The carabao is deeply unimpressed. It approaches us at frightening speed. This is relative speed though. The carabao in relation to the dusty ground is trotting along at its usual pace. But we are zipping on our mountain bikes around the bend and with an elegant swerve pass the indifferent big animal.
The cheering from the crowd on the cart behind the beast tells us: We are the first bicycle tourists here. Again.
We pass our admirers, the ground becomes firmer, goes downhill now, we click into higher gears, fingers on the break levers (ready for the next carabao around the corner) and with perfect speed we ride along the river bend.
Water so clean it invites us to jump in at once, but the ride got us hypnotized. No-one wants to stop or be anywhere else on the planted than right here. In our cycling paradise. And we are not on some remote island. We are just outside Metro Manila in Bulacan.
Manila’s compatibility with cycling is under doubt, to put it mildly. Manila itself, that is true, seems to do everything to make life for cyclists hard and sometimes short. But it has left us some niches and escape corridors. If you know them then nothing stands in the way between your bike and some of the greatest cycling trips of your life.
Throughout the past 3 years I have seen more and more expatriates taken up cycling again.