The Sierra Madre offers some of the best mountain biking in the country and Gen. Nakar is blessed to have some of the most pristine parts of this glorious mountain range. Last weekend I got to sample some of Nakar’s offerings and came away wanting more.
Here’s the lowdown: Nakar is a slice of unspoilt tropical paradise. This quaint town has big sky mountain vistas, crystal clean rivers and streams you can literally drink from, quiet secluded beaches, a sea so warm and pleasant that’s just begging you to take a swim, and people so friendly they make you wonder if you opened a portal into a universe that is the opposite of everything that is Metro Manila.
In my many years of mountain biking, I have sadly not yet been to a place like Nakar until last weekend. Legendary bikepackers like Dru Kalakas have mentioned it before in their multi-day adventures, but I could never find time to embark on more than an overnight trip.
I have to thank the organizers of the Brusko Pacific Coast Epic Race for organizing this event and letting hundreds of other bikers like me get acquainted with the beauty of this place.
That being said, the race was an extreme exercise in excruciation especially for those who opted for the leg-cramping, lung-busting, masochistic suckfest that was the 100 km event.
Nakar was in the news years in 2004 for devastating landslides triggered by a typhoon. An estimated 1500 people in the towns of Nakar, Real and Infanta were killed in those landslides, which were blamed on illegal logging in the forests of the Sierra Madre.
Today, there’s hardly a scar noticeable in Nakar, which would remind you of that tragedy. The mountains are verdant and alive, the streams and rivers are clear as Evian, and the rice fields foretell of abundant harvests.
Nakar, Real and Infanta apparently are now strictly enforcing laws against logging in the watersheds. Thanks to these environmental conservation efforts, Nakar and its neighboring towns seem to have bounced back with a vengeance from that traumatic episode 13 years ago.
During the race briefing at the municipal hall, me and Travel Up couldn’t wait to see more of what Nakar had to offer.
I joined the 100km race because I wanted to also challenge myself. I had joined races before but none as long as 100km, and Nakar seemed like the perfect place to try such a distance. I even trained for the race, fearing the possibility that I’d bonk in the middle of this mountain bike marathon and finish dead last. Heck, I even learned to love Strava.
But apparently, all that training still wasn’t enough. At the gun start, I paced myself knowing that this was going to be a six hour or seven hour event for someone as pathetic as me. Still, the eagerness of other participants was infectious, and I found myself needlessly picking up the pace in some climbs.
After about just an hour into the race, I was already feeling winded out and was getting passed in the climbs. I made up time in the descents and passed other racers. (Strava said 55kph on downhill loose gravel! Woohoo!)
But still, races like this weren’t won in the descents. Hordes of mamaws layeth the smackdown in the flat sections and climbs and passed me again.
I later learned that the downhill section over the loose gravel roads had claimed two racers that day. They had to be hospitalized after crashing.
While crossing the first wooden bridge, I finally gave up on the idea of racing, got off my bike and just took photos of the place. There was just no point in punishing myself when I could be soaking up the scenery.
In the hours that followed, hundreds of bikers would cross rivers and streams, climb hills, ride through gravel roads framed by the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. While the mamaw bikers pushed the pace, I was just glad to still be able to pedal in such beautiful surroundings.
But the race organizers saved the best for last. At the turn around point of the 100km event, there was a beach. And what a beach it was.
On the way back to the Nakar town proper, the suckfest finally caught up with dozens of bikers. Many of them were running out of gas. Like me, a lot of them were wishing that they had registered in the 50km event instead.
“Sana kanina pa tayo tapos!” some of them groaned in between vain attempts to suck air into their lungs.
Several hashtags flashed through my semi-delirious mind: #MalingDesisyon #NasaanAngAlaxan #ShutUpLegs #NasaDuloNgRutaSiSolennAtYayakapinKa
I am not exactly sure how I was able to finish the race myself. Maybe all that training paid off after all. Or maybe there was just something in the beauty of the place that charged me with energy.
In any case, Nakar is worth another visit.