Jun 26

Tricycle Diaries - the 50km muddy pothole track of disasterThis post actually should’ve been about the fine roads of Panay Island.

Following the National Highway, you can enjoy marked middle lines, clear sidelines, an abundance of street and road direction signs and a smooth asphalt/bitumen surface, not the cheaper concrete surface, that only lasts a year or so.

It’s really a pleasure to drive on these roads – until you decide to leave them and take a smaller road. That’s what we decided to do, coming from Iloilo, to visit a Hot Spring along the way. Big mistake! ;-)

Bumpy Adventure

Coming from Iloilo on the National Highway, there is a small town called San Joaquin – it has a beautiful church, which was constructed in the 10 years following 1787 as a fortress against Muslim raiders.

Scenic Route following the Coastal LineOur ‘EZ Map’, which pointed out said San Joaquin Church and other interesting tourist sights, showed also a Hot Spring, right at the left tip of South-Western Panay.

As the National Highway seemed to be still under construction a bit further North, it seemed like a good detour; to check out that Hot Spring and join the National Highway some 60 kilometers further again.

Unfortunately after 10 kilometers of smooth riding the detour, the road slowly started to became bad also.

It also became very hilly, with a hill up quickly followed by hill down to a valley until the next curve brought another hill up again.

A few potholes here and there were soon followed by pothole galore.

Anyone ordered mud slides?

Small Stream crossing Road of Scenic Coastal RouteNo problem! Sooner or later the road should become better again, right? No!

Closer to the shore it really was a scenic ride. You had the ocean just to your left and a hilly area to your right, riding the serpentines following the coastal shores.

The problem I was soon facing was the muddy surface of the road. Straight ahead it didn’t cause any problems, just up and down the hills, it was more like a mud slide – the bike was hardly controlable.

Mud Track and PotholesThe back tire wasn’t in its best shape either – pretty bald – so sometimes it was hard to struggle for grip when trying to get one of the next hills up.

Sometimes you could just barely move forward by leaning wayyyyy back to put more weight on the back tire, which sometimes left the front tire of the bike without enough grip also.

Average travel speed went down to maybe 15-25 km/h in 2nd to 3rd gear.

Reaching the Hot Spring

That’s when shortly before the village ‘Anini-y’ it started to rain. Another 30 minutes later we reached the Hot Spring.

Rustic Resort with Hot SpringThe Hot Spring was actually located at a very pristine location, directly at the shores of the ocean.

A Resort was built around it, which somehow seems to see only a few visitors. They charged a small entrance fee of 20 Peso and their room rates started at 600 Peso – so that shouldn’t have been a problem.

Probably more so the remote location. ;-)

Hot Spring Water Tubs near ShoreThe Resort Managers built a few pools to catch the Hot Spring water, which had a a very smooth consistency, with only little sulfuric smell. After using the pools for about half an hour I grew concerned with the way that still lay ahead.

After all, it was still another 30 kilometers to get back to the highway and it was early afternoon – too early to call it a day; but too late to waste much more time here.

So back on the road!? Yep!

On the road again

Better – back to the muddy road slides, which here were now under construction. Did I mention that it was raining also? Have a look at the picture to the right to get a glimpse of the road conditions.

The road behind is only just getting constructedMost was traveled in 1st or maximum 2nd gear only and at a very slow pace.

Due to the water and mud, it was hard to avoid or sometimes even see the potholes on the way.

The whole time, there was plenty of strain on the tricycle, the sidecar and my arms felt like heavy steel beams already. The Luggage and my passenger didn’t have it any better, being thrown around by the constant bumps in the road.

A few times we had to be pushed ‘over the hill’ by construction workers, as the power of the engine wasn’t enough and the wheeling tires struggled for grip. The gear lever was bent and my feet had wounds getting smashed back from the kickback of the kick-starter, when the engine succumbed to the mud and stones and died on yet another hill onslaught.

Then, just passing a small village about 10 kilometers after ‘Anini-y’ it happened:

Pothole Galore stressing Man and Machine on Panay and MindoroThe constant jumping and bumping through the potholes took its toll on the tricycle. The supporting rear beams of the sidecar broke at all 3 welding point with a screeching noise. The steel frame in the back acted as a guillotine and hacked through the back light (splittered off completely), as well as separated the license plate of the bike. In the front the metal squeezed the speedometer and front lamp down, so that the speedometer cable broke-bent, right at kilometer 759.

But do you believe our luck?

Just 2 houses away was a welding shop. Unloading the luggage and moving the wounded tricycle a few meters back – it took about 25 minutes to fix the metal frame and attach an additional supporting metal plate to avoid a similar disaster in the future.

