Locals proclaim Mt. Mayon to be the worlds most perfect volcano.
At first sight, Mayon to all intents and purposes is the stereotypical, archetypal volcano. If you were to draw up a list of qualities or attributes you’d look for in the perfect volcano, I imagine Mayon would tick all the boxes.
Mayon is like Cesc Fabregas, the Spanish football player who plays for Barcelona. Good looking, dangerous, more than capable of competing with the big boys on his day, pretty much the perfect / complete football player. But ultimately, he’s not quite as well known as some of his contemporaries. In place of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, see Fuji, Vesuvius and Krakatoa.
Mayon quite literally casts a shadow over the city of Legazpi, the closest town, which sits at the base of the mountain looking out to the ocean.
The volcano is inescapable as you walk through the town. It towers over the place, visible from every corner, like some kind of eccentric dictator.
On one hand, it has made the town a tourist destination, given locals fertile land for agriculture, and a spectacular view every time they leave their house or look out their window.
On the other hand, the mountain can be dangerous, unpredictable, and has at times, brought misery to locals over the centuries.
As we viewed Mayon from Legazpi, there was a burning desire running through both of us. “We want to be on you”, echoed through our thoughts as we gazed longingly up at the mountain in front of us. We wanted to climb it, all 2,463 metres of the beauty.
We asked around the town for a guide to take us up. Tragically, we learned that last May, five hikers were killed on their ascent to the summit, after the volcano unexpectedly erupted. Consequently we learned, somewhat to our disappointment, that it was now strictly prohibited for anyone to try to reach the summit.
What were we to do if we couldn’t climb the volcano? Why had we come all this way…?
And then the answer sprung upon us.
Let’s go for a bike ride.
It’ll be perfect, we thought.
The roads are new and paved, there’s very little traffic outside the city, and there’s a road that circle’s the entire base of the mountain. It’s about 87km all the way round, and it’s known locally as the Mayon 360.
However, the tourist information in Legazpi was a shambles. It felt like no foreigners had ever done the Mayon 360 before – I don’t know, have they?
Trying to find a bike rental place was a nightmare, and the tourist information people were next to useless when it came to providing information / even finding out where the office was. But then we stumbled across Motoragon Cycle Center, a local bike shop run by the charismatic and extremely likeable Cesar. Straight away he gave us bikes, at a very reasonable price, offering lots of helpful advice and tips, before sending us on our way.
So off we went. We cycled out-of-town, through some other towns, and then all the way around Mayon. Apart from the first few kilometres, and the last twenty, there was almost no traffic, and even then, the driving was sensible (compared to China) and the roads allowed ample space for cyclists.
There were lots of little villages and small towns dotted along the route where you could stock up on refreshments such as water and Coca Cola, and it was almost impossible to get lost, as you pretty much had to follow the road.
There was a gruelling uphill slog for a couple of hours in the afternoon sun, which exhausted both of us, but we were later rewarded with one of the greatest downhill rides, pretty much, ever.
For the first time all day, the clouds had subsided to reveal Mayon’s peak, and the late tropical afternoon sun shone down brightly as we sped past row upon row of lush green rice paddies, set against the most gorgeous backdrop. It was quite a sight, quite a thrill and quite a ride.
Aching, hungry and tired, we eventually arrived back to Legazpi some seven hours after we started, where we returned our bikes to Cesar. We talked to him and his wife for quite a while, they seemed impressed we’d cycled the 360, we were surprised more people don’t do it!
To any tourists who are visiting Legazpi, like a challenge and keep themselves relatively fit – I strongly recommend you find Motoragon Cycle Center on Rizal Street, talk to Cesar, and hire one of his bikes. The Mayon 360 is a great ride. Just make sure you’ve packed enough suncream and food!