Cebu Mountain Trails The Bikes – two Honda XR200’s – assembled in the Philippines and a great off-road option. The initial route – Cebu City to Barangay Bonbon (14kms west on the Trans-central highway that runs from Cebu City to Balamban on the west coast of Cebu Island) then off-road across the mountainous spine of Cebu to Toledo and Balamban. Leaving Cebu City at around 8.30am on a fine sunny morning saw myself and my pillion headed off in the direction of Busay and the Transcentral Highway, a ribbon of perfect tarmac that winds its way through stunning mountainous terrain from Cebu City on the east coast of Cebu Island through to Balamban, some 50kms away on the west coast. At the 14km mark we turned left off the Trans-Central onto a narrow cement road that initially drops down into the sleepy valley barangay (tambon) of Bonbon before winding very steeply up to the beautiful home of our friends and riding partners Richard and Eva. We set off shortly after on a ride that lasted some five hours, taking us through some stunning scenery – steep rough roads interspersed with sections of newly laid cement, a phenomenon no doubt attributable to the impending elections here in the Philippines. Our first stop was at a small market village some 5kms from our starting point, where we filled our tanks from 1-liter coke bottles of gasoline courtesy of the local sari-sari (convenience) store. The route chosen by Richard led us through many small villages, where we were invariably greeted by smiles and the ubiquitous “hey Joe”, a generic expression that one hears all over the Philippines, used by the locals when addressing foreigners! But the people are extremely friendly, the kids immaculately turned out (regardless of their humble circumstances) and once again I was reminded of why I chose to live in this lovely country. This mountain region is known as the vegetable garden of Cebu and it was soon apparent why. High up in even the most remote villages we came across immaculate gardens producing a vast array of vegetables, fruit and flowers for sale in the city below. At these elevations the air is cool, clean and invigorating and invariably 8 – 10 degrees lower than Cebu City itself. The terrain also comprises dramatic limestone outcrops interspersed with bizarre formations of volcanic rock. High school graduation ceremony at Tabunan village. The ubiquitous basketball court – every village has one. Football comes a distant second here! One section of our trip took us through the property of the Carmen Copper Mine near Lutupan. Whilst Lutupan itself is a pretty village clinging to the mountain slope some 5 kms from the mine itself, it is a sad fact that this area has suffered drastically from the mining practices employed here, and the scenery, which closely resembled something out of a Mad Max movie, also featured a river where the waters ran red, yellow and black, such was the pollution. There are several villages located within the mine’s limits and we were dismayed to see a number of youngsters swimming and bathing in these waters. We later spoke to a couple of ladies we passed on the trail and they informed us that their potable water source was a deep well and several streams further up the mountain above the affected area. Nevertheless, it was sad to see such a beautiful area fall victim to such obviously irresponsible mining activities. This caribou is not worried about pollution! Once we reached the far boundary of the mine, we crossed over an extremely rickety looking steel bridge before winding our way down through several more villages before reaching the main Naga – Toledo highway. As we dropped to sea level again the temperature soared and we were back to riding in blast furnace heat for the 14 km run to Balamban, whilst running the gauntlet of trikes (motorcycle taxis with sidecar attached) that have absolutely no road sense and have an unpleasant habit of pulling unexpected u-turns without ever checking on what may be approaching from behind. Keeps you on your toes! Balamban was a welcome relief as we stopped briefly to take on water prior to heading back on the Transcentral for the 50 km run back to Bonbon and home. En route we passed through Guba, some 10 kms from Bonbon, an insignificant little village, the highlight of which was a modest catholic church (on the outside) with an absolutely beautiful interior. One finds such examples in the most unexpected of places! Shortly after we gratefully rolled to a halt back at David’s mountain retreat for a late lunch and a well-deserved rest. The total distance covered was probably little more than 130 kms but the terrain and photo opportunities stretched it into a 5-hour affair. Doubtless more proficient endure riders would have made short work of it but as street riding is our forte, we arrived home tired, but with a big smile on our faces. A big thank you to David for showing us some of Cebu Island’s hidden gems!