Motorbiking Bohol

The dog sleeping on the runway didn’t seem to mind our jet landing, and the pilot and the airport didn’t mind either. We’d read that Bohol airport was moving in February to Panglao from Tagbilaran City so were surprised to find we landed in Panglao. The terminal isn’t quite finished, but apparently they switched last month. This was a bugger for us as it was farther away from where we were heading so meant a more expensive fare.

Taxi tours wanted 800 pesos. We always play it cool and act with no urgency, as the more passengers come through and they haven’t got a fare the price usually goes down sharply. We’d got one down to 400 pesos and were about to accept when a tuk-tuk arrived to drop someone off and would take us for 350.

Our first stop was to pick up a motorbike we’d reserved. You can hire scooters everywhere and sometimes the small local semi-automatic motorbikes but these guys are a proper outfit and have new machines and a wide range like dirt bikes and road bikes. They also put their bikes through a series of checks before each hire to make sure they are in top condition. They’ve got a Yamaha 150CC road bike very similar to Marie’s so we’d reserved that. Conveniently it was on the way to our accommodation.

They confirmed we’d be able to get one of the rucksacks on the back so we unpacked our bundles of stuff to take and stuff to stay from the night before. They were eating chicken quesadillas for lunch and as soon as we found out they sold food (they have a small bar in a bamboo hut) we were in there. It was hot and humid but we’d missed breakfast. The guys got some straps and tied the bag on while we ate.

Before Emma got on Marie took the bike for a ride on the backstreet behind. With light handling and a less sensitive throttle she wobbled off but soon got the hang of it. Well enough.

Bohol is the Philippines 10th largest island, covering an area of 4821 square km with a population of 1.3m (back in 2015).

It also has the traffic and traffic fumes that goes with it.

One of the main roads runs the circumference of the island and having landed in the South West of the island we were staying out towards the South East. Google maps said our first ride would be 44km. That’s a long way when you’re on a new bike, have luggage on for the first time and someone on the back for only the 2nd time, who also happens to dislike being on 2 wheels, have the traffic, animals and people to avoid as is typical Asia and you’re driving on the right (wrong) side of the road. We launched off with their last words being ‘looks like there might be a rain shower up ahead it’ll be short and heavy, just pull over and find some shelter.’ Marie has only rode in a few light showers because rain = poor visibility, and slippy stuff on the roads, so isn’t fun which means she doesn’t choose to go out in it.

With a couple of stops, one being for the rain shower, the journey took us about an hour and a half. Marie spent the first hour (until the road got a little quieter and then dried out after the shower) crapping her pants.

We reached García Hernandez, where we were staying in in the late afternoon. We found our accommodation easily. Set right on the beach with a lovely garden with a small pool it was a great set up, the house of the people that managed it was to one side and on the other was another building with a big room and ensuite (ours) and a big room they used for families or as a dorm next to it. The first night there was one other guest, the second there was just us. We unloaded and feeling confident, with only an hour or so until sunset decided to make the most of it and get back on the bike to explore a little further.

Just down the road we plunged head first into a busy typically Asian chaotic town. What better test of slow control (which was wobbly) and defensive riding (which was better). We rode through it knowing that was the only way back and once we made it through decided that was more than enough excitement for one day and turned round and went back. Emma had exhausted her concentration as passenger and was wiggling around in the traffic which added to the challenge. She was looking forward to some food and a sit down on a flat seat for a while.

Our hosts were a German/Thai couple. Being in a quiet area with nothing but a couple of small shops they made us dinner which all 5 of us ate together. The German guy lived in nothing but his speedos, so we had dinner with a man in speedos and later had the same man in our room killing a big bug by dispensing half a can of fly spray.

We had planned to have 2 nights here and then 2 nights on Panglao so we had different jumping off points. The next day was all about going to the far South West point of the island while we were that side. The main town of Anda is a nice town and has perfect beaches.

The town we’d passed through the night before was thankfully less busy and the main road peeled inland so it was a more relaxed ride. We took it slowly and stopped whenever something caught our eye, whether beach or church. In Anda we checked out both the church and had a break on the beach.

We decided to continue following the road as far as we could. We knew there was a small road that went round the point but assumed it wasn’t sealed so we couldn’t do it. We’d soon lost all people and traffic and it was just us on a road in the jungle. A couple of tourists eventually went flying past us on a scooter when we took a break, only to go flying back past us 10 minutes later. We soon found out why, the seal abruptly ended and turned to dirt with puddles in pot holes. We figured we must be quite a way round the point so it couldn’t be far to the seal again. We asked a young guy and he confirmed the dirt was very short. Emma got off and walked and Marie took a road bike off-road (very slowly). It hadn’t rained recently and the tracks of motorbikes weaving round the puddles were clear. The young guy was right 300m later we were on seal. For a few hundred metres, then it disappeared again. We repeated this a few times before finally it stayed. We really enjoyed it, we passed through heaps of small villages with people wishing us Merry Christmas and kids waving and shouting. We hit a couple of junctions so checked we were heading the right way for the main road.

