point, when those passengers that had something to hold on to, grabbed it! It was an understatement to say it was a little hairy on the hill. Gears were chopped down, throttle expanded and the vehicle loaded with six adults and two children, screamed up, taking over the on-coming lane on the blind corner and with a jerk to the lowest gear, breaths held, the apex of the climb was achieved. I felt like clapping! The lady opposite said he was a good and strong driver. Sometimes other drivers stall on the hill and the passengers have to climb out and push!

Day 8: Pandan to Boracay 54km, 386m ascent

We left the comfort of Phaidon Resort and rode the climb up to Malupati Springs, where the river had been broadened and edged by stone walls to create a swimming pool area, complete with diving boards. Groups of Asian tourists floated around on inner tubes or in life jackets. There were a number of tourist vans in the car park, that appeared to be the road end. Our map showed that the road continued and linked back onto the main road. We asked a van driver for information, and while we expanded our map on the phone screen, to show him, we saw that the road stopped and was broken at the river. Although there was a bridge, he explained we could reach the other road with a bit of a walk and some bike carrying; but he wouldn’t recommend it. We’re not into epic adventures at the moment and happy to back-track, downhill to the main road. Head winds blew at us as we travelled across to the north-east coast, and then the wind was more helpful but we had a number of climbs up, and over headlands. Until now our coastal views had been pretty and serene, of calm waters with sandy shores bordered by waving coconut palms. This coast had furious waves driving into a rocky shoreline.

At Caticlan we headed straight to the port. It was 1:30 p.m. and we were hungry but had already started the process, that someone described as ´being as crazy as trying to get into Disneyland´; queue to show that we had accommodation booked, then queue for a boat ticket. We chose an ‘oyster boat’ rather than a ‘pump boat’ because we thought a boat that took cargo, rather than only passengers would be easier with the bikes. Oyster boats departed on the hour, so we chose 1500 to give us time for lunch. Filipino fast food is predominately fried chicken and rice. We had eaten this for many breakfasts, lunches and sometimes evening meals. I was at the point where I could happily never eat chicken again, but today it won again as the easiest option.

Back at the port we pushed our bikes across a narrow ramp to the boat. Within ten minutes we disembarked at Boracay. You can read our blog of Boracay and Romblon Island here.

Philippines: Negros Island including Apo Island

Louise George

Transport to Apo Island Beach. Negros Island in the background

Transport to Apo Island Beach. Negros Island in the background

Day 1: Siquijor (Siquijor Island) by ferry to Dumaguete (Negros Oriental Island) cycle to Malatapay then boat to Apo Island 28.4 km 105m Ascent

Dumaguette was a surprise for us as we had expected a small town similar to those we had traveled through to date, but it was a bustling city with many cafes and western style restaurants. We settled at a cafe and our medium size Latte came in a mug as big as a bucket! Next stop was an Italian restaurant for pasta and salad. There was a lot of traffic heading in the same direction as us, but for the 28 kilometres we had a flat road and a shoulder as wide as a lane, that no other vehicle was using, so we had a comfortable ride. At Malatapay we left our panniers at the booking office for the crossing to Apo Island and then sought out a place to leave the bikes. When we asked the residents of a house nearby, they were happy for us to leave the bikes with them. We returned to the beach where three other tourists had arrived for the crossing, so we were able to share the cost. There was no jetty at either departure or landing points so we waded out to the vessel, helped by the crew of two who carried and stowed our bags. Thus began a roller coaster of wave riding. Sometimes white caps broke over the five of us. We arrived drenched. Having paid our island access fee, that goes towards protection of the landscape and seascape, and dodging a couple of women selling T-shirts we climbed up to Marios Diving and Homestay. They only had a family room vacant, so bigger than we needed, but comfortable, with a balcony, cold water shower, and fan cooling, however electricity is only available from 6 to 10 p.m.

Apo Island was a thriving community, with both an elementary school and high school educating around 300 children. A concrete pathway wove through the populated area, with wooden pushing trolleys being used for carting drinking water, and other goods from the beach to the homes. Wells at each end of the village, provided water for washing. At the end of the footpath street up to Marios there was a square of bench tops and bright lights that formed the internet hub used by island residents.

There were a couple of short walking tracks on the island so as soon as we had dumped our gear, and put our names on the whiteboard to indicate our preference of one of three choices for the evening meal, we walked to the view point to watch the sunset.

Day 2: Apo Island

The waters surrounding Apo Island are a marine sanctuary known for a huge variety of corals and the sea meadows are a feeding ground for Green Turtles. We paid for snorkeling gear and a guide, and walked from the shore into a marine paradise where we spent a couple of hours snorkeling amongst some enormous turtles, colourful fishes and beautiful corals. In the afternoon we walked up to the lighthouse and were surprised to see an area of pasture with goats and cattle grazing. There were also solar panels that we thought might supply the island with the daily few hours of electricity.

