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Chapter Fourteen 


About Hellmantle reaching the rice terraces

and finding a way to the northwest


Hellmantle rode to a place just out of town where they sold gas from reused pop bottles and asked for gas.

"Sorry, only regular," said the gasman, plastic bottles filled with leaded gas on a hacked-up roadside table beside him. Hellmantle didn't want to hear these words so he asked him again:

"You have unleaded please?"

"Regular only." The gasman said the closest place to get unleaded gas was in Bontoc, or they could wait until two for ther resupply.

"That's sixteen kilometers away, which is about a twenty-minute ride," he said to D'Aqs.

With gas now an issue, Hellmantle chose to ride on fumes towards Bontoc instead of waiting until two in the afternoon for more and surely another cofffee with his Fair Maiden. Apart from the fuel concern, all the moguling had taken its toll by loosening a screw so that it had fallen out, leaving part of the chainguard rubbing against both the chain and the tire's knobby treads. Chain loose from all the first-and-second-gear climbing he had done so far, it had to be dealt with before the chain buckled in the chassis. Choosing not to share his concern for the chain buckling, due to a previous incident he had had while off-roading along the northern border of Thailand and Burma, he removed one of his bungee cords and hooked the metal prong through where the screw used to be, taking full advantage of the tough plastic fibrerglass fering, and then hooked the other end to the far side of the seat.

"It won't work," said D'Aqs, after looking at this handy work. Hellmantle nodded, took out a piece of string and threaded through and looped it around the frame below the seat, tying it tight.

"If the string can hold the chainguard from slipping down a centimeter, then it should be okay."

"But watch, when I sit on it." Hellmantle's weiight flexed the back shock absorbers and weakened the tension of the string. D'Aqs was close to suggest they get tools from town when Hellmantle took hold of his water bottle, drank all its contents, tied the string to his bungee with lots of tension, and then wedged the empty bottle between the rear faring and the bungee cord.

"You know something," said D'Aqs, hand to chin. "I think that might work." Genuine emotion of pride in D'Aqs eyes. Perhaps it was his still flushed cheek from the Shamrock Café, but he was so enthused about the contraption that he bent over to make sure it was firm.

"Here-" Wwhen D'Aqs pushed the empty bottle into place his hand slipped, cutting the skin open on the palm of his hand against the folded end.

"Clutch hand. Bummer," said Hellmantle, trying to hold in his laughter. D'Aqs studied the cut closely as Hellmantle erupted.

"Could you?" He motioned to his knapsack, so Hellmantle retrieved his dopkit, the same one he had when they shared a dorm twenty-five years ago, and placed the band-aid along the inch-long cut as best he could.

"Right along the creae of the hand. Might prove to be a bad cut in a few days. But not now! Let us go to the rice terraces my cousin, fumes or not!"

With the rattling gone the ride was a degree better for the man from Normandy, which was good because he had entered the Eighth-Wonder-of-the-World territory. On the more rider-friendly surface he and D'Aqs had good cruising as they climbed in second gear towards Bontoc. Riding side-by-side with Hellmantle for long stretches, D'Aqs again could see his mastery of the two-wheeled balance; trail biking like a finely tuned instrument.

When approaching Bontoc D'Aqs felt his engine overheating from lack of oil. He was aware it needed a top up before but had forgotten about it. It had been pushed it out of mind due to all the thoughts about Catharine. He feared for the health of his engine and the damage done if he ran out of engine oil. Gas was one thing but oil was a whole other ballgame. It was truly a hand-of-God moment when just as his engine began to sputter he pulled into the Spring View Inn in Bontoc. When he parked, just as he was about to turn off the engine it stopped on its own. The engine had seized from lack of oil. He wouldn't have been able to ride another hundred meters. He had reached civilization by the scrape of a claw but didn't mention it to his cousin. He didn't want him worrying about a motorcycle mishap as it would deter from his focus and cause ripples in his temperament.

After purchasing oil and refueling with unleaded gas, he had to wait twenty minutes for the oil to seep into the engine while Hellmantle tightened his chain and studied his contraption with the chain guard. It didn't look pretty but it was firm and holding and effective.