250 Pesos later, we were back on the road and after another 10 km of horrific pothole tracks we passed the small town ‘Tobias Fornier’. Still another 10 kilometers of mind-numbing road-bumps the road conditions slowly improved and about 5 kilometers before coming back onto the National Highway the roads were as smooth as ever.

Reaching the next biggest town San Jose de Buenavista just shortly after nightfall, I fell deadbeat into my bed in cockroach and spider heaven – Casa Royal Pension House – the only place in town with vacant rooms. The next day allowed for an assessment of damages. We used again the local RUSI dependence, as we had good experiences with them in Dumaguete:

Tricycle Diaries – Repairs and Maintenance:

  • Mud Crusted Engine of TricycleWelding Costs: 250 Pesos (re-attaching/fortifying sidecar beams)
  • Speedometer Cable: 160 Pesos
  • Complete Backlight: 250 Pesos
  • Gearshift Lever: 95 Pesos (broke, when trying to bend back)
  • Labor Costs: 100 Pesos
  • The (wooden) License Plate was simply re-attached via new screw holes

Even though the labor costs were surprisingly low, there were a few things which the RUSI mechanic couldn’t fix.

The front light doesn’t work anymore. He opened the lamp, took out the light bulb and even opened the light machine. There seemed to be the secondary coil of the light machine damaged. Also there must be some damage with the electronics or cabling. It was not possible to get the front light working again and he didn’t have a coil as a spare part.

Lessons learned

That day was the hardest one with the Tricycle so far. But it came also with some lessons learned.

Getting rid of Mud and Dirt in CaticlanIt’s better to stick to the National Highway system and avoid smaller side roads as much as possible – especially for longer detours!

We decided also to drive from now on only during day light. You can avoid potholes better, don’t have to deal with missing street lights (read: pitch-black dark) and don’t have to be afraid of pushing Jeepney and Ceres-Liners, which race on the main roads and don’t care for other traffic – you! – even and especially in the dark.

Next post will be about Caticlan and Boracay – some days of relieve after this torture session. ;-)

To follow a more up-to-date version of the Tricycle Route, check out this Google Map here, which is updated more often, than the posting frequency at nomad4ever currently allows. New pictures are constantly uploaded to Flickr here.

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written by Chris

19 Responses to “The Tricycle Diaries – Severe Road Punishment”

  1. dodong floresNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    So, the road haven’t change a lot since six years ago. Wayback in 2003, I’d ride my bicycle from Jaro (where I lived) in Iloilo City to San Jose de Buenavista via San Joaquin. After the Iloilo-Antique highway boundary, I avoided the detour since the road was never in good condition and it’s quite far. I made the mistake first time when I thought taking the coastal road (via Anini-y) would take me much shorter road to San Jose. Boy, I was wrong. I ended up going back up to the highway.
    Unfortunately, I haven’t had visited that hot spring resort. I don’t think I’ve heard of it before.
    You’re lucky to have a vehicular breakdown just near a shop [link]. It also happned to me where my car broke down in the mountains of Tanay, fortunately, just across the road is an automotive mechanic.
    I wish you success and enjoyable journey as you move along. I’ll wait for more update ;)
    Now, I’m able to take a peek of your motorcycle engine. It’s 4-stroke, Chris. I’m sure of that. Will post my comment about it in the original entry…

  2. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    dodong, yep, although it looks like they are now doing at least some road construction. Would’ve been nice though, if it was finished already, but hey – I asked for adventure, right? ;-)

    I feel a bit better, knowing that you almost did the similar route a few years back. The Hot Spring wasn’t too bad, but for the stress of getting there, just okay then.

    Nice pictures when following your link! I wish I could shoot photos like that with my Pocket Casio, I know, dreaming on… Nice story also!!! Have to read up some more on your adventures.

    And thanks for confirming the 4-strokes – should be better for the environment also.

  3. Carl ParkesNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Chris, great series of stories about your trike ride around the more remote corners of the Philippines. Love the photos!


