When your first encounter of the day is a leather clad man who casually throws out that he’s killed a man, it makes you wonder whether you should really be taking a trip to a remote island to cycle on your own. Yes, that and the fact I’d watched a nasty documentary that morning on how you can contract Ebola from the jungle had me a bit on edge as I sat on the ferry en route to Gulimaras with a rented mountain bike.
I’d left paradise reluctantly the previous day to take the trip as I’d heard it was a wonderful cycling destination and I was missing Bianca. However after 7 hours on a bus, a guesthouse that didn’t exist and an escort by two lovely policeman just to get to Iloilo City, I was starting to wonder. But I had committed to the idea and even though Mr leather gave me the heeby jeebys I thought things could only get better as I got off the boat.
Registering at the worlds smallest tourist office, (so they could send a search party in case I got lost perhaps), I set off for the first part of my 20k trip to San Miguel, main town of the Jordan district. Trundling along on the main road I was glad I had a bike with suspension as the road was so gravelly and bumpy it made my teeth jingle. I bumped along for a few kilometres before feeling really really hot, like I may spontaneously combust hot. The scenery may have been amazing but my planning was dismal and I realised I was cycling in the mid day sun with hardly any water.
Looking around at the deserted jungle road I figured that to get dehydrated here would be bad, very bad.
The island had an almost eerie feel about it too, like the island in the ‘The Wickerman’ and I felt vulnerable, way more than I ever had cycling through Sri Lanka. In the midst of my worry though another human showed up, in a Jeepney no less and I flagged him down to take me and the bike up the hill to the town.
My ultimate destination was the beach but I stopped in San Miguel next to the most inviting mango display I’ve ever seen. Gulimaras is famous for its mangos, hyped as being the sweetest in all the Philippines. Biting in to the sweet yellow flesh I was not disappointed, it was SO good. And I could totally understand why they had gone to town on capitalising on it, with mango juice, sweets and even ketchup for sale.
Mangos are a serious business here
With a couple of mangos in my bag (I resisted the ketchup) I pressed on to the next district of Nueva Valencia, a toy tiki town of little palm tree thatched houses and bamboo huts. People smiled and waved as I passed by and I started to ease up and enjoy the ride.
After getting a bit lost the next stop was the beach, accessed through a small resort which was all but deserted. I started to get that eerie feeling again, even more so when a tricycle driver showed up who I’d met earlier that morning at the port. I hoped it was coincidence and not that he had been following me all day.
A lesson in intuition
Mr tricycle seemed to know where I was going. Though I met him on the road he turned up again at the beachside report I stopped at for a dip. A little over friendly maybe I wasn’t too worried at first and thought that given the lack of tourists on the island he was probably just after my custom to get back to the port. But my gut was niggling me a little and telling me something was not quite right but I ignored it because I was running out of time to get the last boat.
About 10 minutes in to the journey though I started to kick myself. Starting with the usual ‘are you married’ line of questioning it gradually got more suggestive. Now a firm word and glare normally does the trick, but here I felt really vulnerable as we were in the middle of nowhere. When he started to slow down amidst a flurry of compliments my adrenaline levels shot up and I started to feel really freaked out for the first time in my trip.
But I was not going to let anyone mess with me now, I had a boat to catch and I’d dealt with bigger weirdos than this one.
Thankfully he kept driving after a ‘don’t even think about it mate’ look and stern word, but inside I was still feeling a bit wobbly. Boarding the boat I breathed a sigh of relief to be leaving. Whilst I’d enjoyed the mangos, people and scenery this was a learning curve that some experiences are best shared and that you should always always always listen to your gut.