Full of fuel, they left for Banaue with impatience and zeal but the road was tough, which caused D'Aqs a lot of pain in his clutch hand. The closer they inched toward Banaue the more bright-green rice terraces, with entire sides of mountains carved out to grow rice. The rice terraces conformed to the grain of the valley creating a synergy in an eye-catching natural geology. The more rice terraces Hellmantle saw, the more he wanted to see. More than just fields to grow rice, they had been hewed out of mountains and a marvel of human will to overcome isolation.

When they arrived fog hung low concealing a full visual of the rice terraces. Entrapped in the middle of the mountains, darkness fell quickly so Hellmantle decided to stay at a place called Patina's Café. Just after dinner he and D'Aqs relaxed with empty plates and half-full beers in front of them, Hellmantle's map open. 

"The highway here is the best route I think," he said, pointing at the main paved highway running south from Banaue that hooked up with a main highway going due north on the east side of the Sierra Madre Mountains to Aparri.

"This main highway here that runs north through the Cagayan Province is the one we want to take," said D'Aqs, practical and logical.

"What about this road here?" A thin line crossed the mountain range from Banaue that ended right in the middle of the mountains.

"It's not for vehicles it looks like. It's not a road. Probably for local people to work the rice terraces."

"It must go through!" said Hellmantle. "Going around the mountains is time consuming and it is antithetical to my motorcycling instincts!" D'Aqs feared another Halseema Mountain Trail experience but worse. He saw them stranded in the middle of nowhere with only one option to turn back. He liked the ease of cruising to the bruising terrain of variation and incongruities.

"The highway is a safer call Hellmantle."

"There must be a way through the mountains. Why would it just end like that? It's the map. Besides, it would be pretty cool to get through there with all the rice terraces around. Apparently they spread out for some 400 square kilometers mainly east of Banaue." He looked outside at the fog. "There's only one way to find out." Mischief on his face.

"No. No way."

"With our dirt bikes we could endure a walking trail."

"We can't afford to be stuck in the middle of nowhere," said D'Aqs. "I have to be back in Manila to catch my flight on Monday morning. I'm not free to change my return date."

"My flight leaves Monday too so I'm in the same boat, but I am still free." He took a long drink from his San Miguel beer to emphasize his point. "This taste of freedom here in the mountains of the Cordillera Mountain Range whets my appetite for more." D'Aqs knew he wasn't able to make him see reason.




In the morning it was still overcast so Hellmantle decided to hang out in the market in the middle of Banaue still hopeful it would clear up. Instead it rained harder. Under a small canopy of a stall in the market at the main intersection, Hellmantle opened his map and pondered the small road again.

"The thing is D'Aqs, if we take it we will be immersed right in the heart of the rice terraces. I know the road is off the beaten track but I believe God is our copilot and will see us through on our quest for the Dutch Padre." By chance a woman in the market also sought respite from the rain under the canopy, so Hellmantle boldly asked her about the road heading east.

"Not for car," she said.

"It goes through the rice terraces, doesn't it?"

"Yes, but it is a trail for oxen." She regarded him as a lost tourist, looking at him with compassion, as if he were a lost puppy.

"It doesn't go through the mountains?"

"No." She shook her head in the negative. "It stops after a kilometer. No go for you."

"On my map the line stops in the middle of the mountains before it reaches the main highway." Hellmantle showed her but she couldn't readjust her perspective to see where they were on the map. For sure cartography was not taught in schools he thought.

Exasperated, he saw a woman with folded tattooed arms chewing betel nut watching him from another stall. Beginning to feel the nip in the air, Hellmantle walked over and bought a package from the lady. D'Aqs was curious what betel nut was so Hellmantle took a betel nut, wrapped it in a green leaf, sprinkled the white powder in the middle like a taco, added the mystery element to the mix, and then wedged the item between his cheek and gums.

"It will warm you up," said Hellmantle, chewing the beet-red intoxicant. "It is an elixir for a motorcyclist in these rugged parts, the added ingredient for explorers when faced with adversity!" So D'Aqs followed his example but spit it out after a minute's effort.

"That is disgusting!"

The rain was pouring now and the little hut in the market was not enough to keep them dry.

