Date: 18th April 2011
The bus departed from Autobus station at around 10pm and not soon after the bus had started, we encountered a problem — the air conditioning wasn’t working. Which made sitting inside a small bus (ticket costs ₱450/$10/€7) all the more uncomfortable.
When I was doing my research, Autobus and GV Florida were the two bus companies that were popular for overnight trips to Banaue. Both had customers complaining about how cold the ride was because the A/C inside the buses were often so cold. How ironic that I experienced the complete opposite!
The passengers were getting quite restless as there were a few children in our group as well. Eventually the bus stopped just off EDSA and the bus personnel tried to repair the A/C. A good 15 minutes later, repair it they did… slightly. There was air being recirculated, which was essential, but not cool enough to call it ‘conditioning’.
We stopped halfway through the journey for a break
Full moon night
I tried my best to sleep, but given that I can hardly ever get sleep in bus journeys, this too was one of those journeys. We arrived in Banaue town just past 6am the next day. We were dropped just outside the main town and I had to take a trike to the area where all the hotels were.
As soon as I got down, the trike driver asked me whether I wanted to do a tour, to which I obviously said “yes,” but I told him I wanted to have breakfast first. I took a room at New Wonder Lodge (cost ₱250/$5.8/€4.1) which wasn’t a rice terrace facing lodge but given I was going to be out all day, I didn’t care much for the view. All I wondered was how long this lodge has been ‘new’ (hint: it wasn’t).
But I did hop over to the plateau facing Greenview Restaurant for breakfast.
The view from their balcony (Taken on Nokia E72)
My Filipino breakfast - rice, eggs, pork sausage, a pineapple slice and coffee
Post breakfast, I began shooting.
Panorama comprised of 13 shots
Panorama comprised of 6 shots
The Banaue Rice Terraces are one of Philippines' most popular natural treasures
The trike driver who offered to take me around for a tour of the rice terraces was waiting outside and I asked around to find out how much the tours generally cost. They all said ₱900 ($21/€14) if going by trike (which is the most common). I hadn’t even slept properly so I asked the trike driver if we could go a bit later, say around noon. He said that’s not possible because if I want to trek all the way to Batad village and see the other rice terraces, we would have to leave now.
So, I got in his trike and we set off
It was a bumpy ride
That's because the road aren't always smooth
My guide told me this region is prone to frequent landslides
If there is one thing I learnt Filipinos love, it's basketball (and obviously the NBA)
I just had to ask my driver to stop whenever I passed by such beauty
My moma (beetel nut) chewing guide, Arnel
We moved on
Quite a dusty ride as well
Had to ask Arnel to stop again. Beautiful, isn't it?
Arnel wasn't kidding about those landslides
I guess there's a pretty good reason why they're not allowed to drive post sunset
If it isn't trikes, the not-so-frequent jeepneys are the only other mode of transportation the locals have to get to town
Couldn't help but imagine how tough life must be out here
Pretty now, dangerous during heavy rainfall
Barangay means village and Ifugao is the province Banaue is situated in
This was a common sight
This sight, wasn't
True to its name
Stopped here for a bit as well (Panorama comprised of 9 shots)
After nearly 40 minutes since we left the main town, we finally arrived at our first stop on this tour.
No, this isn't Batad. This is the point from where, you have to go by foot to get to Batad
I set off
You do have a stretch of concreted roads...
...though the concrete stetches would often give way to rough ground
Landslides here too
Wait, they have a jeepney service here?! -_-
Yes kids, I'm walking it up
After 15 minutes of trekking, I began to huff & puff. I stopped for a break.
Panorama comprised of 5 shots
I had to stop, smile and ask myself: "Where on this earth am I?"
I moved on in the hopes Batad's rice terraces were just around the corner
I wonder what caused these patterns?
I could see a glimmer of hope I was getting closer to civilization again
It took me nearly half-an-hour to get to this point and I was only halfway through my journey to Batad’s rice terraces. Arnel had told me the walk would take me an hour. So I figured it would be another half-an-hour more.
