For once Chris and I had a comfortable minivan journey down the mountains, and back up, to a town called Banaue. As you enter the region, you soon realise why it is a popular tourist spot. All you can see is endless rice terraces down the valley. Unfortunately we had arrived a little too early in the year, and not all the rice had been planted. This meant the terraces were mainly brown, and not the lush green colour we were hoping for.
Again, we had to register and pay a small fee when we arrived. Then talking with the tourist information, it became clear that in a small village, called Batad, not too far away, the rice had all been planted, and it was a perfect time to visit.
We had thought we would stay in Banaue, and just do a days trek to Batad. But we decided to quickly change our plan, go straight to Batad, and hopefully find a homestay. So we quickly rearranged our bags, so that we just had our small rucksacks, hailed a tricycle, and headed off to Batad.
The first two thirds of the journey were bearable. We had however managed to chose a pretty dodgy old tricycle, so it was extremely loud and stunk of oil, and the roads were very dusty. What we weren't expecting was to have to suddenly bundle over to the centre of the tricycle, so that the weight was more in one place, to help us ride up some steep, harrowing, windy, roads. Thankfully we made it to the end of the road (yes the road just stops!) in one piece, without having to get out and walk.
It was then just under an hours trek down the mountain to find the village of Batad. We had quite a good pace on as we were pretty hungry by now, and we were keen to see the rice terraces whilst the sun was out.
It was overwhelming. More than what we had expected. The luscious green rice terraces glistening in the sunlight. We could see a small traditional village down in the valley, which added to an even more picturesque scene. It was truly breathtaking, and we both had such big grins on our faces, as this was what we had been searching for. Thrilled and upbeat, we registered and paid the small fee to the village.
Eddie, a local tour guide, then explained to us about the recommended treks around the surrounding area. But to be honest, we both found it difficult to take anything in, as we were so fixated on our view. We decided to find somewhere to stay and speak to him later.
Since all the homestays/guesthouses were so close, we had a quick look around several. But realising they all offered pretty much the same thing, a very basic simple room, with shared bathroom, we opted for the friendly lady at Rita's Inn. The room also had a mosquito net, and since I had been bitten a few times already, I was keen to have a net.
She cooked us up a corn beef rice dish, and a noodle dish, which we ate looking out to one of the most impressive views of our travels. Not wanting to move, we just enjoyed the view, with a beer, and talking with a French-Canadian guy who had been on a trek earlier that day.
Being in a very remote village, we got the impression you eat where you stay. So for dinner we ordered a homemade pizza, and chicken adobo, to share. Then it was time for an early night, ready for trekking the next day.
An early rise, omelette for some energy, and we were set. After a long discussion yesterday, we decided to trek around on our own. However, we bumped back into Eddie first thing, and he said if we wanted, he could send a couple of kids to help us find our way around, in exchange for some 'pocket money' for them to spend during their school holidays. It made sense, so Eddie's son, Edison, just six years old, and his friend Denver, who was ten years old, energetically led the way.
Our route took us up, and up, to the highest view point across the Batad rice terraces. We walked along some very precarious paths, climbed walls, and passed by streams. It was worth every aching muscle and drop of sweat, as the view from this point was astonishing. Surrounded by exquisite, lush green, stairways to heaven. This was landscaping at its best!
It was downhill for nearly an hour, when all of a sudden a large waterfall appeared. Despite it being in the shade, we still changed into our swimmers, and went for a quick dip to cool off. It was refreshing to say the least! Then it was the challenging climb back up hill. The boys zoomed ahead, with Chris following not far behind. But I struggled to keep up! How their little legs could climb some of the steps so fast was impressive. But then they have grown up here, and play all day long up and around the area. It was definitely a better work out than Kettlebells!
The last part of our trek took us through the original village, with traditional Ifugao houses, or so called 'no nail' houses. We had the opportunity to visit Eddie's granddad's traditional house, displaying his monkey skulls, from hunting.
Gasping for some cold water, the boys led us back to Eddie's restaurant, where his wife cooked us up a chicken curry for an early lunch. We had a short rest before beginning the trek back up the valley to the road. The boys weren't even tired and were off fishing for the afternoon!
It was an hour and a half trek, all up hill, with some really sheer, steep sections, in order to reach the road. We were done in when we arrived to the road.
By chance, a lady asked if we needed a lift back to Banaue. As it happened, we were hoping to find a tricycle that would take us further along the main road to view the Bangaan rice terraces. We had heard these were also very impressive. It turned out she had a jeepney, so asked the driver, and it was a done deal.
Once at the main road, it was a further 2km along the hazardous road to reach the viewpoint. We are so glad we paid a little extra money to stop by Bangaan. Perfect rice terraces, surrounding a tiny village at the bottom of a valley. Although not quite as breathtaking as Batad, it was still astonishing.
A little over an hour later, we arrived in our private jeepney, back in Banaue. Since we had most of the afternoon still, before we caught a night bus later that evening, we decided we should visit the many different viewpoints, along the road, up to the 'main' Banaue rice terraces viewpoint.
A tricycle approached us as we began to walk up the hill, and said he would take us up, and back down, for 200 pesos (about £3). After all the walking we had done over the past few days, it was worth £3! He stopped off at most of the viewpoints as we wound our way up the road. Each one was a pretty cool view, looking down the valley across the Banaue rice terraces. Despite them being brown in colour, the shapes, scale, and precision was mesmerising.
Back in the town, our noses led us into a bakery, for some locally brewed coffee, and a taste of a couple of freshly baked cakes. The recommended carrot cake was just what the doctor ordered.
Before we knew it, it was time for dinner, a well deserved beer, having conquered the rice terraces, and jump aboard the night bus to Manila.