"I don't want to ride some cushy highway the long way on a dirt bike," Hellmantle said. "I prefer to explore the Eighth Wonder of the World on a small mud trail over a mountain range!"

"I don't like cushy highways either," replied D'Aqs, playing the hand of the squire but also looking at the red cut on his hand he sustained on his way to Bontoc. "But it would guard against trouble, such as hitting a dead-end in the mountains."

"Let's take the mountains. The journey is the destination!" Hellmantle put on another layer and then started his engine. In a sudden outburst Hellmantle and D'Aqs maneuvered through the market, rode past an old church without a bell tower and crossed the river to the walking trail. There was only mud and dirt surrounded by deep green foliage but it was a welcome change. Immediately empowered by the more traditional dirt-biking path that was ahead, he yelled back to D'Aqs:

"Our dirt bikes are designed specifically for this type of off-road situation! Open up your throttle and bounce off the bumps!"

After only a few miles, both were covered in mud. As if attempting to make the best of a bad business, Hellmantle threw himself into the riding, speeding around corners with the certain knowledge that no Jeepney was going to come headlong into him. Completely isolated from cars and noise, he sped forward and upwards past rice terraces on either side of him with a newfound joy towards a destination that seemed unattainable. The path gave him what all true trail bikers wanted: a traffic-free trail unhampered by the nuisances of modern society weaving through exotic landscapes.

For D'Aqs, after chewing that little bit of betel nut, warmth flooded through his bloodstream making him warm and more daring. Even so it was tough to keep up with his cousin. But it was a totally new experience for him. For him nature had never bestowed so much beauty in one area of the world. The hue of the vegetation and the absolute peace he felt being immersed in the bosom of what God had created inspired him. Fear absent, he was catapulted into a new realm of being. He began to understand the reckless passion of his cousin for this type of adventure and berated himself for being Doubting Thomas.

Around a corner and over a waterfall flowing over the dirt path, Hellmantle passed rice terraces wholly isolated and pristine. Green fields spread out down graded leveled slopes towards a river where a line of small huts spread for a mile down to a valley below. Judging by the hardiness of the few natives that gawked at him as he rode by, the terraces were built by sweat and diligence. Terrace after terrace, and mile after mile protected by the natural walls of rock, it was a world of carved-out fields where man had tamed sides of mountains. These were the rice terraces that the tourists didn't see; these were the real wonders, he thought. He took another turn and before him was an almost perfectly stepped slope of terraces in symmetrical harmony that stepped down to a forest where red-roofed huts were clustered in the middle of a rice terrace surrounded by palm trees. The rich red of the rooftops contrasted against the trees and the light green of budding rice like green hair shimmering on water. Hellmantle was stunned.

"I am in a different planet," he said to himself.

Hellmantle and D'Aqs rode along the empty trail for hours through mud and inclines threatening success of reaching the other side. For Hellmantle the muddier it became the more fulfilling the experience. The motorcycling joy he experienced snowballed with every mile. He was impelled to speak thus:

"Only those who do not fear fear can ever understand the heights of enjoyments of a ride like this! A fall and broken bones and brushes with your mortality are experienced as the thrill of danger! The cold slap of mud on my face does not chill down my spine; it enthuses my soul for more and fortifies that which we call self. This is the affirmation of life and a corporeal reminder that I am living life! An honest inclination is worth a thousand contemplations!"

Both cousins thought riding through the Sierra Madre Mountains on a trail that was so small that it disappeared on a map was perhaps one of those rare instances when you felt you were achieving something significant, something more than finding a padre or a lost map. You and God were the only witnesses to the coordination that was required to navigate such terrain and moments of greatness that were brought into being to save your life. It was a moment of flashing brilliance that went with you to your grave.

Soon Hellmantle and D'Aqs fought the dying sunlight and faced with the prospect of being stranded. Hellmantle pulled over at a small shelter at the side of the road for a minute to consult his map and wait for D'Aqs to catch up. He saw that he was now past the point where the line on the map stopped. The only village around was a place called Mayayao. Hellmantle also realized that he was almost 6000 feet above sea level.

By the time it was completely dark in the thick of the Sierra Madre Mountains, they became accustomed to riding in the dark as they ploughed through the silence of the mountains soon riding right through the village without seeing it. It was only a minute outside the village that D'Aqs realized they had passed through Mayayao. Hellmantle was so carried away with his flow that he hadn't even noticed the village.

