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mountain biking

Asin Hot Spring May 20, 2006 Saturday

Asin Hot Spring

There are 2 Asin hot springs in Baguio. Most people know of the one in Tuba but very few, not even the locals, know about the one in Tuel, Tublay. The latter is undeveloped and isolated. It was only last year when a cement road was fully completed connecting the village of Tuel to the main highway. I was lucky again to be invited by Lester, together with the La Trinidad riders to join the ride and get soaked...literally!

The Ride
Lester asked me if wanted the short route or the long route. The last 'short' ride I had with them along the Trinidad Ridge left me with cramps but I was challenged to see if I had the juice to keep up with them on a long ride. After a deep hesitated breath, I opted for the long ride.

La Trinidad Riders

Part of the ride was along the main highway towards Sagada until we took the fork that brought us to winding dirt roads that went up and down. For the most part, the ride was downhill. I'm glad I was riding full suspension. The jarring on the handle bars while negotiating rocks, turns and bumps would eventually take its toll on a 2-hour ride. We would have an occassional short rest, which I suspect was for my benefit. Some mechanical issues came up, but that's just part of any ride. Characteristic of any Baguio ride, we were riding along mountain slopes revealing breath-taking sceneries.

Black Fog
An occassional bus or jeep will pass by, belching some thick black smoke that simply put off my timing. Really, when you're gasping for air on a steep climb, the last you need is a thick black fog of soot from an exhaust pipe.

Lagoon
When we finally arrived, we rested and snacked before taking a dip. Two rivers intersect into a bigger river. On one river, there is a fairly deep lagoon-type reservoir that made for good swimming. It was a tough walk over stones to get there. Since it rained the day before, the water wasn't very clear, but that didn't stop us from relieving our tired muscles in the cool mountain water. The hot spring is on the other river, just a short wade away. We weren't alone. Some guys were having a picnic as well.

Stone Scrub
As we all lounged by the rocks, they looked for flat wide stones and scrubbed their bodies - hilod, as it's generally called. I know of the practice but never tried it. Curious to what I was missing, I looked for a suitable stone and started scrubbing myself all over. I thought I was clean until I saw a ton of dirt and dead skin come out of me. It was a lot, I thought I could plant camote (yams) in it! Besides, the scrubbing was such pleasure, I was getting addicted to it. I just scrubbed my time away.

Hot Spring
After our good share of swimming, we waded to the hot spring section. The hot water came out of a rubber hose tapped from the source. There was no deep area. We had to look for our own little pool. The closer you get to the source, the hotter the water gets, so we had to find our own comfort level. They say the water by the pipe can hard-boil an egg.

Guys in Undies
Some of us didn't bring any swim trunks so we dipped in our underwear (same thing with guys in the other group). One cool thing I noticed was that it was no issue for us to be dipping in our briefs while just a few steps would be a group of females taking a bath as well. No, they were not in their underwear...just us guys! Well, you don't see that happening in Manila.

The Brutal Climb Back
I had this apprehension when they said we'll take a different route back - one that's steep (in their standard). It was the 'short' route. They explained it was only short in one direction - if you're going to the hot springs because it's pure downhill all the way. What they meant was it's all steep uphill going back. Even they, had a tone of respect when talking about that climb. I knew then I was in for more than a bunny hill.

It's all true. It was steep...not vertical steep like the one from La Trinidad, but it went on and on and on. It was unrelenting. Just when I thought the road would flatten after a switchback, I saw more steeply winding road ahead of me. It was like this the entire time. While I kept silent, chanting 'maintain' in my head, the other guys continued their conversation like it was a walk on the park. I tried to hold my own, not dismounting, and mashing into my grannies, but after a while, it felt like torture, not having any kind of reprieve on the climb.

Cramps Again
I don't know but maybe half way, my quads started giving me the cramps...then my hamstrings. We had to make several stops so I can stretch my legs. They were patient. Perhaps they expected it. You know the addage, 'a chain is only as strong as the weakest link'? Well, it's not funny when you know you are that weakest link. I'm glad they were forgiving about it. The planned 2-hour climb extended longer.

Baby Sitting
We reached the highway and finally, we were pedalling on relatively flat terrain. You don't know how relieving a flat road is, until you do that nasty climb. The other riders went home when we passed by La Trinidad. Lester and Leroy decided to ride with me to Baguio to ensure I reach it in 1 piece. At one point, my cramps went full-on, I couldn't even stand up. I was just in pain. They suggested a massage or hail a cab but I was too proud and too embarrassed to be such a dead weight. We pushed on until we finally reached Burnham Park. I thanked Lester, Leroy and Rolan for looking after me as I limped home.

Ending Thoughts
I always prided myself in being a good climber. On races, that's where I usually catch up. However, that paradigm was shattered while riding with these guys. What I find to be a tough climb, they regard as average - for good reason. In the Cordillera, there's hardly a flat road. You're either going up or down. That climb will remain a challenge and a lesson for me.

I'm also profoundly grateful to Lester and the rest of the La Trinidad riders on many levels - for taking me along for the ride, for showing me the 'secret' places they go to, for not dropping me when I was a dead weight and mostly, as before, for taking me as one of their own.

It's probably my last ride before I pack up again and head out to live in Sagada and start a new chapter in my life. I'll ride and explore the trails of Sagada, gleaming from the lessons I've learned from the Baguio and the La Trinidad riders. I hope they look me up when they visit Sagada. It'll be my turn to reciprocate the warm hospitality they've accorded me.

--- TheLoneRider

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