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mountain biking

Recon Ridge Ride in San Juan, Batangas Feb 23 - 24, 2010

Recon Ridge Ride in San Juan, Batangas

The Spectre of the Ridge Ride
It was the 2nd installment to complete the reconnaissance itinerary in San Juan, Batangas to validate Counsellor Noel Pasko's vision of eco-tourism for his constituents. The first one was scouting for the fruit bats and this second one is supposed to be a 20-km ridge ride on San Juan's mountain range starting from poblacion all the way to Laiya Aplaya.

Trail-Running ala Alps
According to the good counsellor, a German adventurer did a trail run on the ridge and was pleasantly surprised to find such outdoor feature in San Juan. He likened the run to trail-running on the Alps. Stoked, the counsellor requested UPM Fredd Ochavo to validate the claim. Fredd in turn, tagged me along for another San Juan eco-adventure - mountain bike ridge riding.

San Juan terrain

ride profile

Assault to the Plateau
It was Fredd and myself together with Counsellor Pasko (on a tricycle) who braved the scorching midday sun for this ride. From San Juan Municipal Hall, it was a 5km level dirt ride in Barangays Sico 1 and Escribano until Sapangan when the trail climbed up steeply and unrelented until we reached the plateau. Surprisingly, what I thought to be a single-track trail turned out to be a farm-to-market dirt road. It was wide enough to accomodate big trucks. However, there was nothing mild about the ensuing 8km climb. With the heat and exhaustion, Fredd and I did a lot of out-of-the-saddle push.

Sweet Short Ridge Ride
From the plateau, what promised to be an exhilarating ridge-ride proved short-lived. The ride was sweet but short - around 2kms and stopped at Talim Point. From there, we headed back the same way but took another fork that gave us a steeper white-knucle downhill ride...whoa! Like all downhill rides, it was over before we knew it. We rewarded ourselves with a bowl of Goto...Batangas style (just innards and soup, no rice)!

Night Boat Ride into the Mangrove Forest
I thought the adventure was done and over with, but Counsellor Pasko invited us for a tour of the fireflies (nothing to do with the critical mass ride). To see this, we had to go for a boat ride into the mangrove forest in the dark of night...totally cool! The only mangrove adventure I had before was in Coron on a sea kayak. The mangrove plants/trees in Coron were homogenous...it seemed like a lush growth of the same species. Not so in San Juan. It was really a forest with different mangrove plants and trees, some with perhaps 3-people span in diameter. It was thick, brushy and pristine. I could just imagine the teeming wildlife lurking underneath the canopy.

Bird Watching at Pinagbayanan
Our Good Samaritan for the night was Ka Instik (that's how the locals call him) who gave us a roof over our heads. The following day, I was treated to a visual delight as I saw egrets and herons flock together with different bird species within his property...actually, more like a fish farm which is also a food source for birds. Consequently, this place is a haven for birding! With our binoculars, Fredd and I roamed the adjacent areas aiming our focus on bird calls and sightings.

spotted birds

The Bird Walk
A short walk further out took us to the bird-walk - an elevated bamboo walkway along the mangrove coast across the river from another mangrove 'island'. From there, birders can view the birds without coming too close to disturb them. Work was ongoing to extend the length of the bird-walk.

Ending Thoughts
It was another overnight chock-full-of-adventure that's hard to beat - a gruelling mountain bike ridge ride, a night boatride into the mangrove forest and birding by a fish farm. I was completely stoked.

Oh yes, our validation about Counsellor Pasko's vision of eco-tourism?

  • The Ridge Ride - dunno what to make of it yet. There's certainly potential...perhaps as a trail running venue. But for a mountain bike trail system, I wouldn't mind the quad-challenging steep climb if the ridge-ride is long enough. But this one is just too short. However, that's not the only ridge. A view of the San Juan mountain terrain from Google Maps reveal a long stretch of connected ridges within the middle part of the mountain range. Let's save that for the 3rd explo-visit.
    Additionally, there's a logistical challenge for bikers bringing their bikes using public transport. It's relatively easy to load a full bike from Manila to Lipa, Batangas, but from Lipa to San Juan, there are only jeeps and vans. Where and how to load the bikes is daunting.
  • Mangrove Forest - Even though the fireflies were not that concentrated during our visit, the place is a definite must-do on a visit to San Juan. The rich ecosystem gives promise of new and fascinating discoveries...while just being on the boat with binoculars!
  • Birdwathing - A sure winner! It's quite rare to find a pristine mangrove forest that's left untouched. It's a habitat for various species of birds, and the birder is sure to be rewarded with an unexpected find.

--- TheLoneRider

PS - Special thanks to UPM Fredd, Counsellor Pasko and Ka Instik for making the experience truly memorable.

Comments? Email webmaster@thelonerider.com

»» next story: Three Strikes
»» next Mountain Biking story: The Ride to Camp Lookout, Valencia, Negros Oriental

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