continued from Banaue blog...
We decided to skip sleep even though we were still very tired from the long bus ride. We had a sunny day and knew that during this time of year that was something to be taken advantage of before the heavy rains came. We wanted to hire a driver to take us to the Batad terraces, said to be the biggest and most spectacular in the region. Little did we know that the trip was to be another hour and a half long drive into the jungle along beat-up rocky roads that were washed out by recent landslides.
It was expensive to hire a jeepney but they were the only legitimate vehicles that could tackle such terrain. Enter James and Sarah into the picture. James and Sarah had stayed at our hostel in Manila and were on the Autobus trip to Banaue with us. We teamed up and hired the driver together, cutting costs and adding companionship to the adventure. It definitely took some work to get to these terraces. The drive was brutal, well the roads were brutal, we were just shaken not stirred. We still cannot imagine how the tour operators and tricycles can pitch the idea to hire a tricycle to transport someone to this area. We actually had to get out of the jeepney so that it could drive full speed over a massive landslide, and this was a tough, military style jeepney!
Once at the Saddle, we had to then hike for an hour down the mountainside, through the thick, humid jungle and into the village of Batad. It was well worth the time, money and energy. The views were incredible! And to think that these efficient irrigation systems were created and maintained for thousands of years!
While sitting on a bench overlooking the terraces I had a moment. I had a similar moment when we were sailing around the island of Boracay. I thought back to when we were looking at the world map, planning out the world tour adventure. The Philippines seemed so far away, so foreign and isolated from the world. When we were sailing, it felt like we had finally arrived. Like we didn't need to worry about going anywhere further because we were already there. It was a peaceful and comfortable feeling. We felt like we were very far away from home but it was as if the world became very small, and that it wasn't the big, bad, scary place that CNN or BBC portray it to be. I guess that's the feeling that travellers continually search for when off exploring, it's the 'bug' that keeps you coming back for more.
It's funny, because five years ago we met an English couple who quit their jobs to travel the world. We thought they were crazy! Who would want to travel for 12 months around the world? And why would anyone want to do that? Now isn't that ironic?! That is now us, we are the insane couple. I wonder how our conversations along the way have been perceived. I wonder if we've planted any seeds and corrupted normal people's minds like the English couple did to us five years before? But I'm getting off track...
Completely gassed and out of energy from the trip to Batad, we had a delicious noodle dinner at the lodge and fell asleep moments after the sun went down. The next morning, we took our time enjoying breakfast and freshly brewed coffee on the balcony that overlooks the terraces. It was definitely a breakfast backdrop we will never forget! Luckily we caught another hot and sunny day, so we hired a tricyle to take us to the Banaue viewpoint located just a short four kilometres straight up the mountainside.
The views were postcard picture perfect! We actually enjoyed the Banaue views more than the Batad views, but both were very special moments. If we had more time, we would have hired a guide to take us on a hike from the top of the viewpoint, through the terraces, down to the village centre (done in about 3 hours). But we were on a fairly tight clock and had to be back in Manila.
So we said goodbye to our new friends James and Sarah and boarded our s***ty bus (sorry but that's the best adjective I could come up with). The bus was an hour late and the 9 hour trip took 12 hours (mainly because the drivers were running a town-to-town delviery service also) and dropped us off in a seedy neighbourhood at 5:00 am...wicked! Luckily a very sweet Filipino women helped us out by getting taxi's sorted for us and three other foreign travellers... and she whipped the sketchy taxi drivers into shape! It was yet another example of the kindness the Filipino people have towards travellers.
Some random observations are that the town doesn't have any ATM's or banks (nor do the neighbouring villages). The majority of locals chew a leaf that gives a similar sensation to smoking, but it rots their teeth and turns their mouths bright red. The streets are filled with red spots from them spitting everywhere, it actually looks like blood drops. All of the long haul buses blast the cold A/C in order to keep the drivers from falling asleep... I guess that's probably a good thing! While jeepneys drive from place to place, the local kids jump on the back and climb onto the roof. The jeepney drivers don't stop this from happening, even though the kids don't pay for the ride, because the kids remember the drivers and will throw rocks and try to pop the tires if they don't give them a free ride...crafty little b*****s! Apparently the jeepneys were brought into the Philippines by Americans during WWII, they have stuck and are now a primary mode of transporation in the country.
We're now in the hot and humid city of Manila for a few days before travelling north to Tokyo Japan. Mount Fuji here we come!