Do you ever wonder what happened to your BMX ? Well I do.
That is, the BMX that I got for my ninth Birthday, which was pretty much every kids wish in my school back then. It was blue, a birthday gift and I was really chuffed. I remember wanting to take it to the local BMX track and being far too little to even contemplate the jumps never mind the camel-backs, but hell, I gave it a try! I even have a scar on my right knee thanks to one head over handlebars incident.
...Roll on 24 years... What even happened to my BMX ? I don't remember scrapping it, selling it and last time i checked it was not gathering dust in the shed. Well I just found out where all the worlds BMX's ended up. Somehow they all have ended up in the Philippines....
Is one of these your BMX ?
Yep, here BMX's have been converted to tricycles, which are called Trisicad's and they are the most common form of short distance transport around town. A two or three mile journey will cost you around USD 50c, with a lot of banter and laughter from the Filipino pedaling you away to your destination. And these guys really have to pedal quickly when they get going, as the BMX's gearing is pretty high. As the brakes no longer work, the chaps have fashioned a strip of car type to the rear tire which they step on when they want to brake. A real world solution that is pretty effective, even with flip flops ! I rather like it and its quite unique compared to cycle rickshaws in India and Tricycles in Burma which consist of 'Dutch' bikes, or the latest Chinese equivalent.
The Brakes !
We have just arrived in Iloilo (thats ee-lo-ee-lo). We have come with the hope to get some Caving and Mountain biking done as our Lonely Planet really talks up this area as being a great spot for this. Its also as ideal starting point for our island hopping tour around the Visayas, the middle belt of Islands in the Philippines.
To save paying an extortionate price to fly direct, we flew to the nearest island and got the 'superferry' across. Its was our first trip on a big ferry, with our previous island trips taken on 'banca's', wooden Filipino boats with bamboo outriggers. The superferry has fully fully enclosed metal hull, one where your locked inside through a series of giant metal doors acting as watertight latches. We hopped aboard, the doors closed and then the safety briefing started on the ships tannoy. Except this Safety briefing started with the Lords Prayer. That rather unnerved me. Are we going to sink ?
Typical Filipino Banka, this one meticulously maintained and painted
Following a little bit of organisation, we managed to get mountain biking on a island near to Iloilo, Guimaras. This island is ideally suited to biking thanks to the rolling hills, nothing too steep, nothing to gentle and with most of it off road biking, its a MTB'ers dream. The added bonus was that we managed to get hold of some decent bikes and a guide to show us the decent routes. We visited a cave and then on tour our lunch stop, a beach with some decent snorkeling and a white sand beach that gets pretty much no visitors. Bliss.
There was a little bit of a hitch however as the 'homestay' we were meant to be eating lunch at was out of town. Off trundled Tom our trusty guide to speak to the local villagers to organise some Lunch and to his surprise he came back five minutes later saying Lunch was ready as we had been invited to celebrate a baptism (known as a christening in the UK). There was a huge banquet in a nearby home with all the village men rapidly tucking into bottles of Tanduay Rum while the ladies ensuring that Sarah and I added another few inches to our waistlines with the feast on offer. There was a superb range of local Filipino food which was really really good. My favorite was the macaroni salad, but not as you'd expect it ... in the Philippines it is sweet! Basically it a mix of fruit and condensed milk, which really does not sound like it would work, but it does and I've vowed to try making it at the next 53 Coldershaw Road Party...
As we were leaving, Tom asked us if we wanted to wash lunch down with some Coconut milk. Its been hard to miss the huge number of Coconut trees in the Philippines (they're everywhere) and discarded coconut shells all over the place (they're everywhere too). And the other day I noticed that all the coconut trees have steps cut out on the way to the top, which I assumed was so the trees could be climbed. My superstitions were confirmed when we met a chap up a tree harvesting coconuts in Sabang. He was hacking merrily away, some 20 metres up the tree, without any rope or other safety devices, just using his legs as grip. Brave chap I thought. But after we agreed to have some coconut milk after Lunch, a local lad promptly climbed up the nearest palm tree to get Sarah and I a couple of coconuts. Result ? If a 8 year old can climb a palm tree, so can I! Although maybe barefoot was not the wisest option given a lifetime of wearing shoes.
Up a Palm tree. Errr should really have checked to see if there were coconuts on the tree before I climbed it!My final day in Iloilo was spent Caving. Thanks a little bit of luck I was able to get in touch with a local caver and get underground in the Bulabog Puti-an National Park. The caves that we visited were particularly interesting for the life the caves contained. Aside from the Tens of Thousands of bats handing on the roof and circling the caves, there were a ton of weird critters. Most impressive were the spiders, some of which I understand are quite venomous. Why I was using the Macro function of my Camera within inches of the spiders, errr in the dark of a cave, I don't know. I'd love to show you all the pictures, but as i lost my camera (stupid me), your not able to see them !
Tomorrow I am off to climb a Volcano on the Island of Negros. Its still an active Volcano which the last erupted during 1996.
Finally, I'm starting a 'Jeepney of the Blog' feature. So I'd like to finish with a picture of this rather cool Jeepney plying the route between Sabang and Puerto Princessa on Palawan ...