  4. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Thanks for the compliment, Carl Parkes! There is more to come…

  5. dodong floresNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Onboard a tricycle traversing this country is quite an adventure, especially for a non-Filipino like you. And I’ve never ever hear yet of any Filipino doing such. I guess you’re the first to do it (or maybe somebody else must have done it already but is not publicly known)
    As for the 4-stroke engine, I’m sure of it the way it looks. And since you said you just fill in gasoline and it runs, so that’s it. 2-stroke engine needs mixed gasoline to operate. I was raised up in a remote coastal village in Agusan del Norte where everyday in my life were pumpboats, chainsaws and motorcycles here and there. So, it’s hard for me to commit mistakes in engines like these. Hehehe… And yes, 4-stroke is guilt-free
    I can understand if you’re only using a pocket Casio for your travel camera. I’ve read from Steve’s What NOT To Bring Backpacking: 10 Things To Leave At Home advice about SLR and travel, and that probably must have influenced you. But hey, I’d been taking photos lately using my cellphone camera [link] so I’d say it’s not really the camera that matters at all. You also need to have an eye for beauty ;-)
    I hope you don’t mind if I included here in this comment some link references back to my site. That’s my way of supporting my claims at some point :)

  6. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    dodong, are you sure, that this might be a first time for someone attempting to surround the country in a tricycle? Having traversed my own country multiple times as a sales executive (although not in a tricycle) – that’s hard to believe for me. One thing I can agree, is that it really is an adventure here in the Philippines, although a very pleasant and positive one! Having made that (maybe) wrong decision to go ahead with a veryyy old, low-powered and strained bike, I’m surprised about the support and help I’m getting from the people here, when we have a break-down again.

    So far it looks though (now here @ Taal Lake in Tagaytay), as we have to skip the more mountainous areas of Luzon (like Baguio and Banaue) for South-Eastern Luzon and Samar + Leyte.

    The reason why I never used a SLR instead of a pocket camera, is that I was always too blur to use one. The point and click/shoot principle suits me much better. And yes – please use the comment form for links back to your own site, after all; your claims are perfectly backed up with not only facts, but ‘more meat to the bones’. ;-)

  7. Sosauce Blog : The Saucy Side of Travel. UNITED STATES Says:

    […] and how travel can expand one’s global perspective and possibly even help save the world. The Tricyle Diaries – It’s no secret that bicycling is not only a cheaper alternative to travel, but also a more […]

  8. LorraineNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Now I can see why you weren’t able to explore Pandan :-) I was there the whole month of April and I guess I was luckier because it wasn’t mud but dust. It was awesome though not doing anything but walk through miles and miles of endless beach, swim, snorkel and and drinking coconut wine with the fisherman at any time of the day.

  9. Randy CNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    Chris – I’m amazed at how inexpensive and easy it is to get the trike fixed. Seems to have been a good choice in that regard.

    Sorry if you’ve covered this elsewhere, but I was wondering how you update this site and Flickr. Do you carry a laptop with you? Do you use free WiFi, or go to internet cafes, use a service like SmartBro…probably a combination of all?

  10. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Lorraine, sounds like I would like my holiday also. We spent a few days in Caticlan (instead of Boracay) and explored the surrounding beaches and villages. It was quite nice also and maybe next time then it will be Pandan.

    Randy C, yep, the repair and maintenance costs are quite low, although I’m a bit worried that I have to fix *something* so often. So it kinda adds up. And not to mention the time spent at a garage – but then, I have all the time in the world, so it’s probably better this way.

    Regarding internet: I’m using a Laptop and 3G/HSDPA internet. Either SmartBro or Globe Visibility – both prepaid. So far, SmartBro is much better in regards to coverage and reliability. Also their Upload Speed is phenomenal, that’s why I can upload all the pictures so quickly. I’m pretty happy with it, as I suffered from less than dial-up speeds for the last 6 months in India. Globe on the other hand is a disappointment compared to SmartBro – Smart is almost everywhere, while Globe only in the bigger towns. Mainly Globe is also slower, they have problems with POP3 mail (can’t send, only receive with Desktop Clients), although I like their shorter timing (5 Peso for 15 minutes, instead of Smart’s 10 Peso for 30 minutes).

  11. dodong floresNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Hi, Chris. Glad to hear you’re now in Tagaytay. I’m fidgeting waiting for your article about Caticlan and Boracay :D
    I haven’t heard yet of somebody who toured around this country using a tricycle. And if there’s one, it is not publicized. But then again, the nautical highway just only started a few years back. The big possibility is that nobody had ever did touring around the country using tricycle. It’s not that easy here considering the splits of islands the Philippines is. This is quite exactly opposite with the countries in Europe ;-) where you can travel even across borders on solid land.
    In my personal judgment, it’s not wrong to purchase that beat-up motorcycle. Since you were considering your budget (I assume), it was just right. Of course, a brand new motorcycle is still the best beat but not practical if your requirement is only for short-term. For the second hand, just expect for minor fixes every now and then. Here in the Philippines, the engine you’re using is just right for a tricycle. Some are even using 100cc. I still have to see yet in this country a tricycle with 400cc engine, while this is most common in the US. Well, a bigger engine is still better when you would like to explore mountainous areas.
    Filipinos are peace-loving people in general and very hospitable (especially to foreigners). You can always seek help in times of needs. But it cannot be denied that there are still a few who would take advantage of strangers and would always think that foreigners have lots of cash – you know what I mean. Just be extra careful though.
    It doesn’t take an SLR or a point-and-shoot to take nice photos. It takes a skill. If you think you can be more skillful in taking photos using your point-and-shoot camera, I think that’s fine.
    I’m using too a 3G/HSDPA USB dongle modem for my Internet at home. I can’t use it to travel though since my Internet provider, Sun Broadband, has still limited coverage as of this time. It’s unlimited for a fixed plan. Prepaid is more expensive for me.
    I suggest you should also write an intensive review/comparison between Globe and Smart broadband. A lot of techie Filipinos are always Googling for such information. I guess you’re one in the best position to write such review with the kind of mobile and travel experience that you have.

