Cycle Tour Chronicles: Bikolandia

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Prologue

So it’s December and everybody’s planning for their holiday getaway! On this episode, me and my dearest ice and a bunch of friends went to Naga via Sleeper Bus to do some weekend adventure! We rode around the town of oragons and tried out their food delicacies. We spent carving the waters of cwc cable park and yes, did i mention we ate all the tasty and spiciest food we can find. We had about 2 days to enjoy the smell, taste and sight of this part of Southern Luzon and we felt so lucky to have experienced it with wonderful intrepid characters of ride buddies ready to take on all the best Bicol has to offer along side a perfect weather. After riding, eating, and enjoying the views of Mt. Isarog, we had to leave the wonderful place and take a ride to the reviving PNR sleeper train back to manila. It was a whirlwind of fun and I enjoyed every moment of it.

Day 0

The initial plan was all 7 of us would ride the PNR sleeper car from Manila all the way to Naga, but we had some trouble on the reservations. Apparently the PNR ticketing office staff had failed to reserve our tickets so Pia had to take care of last minute logistics and had four available tickets for the train, the train ticket cost them around 665 php one way. Our journey was like a scene from the amazing race. The first group of four went ahead and boarded the sleeper train at PNR Espanya station at around 6:30pm. While Ice, Pia, and I bought our sleeper bus tickets for 1,000 php each one-way. Our bus (RSA Liner, Isarog Liner) was scheduled to depart around 9:30pm at the new Cubao terminal located in the old Rustan’s building. It was our first  time riding the sleeper bus and it looked like a typical provincial bus but wait till you get inside. Passenger chairs were replaced by double-decked beds segmented into 3 rows with two narrow isles. I reckon it can take about 36 passengers in one trip. The beds were like recliner chairs. At first, I thought I was like an astronaut slipping in the tight bunk bed all ready for take off. There was a communal rest room, which was clean and looked a lot like the comfort room up on the airplanes. It was good news for me, I enjoyed taking much liquid beverage as i fancy without worrying how far the next stop will be. It was actually a non-stop bus ride but with the routine bus check up stop at Tiaong, Quezon all coincidental with the free coffee and food for the bus drivers in the McDonald’s food joint. We were expecting to arrive earlier than the train peeps but we had some stops along the way. We were still in transit when our ride leader, Val, called up to check our ETA, which was 6:30am. The first group had touched down naga earlier than expected and had been greeted by Val, the eighth rider in this Naga leg. He has been riding around bikol and had prepared a wonderful itinerary for the whole group to enjoy our 2-day ride.

Day 1

We checked-in at Camarines Sur WaterSports Complex around 7:00 am. Ice and I took the Cabana room @ 1,700 php per night.  It was actually a great deal, it’s equipped with hot water, aircon, and cable tv, not to mention the great view of Mt. Isarog. If you’re traveling in a shoe string though, they have tiki huts offered at a great price with communal bathroom. We had our tummy filled at the CWC clubhouse, i recommend filipino breakfast meal with a choice of tapa. It was delish! But their service was quite slow. Finally, all eight of us are complete for this wonderful bike and food trip. 8 riders with their trusty steeds: 2 Gogo’s, 1 Vector, 1 Chevy, 1 Flamingo, 1 Tikit and 2 Brommies all ready to take on the open roads of Naga.

Our first stop was a famous food place in the heart of Naga. Geewan- the home of bicolano dishes. It is situated along P.Burgos St. just before reaching Gen Luna Street. We parked our folding bikes inside and started picking out our meal (turo-turo style). We ordered: Kinunot, Bikol Express, Pinangat, Lechon Kawali, Lumpiang Ubod and free sinigang soup! We filled our tummy for the longer part of the ride towards San Miguel Bay, passing by the miraculous Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia endeared by the bikolanos as their ina (mother). There was a wedding on going when we got to the Basilica Minora, which was the sanctuary of Our Lady of Peñafrancia. During the feast of Our Lady, devotees gather around to praise and worship and express their gratitude for their ina’s blessing. Thereafter, we visited the Metropolitan church, also known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist. It is considered to be one of the biggest cathedral in the Bicol Region. The impressive baroque style architecture boast its timeless facade. Not too far away is the Porta Mariae, it resembles the iconic Arc de Triomphe of France. The Porta Mariae was erected as a symbol of gratitude from the Bicolanos to their ina,  Our Lady of Peñafrancia, for giving them guidance and blessing for over 300 years of devotion. A remarkable town indeed with a lot of churches, there’s no wonder why there are a lot of religious Bicolanos.

