Aktualisiert: 21. Juli 2022
2021 has been a hard year, and I think that counts for everybody. A year with false hope and disappointing news. In this year our desire to travel was stronger than ever, but nothing was possible. We had to give up our dream to travel overland from Switzerland to Asia. Due to the oil prices skyrocketing, the container shipments were way out of our travel budget. Also Russia still had all the overland borders closed at the time we wanted to leave. So there were two options left. First option: work another year, hoping for new possibilities to open up. But you never know if it’s going to be any better. Second option: Fly now to the Philippines, buy a vehicle there and explore the Islands.
We asked a lot of friends and family what they would do, they all came with different answers. And in the end, it was up to us.
Now we had to decide.
The next day we booked the flight tickets to Manila. We sold everything we owned, everything that had to do with our original plan and sadly, even our car. We quit our jobs and said goodbye to our friends and family.
On May 10th 2022 we arrived in the Philippines and were ready for a new start.
Kim’s mother is from the Philippines, he has family living in Bacolod. Also, his parents have a house and live here short term, so it was like coming home again. We immediately searched for two motorcycles, and within the first week, we already found our new companions. Let me introduce you to "Bumpy" (because of the bumpy ride) the Honda XRM125 Rally and "Alon" (Meaning sea wave in filipino and Kim chose it because of its soft and "wavy" suspension) the Honda CRF250l Rally.
Already before flying, I’ve been searching for what kind of motorcycle I would like. And from the start, I fell in love with the Honda XRM 125. Easy to handle, durable and everywhere available in the Philippines, which means almost everyone knows how to work on it and fix it. We wanted to buy new ones, but in the Philippines registering and getting the paperwork done until receiving the license plate can take almost 6 months! Time we didn’t want to waste. So we searched for second hand motorcycles on Facebook Marketplace. We both found the perfect bike. We were very lucky to find something so quickly.
After finalizing the purchase, we both had to change tires. For me it was an easy job with XRM parts all over the place but for Kim it was awful finding parts for his big bike. Not only did he need new tires, but also new rims as well. The previous owner of the CRF mounted 17” street rims on the Rally which was really not ideal for our plans! But thanks to Lazada & Shopee (the two biggest online shops in the Philippines) we managed and were finally ready for our first adventure!
On our first day we drove from Bacolod to San Carlos. This road is a paradise for motorcyclists. A lot of curves and a nice paved road. I struggled, I’m not yet an experienced rider and I’m scared of heights. But here in the Philippines there are no rules, so you can ride at your own pace. We drove over the mountain range of the volcano Canlaon. The higher we got, the cooler the air. It was nice and refreshing. We are wearing full protective gear, which can be very hot, especially here in the sun at 40°C. After around three hours we arrived in San Carlos. This is a very nice and cute town. After asking around, we found a cheap motel to stay the night.
The next day we started driving to Canlaon, we saw on Google Maps that there are a lot of resorts, so we just started driving in that direction. This was the most beautiful drive of our Negros trip. Riding through incredible nature, rice fields left and right and through the mountains. We visited the Century Tree, here we had to drive a bit off-road. It was my first time, so it didn’t really go that well. But it was a very nice place to take a break. We found ourselves a nice place for lunch and then our search started for a hotel or resort. We were driving down the road and did not see any sign of any resort. We just kept on going, thinking it might be a bit further away, but still nothing. We opened Google Maps, and it said we passed all the resorts. We decide to drive to the next town, La Castellana. Suddenly the sky gets dark and it starts to rain. We asked some people on the street for a place to stay, because again, Google was no help. To our luck, right above us they were renovating some rooms and one was already finished. We quickly put our bags in the room, and then the rain just started pouring. We were right on time. In the evening after the heavy rain stopped, we had some chicken inasal grill from the market for dinner.
On Google I found a place called The Chocolate Hills from Negros. Looked like a nice main road leading there and we would pass it on our route. We drove to Moises Padilla and from there we could just go straight down to the Chocolate Hills. Here we had our first river crossing. We thought about driving over the pedestrian bridge above, but a local tricycle just crossed the river, so we did too. That was not too bad. When you drive slow and steady, nothing is going to happen. After the crossing, the road was closed. That’s why we had to make a detour through the farm fields, with a lot of mud. This was also the first time I drove in mud, so for me it was very scary. It felt like an eternity to me, riding through mud and loose stones but checking the map later it was just a kilometer.
