For many people across the world, a lobster dinner is usually reserved for very special occasions, like when someone proposes to his sweetheart, a wedding anniversary, or perhaps even when a milestone birthday. A pricey meal like lobsters are a great reward for a rare achievement.
Our lobster dinner.
This was the motivation for a recent adventure ride done just a week after the 2020 BOSS Ironman Challenge. We once again took on the infamous Nakar-Dingalan Pass. This rugged trail goes through the coastal barangays in the east and through the thick forest of General Nakar in Quezon. The route is pretty straightforward when dry, but can get challenging during the amihan (northeast monsoon) season due to heavy rains. Such conditions were similar to what some friends of ours experienced last July when they tried to conquer the trail with their big and heavy adventure bikes.
Since our group of 10 riders were on our lighter dirt bikes, arguably better suited for such off-road conditions, we were pretty confident that, despite the heavy rains, our group would prevail and complete the Nakar-Dingalan Pass. Completing it would also serve as a pretty fitting achievement to start a whole year of adventure riding in 2020.
After just 20-kilometers into the barangay roads of Gen. Nakar, our group was already halted by a once-gentle creek that has now turned into a raging waterway. Recent rains had made the water level higher, wider, and the current stronger.
We took on the crossing, but the attempt had drowned two bikes. The group continued on anyway, but a few kilometers after, one of the bikes that previously drowned caught water again. The rider of that bike decided to call it a day, opting to retire near civilization where supplies are available and it can still be fixed.
9 of us pushed through until we came upon this raging river, just after the Dapi Rocks formation. We've talked about the beauty of this location before as it was where I previously took the KTM 790 Adventure.
To minimize the possibility of the strong current carrying away or toppling our bikes, it was decided that the best approach was to walk the bike while in first gear. The plan was to cross the river diagonally with the flow. This allows the current of the river to push you along. Teamwork proved vital to allow everyone to cross without issues, with each member helping another cross after he was done.
After a brief pause to catch our breath, it wasn't long before we then found ourselves trying to negotiate a steep uphill slope. It was littered with rocks and ruts due to heavy rains, making the already tricky slope even harder to negotiate. It was challenging to navigate and one wrong move could mean disaster. The wheels could easily lose traction, rendering its rider without control. These worries were only the beginning.
One of the more "gentle" rivers we crossed.
Some of the bikes weren't exactly in prime condition to take the obstacle on. One of the bikes had an electrical issue. Another one had already drowned in an earlier river crossing, while another bike was having difficulties climbing the steep and muddy uphill due to the wrong set of tires (dual sport).
Things were already looking grim by the time some of us reached Sitio Loilo; a small fishing village in the middle of nowhere. It was already getting dark. I lost my glasses at a river crossing earlier, and beyond Sitio Loilo was the dark and cold forest. Suffice to say, good visibility would be crucial in the next stage. But, we wanted to push through. We are adventure riders after all, aren't we?
This is a technique to drain water from the combustion chamber and exhaust after a bike drowns during a river crossing.
Before proceeding, we decided to wait for the others and regroup, to come to a decision with everyone involved. We were still missing one rider, who by now was walking alone in the jungle, forced to leave his stricken bike behind. With these circumstances, it was prudently decided to just spend the night at this little fishing village. One of us went back to fetch the walking rider, while the rest arranged for our “5-star” accommodation and meals.
Taking a quick dip to wash off the mud from our gear, taken the next day on our way back to civilization.
As luck would have it, one of our group members, Vic Ochoa, crossed paths with a local legend of the area, Kuya Mac Mac. Well, at least a relative of his. If you have hard-core off-roading friends who frequent this area, you'll likely come across his name. Our friends from EnduroPH, as well as 4x4 enthusiasts, recommend Kuya Mac Mac as the go-to-guy in these areas if you're looking for a nice lobster meal.
As you can expect, ingredients are quite limited in this area, but the locals know exactly how to prepare a sumptuous meal with what's locally available.
Our well-earned dinner was composed of 3 kilos of lobster and ginataang pato (duck in coconut milk). Being tired and hungry from the ride, we devoured it in seconds. It was the best lobster and duck meal we had despite how simple it was prepared by Kuya Mac Mac's wife, easily beating those gourmet dishes prepared at posh restaurants and hotels.
Breakfast of champions.
Would you believe it? There was a lot of lobster to go around. The next day, we once again filled our tummies with 3 more kilos of lobster. To recap, that's lobster for dinner, lobster for breakfast – all for only PhP 600! You can't get a better deal anywhere else.
Though we did not finish (DNF) our intended ride, the endpoint of which is the town of Dingalan on the other side of the Sierra Madre mountains, our lobster dinner and breakfast, as well as Kuya Mac Mac's hospitality proved to be a better reward than what was previously planned and was more fulfilling than finishing the Ironman Challenge itself just a week before. As we headed back home, we couldn't help but wonder when our next chance to “get stranded” in these areas again would be. That would make a great excuse for another sumptuous lobster meal.
Editor's note: while adventure riding is fun, we do not recommend new riders without much experience to try this kind of expedition. Please consult with experts or riders who have completed this trail before attempting it on your own. Bring adequate provisions for a multi-day ride. While in Sitio Loilo, we learned that a group of riders on their underbones and scooters got stuck in the Nakar-Dingalan Pass for four days when bad weather caught up with them. They ran out of food and water until they were rescued.
For those who wish to savor Kuya Mac Mac's lobsters, just ask the locals to point you or your group to his place once you reach Sitio Loilo. There's no cellular signal in the area, making it difficult to communicate by phone. Lobsters are a seasonal catch. Their availability may depend on many factors like the weather and season. It is not available year-round.
Special thanks to kuya Mac Mac and his family, Vic Ochoa, Martin Aguirre, Dale Diaz, Ian Dimaraan, Joel Gironella, Norbert Dizon, Mon Astillero, Rick Angeles, Ovet Penamora, Ron Castillo and the people of General Nakar, Quezon.