The tide´s out on Apo foreshore

The tide´s out on Apo foreshore

Day 3: Apo Island to Bayawan 77.5km 420m Ascent

Our early departure with locals, also heading for Negros Island, was calm, so we remained dry. When we had arrived at Malatapay the other day, there were many seemingly abandoned wooden structures like store fronts and wooden benches, but no people about. Now these were laden with goods as a market at Malatapay was in full swing, and to retrieve our bikes we dodged people and motorcycles with side-frames carrying pigs.

Market purchase going home

Market purchase going home

People here don’t give the impression that they have great wealth so we were humbled when the family that stored our bikes securely, wouldn’t take any payment. Back on the bikes we had the ocean on our left, making navigation easy! There was a range of jungle covered mountains splitting Negros into two regions, on our right. This was a day of fast flat cycling, with a gentle push by a tail wind. Being overtaken by vehicles carrying people and animals as they moved to and from the market, added interest.

Day 4: Bayawan To Sugar Beach 87.6km 409m Ascent

Another mostly flat ride until we pulled over to take a photo of the view of Calipapa from the top of a headland. A cyclist was coming towards us so we waved and he pulled in for a chat. Sonny had just completed a 20km ride and his final burst was to ride up to the view point. He lived back down below the view point, in Calipapa and invited us to his house for a cold drink. We spent about an hour with Sonny, and over glasses of iced water took the opportunity to ask him all of the questions we had about the Philippines, and to learn of his life as a Bosun on a ship, away from home for weeks at a time, and of his wife who was a head teacher at a school in the mountains, who lived at the village where she taught and only returned home for weekends.

A few kilometres before Sipalay we had two climbs; the first a bit of a teaser and the final climb twice as high, twice as long and twice as steep. There is always a reward for energy expended, and the downhill to Sipalay was awesome. Sipalay Beach was a long broad stretch of sand, popular with Filipinos as a holiday destination. We had chosen Sugar Beach as our destination so after a cheesy-fries snack, left Sipalay and headed north a few kilometres. We turned left at Gil Montilla and continued to the road end where we asked for Mondo, as we had been told we could leave our bikes with him. The bikes were locked together in an open shed.

Access to Sugar Beach was by a long narrow wooden boat with outriggers, that are typically used for transportation or fishing. The boat squeezed through the sandbar at the river mouth and then motored through the ocean, running parallel with the stretch of white sand along the shoreline. We wanted a rest of three nights staying in one place, however Sugar Beach was popular and we couldn’t get consecutive nights all at one place. We stayed at one resort for the first night, moved next door for the second night and returned to our first room for the third night. So we did stay in one place, only because we didn´t leave Sugar Beach but packed and moved each day. Just as well we had little in the way of items that needed to be unpacked, and had pannier packing down to a fine art!

Day 5: Sugar Beach Day Off

A day of being as lazy as we possibly could be. Energy was only expended to eat food, swim in the turquoise ocean, and soak up the sunset with a walk along the beach.

Paradise for a few days

Paradise for a few days

Day 6: Sugar Beach Day Off

We’d organised a ‘Snorkeling Turtle Island’ trip with One Ocean Diving. It had been my intention to go to Danjugan Island as I had read there were canoes available to use to paddle around the island and there was a nice beach and a walk in the interior; but to get there would be an hour by boat (not Nev’s favourite means of transport). The alternative of snorkeling at a wreck, only 20 minutes by boat was also attractive, so after breakfast a boat pulled onto the sand for us to board. Snorkeling over a wreck was a new experience for us. The water was deep except for the deteriorating bulk of steel directly below. Fish flittered about and it was tempting, but too scary for us, to follow them into the open cavities that led into tunnels. Later we snorkelled in another area, floating over beautiful coral, marveling at the array of tiny fish swimming in schools around us.

Day 7: Sugar Beach to Kabankalan 77.4km, 436m ascent

Our boat arrived just after breakfast and we left Sugar Beach with lovely memories of interesting conversations with fellow travelers, homemade sourdough bread, mango jam, and other delicious meals. The boat was briefly caught on a sandbar, but was quickly nudged free by the second boatman. Fortunately the bikes were where we left them, locked but in an open shed. When we told Mondo we were heading for Bacolod and it would take two days, he found this quite amusing.

