Saturday, July 11, 2015

The 8th Wonder

Setting out to Batad and thinking what the hell have I gotten myself into. Banaue is the beautiful area known for it's rice terraces and after meeting Laura and Dylan I was excited to do the 1 or 2 night trekking. Unfortunately it can be a very difficult and slippery path so the cons of being the solo female traveller strikes again. I'm beginning to wonder if I missed an important memo since so far all the travellers I'm meeting are coupled up. I spent my first day in Banaue feeling disappointed that it was low season and there were almost no other travellers. The few I saw in Banaue I would approach and all had done it so far. The safest way to go solo is with a guide but they were all expensive and not an option. Especially since I had $50 CAD that had to last me the next 4 days and get me back to Manila since the last few towns had no atm. To avoid the 2 hour jeepney to the nearest atm I decided to avoid guides and eat as cheaply as possible. So cookies and sticky buns are my rations! After failing to meet new arrivals the next day I gave up and hired a tricycle fpr 700 php to take me to Batad junction  where I would trek solo and to pick me up the next day. The long trek would have been great but my compromise in the interest of safety is that I will do the short trek to Batad and return after one night.
Batad rice terraces

It turns put the walk from Batad Junction to Batad was only 45 min and was exceptionally easy. At the tourist check in point I met 5 Brits who had already organized a tour to the waterfalls so I attached myself to them and lucky I did because the 2 hour tel to the Teppia waterfalls was tricky to find and was high up in the rice terraces walking on narrow stones trying not to fall. The rice terraces we're absolutely stunning, seriously kick the big Jess statue off the list of 7 Wonders and replace it with this. I was constantly having to remind myself to stop looking at the view and to keep my eyes on the narrow path. If you slipped left you'd end up up to your knees in mud. Slip right and you tumble down the terraces. Poor Andrew kept slipping (luckily to the left) so that also served as a good reminder.

We reached the Batad viewpoint and had a spectacular view of the entire place. I was also definitely glad we had Vincent as a guide since it was a tricky walk and he was a sweetheart and even though he was late 60s he kick still out hike any of us. His mother is still around at 105 so twhat the hell are these northern filipinos doing? Is it the air? The rice?

Batad Viewpoimt

We descended the viewpoint and  made our way down the stairs which was quite a tricky ordeal as this dog that started off adorable tool a liking to me and would alternate between stopping in front of me so I'd nearly trip over him as I went down the steep slippery stones OR he would disappear then reappear under me foot as I was about to step carefully down. I am started to understand why some cultures eat dogs... I arrived at the bottom despite the dogs antics and the view of the waterfalls was stunning. The waterfall was so strong that on either side of the falls there was a reverse waterfall of water shooting upwards on the rocks. We gingerly made our way into the water trying to avoid falling on the jagged rocks beneath us but it was absolutely worth it since it was refreshing and just the right thing after the hike. I had heard a tourist died from swimming directly below the falls and had thought they should've know  better. After swimming there I'm now impressed that they were even able to get under the falls since the current pushing you away from it was strong. Even if you stood still far way from it you'd be pulled backwards.

Tappia Waterfalls

I am beginning to think I'm definitely  a travel masochist. Not only do I enjoy riding on jeepney roofs but I really enjoyed the grueling hike up many stairs when we returned to Batad Village. I parted ways with the group after lunch and decided to hunt down a place to stay. I had a list of several placed that were 150php/night but the tourist info lady told me every place was 250 php.  

My fellow hikers.  

Sure enough every place on my list was now 250php. Not a steep price unless you haven't seen an atm in days. I got to the very edge of the lowest pint of the Village and was about to give up when I found Christian's homestay which was 150php a night and run by a very sweet family with nice clean rooms and comfortable beds.

Erika the adorable daughter of the guesthouse owner

I attempted to sleep in the next morning but the well meaning staff woke me up at 7:30 thinking I was on the once a day jeepney out of Batad and was worried I'd miss it. I wasn't too put out since I'd been awake for the last 45 minutes trying to sleep in. My body will likely go into shock soon, I've been eating tons of fruits and veggies,  haven't had pretty much any drinks, and have been getting 8-10 hours of sleep, significantly more than my standard 5. The early wake up meant I got to wander around the beautiful Batad area for a few hours and see the hanging bridge. It was awkward at times since you'd be walking on the barrow rice terraces, then try to turn and you'd end up in a courtyard area that seemed like someone's house but they'd always be good natured and tell you where to go. I planned on leaving the hostel 2.5 hours early which was a good call since I left an hour late because I ended up playing with this adorable girl Erika who was the 5 year old daughter of the guesthouse owner. Never has making up games with an ant been so entertaining. It was difficult to pry myself away and little did I know the trek fro. The bottom of Batad village to the highest point at the Saddle would be a grueling 1.5 hour hike at a constant 80 degree angle. By the time I reached the top I finally understood all the "I survived Batad" T-shirts that we had been mocking the day before. If I hadn't been down to $0.04 CAD I would have even been tempted to grab one.

Things I can check off the list: Trek between narrow rice fields, trekking solo for a day, playing with the local kids, changed into a bathing suit in public with noone noticing, swam in the Teppia waterfalls, lived off less than $30 for nearly 4 days

Lessons learned: Meeting people along the way is bound to happen quite often but sometimes I need to be comfortable with setting out on my own and being good doing activities or treks solo (getting there!)

Since there was no atms I lived off baked good from this bakery for 3 days

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