Ride to Bunga

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mountain biking

Steve RogersOctober 21, 2007


A Short Ride
Back at Log Cabin the night before, the talk started off as a short ride to Besao the following morning...cool! I haven't riden with Steve and Aklay since I'd been training on my own after arriving from Manila. During this rainy season, the single-tracks are brushy and a ride along established dirt roads are better than blazing the trails.

Wind in your Face
We started out from Poblacion 9:30 and climbed up Danom on the way to Besao. I didn't even bother bringing water thinking I'd just help myself to soda from the village stores. The weather was perfect...sunny and cool. From Danom, the long, winding descent to Besao on paved road was 'mountain wind in your face' treat...just awesome banking to tight turns at speed.

Upon reaching Besao, there was talk of riding further on. Cool! I was stoked, I would have said yes to any ride anywhere. At that point, I didn't realize the logistical demand of the extended ride. How far further? How technical? Did I carbo-load enough? I only had a little for breakfast and that was it. I was oblivious but gung-ho.

Lost Guide Pulley
We moved on towards the Sumadel junction. The road was rough with rocks and ruts as we climbed up and down. Upon reaching the majestic waterfalls, Aklay lost his guide pulley (a part of the rear derailleur). We spent a good time looking for it, but no cigar. He had a choice. With a chain tool, he could cut-off links on his chain and ride single-speed at the lowest gear. Or, he could take the long walk home pushing his bike. Surprisingly, he took the latter. It was Steve and me from then on.

Gate of Punishment
We came upon a gate that according to Steve is the start of a punishing climb. He was right. It was a series of climbs on rocky terrain as we traversed the mountain slope. One thing interesting is that these series of climbs are all doable, unlike the Ampacao climb (where you need the climbing power of Lance Armstrong and the trial-handling skills of Hans Rey). Loose rocks and sand morphed a rather tame hill to something of a semi-monster.

Are We There Yet?
I thought the next village was 'just around the corner'. I was getting dehydrated and there was no sign of a nearby village. As we passed by the Sumadel junction, Steve told me that's where he usually turns back. We've already come a long way. But I could not turn back without water. And I didn't want to impose on his water if I can help it, even though he offered. I suggested we ride until the next village for a drink. We pushed forward....and forward....and forward. Are we there yet?

Flatted Out
The climbs offered its own reward - a winding downhill run on rocks, stones and packed dirt. It's easy to get carried away. Specially after doing a few hours, I was already warmed up and very acclimatized to my bike. It felt like an extension of my body. There was a section with big rocks where I let it rip until I flatted out. The hits were too hard even for a full suspension bike.

5 Punctures
Fortunately, we were already walking distance to the next village, Bunga. Finally, I could help myself to a drink....I was thirsty like a sponge. I didn't have a spare tube so I took my patch kit out. Predictably, I had the double puncture (the fangs!). This is not caused by a sharp object, but too much force hitting the tire...like a hard impact on a rock! It took 2 patches. When I inflated the tube, I realized there were 2 more punctures. Wow...I must have hammered really hard to have 4 punctures at the same time. 2 more patches and I inflated the tube again. Oh no! 1 more puncture! 5 punctures in one hit? That's a record for me. My tube was toast. I had to borrow Steve's expensive Panaracer Super Tube (not the type of thing I'm comfortable doing as I always try to be self-sufficient).

Riding Back
The ride back offered a reversed set of climbs and downhill runs. Still stoked and having new confidence in Steve's beefier tube, I let it rip again...and again. I was a kid in a chocolate factory. At some point, I even told Steve I felt guilty riding my cross-country bike like an all-mountain bike. A skinny cross-country bike just isn't built for that kind of hard riding (it's designed for climbing). We finally reached Besao where I helped myself to natural spring water coming out of a hose. I was warned against amoebas. Hmmm....crossing my fingers.

Up until reaching Besao, it was a serious but fun ride. Going back on the long winding road back to Danom was trouble for me. It was around 3 pm, I'd been riding the whole day and I only had a little for breakfast...no lunch. I started bonking (running out of steam). On the mildest grade, I would be on my granny (lowest possible combination of gears) and grind ever so slowly on my pedal. Steve was already patiently waiting for me on top at Danom.

Walking It
My lower back hurt, my butt hurt and my hands hurt...my whole body was now hurting. With just 50 meters to the top (where it would be downhill all the way to Poblacion), I decided to walk it. I could have gritted it with just 50 meters ahead but I remembered what Steve said about his wrist (on a previous ride)...that when it started hurting, he should have rested, but he continued riding...it's now giving him issues. I'm fairly fit and it takes a lot for my body to complain. But when it complains, I do the right thing...I listen...screw machismo.

The downhill run from Danom was again a treat. I forgot my ailments and started ripping it again. This time, after having ridden hard to Bunga and back, I was feeling extremely confident on my bike. I bombed down the stretch like I never have before....whoa!!! Upon arriving home, the fatigue from the ride hit me once again. It was about 4 pm. I collapsed on my bed and woke up the following day.

Ending Thoughts
It's now Wednesday as I write this, 3 days from the ride and my quads and calves still hurt. I'm staying away from the saddle until I fully recover, but I keep my fitness routine with yoga and upper body workout.

The ride to Bunga is one long, serious day ride. It had all the ingredients for a fun and challenging ride - the long haul, the technicality, the climbs, the downhill runs, the stunning view. And again, the interesting part is that it's all doable, given a certain amount of fitness. Looking back, that ride to Bunga is one memorable ride for me. If I want to challenge myself on an epic day ride, that's certainly one for the books.

Thanks Steve!!!

--- TheLoneRider

ps - I bumped into my UP Mountaineers friend, Paul, who told me a guy pushing his bike hitched on the jeep he was on. He-he...it was Aklay, but he was already close to Poblacion then. That was a long hard walk pushing a bike!

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