There is a tale told in whispers about a mythical elixir that can only be found beyond the far mountains of Montalban. Those who have partaken of this substance swear that it imbued them with strength, stamina, well-being and a new powerful sense of purpose. But to get a taste of this arcane sustenance, you have to climb and descend towering mountains and make perilous river crossings in the legendary land of Bernardo Carpio. This magical mixture, made from some of the best fruits and ingredients, is sometimes referred to as Shimanong’s Halo Halo.
Anyway, this was a ride that should have happened a long time ago. I bike to Timberland almost every week. But despite Maarat’s proximity to Montalban, I had never taken the Casili road to Wawa Dam.
I had a vague idea of the route, thanks to Google Maps. But I wasn’t willing to go it solo because I knew that the place wasn’t exactly spitting distance from civilization and assistance, in case someone needed to bring my shattered bones back home. There are some destinations that you can go solo, and there are some where a buddy is a must. This ride belongs to the second category.
Thankfully last week, I was finally able to convince Montalban biker and die-hard Kapuso Jeff to lead the way.
So on that fateful Satuday morning, Jeff, his brother Jeremy, and me made our way to Timberland, past Wall 1, 2 and 3 and into the Basic trail, out Sapinit road, and then down into the Pintong Bukawe-Casili road.
Bikers looking for a fast downhill ride will be pleased to know that the Casili road offers just that. It’s not exactly singletrack, but this fire road less taken has lots of fast sections, with lots of twists, and lots of loose gravel.
I wouldn’t recommend that you go all out on the downhill though, because this is still a community road after all with children and animals sometimes crossing this way and that.
After getting a healthy dose of adrenaline from the downhill section, we finally encountered the river. The riverbank’s soft sand sucked our wheels and made it difficult to pedal. The riverbank’s rock gardens (more like boulder haciendas) were no piece of cake either. Or maybe it’s a piece of cake since that’s exactly the kind of terrain mountain bikers lust for.
The jackhammer terrain just made me love my steel frame all the more. I remembered the last time I was on similar rough stuff, which was last January’s ride to Puray falls. My aluminum frame rattled and hummed like a U2 album. My steel framed bike meanwhile made short work of the babyhead rocks, smoothing them out like I was almost on pavement.
After several river crossings, we finally made it to our pitstop–Shimanong’s. This little pwesto in the middle of nowhere is a godsend. After several hours of pedaling, you get to cool your heels by the river, enjoy the peace and quiet of the countryside, and snack on some delicious halo-halo. Tired bikers can even catch some Zzzs here before they go on their way.
So how was the fabled mythical legendary Shimanong halo-halo? Did it live up to the hype?
I’d love to give a definitive answer to that question, but as the Ermitaño we met on the path told us: “Nais kong isalin sa inyo ang aking karunungan (uhu-uhu)… pero there are things better left experienced than said.” Yeah, nakapagtataka na medyo inglisero yung ermitaño na yun ;) So I’ll have to leave my readers to find that out for themselves.
A few more river crossings later and we were already at Wawa Dam. I was just amazed at the number of huts that had sprung up all over the place. Jeff told me that that’s just how it was like during summer.
It was interesting to see Wawa’s towering cliffs from the other side. I had climbed some of those cliffs before along with my wife. I really wish I could climb them again.