Mt. Mayon–this may just be the most badass place anyone can bike or run in the Philippines. At over 8000 feet high, Mayon towers over the landscape of Albay province like a fiery Olympus. The fact that it is the most active volcano in the country further adds to the awe that takes over when you behold its almost perfect contours. Yes, this is an awesome lava churning monster that dares bikers to go extreme. If there’s ever going to be a cradle of Kaijus in the Philippines, Mayon would have to be it.
As a kid, I had always dreamed of getting close to Mayon. Last week, I finally did just that. I was part of a group of bloggers invited by Biggs Diner on a tour of Bicolandia. I saw my chance to finally get to bike Mayon and I took it.
If you’ve been to Naga, Legazpi or any of Bicol’s most important urban centers, then you’ve probaby seen or eaten at Biggs which is a homegrown restaurant phenomenon in the Bicol region. As part of their 30th anniversary they invited bloggers on a three-day tour of their turf.
Dubbed as Around Bicol in 30 Plates, Biggs took our group to Naga, Iriga and Legazpi all the while giving generous servings of their very best dishes like laing-stuffed chicken, super tender baby back ribs and enormous bacon cheeseburgers. As you may infer, a constant consumption of such dishes is enough to generate a dozen new love handles within a span of three days.
Fortunately, on the last day of the tour in Legazpi, we were given free time in the afternoon to choose whatever adventure we wanted. And so I, Travel Up and Anton Diaz of Our Awesome Planet all agreed that a mountain bike trip to Mayon was the best option. I thought that besides providing a great opportunity to get up close and personal with Mayon, biking would also let me burn off some of the pounds I’d accumulated along the way.
If you can’t bring your own bikes to Legazpi, don’t worry because you can rent quality bikes there. We visited Motoragon Cycle Center along Rizal Avenue to get our whips. I got a Marin 29er with an Epicon fork and Deore components. Anton got a 26er which had an enduro-worthy 140mm fork, while Kara got a 26er bike whose size was just right for girls. She even remarked that it was lighter and more responsive that the bike she had at home.
Compared to the bikes we rented in Sagada in October last year, the bikes from Motoragon were definitely much better, even if the rental was a bit more expensive. My rented bike had no mechanical issues whatsoever.
We also got a guide at the shop to take us to the ‘lava trail.’ Motoragon’s owner Cesar Banares said that the route to the lava trail was going to be “relatively easy.” It was going to be around 10 kilometers of pavement, and then around 3 kilometers of trail.
‘Relatively easy’ turned out to be… quite relative. Just minutes after hitting the trail, my companions started having problems. Though the terrain did not involve a lot of hard climbs, the sandy soil sucked the power out of our pedal strokes. Combined with baby-head sized rocks strewn all over the trail, the route was anything but easy.
Kara, who never had any trouble biking in La Mesa’s trails, had to walk her bike through long sections of the route because she couldn’t get her tires to grip the sandy soil. It was like biking on the beach. Anton was having a hard time too as this was his first time to bike on a real trail! Though I had some experience in dealing with technical trails before, even I had to admit that this was something out of the ordinary. If this was ride was classified as easy, I could only imagine what ‘difficult’ looked like.
While we toiled over the terrain, Mayon loomed before us like a stern goddess who was growing impatient for a sacrifice. It was like she was giving us a deadline. She was wrapping herself up ominously in clouds, as if warning that all our troubles to reach her would come to naught because she wouldn’t even bother reveaing herself if we didn’t get to her altar soon enough.
Majestic is a word that has sadly lost much of its meaning, no thanks to the careless use of this adjective by constipated writers. How many times have we heard a silly hill get described as majestic by people obligated to praise some dull place and beat a deadline?
And yet when faced with Mt. Mayon, no better word comes to mind. Majestic, indeed. Standing over 8000 feet high with its peak grazing the clouds, you can’t help but be in awe of this monster.
So we pushed on. By this time my companions knew that they probably bit off more than they could chew, but there was no turning back. We needed to reach the lava wall. We crossed a dry riverbed, biked through a singletrack amid tall coconut trees, and finally reached our destination for the day.
The lava wall rose nearly 30 feet high from the riverbed. It was made up of a jumble of barrel-sized rocks that you had to scramble over to reach the top. I felt like an ant walking over a mound of gravel while hoisting my rented bike all the way up. I didn’t have to do that, but I thought it would make for a great shot.
And it did. Like a goddess who was pleased with her subjects’ sacrifice, Daragang Magayon had parted the clouds and revealed herself in all her majesty. There’s no better souvenir from a great ride.
You can contact Cesar Banares of Motoragon at 0922 8687466
Or visit his shop at 658 Rizal St. Bgy. 17 Ilawod, Legazpi City
You can also contact him through Motoragon’s Facebook page
Cesar said there were even harder routes beyond the lava trail, and I really wanted to take a peek at the infamous enduro routes they had in Mayon. But it was already starting to rain and we had to get back to our hotel before night fell. But as they say among travelers, it’s better not to exhaust a destination’s magic in one go. This means you’ll have a reason to visit it again.
PS. If you’re wondering what Kaijus have to do with Mayon, watch this classic film :) Godzilla’s got nuthin on our very own Goliat! Sorry, my inner nerd has been stoked by Pacific Rim.
Wow, I didn’t know mountain biking superstar Brian Lopes tried Mayon before and found most of it unrideable! Apparently he was planning to downhill all the way from the crater, but realized while hiking midway to the peak that the volcano was too much of a challenge. Read about it here.