We chose a different route back to the main road that wasn’t flat and concrete, as was the road we had ridden to Sugar Beach on. Before long we were on rocky gravel and then climbing; well pushing up the 18% in my case, and then struggling to dig deep and ride up a few other hills. 4.5 km later we were at the main road and I was feeling like I’d completely undone two days of relaxation. Some areas we ride through we are something of an oddity and this last few kilometres was such a time. Faces lit up as we passed and there was no option but to offer a return grin at least equally as broad as the one given, and call back with a greeting. Groups of women squatted beside wells, around large bowls of sudsy washing water. The smell of detergent wafted from clothes hanging to dry and two young women walking by, heading to church, wore the detergent perfume.

Our first 30 kilometres was; climb a headland, take in the view if there was one, drop down to a flat area where the road was bordered by rice paddies; then repeat. As we headed east, the pleasure of finally having kilometres of flat riding was negated by a headwind. We stopped for our ‘go to’ lunch of bread, bananas and peanut butter at a village stage; the only place we could find shade that wasn´t private property. A few villages later we arrived at Caliling where there were no shops but there were a number of market stalls. Many were selling second hand clothing. We purchased Mango slushy with evaporated milk added.

Today’s final 20 kilometres was quite heavy with traffic, the road cutting a swathe through acres of sugar cane. Very old trucks, overloaded with cane, overtook at a pace barely faster than us. Our destination was the bustling city of Kabankalan. Kabankalan had many new buildings including a City Mall, McDonalds, coffee shop and restaurants; quite a contrast to only secondhand goods and clothing available at Caliling.

Day 8: Kabankalan to Bacolod (Negros Island), 89.3km, 143m Ascent then ferry to Iloilo (Panay Island) Ride to accommodation 4.56km

We had a ferry to catch later in the day so made an early start. Breakfast was at Jollibees, the Filipino equivalent of McDonalds. Breakfast for me was garlic rice, a battered chicken leg and fried egg. Nev had pancake sandwich with filling of bacon and egg.

Fast food breakfast Filopino style

Fast food breakfast Filopino style

We had a flat ride on the National Highway that started with two lanes each side and as usual no vehicles using the lane closest to the road edge. Maybe that was because at one area the concrete had been poured around a crooked row of power poles leaving them dangerously smack in the middle of our lane. We noticed someone riding a mountainbike behind us and manoeuvred to let him alongside. For a few kilometres we chatted to the young man who worked for the army and was returning to barracks after a 15km trail ride.The rice paddies we had been riding through up to now had been replaced with sugar cane fields extending infinitum and at varying stages of the production cycle. Some fields bare and recently ploughed, others with young growth, and some had recently been burned off and now the remaining stubble was being manually slashed by men with sharp machetes. Many areas were being harvested, with canes being loaded into trucks, some of very old vintage. All work was done manually with large loads carried up to the tray of the truck by men walking a steep plank.

We were passed by many cane trucks and other overloaded vehicles. The most common vehicle on the road was the motor-tricycle usually with too many passengers, or sometimes carrying lengths of bamboo that extended many metres for and aft, with the rear scraping the road. At the 7/11 at Binalbagan we had coffee and from a ‘donut kiosk’ cabinet we chose the most delicious jam doughnuts. There were only a few tables and chairs available, so we moved across our seats to let a man who was standing, share our table. We then had an enjoyable chat with Glenn who was a dive instructor and resort owner, who was traveling to Romblon Island on his motorcycle.


On leaving Hinigaran the two lanes each side of the road were now in full use, as traffic volumes had increased. There was no sign of rain today and the days heat had gotten uncomfortable. By mid-day a severe head-wind added to our discomfort.

We finally arrived at Bacolod and rode directly to the port. The bikes were manhandled by crew to stand at the front of a very old boat that looked more like a floating aircraft carrier than a ferry. Next stop Panay Island.

Can you see the bikes tucked in the front? An ideal position to be sprayed in salt water!

Can you see the bikes tucked in the front? An ideal position to be sprayed in salt water!

Philippines: Siquijor Island

Louise George


Day 1: Tagbilaran (Bohol Island) to Siquijor (Siquijor Island) 15km 123m Ascent

So far we had not found good coffee in the Philippines so went back to Bohol Bees Cafe for morning tea, before heading down to the Tagbilaran port. Tagbilaran to Siquijor Island by ferry was straightforward. It was a ‘roll-on, roll-off’ ferry that we pushed our bikes onto, and left them tucked in a corner of the vehicle deck. You can read about our riding in Bohol Island and Panglao Island here.

We docked at Larena, and were 9 km into the ride to Siquijor town when the drizzle that had been hanging about all morning, turned to rain, forcing us to duck for cover. The downpour was short and we were soon at the town of Siquijor tucking into lunch of burgers and chips before riding a few more kilometres to our accommodation at EM’S Seaside Resort.