Pinangat

a pimped out laing dish, gabi(taro) leaves cooked to perfection with coconut milk(gata) it goes well with lechon kawali also available in gee wan menu’s

Bikol express

of course since we are in bikol a visiting traveller should try their famous bikol express instead of being the main course this dish has been set as a meaty kick in the the whole set of food array. spicy and delish! the only way to take on bikolano dishes!

Kinunot

coconut milk(gata) filled meal with fish cooked over it, traditionally they use shark meat for this dishes but gee wan does not have this type of ingredients, topped with maluggay leaves for a full feature of bicolano treat

geewan’s buko shake

i recommend this cold refreshment!

We decided to visit Ateneo De Naga and had a short respite under the shade of a mango tree and ate the delectable toasted siopao from Baker’s Plaza, yum! The group decided to take a long route to San Miguel Bay through the smooth tarmac towards the town of Calabanga. Food was always part of the ride, we had random stops to have ice cream break, water break and there is just no way a rider can get hungry on this trip. As soon as we arrived at the light tower of San Miguel Bay, we took our posterity photo and headed back to our last stop which was the Simbahang Parokya ng Quipayo, the oldest church in Bicol region erected in 1578. From this point we head back to the town of Naga via jeepney plying to and fro Naga. We went bi-modal because our butt was already aching and we were lazy to ride back to town. A short stop at the PNR station to buy our returning ride from Naga to Manila. This time all six of us will be riding in the sleeper car. We had the famous Kinalas for merienda at the Kinalas Twin near Dayangdang just before it we head back to CWC.

Kinalas

it is a common dish all over naga’s eatery, a yellow pansit noodle soup with fresh vegetables and sliced kinalas or beef from cows head soaked in a bulalo stock on special kinalas sauce with diced garlic and sautéed with spring onions and sliced egg. it is best to eat with puto and cold soft drinks.

Day 2

We were all tired and decided to spend the rest of the morning in wakeboard straps and splash around in CWC. We were so glad we had our folding bikes with us. It was scorching hot, it is a long walk from our rented rooms towards the CWC clubhouse. This is one of the reasons why I love riding my folding bike. While the group had their breakfast and coffee fix, Papa Rocky decided to go ahead in Naga town for his daily bike mileage, while Kris had an early flight back to Manila and Val had already gone to his next mini adventure to Caramoan and Catanduanes. All four of us who were left extended our stay till 3pm and rode the shuttle from CWC to Naga town proper. There we will meet up with Papa Rocks just in time for our 6:30 scheduled train ride to Manila. In Naga, town we went looking around to have early dinner and buy some food for our long journey inside the train. We had our encore food trip at Geewan to have the last taste of Bicol dishes. Just right around 6:00pm, we headed back to go onboard Bikol Express train. It was my first time to ever ride the train from Naga to Manila and I find it quite clean. It was decked out with four beds and there was an ample space for our folded bikes sitting at our toe board. We expected cold air-condition so we had our fleece blankets ready for the entire trip but rail road tracks can be scary at some portions of our journey. The sway of the car has been violently throwing off things at our side and at some point I thought we were derailed. Thank goodness we arrived safely in Manila. Overall, the train ride wasn’t that bad. It is a great way to travel with friends while chatting till all of you get really sleepy. Too bad though, they only have night travel. I wonder how would the sceneries would look like during the day. Coastal sights and cascading mountains would be a treat for any weary traveller.

Epilogue

It was a fun trip for me and Ice, I really enjoyed the company with friends. All the experience and food tasting trip was a blast. As I write these accounts, I’m now back on daily grind and so are my travel buddies. So I thank all of you for making this trip really worthwhile for me and Ice. Thank you! Papa Rocky, Pia, Diane, Chikee, Kris, Val and of course Bernice 🙂 Till our next adventure!

the rest of the photos: taken using trusty 400d with 50mm and UWA, superheadz 22mm film toy camera.

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