We got back to our digs just in time for sunset. The weather was nicely clear and we had a great view of the island in front. We watched the sun set from the old pier in front of our digs.

The next day was all about moving to Panglao. We had ideas about getting up and leaving early but instead decided to stay and have breakfast. We loaded the rucksack back up and had a slow ride with lots of stops. We decided to leave the other rucksack at the bike shop as clearly we could live without it, but with a good beach near our new digs we wanted to pick up our snorkel so stopped off to grab it on our way past.

Our new digs were out at the end of Panglao peninsula. Traffic was busy and it was a hot ride. We checked in and settled into our bamboo hut. In a nice garden setting the flip side was it was quite damp and the room very dark. It didn’t help that it was small. The bamboo bed had hideous roll together. We didn’t like the place and it reminded us why we usually travel on the fly and find somewhere to sleep as we go, but this being a busy holiday time we’d been warned we needed to pre-book.

Eventually we decided to hit the beach, A 10 minute walk away through the town, showed us what a busy tourist place it was. There was traffic and tourists everywhere, and also a whole heap of restaurants to choose from. Emma had a snorkel, Marie stayed with the valuables in the shade of a coconut tree.

When we got back we decided to ride to Bohol Bee Farm 8km away. An organic farm (we only saw 1 beehive) it has bloomed into a destination in its own right, with a restaurant, ice cream stall, farm shop selling honey and baked goods and dry fruits etc. We had an ice cream (Emma had a charcoal ice cream with cacao pieces on top) and spent far too much money in the farm shop, but that was breakfast for the next 2 mornings sorted; honey and squash bread.

The ride back as dusk was falling was busy. When we went out for dinner all the dust from the roads was visible in the vehicle headlights. With all the food options over-priced and nothing really taking our fancy we eventually settled on a burger from a little place down a side street doing a steady trade. It’s prices were sensible and the staff really friendly.

When we got back to our room to settle in for the night the bar 300m down the road was blasting music. Despite being down a backstreet off the main road it seemed to be hitting us full force and vibrating the entire hut. The owners of our place were attempting to counteract it with relaxing classic music and opera. The music wasn’t bad, when the MC wasn’t squawking. Until we went to bed then it was horrendous. It was akin to trying to sleep on a dance floor. Combined with the terrible bed and having a long ride planned for the next day it made us very grumpy. Midnight, and Christmas Day was marked with fireworks. We don’t know how long the party went for, we eventually fell asleep.

We woke tired and grumpy, but breakfasted and headed out. Our destination was the must do sight on Bohol; the Chocolate Hills.

A geological formation there are 1,260 to 1,776 hills in an area of around 50 square kilometers. Conical in shape and ranging from 30m to 120m high, they get their name from the vegetation on them that turns brown in the dry season. Their origin is still debated, but most scientists believe they were formed over time by the uplift of coral deposits and the effects of rain and erosion. However there are many other scientific theories and legends that offer alternatives. They have been declared the Philippines third National Geological Monument and proposed for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

It was a long day of riding, as we took it slowly and stopped plenty. The road was hilly and very windy to start and then goes through a mahogany forest and meets the jungle river, then it opens out to straight roads through rice paddies. It was a very pretty ride. We arrived about midday at the main viewpoint and parked the bike in the row of motorbikes and scooters. Now it felt like we’re in Asia! We joined the trail of people going up to the viewing area. It was a nice view, unlike anything else we’ve seen, but it doesn’t blow you away.

When we left we carried on the road a little way to the town of Carmen. It was a nice place and we got a few cold drinks. Then we turned back and headed for home. We had an extra stop for a short light shower to pass by. When we got back to the junction for Panglao while we were tired and saddle sore we decided to take the opportunity to go the other way round Panglao Island by taking the further across bridge. This saw us first plunged into the traffic chaos of Tagbilaran City. Badly signed and on some kind of detour we missed the turning the first time and managed to loop back round it for a second shot. This had us joining the far side of two lanes, which meant at least 4 rows of traffic and needing to be on the other side for our turning a couple of hundred metres later. Somehow we made it without too much difficulty but it was a little stressful being in the middle of traffic chaos.

The other side of the island was quieter and seemed to be where the locals live. We had one stop to visit some caves, it had some pretty cool stalagmites and a blue pool that you could pay more to swim in (we passed).

By the time we got back to our digs at dusk we were very tired. We opted for a Thai place for dinner that was a big place with very high patronage. The food was great.

Our final morning saw us up early to ride the 22km back to the bike shop. We dropped the bike, which now had an extra 470km on the clock, then caught a Jeepney to the main town of Tagbilaran and from there a 3 wheeler to the port to catch a ferry to Siquijor, our next island.

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