It looked like there was only one way to get to Batad village
At first glance, I wondered if the trek to the village was surely going to take *just* 30 minutes more
Down was the only way to go
Long way down (That shed is a toilet by the way )
I decided to try and a get a better look before descending down
Were those the Batad rice terraces?
But I had already come this far
And I didn't come all this way to watch chicken feed on rubbish
So I took a deep breath, and took my first step down
Locals were carrying tourist's suitcases and heading to the village
So I had to make way for locals carrying way more heavier loads than I was carrying -- and walking a lot faster than I was
I was carrying around 5kgs in camera equipment -- these guys were surely carrying WAY more
Apparently Batad village only got electricity until recently
It took a good 5 minutes for the steps to get over
More landslides up ahead
From here on, it was just rough terrain
I had to tread very carefully
Just around the corner, I passed by an elderly American who nodded to me as if to say “Boy, this is tough!”. I asked him if he made it to Batad village but he said his legs couldn’t even make it halfway through the journey. On hearing that, I though to myself – “Maybe it’s because he’s old”.
Over in the distance, there was a group of villagers carrying a wild boar on wooden logs. Thing is, the boar was still alive, and squealing so loudly you could hear its anguish echo through the valley
Nearly half an hour into the journey, I thought to myself just much further I had to go
Mentally, I kept telling myself "Slowly, slowly" as I crossed such paths
And just after I took this photo and stepped on the stones up ahead, I trip!
I tumble once but fortunately I didn’t roll any down any further. My immediate reaction was: “Oh shit, my camera!” Fortunately the 7D is built to take a bit of a beating so nothing happened to it. The only damage was a few scratches on my arm and on my knee. I got up, washed the very same parts of my body but realized I wasn’t carrying any band-aid with me!
So I had no other choice but to continue walking towards the village. I didn’t walk back because I wasn’t sure how far along I was — whether the Batad village was closer or was I much closer to the viewpoint junction back uphill.
They have a few small stores on the way to the village but this guy didn't stock any band-aid
I moved on, limping a little
I caught up with the wild boar group at the 'comfort room' stop on the way
I kept hoping the village was right around the corner
I must be near, right?
Did I walk all this long for a rice terrace this big?
Few minutes later, my first glimmer of hope
This should be it right?
It took nearly an hour to get to Batad village — and that was just from the junction, not including the trek uphill from where Arnel had dropped me.
So, were the Batad rice terraces worth the trek?
I guess so
But the rice terraces could wait. I approached a store and asked if they had band-aid, fortunately which they did. I asked where I could wash my wounds and the store lady pointed down to the basement.
I washed up, plastered up and sat down for a while. I needed to rest my legs!
Had something to eat and drink before resuming my photography.
As I check out the surroundings, I feel something touch my legs.
It was this small girl
Looks like they wanted to play a little hide 'n' seek with me
Felt sorry for them. Guess they don't get to see many new faces, let alone some Indian.
There's aren't that many places to stay in Batad -- but then again, I'm sure there's enough accommodation for the number of tourists who make it here
One of the bigger inns
Pension inns are the name used to refer to cheap, simple accommodation all across the Philippines
Decided to walk to the school
Batad Elementary School
There were village kids following me asking for money (don’t want to use the word ‘beg’), and I gave them ₱10 each, out of sympathy.
Walked back up
Panorama comprised of 5 shots
I really wanted to go all the way down to the village but I knew my legs couldn't take it anymore
That thin line are steps... I could only imagine myself walking down those from here
If at all I dare do this again, I would spend a night here and only leave the next morning
Imagine waking up to a view like this at the break of dawn
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay in Batad any longer. It was already 12:30pm and with an already tired body, I knew I was going to take another one hour just to get back.
They were requesting visitors to make a donation to the village for its ‘upkeep’. Whether it was for Batad’s development or just for the locals to make good use of the money for their daily lives, I still donated ₱100.
I also asked if any local was willing to carry my bags as I just couldn’t walk uphill with the load I was carrying, now with an injured leg. One of the villagers agreed to carry my bag uphill for ₱100.