After the detour we thought we would end up on a normal road, but after a while the road got really bad. This was really above my skill level. Even the people on the way slowly asked us where we were headed and when we said Chocolate Hills, they were relieved and said this was the right way. We questioned ourselves many times, are we really on the right road? But every time we asked, the people confirmed our route. So then this should be it. We do not recommend driving this road with any normal car or when you are not a skilled off-road rider, like me. Even Kim dropped his motorcycle once. Luckily Filipinos are very helpful, so everyone came straight away to help putting the motorcycle up. It took us a lot of sweat and tears, but we finally made it to the Chocolate Hills. And for me, this was not worth it. There even was a higher view point to climb up, but we were already so exhausted that we didn’t feel like climbing up some stairs. I was so done, tired and a bit pissed off. I just wanted to head straight for a normal road again. After passing the hills, the normal road came quite fast. If you ever want to visit the Chocolate Hills of Negros, we suggest to take the opposite route, coming from Magsaysay and not from Moises Padilla. Then you just have 1 km of dirt road.
We made our way to the Enchanted River. Here we could swim and cool down and relax from all the stressful experiences from earlier. Then we made our way to Guihulngan. We were so tired that after finding a hotel we just fell asleep right away.
We spent the weekend in Bais. Finding hotels is really tiring at the moment. Almost every hotel we found on Google Maps was closed or even closed down completely, probably because of the pandemic. With no other choice left we had to stay in an expensive hotel with a pool. Actually, it was quite nice. We spent the whole weekend laying by the pool and went swimming. Now our asses could also rest from our motorcycle seats.
After the weekend we headed for Dumaguete, and we were really surprised. Dumaguete is a nice small city, when you compare it with Bacolod. We did a lot of shopping here and walked every evening on the boulevard. Kim practiced his photography skills and we tried nice new restaurants.
From Dumaguete we did a few day trips around the area. We drove up to the beautiful Balinsasayaw Twin Lakes. It was a really steep and narrow road going up there. Arriving at the viewing deck the weather changed. Dark clouds forming above us. We quickly went down the first lake to get a few pictures but didn’t walk to the other lake. You can also take the boat which you have to pay for. But since the weather changed we decided to head back before getting caught in the rain on the slippery slope down. Drones are forbidden in the area of the Twin Lakes!
The next day we visited Rabbiton. A cute little rabbit farm about an hour from Dumaguete. Just as we arrived it started pouring for an hour, but luckily we could eat lunch in a nice Bahay Kubo. After lunch we could explore the whole farm on our own. It was really nicely decorated but many of the rabbits they breed were held in really small cages in which they couldn’t even turn around. We left the place with mixed feelings. Cute for kids but also not really animal friendly.
But just after a few days we got fed up with the city life again, so now we were craving for a nice beach. Luckily we found a beautiful beach resort just 15km from Dumaguete in Dauin. We again had excellent timing and just after checking in our cute little bungalow it started pouring again. Before the sun went down the rain stopped and we checked out the house reef and did some snorkeling. Kim decided to do his Advanced Open Water diving course, and was busy diving for the next few days. Since I don’t dive I went snorkeling every day alone. Not really all alone, since hundreds of fish were swimming with me around the reef. I was really surprised how many fish you see there in Dauin. We’ve been to Egypt before, which is a paradise for snorkeling & diving. But Dauin was really not bad, I expected worse. Dauin is now one of my favorite spots, they have nice restaurants and it is a perfect place to just relax and enjoy the nice weather. On Friday evening there even was a huge beach party, which ended at 2 in the night.
It was time to head home now, we got a wedding to attend from a cousin of Kim. So we drove to Bayawan and from there we wanted to make one more stop in Kabankalan before doing the final stretch to Bacolod. On Google Maps and GPS, it looked like a nice route to drive home.