  12. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Dodong, the new article is up since about 30 minutes after your last visit, although I changed the theme a bit. ;-)

    The trip goes on and we enjoy it tremendously! I can confirm – the people are really friendly, especially the older generation and it’s always a pleasure to chat with somebody new. Black sheep exist of course in every country and are not counted, as long they are a minority. The bike is holding better for the last 2 days (almost 500 km without trouble).

    Yeah, about the SUN 3G, I was seeing that also back in Manila, too bad they don’t offer that country-wide (yet). SmartBro offers a flatrate also for Ph 999, but only if you have a fixed address (and even fixed line?). That makes it somewhat immobile. Yup, I will probably write a more detailed post about 3G internet on the road; thanks for the tip!

    Currently in Bicol – I’m a bit sad, that we had to skip North Luzon for now, the bike is simply too weak for the mountains around Baguio and Banaue and then there are 3 Typhoons forecasted to hit Luzon still in July. Ooops! The increasing traffic, jams and pollution when hitting the southern outskirts of Manila then made that decision a bit easier.

    Probably have to return with lighter baggage someday to check out Northern Luzon in more detail. :)

  13. dodong floresNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Glad to read your reply, Chris. The P999 SmartBro you’re talking about is indeed fixed in location, I can confirm that since that’s what we are presently using now at work. It’s not using 3G but instead a 900Mhz radio band. It’s using a Motorola canopy to be mounted on your roof top so you can’t bring it anywhere. It also needs line of sight from the cellsite to receive good connection. The USB dongle is using 3G so as long as you have your cellphone signal, you’ll likely get your mobile broadband connection as well.
    Before I forgot, I am just wondering if you had taken notice of the tricycles in Tagaytay City. They’re low-ride and gorgeous I was contemplating to buy one from there on my retirement. Your sidecar could be a bit bigger with bigger capacity too but you can’t simply resist admiring the low-ride design of the tricycles in Tagaytay.
    In my personal opinion, I guess you can make it to Northern Luzon and other mountainous areas using a tricyle. You just need a new motorcycle unit and a newly-fabricated sidecar – a much lighter one (because you don’t need to bring extra luggage). You may get a second opinion about this idea from long time tricycle drivers and tell me what’s on their mind about it.
    Good luck and enjoy the Bicol region…

  14. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    dodong, yes – it was very tempting to go on to Northern Luzon, but so far I always had troubles in the mountains, which proved to be costly. So like you said, I probably would have to change either the sidecar or get some more horsepower/ccm first. Currently I don’t want to invest that, so will go back sometime later to check the sights I missed, with lighter luggage for sure. Especially I’m interested in Baguio, Banaue, Vigan and Pagudpud. ;-)

  15. yasiNo Gravatar JORDAN Says:

    baguio is great love the place!banaue the best for sight seeing, if you feel like you want see something in the past like old spanish style houses w/c still stand until now thats vigan&pagudpud is great if your a beach lover!

  16. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Those are all still spots on my list to visit in Pinas. Still didn’t find the time on the last couple of trips. But will be getting there – one day. Thanks for the recommendations, yasi!

  17. RundzNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Breathtaking! :-o Whew! First of its kind as far as i know, and I don’t think anybody else can have the chance to do or experience the same challenging journey in the same road since the road now is made of concrete.

    I took this picture of the road early this year.

  18. RundzNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Can’t paste a link here in the reply body. The image of the road is linked through my name in this post. Thanks!

    The journey is amazing Chris! Yeah, i believe nobody has done it before.

  19. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Thanks for sharing that picture, Rundz! It looks like progress has finally made it to that region of Panay in the Philippines. Good that the road now is so much better, which should make for an easy ride for travelers coming that way now. ;-)

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