Day 2: 54.6km, 509m Ascent

One cycle blog we read indicated that a circuit of Siquijor Island was achievable in one day. Our attempt failed! We reckon it could be achieved if you did nothing but sit on your bike seat, but Siquijor had more to offer than a concrete road circumnavigating the island. We had made a late start and the morning heat was already fierce enough for us to consider a swim at our first detour to the pretty palm-fringed white-sand Paliton Beach, but this early into the ride we didn’t want to cause irritation for the rest of the day, of the prickly sensation of salt water drying on our skin.


We skirted back to the Siquijor Circumferential Road and rejoined it at the turn off by the little church at Paliton village. Next stop was for a mid morning caffeine fix at the small town of San Juan, that attracts most visitors to the island because of its proximity to beautiful beaches and dive spots. Late morning in January the beaches were very quiet.

At Tubod we turned inland for the sheer pleasure (said sarcastically) of undertaking a 4km climb so we could visit Lugnason Falls. A few young local men met us at the parking area and indicated they were keen to be our guide, but we knew already that a guide wasn’t really necessary, unless you wanted some instruction for jumping, or for someone to take photos of you performing jumps, with your own camera. The walk down was steep and slippery at the edge of the natural pool, but worth the effort to watch those brave enough to jump from the top of the waterfall, or swing out holding a rope from a higher place amongst the trees.

Lugnason Falls

Lugnason Falls

We swam in the pool along with some little fish that, disconcertingly, kept nibbling at our skin. There was an alternative track looping back to the car park, that featured views to many river pools that were named after signs of the Zodiac. We took that longer route but the trail was a bit overgrown in places and we arrived back at the bikes hot and sweat-sticky from clambering the jungle route.

Having ridden up from the coast, it was great to now have a downhill. We had seen signs, with paint still bright, guiding to ´Jungle Jacks´, so assuming by the freshness of their sign, that they might take care of their facility, we stopped for lunch. The patio restaurant gave great views over the jungle and out to sea, and the food was fresh. With full bellies we continued on down a steep descent to the main road, turned left, where a gradual ascending gradient took us to the Balete Tree at Campalanas. We sat, along with some other tourists, in the shade of the enormous 400 year old Banyan tree, with our feet dangling in the spring at its base, for a fish nibbling foot spa.

Back on the bikes we kept on climbing for a number of kilometres. The heat was wearing us down. We pulled to the side of the road at the top of the hill, and checked our map. We still had 6 km to Lazi, and from this point that was obviously going to be descending. It was also clear to us there was insufficient time for us to complete a circuit of the island today. We figured we would be best to turn at Lazi and double-back to our accommodation. When we thought more carefully about that decision, we realised this meant when we came back this way, the ride would start with a long climb back to this hilltop. Instead we ‘gave up,’ turned at the apex of the climb and enjoyed a five kilometres descent. A short stop back at Campalanas was to enjoy the coconut water and flesh of a green coconut; and then keeping to the coast this time, we had virtually a flat ride back to Siquijor town.

Day 3: ´Cheating´ Siquijor by motorcycle

What a good decision it was to hire a motorcycle. We headed through the centre of the island towards Lazi. Part of the journey was on a narrow road through jungle, with steep and constant climbing, until our first stop at Cantabon Cave. When we passed Canatabon village hall, someone poked their head out and asked if we were going to the caves. We had said ‘no’ because at that point we hadn´t intended going there. Later when we saw the sign to the cave we got curious so walked down to it, only to find we couldn’t enter because a locked gate prevented entry without a guide. Oh well, missed out on that experience! Next stop was climbing 148 steps, cut into the mountain path, followed by more steps up a metal tower at the top of Mt Bandila-an (557m) to get a view out to the coast.

Further along, the Bandila-an Mountain View Park gardens were a bit unkempt, but we dragged our weary legs to the top of the path and back down. Our central island route took us passed Cambugahay Falls and we stopped there to swim and to watch people swinging and dropping into each of the three pools.

Cambugahay Falls, this is the top fall of three

Cambugahay Falls, this is the top fall of three

At Lazi we picked up the coastal circuit route we had abandoned yesterday, Further along, Salagdoong Beach in the Salagdoong National Park, situated on a peninsula from the right of Provincial Road, was a relaxing place for an afternoon swim. It was a popular spot with the locals and as usual there was the opportunity, for those who loved to leap, to jump from the rocky escarpment that divided the beach into two sections.

