AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Batad

No trip to the north of Luzon is complete without visiting Batad. The rice terraces at Batad are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Built 2000 years ago, they are all stone walled and are supposed to be an amazing sight.

We left Banaue at 9am by tricycle to the saddle, where the road ends. We both crushed into the tiny sidecar with a day bag each, walking poles and spare 1.5L bottle of water. It was extremely cramped and we sat at angles because our shoulders were too wide to fit side by side. The larger road out of Banaue is mostly paved with only odd sections not paved or covered with soil from recent landslides. The junction is the point where the Batad road splits off left from the road out of Banaue. Some people opt to walk from here but it is about an hour of steep uphill walking to reach the saddle so we had opted for the bike ride all the way to the top (P500,  £6.70). This road was far steeper and often the bike was at full throttle and struggling to get up the hill (hardly surprising with the 125cc engine and all the extra weight that it was never designed to carry). This road was been sealed (inches thick concrete) in a higgledy piggledy manner of a few hundred metres sealed then maybe a quarter of a mile of dirt, then a quarter of a mile sealed followed by a long section of dirt. I had always thought you’d start at one end and work your way along the route! Either way, the concrete road was nice and the dirt track was incredibly rutted and uncomfortable. It is amazing that the bike had enough traction on the wet mud to keep us moving. It took an hour the reach the saddle from Banaue and our arrival was announced with a shout from our driver of “no guide”! Thanks!

Once we had got ourselves out of the sidecar and paid the driver, the guides started asking us where we wanted to go. Most just called but one guy was a little more persistent, he didn’t listen and wouldn’t shut up. We said we could easily navigate around Batad but might need a guide the next day for walking to Pula. He heard what he wanted to hear and no matter how many times we said no guide today he just kept on walking with us. My usual technique is just head down and totally ignore the person, but he went ahead and kept talking, telling us about the bushes, the people, the area etc. Annemarie was behind him and talking whilst I was at the rear waiting for his demands for cash which were inevitably coming. Finally it came, he would guide us to Pula for P1200. No, too high! To cut a long story short we got him down to P800 (£10.70) . Hoping that now the deal was made we could agree to meet the next day enjoy the rest of the walk in peace. But no! Now we’d need a guide for today. Annemarie wanted the guide and I begrudgingly agreed with her, in hindsight this was a mistake as the rice terraces are in a giant semi-circle amphitheatre like shape, so from any location you can always see all other locations. There is a single path to the waterfall (once you have crossed the rice terraces) so a guide here is a waste of money). We didn’t know this before and besides, almost everyone had a guide. Annemarie haggled the price down to P300 (£4) to take us around the rice terraces and the waterfalls. Andrew just left me to sort out the guide, offering no insight as to whether we required his services or not!

We planned on looking around a number of hotels in Batad and then decide which we liked the best, but we stopped at the first one we reached. The Hillside Inn was basic, a bed, 4 walls and a huge window with the most amazing view, plus a restaurant downstairs where pretty much everyone seemed to be eating. It was clean and the bed was comfortable so we decided to stay there and not look elsewhere.

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We ate lunch downstairs with a great view looking over the terraces then set off for the waterfall with our guide.

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The walk across the terraces gave an excellent view, a 170° view of rice terraces below us. Apparently, the planting of rice starts on the bottom terraces then moves upward, the owner of each paddy field is responsible only for their field and the planting will take place with many farmers simultaneously planting. The village chief has the largest field at the bottom and no-one can start planting until he has finished. In most terraces we have walked through there has been a main path which is made from concrete and is often wider than the usual terrace wall, we followed the concrete path most of the way through the terraces.

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We reached the ridge opposite the village and sat for a rest and a drink of water. The next stage was a bit tougher, after the flattish rice terraces we now had steps. Lots of steps! Down a very steep hillside. After the steps was a short flattish walk to a viewpoint of the waterfall.

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A 30 second walk down some steps took us to the riverbed directly in front of the falls. They were powerful enough to produce a loud roar and the valley air was filled with spray. The spray kept things a little cooler as we sat on the rocks in the sun and relaxed. Other people went for a swim but the water was cold and both of us stayed out.

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The walk back was hard work. Those steep steps hadn’t been too bad on the way down and I hadn’t given them much thought, clearly the steps demanded more respect and were now making themselves known. Coming back up was probably the most I’ve ever sweated in my life, sweat pouring down ever part of my body. We stopped twice on the way up but that still wasn’t enough to slow the flow of sweat. At the top we sat for a while waiting for the breeze to dry us off, after about 10 minutes of waiting we gave up and carried on.

Our route back into Batad took us down to the lower part of the terraces and through the old village of Batad. Our guide – who had lived his whole life in this small village – know everybody and stopped to have a chat with of all them. We were introduced to some people and learnt a bit about the village and they houses they live in. We asked why everyone lived in horrible looking concrete and corrugated iron buildings when they are surrounded by forest and could build nice houses from wood. Apparently concrete and corrugated iron is cheaper and quicker hence it’s the preferred option, I guess the locals are more minded to and have no time to deal with trivial niceties such as looking good.

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The climb from the bottom of the terraces to the tourist section of the village was much harder and further than expected. The steps never seemed to end. More embarrassingly was the fact that little kids playing and running on the steps as of it as flat ground, as we trundled past panting and with sweat pouring. We finally got back to The Hillside Inn and immediately went to our room to rest. Annemarie found the shower was cold water only, me been a bit more wimpish decided to skip the shower.

We ate elsewhere later in the afternoon as the sunset over the back of the mountain and the area rapidly descended into pitch black. Even in the most built up areas there are few street lights, here there are none, just the old bulb here and there to light up the doorway of a hotel. Looking out of our hotel window the view was black, with the exception of a couple of touches in the fields. Early to bed but surprisingly a bad nights sleep. We had expected the fresh air and exercise to knock us out but the snoring from the French guy next door and the dogs barking kept us awake. On the plus side we saw a light flickering at our window. It was a firefly!

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Photos from around Batad can be seen here and here.
Photos of the waterfalls can be seen here.


Posted from Banaue, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines.

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