Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Black Duke - The KTM 640 - Part 2

We rode back up to the gate of the Resort and turned south heading towards Nasugbu following the mountains along the coast. It was early in the afternoon, and I figured we had plenty of time to make it to Nasugbu where I was hoping we could find a place to stay for the night. The weather was still overcast with a light mist, but the road was still relatively dry. It was again a beautiful ride with almost no traffic.

There were not a lot of people living along this road, and a large portion of the road went through a Philippine army base which looked to be nothing more than a jungle. However, I was still on the lookout for broken-down trikes, dogs, goats, water buffalo, or the errant school boy using the street as a basket ball court. All of those items and more are typical on the roads throughout the Philippines, but if you get off the beaten track, they get fewer and fewer. However, you usually see something, and we had ridden for well over and hour and the only signs of life we saw were a family of goats in the road. We stopped for the goats, and I had a look at the atlas just to make sure we were going in the right direction. As far as I could tell from the atlas, everything looked OK, and as long as we kept following this road, it should lead us to Nasugbu, so we continued on.

Another hour passed, and the road started to head back down towards to the beach out of the mountains. I could see signs of life below by the beach. I figured this was a good sign we were heading in the right direction, and we were getting closer to Nasugbu. These signs of civilization soon turned into a gate which was a bit troubling. Why would there be a gate in the middle of a main highway?

We stopped at the gate. The guard came out and asked us where we were headed. I told him we were heading to Nasugbu. He looked at me funny and replied, you can't get to Nasugbu this way. This was not the news I was expecting. I scratched my head and tried to explain to him that the road had to continue on to Nasugbu since this was the only road, and we had not passed any intersections or any other roads since we left the cutoff for the resort. My newly acquired Philippine road atlas clearly showed the road continuing on to Nasugbu. I did not think my published in the Philippines road atlas would contain Bola-Bola, would it? Of course, my telling him the road had to continue was not going to change the route of this road, so I asked him where the road went.

Bola-Bola Map

He told us that the road continued to the beach where there was a resort. Hmm, well I asked if they had any rooms as I figured it was getting late, and we could just stay there for the night and sort out the inconsistencies between the road atlas and the actual road tomorrow. He walked back into his guard shack, made a call and returned with the news that yes they had rooms available and let us through the gate.

We made our way down to the beach and to the resort, which to me looked completely empty. The only people around were another guard at the entrance to the resort and the lady working behind the counter. There were no other vehicles parked in the lot, and I got the feeling we were showing up in the middle of the low season. It looked like the resort was pretty decent, at least there was no moss on the outside of the buildings and the buildings were not crumbling, so we parked the motorcycle and went inside to inquire about a room.

The receptionist was ready for our arrival as she had been forewarned by the guard at the top of the road. I asked about a room, and she replied, yes they have rooms available for 1700 pesos a night. I said perfect we will take one. After which, she proceeded to tell me that the 1700 pesos was per person and that there was a minimum of a three-person charge. I looked at her and said huh? Can you repeat that again? This time she brought out the calculator as she told me about their convoluted room rental policy, which basically boiled down to, we needed to pay for three people even though there were only two of us! For those who don't want to do the math, it would end up being 5100 pesos or $121 per night, for what amount to a Motel 6 on the beach, in the middle of nowhere. 5100 pesos for a hotel room in the Philippines is not cheap. You can get a four or five star hotel on the beach in Boracay or Manila for less than that.

I rolled my eyes back and said, don't you think that is a bit much? I would think 1700 pesos for both of us would be a more reasonable price? Sorry sir, that is how we price our hotel rooms, here have a look at or pricing information on this brochure. She pulled out the hotel brochure, with pictures of a very lovely looking hotel and the complicated pricing information. It had pictures of a swimming pool with lots of people around and a nice little restaurant and bar next to the pool. I looked at the brochure and then looked around the hotel and said, are you sure this is the right hotel? The pictures in the brochure don't look like the hotel I am standing in. Yes sir, this is the hotel. If you have a look over there you can see the pool. I looked. It was half full of water with a bar/restaurant that looked like it had not been used in at least a couple of months. However, it did have a vague resemblance to the brochure.

I looked at my watch. It was still only four in the afternoon, so I figured screw it, we can ride back toward Naic and take the turn off that I saw marked with a sign, to Tagaytay city. I knew there were a lot of hotels around Tagaytay since it is a big tourist destination for Lake Taal. Besides I wanted to go to Nasugbu, and we were going to have to go that way anyway, since the road we were on did not continue to Nasugbu. I handed her back the brochure and said thanks miss, but I think we will head towards Tagaytay and find a more reasonable place to stay. As we walked out the door, she reminded us that the price included three breakfasts. I think she was trying to say I was fat?

When we got on the bike and started heading back the way we came I could not get it out of my head why this woman was trying to extort money out of us? The hotel was very obviously empty, or nearly so and rather than make 1700 pesos, she made zero. It was a little understandable considering the hotel was quite literally the end of the road and there were no other hotels around, but it still did not make sense. This was a little different than my taxi driver experience when looking for the KTM dealer, at least he was going to get the fare for the day regardless, but this woman ended up with nothing.