Salagdoong Beach

Salagdoong Beach

We filled the tank with petrol; from coke bottles and then headed to a restaurant for our evening meal. Halo Halo, a Filipino dessert that translates as ´mix-mix´ was a tasty conclusion to a lovely day. Halo Halo is layers of boiled sweet beans, tapioca, jelly and fruits on top of a base of shaved ice and evaporated milk. If it melts it looks like a mixed up mess of sweet deliciousness.

Tomorrow we catch a ferry to Negros Island and Apo Island you can read that blog here.

Philippines: Bohol Island and Panglao Island

Louise George


The cocka doodal oodal call and response of crowing roosters was a constant cocaphony, trilling throughout day and night, drowning any sweet birdsong. “Hey Joe” was called from Nipa huts, school playgrounds, palm groves and jungle; reminding us that we were never alone.

Getting Started: 23.81 km

We flew into Cebu, in the Philippines, two days before Christmas, and then needed to decide which of the 7107 islands (count differs if the tide is out) we would ride to reach Manila by early February. We had chosen Panglao, a small island south-west of Bohol, for a short break and to be our cycle touring starting point. First we needed to get there. We had three hours until the holiday office closure to get ferry tickets so after dumping our gear we rode to the shopping centre nearby, through sound waves of Christmas Carols broadcast from every small store, at a volume suitable for a night club. We secured the last seats on the 2GO ferry from Cebu to Tagbilaran. Because it was Holidays, all other ferry sailings for the next day were fully booked.

We intended to come back to Cebu Island, but this never eventuated, so our only time on Cebu was riding to the ferry 8 kilometres from our accommodation. For our travel we had to be at the port on Christmas Eve by 7 a.m. Cycling to the ferry at dawn was very pleasant, as the air was cool and the traffic was light. The port terminal was chocker with waiting passengers. We’d been told to arrive 2 hours before departure and duly complied, but with tickets already in hand the early arrival was hardly necessary. The bikes were booked as luggage and handed over to 2GO staff, for loading. We’d left the panniers on the bikes, so it was lovely to just settle ourselves.

Bohol Island: Briefly

Tagbilaran, Bohol Island, the port of arrival, was crazy with people and traffic but I was keen to get some Christmas treats. What a stupid idea! First surprise was going through security and being frisked before I could enter the supermarket, and this level of security was enforced throughout the country at other shopping centres. Finding familiar items was hopeless so I came away with little more than a packet of cracker biscuits and a locally made nut-paste sweet treat. I returned to Nev who had been waiting outside with the bikes and we set off. Fortunately the town streets that were clogged with motor tricycles and pedestrians thinned out, to only the occasional vehicle, as we rode across a bridge to Panglao Island, then into the countryside for a peaceful and flat few kilometres to our accommodation and a relaxing, no cycle touring, Christmas and Boxing Day.

Panglao Island: Just a taste: 17.81 km

Yesterday was Christmas Day that we spent relaxing beside the pool, with our only excursion being taken by courtesy van to Alona Beach for an evening meal at clothed tables set in the sand on the edge of the ocean, where we were served delicious seafood and entertained by a karaoke duo and fire twirling dancers. Today is Boxing Day and having sat around long enough, we stretch our legs on a short ride to nearby beaches on Panglao.

Alona Beach at dusk

Alona Beach at dusk

Cycle Touring: Bohol Island

Day 1: Panglao Island to Loboc 38.5km 178m Ascent

We left Panglao Island taking the same route as we rode in, but after crossing the bridge onto Bohol Island, turned right to follow the coast in an anticlockwise direction until Loay and then turned inland to Loboc. Loboc, a popular holiday destination for locals, is situated on the Loboc River where river cruises, floating restaurants, and evening viewings of fireflies along the river banks are promoted as ‘must do’ activities. We did none of these things. I was feeling very unwell and my focus was on getting out of the heat and to our accommodation for a rest. Late afternoon we walked into the small town, passing Christmas Decorations, most of which are made from recycled materials, and a group of people ‘caroling’ near the ruins of San Pedro Church, brought down by earthquake in 2013.

Day 2: Loboc to Batuan (bottom of Chocolate Hills Lookout) 32.7km, 606m Ascent

Attracted by the opportunity to fly on a Zip-Line, our first stop was at the Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park. We were at the park the moment it opened, and committed to the ride as soon as we’d seen another couple cross and return safely.


The ride was high above, and across the Loboc River and for a very reasonable price we enjoyed the thrill of flying across the river with great views into the river valley. There is also a ‘Ride-a-bike’ zip line at another adventure park that seemed more conducive to our cycle touring lifestyle but it was a few kilometres out of our way. With bodies full of adrenaline we headed for the more sedate butterfly park, that included me having Macaw birds sitting on my head while Nev was being wrapped around the neck by a blonde Python. The things we do for photo opportunities!