Returning to the village the only light on was on top of what looked like the town hall. Hellmantle led the way up the steps to learn that it was the police station of Mayayao. The policeman said that there was a place for them to stay, pointing to an area of darkness at the turn in the road beside a river. When they walked over and knocked on the door, to their surprise a young woman answered and said that she had rooms available for the night.



TABLE OF CONTENTS                                                                                  
          The Family of the Bible
1.       Concerning the famous Hellmantle's position, character and way of life
2.       Concerning the ingenious man's visit with his uncle Jack Grosseteste
3.       Which relates to how Hellmantle is given his first adventure
4.       About what happened to our adventurer when he goes to the Philippines
5.       In which the story of our crusader's journey begins in earnest
6.       About Hellmantle's time in the city of sin on Christmas Eve
7.       About the brave Hellmantle's success on his adventure to Baguio City worthy of happy memory
8.       In which the courageous Hellmantle of Normandy journeys north into the Cordillera Mountain Range
9.       About what happened to Hellmantle in the mission in the mountains and the crucifixion of Jesus
10.     Concerning Hellmantle of Normandy in the land of the headhunters
11.     About the required riding techniques to reach the destination of Sagada and the church organist
12.     In which the German artist is tracked to the Shamrock Café and dangers of the northeast of Luzon Island
13.     In which Catharine is tracked to the Shamrock Café and an eery coincidence of a reoccurring dream
14.     About Hellmantle reaching the rice terraces and finding a way to the northwest
15.     About what happened to our intrepid philosopher in the middle of the Sierra Madre Mountains
16.     In which a record is given about the brave Hellmantle through uncharted territory on his trusted dirt bike
17.     Which relates to Hellmantle of Normandy reaching the northern coast and the rubble of Aparri
18.     About the final day of the motorcycle journey and discussing the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel in Vigan
19.     About the sermon in Agoo Basilica and what they find at the church with the rouge bell tower
20.     Concerning the Dutch Padre and what he knows about the hidden map
21.     About the return to Manila and the coup that causes the Great Man from Normandy grief
22.     Which brings Hellmantle of Normandy back to Hong Kong to re-evaluate the next step in his quest for truth
23.     In which their journey is related to Jack Grosseteste and a new task is set before the Man from Normandy
24.     Concerning the journey to northern Vietnam to track down the map hidden at a French prison
25.     About how Hellmantle and D'Aqs compare notes on their task at hand in Hanoi
26.     In which an account is given of the beginning of the journey of Hellmantle in Vietnam
27.     About how Hellmantle and his brave squire ride north to the place where the four rivers meet
28.     Concerning the French prison and what Hellmantle finds there
29.     Concerning the discovery of the bottle and what lies inside of it
30.     Concerning the journey to Dien Bien Phu in honor of their grandfather the Great Dane Hellmantle
31.     About what the motorcyclists see on the fields in Dien Bien Phu
32.     Concerning the motorcycling required to reach Hanoi via the other side of the Da River Valley
33.     Which tells of the final stage back to Hanoi and the discussion after their most beautiful ride
34.     Concerning the visit with the knowledgeable Jack Grosseteste and the sally to India
35.     Concerning the arrival and journey to Kashmir Valley
36.     In which the journey begins in earnest through the checkpoints to the foot of the Moghul Fort
37.     In which Srinagar is reached and how the houseboat was as it was hundred years ago
38.     In which Hellmantle reach their houseboat on the lake below the fort and beside the mosque
39.     In which Hellmantle sets out for the Tomb of Thome and his brother Joshua beside him
40.     Which relates to the agreeable history of the journey north to the monastery on horseback
41.     In which Hellmantle returns to Srinagar and finds the first translations of the black stones
42.     Which concerns the deciphering of the discovery at the monastery and the need to go to the Ganges River
43.     About Hellmantle of Normandy's meeting with the holy man after taking a dip in the Ganges River
44.     About Hellmantle's meeting at Jack Grossetests's place with D'Aqs and Catharine the artist from Sagada
o       Chronology of Historical Events



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