Everyone knows Camsur. If you’re from the Philippines and you didn’t crash your unhelmeted head more than a decade ago which sent you into a coma, then you’ve mostly likely heard of this province down southern Luzon called Camarines Sur.
Mention Camsur and images of wakeboarders sailing through the air quickly come to mind. Or if you’re a fan of “Suvivor” Camsur will evoke scenes of white sand beaches, fantastic corals and towering limestone cliffs. But this Bicol tourist mecca also has some pretty interesting sites which will put a smile on the faces of bikers.
In the foothills of Mt. Isarog lie the Panicuason Hot Springs. A bit further up, there’s the the Malabsay Falls. Last year, I was fortunate enough to have visited these sites on a bike, thanks to a blogger tour organized by Biggs Diner.
My ex-girlfriend (wife) hails from Naga, and once a year we visit her hometown during the summer or Christmas breaks. This means that I am already fairly familiar with the Camsur Watersports Complex, and Mt. Isarog. I’ve tried wakeboarding there several times before, and while I was able to complete several rounds on the cable park on kneeboards, I was never really able to stand up on a water ski or a wakeboard. This only reinforced my fearful opinion that water just isn’t my element, despite my Aquarian origins.
But mountains are a different story. I always feel at home in mountains, and Camsur has Mt. Isarog–one of the most interesting mountains in the Philippines. Mt. Isarog is a dormant volcano which last erupted in 1641. It is one of the most imposing mountains in the land of fire that is the Bicol peninsula.
A thick healthy rainforest has grown around Mt. Isarog since its last eruption nearly four centuries ago, and the mountain is actually a Natural Park where various species of plants and animals thrive.
The route going to the gate of Panicuason is mostly paved, with a very gentle grade that’s friendly to those who are just starting to develop their mountain legs. A Nagueno who is into longboarding told me that this route is actually perfect for their sport.
The route going down to Panicuason hots springs itself however, is a different matter. While it’s just around a kilometer long, it is quite steep and will require some descending and climbing ability.
Panicuason used to be just a sleepy spot Naguenos went to for the weekend to relax in warm pools fed by hot springs. But the Camsur tourism boom has since transformed it into an adventure camp where people can rent rooms and stay overnight. There’s even a zipline now.
Getting to Malabsay is a bit more challenging, and will actually have you biking through trails. But it’s also not that far from Panicuason either. You will need to leave your bike at the gates of the area, as the waterfalls itself is still a ten minute hike away.
The bike and hike to Malabsay is worth it. This is not some pathetic faucet someone left leaking on the side of a cliff, but a waterfall in the very essence of the word. You could hear its rush a hundred meters away. Its waters are also clear as crystal and cold as freshly melted ice—just what you need after about an hour and half of biking from Naga City’s center.
As usual, time constraints prevented me from exploring other trails on Mt. Isarog. Locals say there’s also a very good downhill track on Isarog. There were plans for a lift-assisted downhill track on Isarog a few years ago, but I don’t know what happened to that idea since. Bikers who want to explore more of Isarog’s trails can get in touch with the Naga Basilica Bikers Club on pinoymtbiker.org, the Calabanga-Isarog Bikers Club on Facebook.
I am not aware of any shops in Naga that rent out bikes. But it is possible to bring your own bike on the bus if you know how to stash it properly. Hopefully, PNR will also resume train service to Bicol soon, and they will allow bikes on board.