Next stop was the Tarsier Sanctuary, where we spotted a few of the wide eyed marsupials staring back at us from behind a curtain of leaves. This is certainly a tourist route and there was a lot of traffic on a road that climbed and wound through a man-made Mahogany Forest to the Chocolate Hills.

We had not been able to find an ATM and were told there was one at the lookout. What a serious climb to get some money. The road wound around one of the Chocolate Hills, so named because the geology of limestone domes is covered in grass that browns in the summer heat, and the hills look like Chocolate Bon-Bons. From the car park there were extensive views across mounds of these hills. Later we had a great view of this view-point hill from our accommodation.

Chocolate Hills

Chocolate Hills

Day 3: Batuan to Jagna 62.6km, 897m Ascent 1185m descent

The road to Sierra Bullones undulated and even though the effort wasn’t too intense, the heat and humidity sucked out our energy and hydration levels. We stopped for a cool refreshing drink but were tempted by a shop selling slushy. A bright green Pandan Slushy for me and a deep purple Ube one for Nev, hit the spot. From the bakery, Bread rolls and banana cake that we would eat later, were purchased for lunch. We knew we should expect a significant climb after Sierra Bullones but had been riding for about five kilometres without coming across one. In fact we were having a lovely gentle descent. When we reached the Malinao Reservoir we realised we’d made a navigational error. I hate having to backtrack but that’s how it had to be! Now with a gentle climb before us, we returned and rode back through Sierra Bullones, to our route just on the outer edge of town, and yes, after turning left, we were straight into a significant climb. At a small village we stopped in the shade of a hedge that separated someone’s home from the road, and sat on a wooden bench to eat lunch. A couple of children sat beside us and asked ‘Give me money?’ We were a bit shocked when they repeated the request a number of times, so we gave them a slice of banana cake to share. Later, in contrast to this, a man walking by said that if we needed water, we could go to the filtered water station in the village. He had noticed us earlier and kindly told them to give us what water we needed. The local ‘mayor’ also stopped and spoke to us about our journey and the state of the roads on the island. Most roads, he said, were now concrete, making it easier for locals to travel in the wet season. With food in our bellies we continued to climb. I was able to be distracted from the riding task by admiring mass plantings of potted tropical plants that bordered the road on each side.

Soon the road twisted with gradients getting so steep, that my energy levels lagged and I didn’t have the strength in my legs to ride so had to walk and push up two of them. The Peak was at 756 metres and from there we had an awesome downhill to the coast.

Sometimes cycle touring is like being stuck in mud. Parts of this day felt like that!

Sometimes cycle touring is like being stuck in mud. Parts of this day felt like that!

Our accommodation was on the seaside edge of the Bohol Circumferential Road, our room was almost hanging over the ocean. We got a bit of a buzz when we chatted to some other guests at the restaurant who were in awe that we had ridden that road on bicycles. They said that their vehicles struggle on those climbs in first gear!


Day 4: Jagna to Anda 33.7km, 159m Ascent

Having been up all night with diarrhoea my body felt heavy and sluggish. Fortunately the medication I had been taking kicked in, and I finally dragged myself out of bed at 10:15 and was able to eat omelette and toast for breakfast. We set off around 11 am. After what had seemed to me to be an epic climb yesterday, my illness, and a 35C air temperature with humidity that we are not used to, at an average speed of 13 kph, this day was the slowest flat distance we’d ever ridden. The road followed the coast and the sea breeze was refreshing. We stopped briefly after 10km and purchased water and then stopped again at 20km for Nev to have some lunch. Our accommodation at Andanott Garden was one of two adjoining holiday rooms for rent and the second was vacant. At the far end of the garden there was a small thatched roof nipa hut, where the manager lived. We were disappointed to find the room had neither air conditioning nor wifi, two mandatory items we look for when booking accommodation. I napped all afternoon and then we took a walk to the white-sand beach, 400 metres away, arriving just in time for Nev to have a sunset swim. By the time we returned to our room I was needing to rest again so Nev went into Anda town to the food centre, for his dinner and to purchase fruit.

Day 5: Anda Rest day

With the fan oscillating at our feet, we did manage to have a restful night after the rather loud Karaoke singers over the road went to bed around 10pm. This was our second rest period in the Philippines when I had plenty of time, but couldn’t upload photos to blogs I’d completed. Although I had data on my phone, the Globe network signal was pitifully weak. I needed a new focus to quell my feelings of agitation, so applied the ‘be in the moment’ approach and reconsidered this interlude to be a luxury retreat. The garden was shaded by tall trees but enough dappled sunlight allowed plush grass to grow in patches making the perfect natural yoga mat. To one side there was a deep rocky sink hole with beautiful rockery planting showcasing the feature, and the peaceful tropical garden setting (so long as the karaoke over the road didn’t rev up), an ideal spot in which to read and write. A beautiful white-sand beach and calm turquoise ocean was a short walk away. We started the day with nutritious muesli, coconut milk and banana that we had brought along with us. Later we ate sweet, fresh Mango. Apart from wishing that the coffee powder with sugar and crema included, could adequately substitute for our preferred sugar-free flat-white, what more could we ask for?

