I’ve been riding Mt. Maarat since I seriously started mountain biking years ago with the John Wilkie riders. A lot has changed in the landscape and roads but it is still the same group of hills and mountains. Back in the day, our first pit stop was in the sari-sari store of Ka Tobias (located before the Timberland gate). The rough back roads leading to the secret lair of Ka Vergel, the Yes or No trail, and the Roxas DH are still there. The trails are just a little different, somehow. Back then, after the Timberland gate, it was all dirt road and the first major stop was called Mangga. It was called as such due to the humongous Mangga tree at the side of the road. Since there was no “no I.D., no entry” rule back then, the usual route was to climb “the Wall”, eat lunch at Ka Vergel’s, then go down the AFP trail.
Through the years, a lot of road concreting happened and a lot of trees cut. The trails became organized in some manner. The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) came into the picture and designed the trails for the mountain bikers of the world. Now, the trails are categorized and there are signboards helping the bikers show the way.
The last time we rode the blue zone, there’s a lot of overgrowth on the single track and tall grass can cut you up, if the arms are not protected. I even got a nasty scratch on my face, thanks to the sharp leaves which blocked my way.
Every ride in Maarat is different from the last. Even if we took the same route every single week, the ride is different due to the weather, the vibe, the friends you are with and a lot of other factors. Now, if you go to Maarat, it is like going to the mall. You see a lot of weekend warriors, posers, hardcore riders, and newbies. But it’s all good; let us promote biking! I just wish that the magic of Maarat and its trails stay as fun as it is right now.