I took one final panorama (comprised of 7 shots) and bid Batad's rice terraces goodbye
The local who offered to carry my bags (forgot his name unfortunately)
He was always ahead of me and would often stop until I caught up
Just to give you an idea of the terrain
I tried to match his pace but I couldn't
Eventually he too had to stop for a break and we rested for a few minutes at one of the makeshift stores along the way. I bought him something to drink and I asked him how long he has been walking these hills. As a native of Batad village, he told me they’ve been doing this since they were little. Young boys are made to carry goods up and down the hill, so their bodies get used to it as they age.
I even saw a small boy carrying a load of potatoes on a log uphill and the expression on his face was nothing short of hardship. It really was revelation of sorts for me. Here I was on this trip, to take my mind off from being laid off from work and yet, here are people who have been living like this for decades… all because of their lineage. Few make it out of Banaue, let alone their own village, and move to bigger cities.
I asked the local what their primary source of income was. He told me it was mostly farming, but a lot of the rice that’s grown in their rice terraces are for their own consumption as very little is sold in the markets. Of course, tourism is now helping them a bit as well.
As we moved on and neared the junction, I caught up with the American I crossed paths with earlier on my way down. He still hadn’t reached the top. I told him about my ordeal as we walked up together.
The American (again, forgot his name as well) told me about a different path up but I decided to just stick to the steps and follow the local who carried my bags. I told him I’ll catch up with him later.
The American took that road, which is an alternative to the steps
I took one final shot before climbing the hundred steps up
Once I reached the junction, I paid the local ₱150 instead of the agreed ₱100. He was grateful, and I had no reservations about my actions. I thanked him for carrying my bags and he headed back to his village.
The American reached the junction at about the same time I did, and we both sat at a store because sitting was exactly what we needed! A few minutes later, we were joined by a Brit who was with his trekking guide. With all three of us sweating profusely as evidenced by our shirts, needless to say, our conversations immediately began with how each of our experiences were. The Brit was concluding his nearly 4-day trek across Batad and was panting as he spoke. He spoke of how his guide (surely a local) just wouldn’t break a sweat and how he couldn’t do without his trekking pole.
Anyway, myself and the American couldn’t sit there forever and though we thought of taking a jeepney back, none of the jeepneys looked like they would be moving until they had enough passengers. So as one final effort, we both decided walk back down to where our trikes were waiting for us.
The trek back down was easier this time simply because, one, it was downhill, and two, there were concreted patches of road. Also, speaking to each other about topics ranging from the world economy to where else both of us had traveled took our minds off of how much distance we had to cover.
Thirty minutes later, we were back to the starting point. The American and I parted ways but he suggested that we catch up for a beer later at night once I’m back in town.
Once I was back in Arnel’s trike, more than beer, I just wanted to get back to my room to wash my wounds properly and then rest.
But instead, Arnel took me to the next stop on this tour:
Another rice terrace village, but I forgot its name (Panorama comprised of 8 shots)
Arnel told me I could walk down there but it would take some time. I told him my legs couldn't take anymore climbing and asked him to just take me back to Banaue town for the main rice terraces.
Despite being a bumpy ride back, because of how tired I was, I still dozed off in between.
Only to wake up on occasions when a heavy duty machine had to clear up debris on the road due to a landslide
Once back in Banaue town after nearly an hour, Arnel drove me up to the first of three viewpoints for Banaue’s rice terraces.
This was the first view point
Panorama comprised of 8 shots
Walked past this house to get to another viewpoint
Panorama comprised of 9 shots
The sign was describing the stage during which rice seeds are planted
We moved on higher up to the second viewpoint.
Panorama comprised of 16 shots
I asked Arnel to take me to the final viewpoint.
You need to walk down to the platform
My worst enemy: steps
But this being the last stop on my tour, I decided to push my legs one last time and walked down the steps towards the house.
The plan was to stand in front of the house and take photographs
But as I got down the steps, the dog in charge of the house came barking at me... so I stayed right where I was and didn't venture any further
Oh well, good dog doing its job
Took the 70-200mm lens out for these shots
This gives you a scale of just how big these rice terraces really are
Imagine how many man hours it must have taken hundreds of years ago to carve these lands
It's no wonder these rice terraces are considered by Filipinos to be the '8th Wonder' of the world
With that, I decided I had taken enough from the main viewpoint.
