Crossing Mindanao: Davao to Cagayan de Oro

Bikepacking takes time, and we usually don’t have that much holidays to do more than two week-long trips in a year. Yet, to be able to do some exploring I brought my Genesis Croix de Fer with myself to a three-week work trip to the Philippines. I did some amazing one-day rides in the mountains of Rizal, close to Manila, and also the south of Mindanao, around General Santos and Davao which were amazing. I realized that cycling is just booming in this country. I met lots of people riding road bikes, mountain and even steel gravel bikes all over the country. Yet here I will talk about my crossing of the island of Mindanao.

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Summary of the two-day bike ride across Mindanao

 

When I finished my work in Davao, I decided to fly back from the northern side of the island, and spend my weekend with cycling to Cagayan de Oro, the largest city of Northern Mindanao. The 292 km ride took me two days to finish. It was also challenging in many respects as I faced some technical issues, killing -sometimes over 40C heat and gruelling climbs.

 

On the first day I left my hotel in Davao at 6AM and headed towards the centre of the island through a mountain range that starts right after the city. I took small side roads in Buda and Marilog districts through villages, and climbed up to about 1200m at sea level in the first 90-100 km. It wasn’t easy, in fact, I felt it was almost killing for me to bring up my by default heavy steel bike fully loaded (since it was a work trip, all my necessary clothes, etc. were with me). Yet, the stunning view made it worth.

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Climbing bridges and mountains with a loaded Croix de Fer

 

On the way I got two punctures . The first was a slow leak, most probably caused by a thorn or a piece of wire. The second one happened 10 kilometres after changing my tube. The valve simply came off most probably due to manufacturing defect.

Aside of losing time with the two punctures, in the beginning of the ride I spent a lot of time with taking photos on the stunning landscape, relaxing and enjoying the view, and chatting with the inhabitants of the villages I passed by. As a result I had to cycle relatively fast  in the last 65 kilometres to get to Valencia city in Bukidnon province before dark. I was also racing with the rain. It was funny that whenever I had to slow down because of a climb or to refill my bottles, the rain caught me. Yet once getting on the top and descending in fast pace, I was able to pass into a dry area again.

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These kind of view made me stop and take photos

 

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Stunning landscape in Marilog
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Breath-taking view along Davao-Bukidnon highway

 

After riding 168 kilometres I finally could rest in a hotel room, get some grilled chicken with beer, and prepare for the next day. Valencia “city” is in fact a small town located in a valley. It’s worth to mention that while in Davao virtually everyone can speak English, here communication was a bit more difficult, as many people had rather limited English skills.

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Sunset view on the way to Valencia

Yet, the hotel that I just randomly stopped by was a pleasant surprise. In fact, it was the best hotel (called Uno Business Hotel) during my entire stay in the Philippines, and it was also the cheapest. For a huge, clean and very comfortable room I only payed about 14USD.

On day 2, I had somewhat less mountains to climb, but the weather was extremely hot. Temperature in some places went up to 41C. This made drink like a horse, and had to stop by very often to refill my three bottles. Perhaps the only frustrating part of the journey (aside of the punctures) was when I passed by three roadside shops, and none of them sold water. The only thing I could get was Coca Cola … Now take this sugar-filled drink in killing heat and a lot of climbs in front of you…

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Day 2: More stops due to extreme heat

 

While on day 1 there was no much traffic on the small side roads that I followed, on day 2, I had to take the highway, where speeding  buses and trucks passed by.

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More highways for Day 2 -where speeding buses and trucks (and cows) pass by.

Just as day 1, I faced again some technical problems. In the mid of the road my front shifter stopped working. The reason was that the derailleur cable was torn. Thankfully I found a bike shop on the road, where I could change the cable (mental note: I should carry a spare cable … I thought I won’t need it during a two days trip..).
After riding 124 kilometres I finally arrived to Cagayan de Oro, where I headed to the first grill restaurant and started the recovery…

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Final descent towards Cagayan de Oro

 

It’s worth to talk a bit on the road conditions. 95% of route was paved, yet the quality of the tarmac was not the best in most places. Often I had to avoid giant potholes that might crack my rim, especially running into them while descending in a speed of 60 km/h. So one would be safer riding a gravel/touring or mountain bike on this route, than a  road bike (certainly the road bike with something like 25c-28c tyres would be the slowest option as well, since you would have to slow down in order to avoid the potholes and cracks on the asphalt – most of which I could just go through with my 38c tyres).

All in all, the Philippines has become one of my favourite countries in Southeast Asia. I am sure that I will be back for another, preferably longer cycling trip. What makes this country ideal for bikepacking is the existence of stunning landscape, challenging terrain, friendly people, and the existence of a bustling cycling culture. This means you will find plenty of bike shops on the road. If your rig needs a quick fix, it can be done without difficulty.

 

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