I finally made the lakes.

Writing this blog is becoming a bit like painting the Forth Bridge.  No matter how much I write, I never seem to be able to get more than about a month behind.  I have just checked the dates of the last lot of photos I posted and this is the case yet again.  Ah well, press on I suppose.

I had left you with my abortive attempt to reach the Twin Lakes and my slight diversion to the place of "miracles", which was certainly interesting in itself.  The next day, better prepared and considerably earlier, I set off for another crack at it.  To listen to me you would think I was doing Ewan McGregor and Charlie Brman's "Long Way Round".  I was actually attempting about a 40 mile round trip to a famous tourist attraction.  Hardly something to excite Ranulph Fiennes although it did turn into a bit of an adventure, it usually does with me.

The road starts off from the National Highway in not too bad a shape, as you can see, except for the odd road hazard.  It appears the fauna of the Philippines have no road sense whatsoever.  Cattle, goats, chickens, dogs and who knows what else will be sleeping, grazing, walking, fornicating (yes, you read that right and it was something to come across in the dead of night on a supposed main road) or just doing a very good job of being roadkill.  You really need your wits about you here.

A Class road to the Lakes.
You rise pretty steeply on a nearly deserted road and you can steal the odd glance out over the neighbouring island of Cebu or inland to the lush, cloud-capped mountains of the Valencia watershed.  It is a delight to ride.

Naturally, it was never going to last.

B Class road to the lakes.
Onwards an upwards, the views getting more spectacular and the road getting more treacherous.  Still OK at this point, although I was beginning to pine for a dirt bike again as I had done on Siquijor and much as I have become attached to Suzi the Suzuki who has been a good friend.  I shall miss her when (if I ever) I move on.

Ryanair class road to the lakes.
The road actually did degenerate further and got steeper but I didn't really fancy stopping the bike and trying a hillstart on the very loose shale that constituted the surface just to tke a photo.  The surface was only the start of the difficulties.  I came upon this sign which did give me pause for thought.  About 50 yards further on I saw the evidence of it, a huge bite shaped chunk out of the unfenced road leading to a sheer drop of about three or four hundred feet.  The Sendong typhoon and subsequent catastrophic floods of a couple of months ago really has wreaked havoc here.

You have been warned.
OK, I can live with that, the drop is on the left and the cliff on the right, so stay well to the right, right?  Wrong.  Another  50 yards on I saw this.

You really have been warned.
 So now I have an option.  Either drive on the left and risk falling off the edge of the world or ride on the right and risk having a large chunk of Philippines National Park land on me.  Ride in the middle and hope that no psychotic Philippino driver (there is no other sort) comes careering down the other way.

 Having survived plumetting death and limestone cranial surgery, with cramping hands (you really need to hang on here) and a sore a***, I got to where I was going to find a nipa roofed hut with two delightful ladies inside.  The tariff is typically Philippino in that foreigners pay about ten times more for admittance.  That's OK. it is their country.  What irks me slightly is that it is 100 pesos for me, 10 pesos for the bike and then another two pesos to park it.  Who thinks this nonsense up?  Two pesos is less than one penny sterling.  The smallest note is a 20 and people very rarely have coins.  As usual, they didn't have change, nobody ever does, so it gets rounded up.  I wonder what proportion of the Philippine economy is driven from "no change".  Interesting idea.

As I was signing the register, I saw the name before mine was a Miss XXXXXX, a Southern Asian name giving her address as a large city in the Midlands of the UK.  She might be interesting to meet then.  I haven't named her as I didn't discuss it with her and I like to be polite about these things.

I saw a lake at the entrance and whilst it was pleasant it was nothing to write home about.  As usual, I had got it wrong, it was just a little teaser.  The main lakes are a little further on.  I drove the bike up and decided a cold drink was in order so I went into the restaurant which, as you can see, has a simply stunning view.  Certainly one of the more pleasant places I have sipped a beer.

Twin Lakes, Negros Oriental.

A closer view of the lakes.
A walk down a slightly treacherous set of steps brought me up close and personal with the lake.  I would have loved to have had the time to take one of the boats on offer and go and explore the lake or better still hired a kayak and done it myself but time was against me and I really didn't fancy that road in the dark.  A few photos with and of the lovely boat people there and then back to the carpark, started up and girded my loins (very necessary with that saddle) for the return.

I still hadn't met Miss XXXXXX but it was a big place so I wasn't overly surprised.  A few hundred yards down the track again I saw a lady with a decent sized daypack, sturdy walking boots and a purposeful stride making good progress.  Her appearance indicated that she might have been the aforesaid young lady and, on a whim, I decided to be a bit flash.  Pulling up, I greeted her with a cheery, "Ah, you'll be Miss XXXXXX then?"  Remember this is halfway up a mountain in the middle of nowhere.  The look on her face was priceless but in fairness she recovered fairly smarttly and said, "Ah, you saw my name in the register then, did you?"  Switched on young lady I see.  She told me that she had walked up from the roadhead, thinking she could get one of the hire motorcycles back down.  That was just not going to happen and without a ride she was never going to get down before dark, not a good situation.

Dropping immediately into knight in shining armour mode (well, shorts, flip flops and T-shirt mode actually) and with Suzi the faithful 125cc Suzuki taking the role of trusty steed, the damsel in distress threw her leg over (if you'll pardon the expression) and off we set.  In hindsight, it was probably a bit mad given the journey up but, bizarrely, it seemed to be easier on the way down.  Whether it was that I knew the road a little, had a little more weight on the back (not that the young lady was at all overweight) or it was just going downhill, I have no idea but we made the road and then Dumaguete in good order.

On the way, we had a conversation, well rude not to I suppose.  I found out that she had arrived on Negros off an overnight ferry at about 0600, checked into her hostel and dumped her kit, grabbed a jeepney to the entrance to the lakes and humped up that 13km. track in the blazing midday sun.  My hat is certainly off to you, girl.  It transpires she is a scientist in the laboratory of a major Midlands hospital, travels when she can and boy does she travel.  She enquired about what there was to see locally and I told her not a lot due to the effect of the typhoon (places like Casaroro Falls being closed) so she decided she would jump on a ferry to the next island the next mornng.  Well, that is what I call a whirlwind tour of Negros.

My new friend also transpired to be a vegetarian and wondered if I knew a place to eat that would suit her.  Of course I did, and duly took her to Atong Kamalig, a great favourite of mine in town with a large menu including some veggie options.  She pronounced herself well happy with the veg lumpia (effectively spring rolls) and then took her leave wanting an early night.  It was just one of those slightly surreal moments on the road.  We didn't swap details or anything and I don't even have a photo, but she was a very charming travel companion for a couple of hours and I hope we meet on the road again somewhere.  Ridiculous as that sounds, experience tells me that it may well happen.  As Terry Pratchett so wonderfully puts it, "Million to one chances happen nine times out of ten."

I'll post this now as it forms a chapter in itself and try to post another one today, the tale of the bike rally that didn't really happen for us!

Stay tuned.

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