Palawan Motorcycle Adventures – Part 1of2
Things take more time in the third world. Negotiations that should be smooth and simple are often long, boring and end up unfruitful. During the negotiations, the old “pretend to be uninterested” and temporary “walk away” techniques are mandatory to determine the lowest price.
Today, I went through four different motorcycle rental shops before finally getting to a reasonable price from Santos, a self proclaimed, “expert motorcycle mechanic and bike shop owner.” Wow, I thought, it’s great to be in the company of greatness, haha. I was finally able to beat him down to a price of 4,500 Pesos ($90 USD) for a one week rental of a Honda XR 200 dirtbike.
I really love riding dirt bikes and even with a minimal 4-stroke 200cc engine, this bike had some decent pep. Oddly enough, this bike is considered to be one of the best bikes in Palawan. People, especially teens, that were walking on the street would see this bike passing by and you could see the envy in their eyes, as though I was sporting a wicked 900cc Ducati super-bike.
Jenny and I left Puerto Princesa and headed south, bound for a destination unknown. As we left the traffic behind and watched as the road opened up we were struck with a bit of bad luck – rain clouds that turned into showers. Now soaking wet and still pushing on we went around a wide bend to see people, cars and an ambulance all huddled on the straightaway section of assault ahead.
As Jenny and I slowly crept past the scene, with rain pouring down on our heads, we witnessed a motorcycle off in the distance scraped up and mangled. As we got closer we made out the outline of a dead Filipino, face up with no helmet, laid out on the hot black asphalt. Someone at the scene had partially covered his body with newspaper, but in a twist of gruesome irony had used the “funnies” section of the paper to do the job. As the unrelenting rain continued, the colorful ink from the cartoons was streaking off the pages to splatter the ground. As the humid air filled my lungs and my brain processed the scene I felt all my senses slow down and my stomach turn uneasily.
Back on the road, the rain didn’t let up and instead soaked us and our luggage in tow. I decided to take a break for a bit and stop at a tiny wooden roadside stand where people normally sold fruits to passing motorists. Due to the heavy rain, it was empty and a prime shelter for Jenny and I. We huddled underneath the stand to protect us from the strong rain coming down in buckets. In the distance, a lone boy approached.
He flashed a huge smile as he walked up to Jenny and I to see what we were doing. He spoke to Jenny in a dialect of Filipino that even she could not understand. With nothing to do but smile, we enjoyed his company for a minute and then were greeted by his young friends, one of them wearing a spiderman costume.
10 minutes later, still waiting for the rain to let up, we were joined by a small group of girls that had come outside to see what the foreigners were doing. I gave the kids a 20 pesos note (less than fifty cents US) and they all ran down the street as fast as they could to a tiny general store. Five minutes later the kids returned with candy in hand and smiles on their faces.
Later that night we reached the town of Narra in the south of Palawan. Searching for a good nights sleep, our first stop was a pension house were we took a look at a room that contained four cramped beds! Not exactly what we wanted, so we kept looking. Our final room for the evening wasn’t much and the food at the local roadside restaurant was even worse. Lucky for me, an old man was selling popcorn out of small plastic bags and I purchased 6 bags for just a bit of the change in my pocket. Jenny and I finished our night by watching a movie in bed and eating our tasty popcorn.
Look for part two soon…