Banaue, Philippines, Asia
Today was one of the most exhausting days I can remember, ever. I woke up at 6:30am to meet the group up in the lobby for 7am. We were hoping to have more people wanting to go to Batad that we could share a jeepney with, but there was only one he/she that wanted to go, but only one way. We had some breakfast at the hotel restaurant, where I had a huge chocolate and banana pancake. We decided to take the jeepney anyway and we got in with our driver Juny and headed off at about 8am. It was about an hour drive to get up to Batad Saddle, which is as far as any vehicle could go.
Once we got up there we found a guide and I managed to barter him down from 900 pesos for the day to 500 ($12). This was for the group of four of us. I love how cheap Asia is! So we started heading downhill toward the village of Batad. It was some pretty difficult terrain, but at least it was all downhill.
It wasn’t all that exhausting, but it killed all of our legs. They felt like jelly after the first 40 minutes, but it took a full two hours to get to the village and then down to the Tappia water fall. We did get to see some awesome sights on the way down and it was the first time we actually got to walk through a rice paddy. Unfortunately, the paddies have already been harvested here in Batad, so they weren’t the glorious green color that you see in all the pictures, but it was still amazing.
Batad is different from Banaue in that the ride terraces were built up with stonework, whereas in Banaue, they were cut into the mountains. I’m not sure which is more impressive, but they are both stunning. We got down to the falls and the Germans took a swim in the pool below the falls, but Eve and I were quite happy to just relax in the shaded hut and let our legs heal for a few minutes. Matsy ended up losing his underwater camera, under water. It became the most famous incident in Batad in decades! The guide ditched us early on the way back up to the Saddle to go back and look for it with a mask. It seemed like everyone in the village knew about it too. I guess word gets around quickly in a village that small.
We found our way back up to the Saddle after one of the most grueling hikes I’ve ever had to do. I think it was made ten times worse because I was so sore from the caving just two days ago. I really felt it on the last set of stairs going up the mountain. I can still feel the burn now just thinking about it. I have never been so happy to see a jeepney though!
We got in the jeepney and starting heading back to Banaue. The first part of the road coming down from the Saddle to Batad Junction is really bad. It was closed yesterday due to a landslide, but it was opened up this morning thanks to all the drivers fixing it yesterday. This morning we got stuck for about ten minutes and us guys had to get out and help throw some rocks in the road just to get some traction in the mud. It was much easier coming down this afternoon though. It was smooth sailing until we hit a traffic jam due to some unanticipated road works. The road is pretty much a single lane the whole way anyway, but they decided to blast some rocks from the cliffs so they can widen the road.
We had to sit for about an hour and a half waiting for them to clear the road from all these boulders. The line of traffic was pretty impressive for such a small group of very small villages. We finally got through at 5:45pm and got back into Banaue at 6:15pm. We paid Juny his fee of 2500 pesos, so we each spent about 700 pesos ($17) for the full day, roundtrip jeepney ride and a guided walk through Batad. The owners of the hotel were nice enough to let me use their cold shower for free, and trust me, I needed it. I don’t think I have ever sweat that much in my life! I grabbed a cheeseburger and fries with a coke at the hotel restaurant, and it was pretty good.
I said my goodbyes to the group I’ve spent the last couple of days with and made my way to the bus terminal to get on my overnight bus to Manila. I’m on the bus now and we’re listening to some of the worst 1980’s music ever. No one has ever wanted to hear this much Michael Bolton, ever. I’m hoping that because of that tremendously long hike we took today, that I’ll be so tired I’ll just pass out on the bus and wake up in Manila. We’ll see if I can be that lucky…