Puray Falls is definitely one of the most epic mountain biking rides I’ve done. Riding to this postcard pretty cascade in the mountains of Rodriguez, Rizal already busts lungs and cramps legs on a normal day. But throw in Habagat-like downpours, plus 90% cluelessness on how to get there, and you have the recipe for an adventure.
I’d been to Rodriguez/Montalban several times before, but those were trips to Wawa Dam on rock climbing excursions. I had yet to explore Montalban on a mountain bike. And while Wawa has kick ass climbing cliffs and an awesome boulder-strewn river, it has no waterfalls.
Lately, I had been hearing a lot about Puray. Supposedly, it was accessible via a half day ride on a mountain bike. I looked at the photos online, and was instantly hooked. This one was without doubt a bucket lister for any Manila weekend warrior.
So when I heard that a friend was going to bike to Puray, I forcibly invited myself into this ride. No way I was going to miss this. It had an overwhelming scent of epicness that was just impossible to resist.
And just like all epic rides, it allowed me to learn a few lessons about life and biking.
1. Seek something new
Nothing beats the thrill of a quest to an undiscovered country. I had the option of just going to Timberland that day and leveling up my cardio for the upcoming La Mesa Duathlon, but that was nowhere near as exciting as going to Puray.
The only problem was that no one could tell me how to get to Puray. Fortunately, the Montalban Cycling Club made this nifty map on how to get there. Now all I needed to do was figure out how to read maps. Hmmm.
2. Help out a fellow biker
The road to Puray was pretty much deserted: if I fell on the road and screamed, there’d be no one there to hear it. And there’d be this whole Zen riddle about whether or not I made a sound.
Fortunately, I was rescued from this philosophical quandary by a fellow biker who was pushing his bike up a gnarly fireroad. Apparently he had a flat and needed some help patching it up. Confucius once said: On the lungbusting uphill roads of life, always help a fellow biker with a flat tire. Now, who was I to argue with the wisdom of Confucius?
3. Getting lost is part of it
Dude’s name was Friday. Yup, just like the guy in Robinson Crusoe. He was part of the group Bike Brothers who were also on their way to Puray, and he was trying to catch up with his mates. Anyway, it was great to have some company while trying not to get lost in that maze of mountain trails.
It was also comforting to know that someone would inform my friends and family in case I made a fatal faceplant on those flood-gutted trails and roads, or got swept tsunami-like by the rushing streams.
Happy thoughts like these can creep up on you when you’re tired, drenched, hungry and still haven’t a clue whether you’re getting anywhere nearer your destination.
4. Enjoy the destination
But after just a few more minutes of biking we finally reached the place at around 12 noon. We had to park our bikes in one of the houses there and hike the rest of the way. Apparently, you need not worry about the possibility of your bikes getting stolen as the people there are quite honest.
Five minutes later, we were beholding the awesomeness of Puray Falls. Whoa!
I’m probably overselling it, and it’s true that there are more magnificent waterfalls out there. But after that punishing bike ride, it just makes sense to feel that this is as good as it gets.
5. Let others help
After a quick dip to refresh our aching muscles, we decided to head back before the weather got any worse. Up till then, the skies had just been sneezing out light showers. Now it seemed like it was about to unleash the dreaded Habagat. Friday also needed to catch up with his group, which was going to have lunch in the house of one of their friends in Puray.
However, to get there we needed to do several river crossings again. By this time, the creek was starting to swell with the runoff from the heavy rain. As if it couldn’t get any worse, we also had to cross a bridge– a section of which had collapsed from the Habagat in August.
We would not have been able to do it without the help of a friendly old man who carried our bikes on a makeshift footbridge while we waded across the stream. Serendipity: help comes when you need it most.
Friday never caught up with his group, but the dad of his friend in Puray invited us in for some much needed lunch even if it was already past 2pm. Canned tuna never tasted so good.
The hot tinola soup was the most delicious I’ve ever tasted. And the hot cup of coffee was heaven sent.
Things like these really restore your faith in humanity.
But after that quick lunch and a brief rest, it was time to hit the trails again. Again, the sky was letting go of torrents of water.
6. Bitchin’ trails add to epic
The greatest goal in life is the avoidance of trouble. That’s me trying to paraphrase the central teaching of an wise ancient Greek philosopher who went by the name Aristippus of Cyrene. It’s not a bad teaching when you think about it. Bakit nga ba magpapakahirap kung pwedeng relax relax lang?
But for some strange reason I just couldn’t seem to abide by it. Which kinda explains why I was pedaling up the foothills of the Sierra Madre on a day when most people would be curling up in bed and watching marathon episodes of The Walking Dead.
Just when we thought that it couldn’t get any worse, the trails and roads got wetter and slippier. Uphills were a pain, and downhills were downright demented. The riding was as difficult as it could get, but it was undeniably epic.
7. Dreams of hot choco
On the way back to Rodriguez proper, I and Friday tried to keep our spirits up by thinking of the things that would be waiting for us back home. Visions of hot pandesal and hot cocoa swirled about us as we navigated the traffic of JP Rizal Avenue in Rodriguez and San Mateo.
Thick cocoa from melted tablea. Hot pandesal with sardinas. These thoughts kept us going through the Habagat.
We split up after the crossing to Timberland. Friday rode back to Cainta, while I pedaled to UP. It’s cool how you meet new friends while biking to unfamiliar places.
TIPS FOR PURAY RIDERS
- This is an epic ride. Prepare for it by climbing The Wall twice in one day.
- Bring food. There isn’t a place there where you can buy lunch, and you’re going to need as much fuel as you can get.
- Bring a bike repair kit, as well as a first aid kit.
- If there’s any chance of rain, waterproof your stuff with a plastic bag.
MAP TO PURAY
View Welcome Rotonda to Puray Falls, Rodriguez, CALABARZON, Philippines in a larger map