Up the Mountain and back again.
“Gooday mate” shouted accross the bar and the bell ringing like there was no tomorrow. Yep Les ‘the fuck monkey’ was back in town.
Now I hadn’t seen Les for quite a while so after he ran riot in the bar reacquainting himself with anyone and everyone, we settled down for a quiet little session. He was on his fifth Jack Daniels and coke when he looks at me and says “when are we going for a ride mate”?
Now I know Les is a motorbike enthusiast and can ride like a demon so I cautiously responded “how about on Monday or Tuesday my days off”. Sounds good to me replied Les “I will go to nice bike and rent a Honda Steed so we can do a fucking thunder ride mate”. A thunder ride as the name implies means going fast, in fact it means going fast the entire time with no let up for traffic, caribous, or stray dogs who wander across the road like they own it.
At this point I had a quiet little chuckle to myself because I knew full well the Honda Steeds were all rented out and I couldn’t imagine Les doing a thunder ride on a little 125. Wrong again, Martin.
Come Tuesday I am round at Shaggers place when we get a text from Les let’s go boys it’s time for a ride. We meet up at Nice Bike and sure enough there’s Les and his mate Peter on the massive 125’s.
This is a sight for sore eyes and I was just about to laugh when Les turns to me and says “try to keep up mate”. Ok that was enough the gauntlet had been thrown down and who was I not to respond.
Les and Pete on their massive 125 rice burners.
We started off crossing over Macarthur Highway (a major achievement in itself) and heading down Mountain View road towards city hall. We were just negotiating some traffic when I felt the back of my bike wobbling. I glance in the rear view mirror and sure enough there’s Les giving my rear tire a little nudge.
Enough was enough so I pulled on the throttle and with a roar left Les eating my dust. We proceed along Mountain View road past city hall and come to a roundabout. Here we veered left following signs to Magalang.
We get through the town of Magalang with Les up to his usual antics the whole time. At one stage Shagger was minding his own business riding along at a sedate pace when Les goes flying past him on the massive 125. No problem for the Shagger man he was going slowly letting No Nose Ronalie take pictures but he was a bit perturbed when 5 minutes later he sees Les riding back towards him on the wrong side of the dirt road with every nut and bolt of the 125 shaking as he hits the pot holes. Turns out Les had lost his cap and was a bit worried about his bald scalp getting sun burnt. This procedure happen no less than 4 times and I am sure the local motorists were wondering what the heck was wrong with this crazy foreigner riding on the wrong side of the road, chrome dome shining in the sun and dirt flying everywhere.
We get to the end of the Magalang road only to find Les has a flat tire and wouldn’t you know it 20 yards away is a vulcanizing shop. Some people have all the luck.
Now was time for a little rest stop while the guy fixed the tire ably assisted by Les.
Les lending a helping hand.
Ronalie used her rest time wisely. Here she is trying to find her nose with the help of Shaggers bikes mirror.
15 minutes later all tires fixed for a mere 100 peso we were ready to hit the road again. With me in the lead our convoy headed out towards Mount Arayat. Along the way there is a little traffic but nothing to cause any prolonged delays.
Many small front yard businesses in the provincial areas.
We travelled about 20 minutes along the road then took a left turn following the sign posting to the town of Arayat.
Once you hit this road things get decidedly rural and it is like being in another world. Along the way we stopped at a local church so I could pray for my safety whilst riding with Les.
Could do with a bell like this in Neros.
Mount Arayat dominates the surrounding countryside.
The town of Arayat is a small rural sort of place but it is a distinct worry when a group of school girls call out hello daddy and the local cops are having a quick snack 30 feet away. Needless to say I did not acknowledge their calls.
After the town of Arayat we turned left again heading towards the actual mountain. Some weeks previously we had been told by the owner of Bar Hopping bar about some rock pools in the Mount Arayat National park and I was now on a mission to find them.
We pulled over in the town of Arayat and asked directions. This caused quite a stir for Ronalie who was the object of much attention being the only Filipina in a group of four foreigners. Once she had gotten the directions she hid behind Shaggers bike so the prying eyes of the locals would leave her alone.
We had a short conference on the roadside in Arayat and decided we were going to try and find these elusive rock pools.
The big conference in downtown Arayat.
Back on the bikes and Shagger asks me “Martin do you know where your going?”, to which I replied “not really but I have to find those rock pools”.
We travelled about ten kilometers then there was a sign saying Mount Arayat National Park next left. Ok now I knew I was on the right track and the rock pools were getting closer by the minute.
Taking a turn to the left we then stopped for Peter to cool down a bit and take in some refreshments. He had just come from the Australian summer but even that couldn’t prepare him for the humidity of the Philippines.
We literally descended upon a little eatery where cool drinks and foot long hot dogs were consumed. The lady running the store thought all her Christmases had come at once being visited by foreign celebrities, whilst other locals just gaped at us in awe.
The little eatery wasn’t quite ready for a horde of hungry foreigners
The infamous foot longs now renamed as the Thotoy Dog.
At one stage I asked Shagger why do some Filipinos just stand around and look at you with vacant eyes, mouth wide open. He replied “because they are waiting for a miracle, everyone knows that”.
Some of the locals checked us out as we devoured the foot longs.
Well after an answer like that I decided it was time to hit the road again so saying our goodbyes we roared away heading towards the mountain. After about 5 minutes ride we arrived at the Mount Arayat National Park.
Out here it is like another world and as we rode through the local township it seemed like the entire towns inhabitants had lined the street to gawk at these strange foreigners and cheer us on.
A very basic existence in some of the poorer rural areas.
Heading through the town we then took a right turn and it was then the going got a little rough. Normally I am the slowest rider so the boys put me up front and I don’t get left behind but I noticed when we hit the dirt road I was all of a sudden at the tail end wallowing in the other riders dust.
Once again here I am swallowing dust.
The dirt road is a gradual incline and gets a little rough in places but basically it is easy to negotiate and good fun to travel on. We travelled upwards with Mount Arayat looming up ahead when suddenly we came to a sort of hideaway retreat from which came the sound of a religious sermon and people singing.
Very clean and well maintained compound.
After the compound the road carries on to virtually the top of Mount Arayat.
I was curious to have a look but then thought the better of it as stories of weird Filipino religious cults came floating into my head.
This was an interesting place and even included a number of tree houses.
Some members of our species came down from the trees whilst others have climbed back up them.
Now I was in a dilemma. I still hadn’t found the illusive rock pools but it was getting late and darkness would soon be upon us. Weighing up my options I decided a ride back in darkness along a dirt road in the middle of nowhere was not really my idea of fun, so as a result the rock pools would just have to wait until another day.
The ride coming back was seemingly faster than the ride coming out and there are some great stretches of deserted road where you can get some serious speed happening.
With the sun sinking low on the horizon I was looking forward to a cold shower and a little tumble with the missus.
We negotiated our way through traffic and made it back to our respective homes and hotel safe and sound. Mr’s mjibbo had just arrived back from Manila and was not particularly impressed with her grubby man covered in dust and grime from the road, so it was time for a quick shower and then off to Stargate to party with BeauBrummel on his last night as manager.
The trip to Mount Arayat National park is really worthwhile and would make the perfect day trip for anyone wishing to get out and see little of the countryside as well as meeting the locals and seeing how they live. Pack some food and refreshments as the various food outlets along the way are primitive to say the least.