We cycled the short distance into Anda village and ate a healthy lunch at Coco Loco: coconut water and jellied flesh fresh from the green shell, entree of hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks, and for me a main of chicken and couscous (my eyes were bigger than my belly, so Nev ate half), and Nev also enjoyed a Coco burger of which the vegetarian pattie was made of grated coconut. We returned to our accommodation and relaxed, listening to the pleasant music amplified from the house at the rear, that was intermittently drowned by the cheers and commentary from the cock fighting at ‘The Cockers Association’ over the road.

It was New Years Eve and we expected to eat at a restaurant near the beach, but didn’t book and hadn’t considered they would be full. Oh dear! J&R Resort further along the road was recommended. Although J&R were having a private party for guests and staff they made us welcome to join their buffet meal and entertainment of a talented duo, who passed the mic to staff to sing their own karaoke favourite during the breaks. Fireworks at midnight closed the evening and moments later the heavens opened with torrential rain as if to draw the final curtain. Our hosts kindly offered us their van and driver to transport us back to Andanott Gardens.

Day 6: Poblacion region 25 km

As with New Years morning anywhere, most shop and restaurant owners were having a sleep in, but mid morning we found a restaurant serving breakfast to sustain our cycle ride eight kilometres along the coast to Lamanok Island. The island is small, separated from the peninsula by little more than a chasm in the rock, but being clad in dense bush, it is only accessible from the ocean, first by a long, rickety board-walk through mangroves to a restaurant, and then by paddle boat. We hired a paddle boat and the rower who was also our guide. We travelled across an area of marine sanctuary that was marked by poles in the water. There was also a hut perched on stilts that we were told is where the warden spends the night, keeping a watchful eye so that local fishermen do not enter the sanctuary. We then spent an interesting couple of hours being shown Red Hermatite Rock Paintings, an ancient wooden coffin in a prehistoric burial site, and a Shaman’s Cave. We also saw that some of the natural geographic formations had been destroyed. This had occurred after the war, as some treasure hunters thought that the natural layers of rock having the appearance of concrete slabs, were treasure stores where Japanese had hidden gold.

The Poblacion area is a popular tourist destination and there are many places to stay with resorts dotted along the coast and access to half a dozen beaches. The water is clear and snorkeling and diving are popular activities. We rode back to Anda town and went searching for cave springs. There are a few in the area, popular swimming pools for the locals but it was the end of the day and most people were leaving so we didn’t venture in for a swim ourselves. While it looked amazing to be swimming in these deep caverns, some looked difficult to access with locals either leaping in, or negotiating rope ladders.

Locals enjoying a cave spring

Locals enjoying a cave spring

Day 7: Anda to Beunos Aires (Chocolate Mountains) epic 65.84km, 1030m ascent

We had already planned a long route and discussed back-up options such as taking a vehicle if necessary but I’d been awake since 5 am and read a blog about Bohol highlights from another traveler’s (not cycling) perspective. There was a little diversion we could take that would go directly past three of the attractions mentioned. With me not wanting to ‘miss out’ Nev adjusted the course, and we reckoned the new length and additional gradient would be manageable.

We were on the bikes at 6:20, each with half a mango and small satchet of red bean porridge in our bellies. The road was mostly flat, through rice paddies, and there was little traffic. At 8:30 we rode through Candijay. Nev called back to me that he was looking for somewhere for breakfast. A man beside the road heard and called out “it’s here; park at the kerb so you can see your bikes.” There was an open shop front with three lidded stainless steel dishes on a bench; one with green beans, one with mung bean sprouts and another with egg and bitter melon. None of these appealed as breakfast foods so we asked for a fried egg and rice. We each received one fried egg atop a mountain of rice, on a dinner sized plate. Later from the bakery nearby we purchased buns for lunch.

A few kilometres from Candijay we turned off the flat Bohol Circumferential Road and straight into a climb. We should have taken the steep introduction to the hinterland as an omen of difficult riding to come, and it should have also been obvious to us that terraced rice paddies we were heading to, would be on hillsides. At this point we had just completed one steep climb up one hill; however that meant now we were committed to continue; no turning back allowed!

