Overnight buses are the order of the day when getting from Manila to Banaue. 9 hours of twisting roads up the mountain until we are apparently 5000ft above sea level. At least the view through the window was interesting! We arrived in Banaue at 7am and paid the 20 pesos environmental fee then set out looking for our accommodation. After reading a recommendation we decided to stay at Randy's Brookeside Inn about 3 mins walk from the bus stop and about a minutes walk past Greenview where I believe most people stay. Randy met us at the door and could not have been more friendly and helpful. He showed us up to the room and told us to rest for as long as we needed before coming down where he would make us breakfast and show us everything we could do in Banaue. The room was basic and simple but clean and had a window. A curtain covered the door. After breakfast and on Randy's recommendation we decided to trek up to the rice terraces, Randy told us how to do it without paying any money. A lot of tourists take a tuk tuk up to the top but he advised us we could trek it and walk back down through the terraces themselves. So we set off.
It was a very long very hot walk. But wow the views were incredible. It was also great to see a more rural way of life on the way up as we walked through small villages in the mountains. As a dog lover I was happily surprised at the amount of friendly dogs and puppies that ran up to us. There are several view points before you reach the main view point at the top. We stopped at each of these and at each is a different photo opportunity. At the first one you can have your photo taken with a local woman in full tribal regalia. For a small fee of course, I paid her 20 pesos. At another you are able to try on the tribal hats and outfits, again a 'donation' is expected. When we finally reached the very top we sat and looked out over the rice terraces and the view is genuinely spectacular. Sweaty and worn out is an understatement however the views and the sense of achievement make it completely worth it. As a storm was heading in we decided to face the long dreaded walk back. Unfortunately we decided it would be a good idea to try going back no via the path but over the terraces. It was long before we were completely lost and had climbed hundreds of steps, descended hundreds more and balanced along tiny narrow walkways with 100ft drop at the side. Tired, sweaty and despairing of ever making it back, we climbed a last set of around 100 steep steps and arrived out on the road. We'd done almost a complete circle and come out almost back at the view point. Defeated and with shaking legs we started the descent down the road. We finally arrived back at Randy's 3 hours later and were met by happy Randy who recommended a place for dinner which was 'simple cheap not for backpacker prices.' Despite the massive walk all we could manage was a small plate of pancit! (Noodles)
The next day Randy had recommended to go to Batad. So at 7.30am we jumped in a tuk tuk which took us to the drop off point at the Saddle. Another trek down the mountain to another view point and a small cafe overlooking the terraces. This is called the amphitheatre due to the half circle the terraces make. It is stunning and we sat and had a coke to catch out breath. You can also trek to the waterfall and village from here, but having heard it was a 6 hour walk and me with a bad leg we decided against it! Trekking back up the mountain again was bad enough, we had many needed stops on the way! Eventually after 2.5 hours we were able to climb back into the tuk tuk and zoom back down the mountain. Zoom is possibly an exaggeration as we needed to stop and wait every now and again as trucks cleared the 'road' of landslides. Arrived back in Banaue with time to chill and then back on the night bus!