Now came the tough part
My legs were really quivering with each step I took. I had to use my tripod as support to raise myself to take each step. I was that tired!
It was a really misty day today
Thanks, but I was done!
Walked back to Arnel and asked him to take me back to my lodge
Don't ask me why the chicken crossed the road
As we drove back, Arnel told me if it wasn’t so foggy today, I would have gotten a better view of the entire Banaue rice terraces. I said it’s fine, because at this point all I wanted was to take a hot shower and give my feet the rest they needed.
Arnel dropped me back and I paid him ₱900 plus a ₱100 as a tip, simply because I felt like it. I first went to a store to buy some biscuits and cake in case I woke up too late. Because here in Banaue, there is a 9pm curfew and just about every shop closes by then. It’s wise to stock up on essentials before the sun sets.
Back in the room, I first took a hot shower and felt so much better. After that, I just crashed on the bed. Given the fact I barely slept at all the previous night due to the bus journey, and after all the tiring activities from today, it only took me a matter of minutes to doze off.
I hadn’t forgotten to meet up with the American from earlier, but when I did wake up…
... this was the scene outside
It was past midnight
Yes, I overslept. But I didn’t care, I needed the sleep.
My legs felt a little better and I sat on the bed, switched on my computer and ate something. As I transferred today’s photos on to my hard drive and reviewed them, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of achievement. Despite how my body felt, today really changed me in some ways. First, I couldn’t imagine where on earth away from India I was. Secondly, the trek really changed my perspective on life (in some ways). I shouldn’t be complaining about losing my job when I go back to my office. At least I had an office in a city to go back to. To the people in Banaue, life wouldn’t be that much different when they wake up tomorrow. Tomorrow, all I was going to do was see even more amazing places!
This is undoubtedly is the most epic post I’ve ever written (so far). 170 photos just to show you, my reader, what all I saw today. Over 3400 words to tell you what I experienced on my second day of sightseeing across Philippines.
I have been trekking since my college days and I enjoy walking, a lot. Trekking to Batad was undoubtedly the toughest trek I have ever undertaken. I cannot believe I walked 9kms up and down. A total of 18kms in Batad. And you know what? I didn’t even know it was 9kms to Batad village until I began working on these photos!
Go read the sign about ‘Batad rice terraces’ up above just after Arnel dropped me to the point I had to then go on foot. I didn’t notice the description and 9kms mentioned on the sign until I worked on that photo!
In a way, it’s a good thing I didn’t. I would have had second thoughts of trekking 18kms had I known the distance and the terrain I encountered along the way. Also, had it not been for the pleasant, not-sunny-at-all weather, there’s no way I would have gone all the way.
But would I do this again?
Edit (16/09/2011): I found the map I had with me that day
Here’s a much bigger version for reference.
Philippines 2011: Day 1 — Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Fort Bonifacio
Philippines 2011: Flying over South China Sea for the first time
Other posts in this series:
Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Banaue town; heading to Sagada via Bontoc
Philippines 2011: Day 3 – Sagada’s Lumiang burial cave, Sumaguing cave, Hanging Coffins of Echo valley
Philippines 2011: Leaving Sagada for Baguio, and arriving in Angeles city (Days 4 & 5)
Philippines 2011: Day 6 – Good Friday in San Fernando, San Pedro Cutud Lenten Rites
Philippines 2011: Day 7 – Leaving Angeles City for Manila, Mall of Asia
Philippines 2011: Day 8 – Manila tour: Rizal Park, Intramuros, Manila Cathedral, China Town
Philippines 2011: Day 9 – Cebu: Fort San Pedro, Basilica of Santo Niño, Taoist Temple
Philippines 2011: Day 10 – Bohol tour: Chocolate Hills, Loboc river cruise, Tarsiers, churches
Philippines 2011: Day 11 – Arriving in Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Philippines 2011: Day 12 – Puerto Princesa Underground River tour, Palawan
Philippines 2011: Day 13 – Puerto Princesa to El Nido by bus
Philippines 2011: Day 14 – El Nido island hopping tour A and sunset at Las Cabanas beach, Palawan
Philippines 2011: Back to Manila, shopping, and my final thoughts about the country (Last post)