The ride took us through many little villages. We were surprised by the number of small schools we passed, signs outside schools indicated that they had four teachers. There were a number of people about who called to Nev, as he was ahead, so there was an almost continuous cry of ‘Hey Joe!’ After a number of hills we came across a roadside tourist ticket office with three people working to collect the small fee of P20, required to visit the Can-Umantad waterfall, at 18 metres it’s the highest in Bohol. Nev joked that after that hilly road they should be paying us to be here! It was explained to us that before the falls we could turn off to Cadapdapan farm and pay another P20 to see the rice terraces.

We did this, and the view of the terraces was very pretty. As we left the farm we noticed a sign to the falls and steps down from the parking area. This was confusing as we’d recently paid to access the Can-Umantad Falls and believed they were further along the road. As you can see from the photo below, we continued our ride for quite a distance from the falls before turning into a side road that would lead to the falls. We rode downhill and at the point where we had just descended a -23% hill, and knew we were going to have to bike back out this way, we decided to pull to the side of the road and lock the bikes together, proceeding on foot. In retrospect it may have been easier to take the steps from the farm. A couple who had arrived at the farm by car at the same time as us, were emerging from the bush near the falls at the same time as we arrived, having walked down the steps, and probably didn’t need to pay a fee to see the falls. We however had continued to walk downhill from where we’d left the bikes, and subsequently arrived at a parking area where we were met by a group of locals who wanted to be guides. We followed a young lad down steps slick with mud, then took photos of the waterfall and watched people enjoy a swim in the natural pool.

We then climbed back out, walked up to the bikes and made our way back to the top road. Nev heroically rode a section that short 23% incline, while I followed, slowly pushing my bike.

Our third stop was at Canawan Cold Spring. The water source is a mystery and no-one has reached the bottom. There was another small fee of P20 to swim there, but a crazy P200 to hire a table. When this was pointed out to us we quickly removed our clothing and towels from the table top. No tables were in use! The spring water certainly was cold. Refreshed from our swim we hit the road again. We had a problem in that the road we were on was not on our map and we became worried when it deteriorated into a rocky track.

Maybe this isn´t the right way!

Maybe this isn´t the right way!

We double-backed a short distance to where we had last seen a person, and were pointed in the correct direction. Finally we got to Alicia and hoped to pay for a ride to Sierra Bullones but there didn’t seem to be any vehicles available. We continued to Pilar, getting more concerned about riding into the evening.

Is there room in there for me!

Is there room in there for me!

Fortunately a motorcycle-van driver was happy for us to hire him to take us 26 kilometres to Carmen. It was a squeeze but Nev and the driver managed to get one bike tied on the roof, and Nev and I squashed around the second bike inside. We were dropped at Carmen just on dark and rode the final few kilometres to our accommodation at Beunos Aires.

Day 8: Beunos Aires to Tagbilaran 64.5km, 394m ascent

It would have been helpful to have a good topographical map of the Philippines but we had not looked for one and had to ‘make do’ with, sometimes Google Maps, or the Komoot App, that incidentally I thought unhelpful as it didn’t have points of interest on it, that we would want to include when creating a course. Nev had set the day’s course to take us left at Bilar and head for Dimiao on the coast, via a couple of waterfalls. We weren’t sure how far off the course the Dam-agan or Ingkumhan waterfalls were, or how steep the access would be to each of them. After yesterday’s effort we decided that we would make a decision when we got to the turnoffs. If we had to go down to a waterfall, only to climb back up, we would likely give them a miss.

“Where are you going? Oh you’ll have a good surface,” was laughed heartily at me as we rode by a local man. I relayed this to Nev but he was pretty confident we would have a straight forward ride because he had based the course on a route he figured (after reading Internet notes) a cycle tour used, and he reckoned they would be on road bikes. Sure enough, the concrete road we had been riding on that went passed the local high school was a pleasure to ride, but oh dear it soon deteriorated into a rough surface, hill-climb track. At least the views were spectacular!

What goes up, must come down. The long steep descent dropped onto the main coastal road. We found that we had ridden parallel to the road where the waterfalls were, and certainly missed them, but through navigational error rather than being hampered by the terrain. Food and hydration was our priority so we purchased water, Sprite, and buns that we ate in the shade of an unfinished building. Fortunately there are many bakeries throughout the Philippines. If nothing else at least we can find bread and buns. While they look like they are all different flavours we found that they all taste exactly the same.



The concrete road took us the final 29km on Bohol Circumferential Road back to the port town of Tagbilaran, where we celebrated the completion of our ride on Bohol Island, with two Lattes each at Bohol Bees Cafe.

Next stop is Siquijor Island