Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Scooter rental in Cebu, the ride north

I was content to sit in a cheap hotel an grovel in misery suffering from a cold I had caught from the kids the previous day. I raised cain on a internet forum, this being my only entertainment for the day when a man I Message with from time to time asked me what then hell I was doing on  that waste of space when I was in another country.
He was right, I closed the forum and began searching for scooter renters that very instant. I would call around however the three major rental companies all seemed to want your passport. There was one not far from the hotel but the woman behind the counter recommended another service, so they would be my choice. As is the custom here service is usually amazing, an hour later I had a scooter in front o the hotel delivered. The website had promised new scooters and new tires, that was a little misleading.
The scooter was scraped up to the point the scratches could have been pin stripes. The Tires had massive cupping probably do to low tire pressure and were worn. The owner came along with the delivery and proclaimed "I used to repaint them or replace the plastic all the time then I decided why, the next renter would just add a new set of scratches. At this point I figured it was what it was and I wanted to get on with the day. MY GFs brother who was a motorcycle cabby in that smaller town was to come in with his Cousin to guide us on a northern tour of the island. I wanted to get going and wasting my time with another agency at this time would be a bad choice. Besides, if I had to hand over my passport I wanted it to be with someone credible. 
I was excited and I crammed my head inside their helmet, one size fits all they said, I knew better than that.
Now one thing you learn in the Philippines is they operate on their own time frame. To understand this you merely have to know that if they are hungry, they have to use the bathroom, or something of more importance comes up such as talking about nothing of importance with someone else,that takes precedence. Its ok cause the last one I am guilty of as well, the rest including food I can do without. 
Two hours before at 10 am when I decided to rent a bike her Bro and Cousin were so excited they could not wait. Now it was noon and I was wondering where they were "They decided to eat lunch first" was her reply. Like a five year old with his first bike I sat in the chair in my hotel room with my helmet on until my head started to sweat and I remembered my age.
When they finally arrived another hour and a half later I was more than ready. They teased me about the condition of my scooter, which lets you know its bad when a local teases you in a developing nation.
My Girl did not want to ride with me so instead her brother would, I found this a bit odd but whatever. In this country, and most countries outside the US it is not uncommon to see men riding together. Nothing gay about it, not that there would be anything wrong with that.

We took off straight into the heavy traffic. Lane splitting is the norm as is dodging between the front and back of cars to jockey for a better position. We went right to it and my heart was pounding, My experience lane splitting is little to say the least. Not only lane splitting but Cutting between the front of cars? Insanity I say!
Yet there I was, splitting and dodging wondering what the hell I was doing. At the light it would be the motorcycles at the front. At intersections where there are no lights, and that is the majority you imply weave between the other traffic and make your way. It seems crazy and disorganized but it starts to make sense as you do it. Speeds rarely ever reach up to 20mph and when you are you feel like you are doing 60.
There are two rules that I know of, one whoever is in the wrong always pays, which is usually whoever has the most money. The second is the biggest vehicle always has the right away, and they are not afraid to use this rule. You may be riding along side a Semi Truck and suddenly he comes into your lane, there is no waiting, you GTFO of the way or face the consequences. To over come this your actually start riding more aggressive and trying to stay away from the big rigs.
I admit I am nervous and at this point I still find this all insane, I ask my Gurls smiling cousin Ken how much longer in this traffic, "Two more hours only" He replies with a huge grin "Isn't this fun" 
Barrel of laughs I think to myself. 
I rode like I never had before, it became second nature to dodge this way and that. As a truck driver I drive by my mirrors, in this chaos you have no time to use your mirrors. A semi wheel buzzes inches from my hand, I swerve into the other lane and hear the familiar honk of a taxi as I come close to being a hood ornament. I speed up and dart between the two cars in front of me and I find the car on the right wants to push his way to his left. I go to my left between the hood and trunk of another car. This is dumb I think, I can just call the rental agency now and end this insanity. 
I am on the verge of a breakdown. My only gear is a helmet, leather fencing gloves and low cut hiking boots. 
I take a wrong turn and Glenn, riding behind me points straight ahead, I am committed, what to do? I turn straight not wanting to lose Ken an end up riding into the opposite lane of traffic. This is common but going straight between two other oncoming motos isn't and I feel glens legs grip my hips tightly. Ok that just sounds gay but it is the truth. That was fun I thought as Glenn screams in my ear "you only had an inch your crazy" that's right I am I thought and I started riding like I was. I made a game out of it, that is the only way I could enjoy this ride.
We finally would leave the city limits and hit two lane roads, better? No you still have the chaos and limited rules but your sides are now clear. Now you only have to worry about the buses coming into your lane passing forcing you to ride on the shoulder or the pedestrians crossing like frogger to the other side. Now throw in the mix of a peddling cab driver seemingly oblivious to the honking horns. In America this alone would stop traffic, in the South East Asia it is merely a second pause as you wait to shoot around him. They are not looking for a clear lane, rather a small oncoming car or motorcycle where they can use half of the opposing lane to pass from.
Two hours pass and we area still in little towns here and there. One thing about this country is you never really are without anyone, there is always a small store or a hut alongside the road. Towns the chaos starts all over again and the real crazy thing is many store fronts are only a foot or two from the edge of the road, some right up to the foot. People will be standing there oblivious to the traffic and only moving close to the store front when a bus comes along air horn blazing.
We stop in one of these towns, parking our bike next to a gutter carrying sewage away. My throat is burning and I wish I had my water bladder for my camel back. 
The three filipino I am with eat fish from the roadside grill. 
Right there all day long will be cooked fish with only a fan above to cool, or rather keep a breeze going to push the flies away. 
They offer some but I know something like this can be Russian roulette to a westerner. The person manning the grill also has what looks like  a Pom Pom to swoosh the flies away.

We head off and soon the traffic lessons and I can enjoy the amazing view. I have been this way before by bus but everything always looks different by motorcycle. On my left are some amazing hills and jungle, on the right is a small bus stop. Crazy but at this stop I took a picture with my Gurl nearly two years before and I smiled at the memory.
We tear thru some twisties and I stop more frequently to take photos now. No matter how many times you sees south east Asia you want to stop every 100 feet for another picture, it is that mind blowing.

I force myself to only stop for the really unique views. The churches here are always amazing and I love some of the modern houses with their bright colors. 
Storm clouds roll in as night approaches, I am nervous about riding at night but they assure me there is nothing to worry about. The roads here are actually pretty decent all seem to be paved and minimal potholes. What you do have to watch out for are brakes in the pavement where one left off an a new patch carried on. Here there is apparent no code a couple inches variances are the norm. So in the regard of the road itself at night I was not worried.
Not wanting to get drenched with only my T shirt as rain gear I coax them to turn back.
I was at this point kind of looking forward to the heavy traffic. Indeed before dark it increases but once we were back in the city it was nothin like earlier and we made it back after a quick stop at a local burger joint.
Tomorrow we would head south. 

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