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mountain biking

off on the single trackMay 1, 2005 Sunday

The Cordillera on a Mountain Bike - Day 3: Banaue

The Village Below
I was curious about the village below. I thought I'd pay it a visit before I start my ride for the day. From my hut, it only a short walk to the stepped path going down. It was my first time to walk along the edge of the terraces. I saw some damaged sections - there were quite a few. Within the village, there were signs for coffee, refreshments and crafts. I was relieved - not because I was thirsty but because it meant they're open to strangers walking around their village. Most of the houses were Ifugao in design, but some had tin roofs instead of cogon grass. I guess it's the new measure of rural prosperity, notwithstanding it does not blend well with the pristine mountain setting.

What Plagues the Terraces
I got into a conversation with a villager. Her name is Virgie, a mother and a concerned caretaker of the terraces. Our conversation gave me a deeper insight on the compelling issues. Ask why some terraces are in a state of disrepair, she said there are 3 factores giving rise to that. Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site does not guarantee funding - only a UN stamp of approval for would-be funders.

  • 1990 earthquake - this devastating earthquake still seem fresh amongst the minds of the locals. It collapsed the supporting walls of the terraces. Without funding, some areas were left as is. The mountain has already taken over.
  • Belgian giant worms - these grow to a foot and gets as thick as a finger. They create that big a gaping hole in the terraces that cause water to drain - that's a serious irrigation issue.
  • Younger generation - they don't take over the upkeep of the land. The lure of oversees jobs means better pay. It is feared that when the older generation dies out, their craft and expertise die with them.
I came away feeling a sense of urgency and a feared notion that what has been there for 2000 years may be gone in a few generations.

Yamashita Treasure
Back at my hut, I had a leisurely chat with the DSC06087local workers who were doing the shed below on the next level. Mr. Laroco joined us. The talk somehow veered to the fabled Yamashita treasure, rumoured to have been littered across the Cordillera when the Japanese were retreating from the Americans back in WWII. According to the story, in Guijob Spring (close to Banaue), a carabao hauling cargo, presumably part of the Japanese loot, went into Guijob. The carabao and the locals never made it back. To this day, the locals believe that the treasure lies somewhere in Guijob.

Off to Mayoyao
After a hearty lunch, I was all-out for another ride. This time, going further east until the town of Mayoyao, or until the clock hits 3 p.m. (I need the time to return before it gets dark). The next town after Banga-an was Ducligan. It was downhill all the way...sweet! Ducligan was at river level, so it is possibly the lowest level in the area. It could only mean that the following ride would all be uphill...and I was right.

One thing that I was beginning to learn about the Cordillera is that everything seems epic. The climbs are epic, and the downhill runs are equally epic. There's hardly a flat road - you're either up or down...in epic proportion. The succeeding climb to Mayoyao was not as steep as the climb to Batad, but it seemed to last forever. I wasn't just climbing a mountain...but a mountain range. The sun was scorching as usual. A few stops became mandatory - for water and also some sceneries were spectacular. I passed by many smaller terraces but well groomed and lush, specially with the carpet-like texture of near-harvest greenery. I've already passed several districts of Mayoyao but after the leaving Mongol, it was already passed 3 p.m.. I had to turn back and reach Banga-an before it got dark.

A Downhill Run
After the leaving Batad, I thought downhills couldn't be any better...wrong! From Ducligan, it took me nearly 2.5 hours of unending uphill climb to Mayoyao. Now that I had to go back, it's payback time. I just let it rip, feathering on the brakes on scary turns. The adrenaline just kept pumping as I white-knuckled the run. The grin on my face was from ear to ear. It didn't seem to end. Yes, this is what an epic downhill run is all about!

...and a Crash
After 19 minutes of non-stop downhilling, I hit a curve too fast. Without warning, my front tire lost traction and threw me off. The dirt road had sharp embedded stones to it. I felt my left side being grated like cheese as I crashed...good thing I wasn't close to the ravine. I had to sit down and recover from the shock before I could assess the damage. The bike was pretty misaligned but rideable. I had to make minor adjustments. My entire left side was bruised and ached like crazy. My left hand took the brunt of the fall. I could hardly move it.

I started riding back. I still had some downhill time left...I wouldn't waste that. However, it was painful to hold the bar, let alone squeeze the brake or shift gears. I proceeded with caution...slow enough so my right hand can do all the work. The tougher part was reaching Ducligan. From then on, it was uphill...and I was tired and in pain. I walked the bike for the most part until I reached my hut. Home-Sweet-Home really meant a lot this time.

--- TheLoneRider

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | Baguio | MTB Race

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