The worst day on our Negros tour:
We started the day early in Bayawan. Driving off we realized that we forgot to charge our Cardo communication devices, so we couldn’t talk to each other. We immediately hooked them on the powerbank to get them charged. As usual I drove in front and Kim followed me. But as I was checking my mirror after two minutes of riding, he wasn’t following. He just stood there and waved! Kim actually never takes his helmet off, so I knew something was up when he took it off. I raced back to see what’s going on. Kim said he lost all power, even on the GPS, which is hooked directly on the battery. Suddenly there was smoke coming up under the seat! We instantly ripped all the luggage off the bike and Kim immediately took out the tool kit to take away the panel to the battery compartment. The smoke stopped, but the battery was really hot, Kim needed his leather riding gloves to take it out. He put it far away from us, in case it would catch fire, it wouldn’t hurt anyone. We just stood there and looked at each other quite relieved. Like anywhere in the Philippines you are never alone. People coming from everywhere to check what’s going on. All really friendly and trying to help. A guy even told us where we could find the nearest bike shop to get a new battery. Kim hopped on my XRM and left me boiling in the sun to find a battery. Luckily a friendly Filipino sitting at the school entrance where we broke down offered me a seat in the shade. After half an hour Kim returns with a new battery. Not exactly the same but it should work according to him. He built everything together and we prayed that nothing else got fried. The relief we felt after hearing the cranking noise of the engine was indescribable. We said our goodbyes to the locals, who offered us to get rid of the fried battery and we were on our way to Kabankalan. Luckily we were still in Bayawan, a fairly big town when all of it happened, we couldn’t imagine it happening somewhere remote and having to backtrack many kilometers to find a battery.
Finally, on the road again with an approximately two-hour delay. But the sky didn’t look friendly. We had some late breakfast/lunch at a bakery in a small village when the skies opened up. We put on our rain gear under a roof and we kept on going since we really wanted to reach Kabankalan before the sun went down. After a while, Kim’s GPS says we have to go right, but the street signs say we have to turn left for Kabankalan. We go to the left, somehow we trust signs more than the GPS. The GPS did get us on a few bad roads before so we do like to follow road signs if available.
But after around 20 km the nice paved road in the mountains stopped. No problem happens all the time here, usually after a few hundred meters the tarmac comes again on main roads. But not this time… the road got worse and worse. The pouring rain didn’t make it any better. It got really steep and the rocks were big, round and extremely slippery. Even some locals passing us had to get off their motorcycle and push it over a few obstacles. For me it was hell, I was really scared. Kim offered to ride my bike over a few harder obstacles which resulted in him running back and forth.
After a while we realized that it didn’t get any better, it even got worse! So we decided Kim should ride ahead and check how far the bad road goes and when it gets better. After a while he returns with bad news. The road even gets worse further down, it’s so washed out, it’s riding like on a slippery riverbed. We decided that we didn’t want to risk anything, especially with my little off-road experience and turned around.
Getting back to the tarmac we were exhausted and needed a few moments to rest and had to drink some water. After finishing the last bottle of water we were still thirsty so we had to move on. We had to backtrack all the way back to the village where we had breakfast and turned the other way. The pavement ended on this route too, but they were building the new road so at least it was just flat and muddy. I already did enough kilometers on dirt now so I could power through it with some confidence I gained the last few weeks. Having a break in Mabinay we decided to search here for a room.
We just got an hour left of daylight which would’ve probably worked out until Kabankalan, but we were wet and exhausted. One of the few time Google Maps worked out. We found a beautiful little resort with big spacious rooms and even a hot shower for an affordable price. Which was perfect, since we needed to hang our wet gear. Got an early dinner and some nice desserts at the bakery in front of the resort and slept right away. The next day our bodies felt really sore from the day before. But since the roads from Mabinay to Bacolod are really good, we could race back in just a few hours. We were so fast that we just arrived before the clouds opened up again.
Having a nice second home to stay here in Bacolod with family really means a lot to us and we really appreciate it.
The Negros tour left some scars on Kim's CRF and has to deal now with a broken steering head bearing.
Now the next challenges are, getting the LTO's (Land Transportation Office) paperwork done for the two Motorcycles and getting the Filipino driving license, which is required after three months in the Philippines!