I have seen this same type of thinking here in the Philippines before. It usually always involves a foreigner, who a Philippino thinks he can make a large amount of money from. A good example of this would be trying to hire a trike to take you a mile down the road. If a Philippino is hiring the trike, he knows what the fare should be for the mile-long trip. In this example let's say the standard rate is 50 pesos. Now if the foreigner wants to hire the same trike for the identical trip, he is going to be charged as much as possible. In this case, the trike driver will charge the foreigner 200 pesos, and to be fair, the foreigner usually never questions it. I mean let's face it 200 pesos or $4.50 is not that much for the same length taxi ride in any Western county. If the foreigner is a little wise to the constant over charging, he might argue a bit and get the fare down to 100 pesos. However, he is still paying twice as much as a Philippino would. Now, if a foreigner argues that he knows what the standard rate is, and he is only going to pay 50 pesos, many times the trike driver will refuse to take the fare. He would rather get nothing from the foreigner than give him the ride for the same price a Philippino would pay. Philippino pride maybe? Who knows, I just give them zero.

We headed back down the road at a pretty good pace since I already had an idea of what was around each corner. It started getting dark just after we got on the road heading to Tagatay, and the mist that had been hanging around all day started to turn into a light rain. The joy of riding slowly started to disappear, and I began looking for the first place I could find to stay for the night and at the same time questioned whether or not I should have paid the extortion fees and stayed where we were.

Fortunately, we came across a quaint little hotel just outside of Tagatay. They had a decent room for 1200 pesos per night, and it had a nice Italian restaurant. We unloaded the bike, took a shower and had a good meal. Pizza I think. It turned into a pretty great day and ended nicely.

The next morning, we got up early and checked out without eating anything. We figured we could find something to eat nearer to Tagaytay, and we had to stop for fuel. I thought it was going to be a great day. The rain had stopped, and all that remained was a bit of a hazed mist in the air. The visibility was still good, and the roads were dry. However, when I started up the bike in the morning, the valves were making more noise than usual, and it got me a bit worried. I figured I would keep an eye (or ear in this case) on them and see how they were sounding after the bike warmed up, and we had put some miles on it. I figured they would be OK, at least until we made it to Manila the next day. I was planning on taking the express way back to Manila so it would not take us long once we returned to Batangas from Nagusbu.

When we stopped for the night, it was dark, so we could not really see anything around the hotel. As it turned out we were in a hotel that was just off the rim of the Taal volcano, so when we went down the road about another 10 kilometers, it started following the rim of the volcano, and there were some beautiful views.

Lake Taal and the Taal Volcano are basically the same thing. Lake Taal is a crater lake inside of the larger Taal Volcano which we were riding down the rim of. However, in the middle of Lake Taal, is another tinier volcano that makes an island, and it also has a smaller crater lake inside of it.

Lake Taal & Taal Volcano on a Misty Day

It is truly majestic and along that highway, there are numerous hotels and restaurants all exploiting the magnificent view. By the time we were on the outskirts of Tagatay, we decided to stop and get that breakfast we were waiting for. We found a nice restaurant just off the road with half of the restaurant hanging over the rim of the volcano with wide-open views down to the lake and the smaller Taal volcano.

Before we stopped I was continuing to listen to the valves as we were riding along and the sound coming from them had increased dramatically since we left the hotel. Things were not sounding good, but I figured we could get something to eat and then ride more towards the main business district of Tagatay and find a gas station where I could fill up with gas and take a closer look.

We had a great breakfast while taking in the view . After we finished eating, we climbed back on the bike and headed towards the business district of Tagatay. I soon realized the problem emanating from the valves was a lot more serious than I first thought. About two minutes after we left the restaurant the sound started to become more of a grinding sound than a simple knock or ping, and I could feel the engine misfiring now and again. I immediately pulled into the first gas station I could find as I realized that riding the bike any further could cause serious damage, and this was not something I was going to be able to fix on the side of the road. Unfortunately, this was the end of what was turning into a very nice ride, and we were never going to make it to Nagusbu.

I called the KTM dealer and explained what was happening. They graciously sent a truck down from Manila to pick us and the Black Duke up. It took a while for them to come pick us up, but fortunately, we broke down in a great spot. We spent the time looking in the different shops along the rim road, and sitting on a restaurant deck having a few beers while taking in the view.

As I suspected, the problem was a serious one. A valve bearing was fried, and since it was an older bike, they would have to order the part from KTM, which would take at least two weeks, this is the Philippines after all and nothing happens fast here. As it turned out this was the end of the Back Duke, for us anyway, and was how we ended up taking the Orange Crush on our little adventure around the rest of the Philippines.


  1. Thanks for sharing your southern excursion from Manila to Tagatay. I too would have been upset about paying individual rooms fees. So I assume by the end of this story segment you perhaps traded off the "Black Duke" on a newer model to continue your journey?

  2. Yes, we ended up getting a 2008 690 Enduro. I posted about this in the The KTM 690 Enduro (Orange Crush)Post. Thanks for reading!! I will try and keep up with posts at least once a week.