AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Sagada: Day 3

Our guide who took us around the cave the day before had told us the bus from Banaue to Bontoc had crashed less than a week ago, killing 15 passengers (mainly European tourists). We knew that our next destination after Sagada was Banaue and we knew there were three options of how to get there:
1. Jeepney to Bontoc, then bus to Banaue.
2. Jeepney to Bontoc then Jeepney to Banaue.
3. Hire a minivan for the whole distance in a single trip.

So the morning was spent looking at what we would do and how we would get there. Banaue is home to the famous rice terraces (referred to as the 8th wonder of the world) so it was a must visit destination.

After a bit of research we found that the Florida Bus Company which owned the bus that had crashed was now banned (it had also been banned before) for running dangerous buses. The other bus company, called Cable Tours, was also banned for operating illegally. This meant that currently (February 2014) there are no buses operating between Bontoc and Banaue. Probably a good thing when thinking about safety, plus we’d already decided that we wouldn’t get the bus after hearing about the crash. There were many posters around Sagada for hiring a minivan so I texted the number asking for a price. The reply was P4000 (£53.50), to make a 2hr drive that was a bit pricey. The Jeepney to Bontoc was P45 and Jeepney from Bontoc to Banaue was P150. So P200 each versus P2000 each. For that saving I’d readily endure a Jeepney ride, after all the road is almost all paved and smooth.

With the transport planned we then started thinking about what else to do in Sagada. Our sheet from the tourist office had a number of options, all with a guide and prices. We wanted more hiking and climbing around the local area, especially to see more rice terraces but we didn’t want to pay for the guide. We were also looking further afield at some rice terraces at the other side of the mountain (having to take the road to Bontoc then north to the terraces). The terraces at Maligcong sounded very good and worthy of a visit so we went to the guide office to ask about a tour to these terraces, but the price came back at P2500 per person (£33) to go as far the hot springs and then an extra charge to go to the Maligcong terraces. Far too much money for someone to basically lead the way and show us the route! Our hotel had a poster about motorbike rental so we texted that number to get a price. P800 (£10.50) for the day seemed OK.

After spending ages mulling over the many options we decided on adding 2 nights to our stay in Sagada. One day we would accept the cost and get a guide to the Bomod-OK waterfalls and the other we would rent a bike and ride to the rice terraces, a far cheaper method of seeing them. The bike would also allow us to go to the museum in Bontoc which is supposed to be very good. I texted the bike guy to request rental the next day then we ate (it was after 1pm when we finished planning). This was just a light lunch of yogurt from our favourite restaurant, The  Yoghurt House.

Now we needed a walk which didn’t need a guide. The walk to the Kiltepan Viewpoint looked easy, Google Maps showed a road most of the way so I could use the phone to check that we were on the correct road and heading the correct way. We grabbed some water and the camera and off we went.

The first couple of miles were on the main road between Sagada and Bontoc. A steady slope but the road was surfaced and easy to maintain a good speed. After turning left off the main road up a dirt road we slowed a little but still had a good pace. The road wound around the hillside and sloped gently uphill. Eventually we reached the summit.

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The summit had good views over a deep and isolated looking valley which had terraces on two slopes. The sun was shining across the valley lighting up the terraces and giving then a warm afternoon glow. This was good for the human eye but bad for the camera which struggled to handle the contrast between the shaded part of the valley and the sunny part, there was also cloud and smoke from a few fires on the terraces. Annemarie took ages getting the picture she wanted, but eventually she was satisfied she had the best that was possible.

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It was a 3 mile walk back into Sagada and we felt like eating again. Sagada has a good selection of restaurants serving a surprisingly wide selection of foods. Mostly of very good quality. We hasn’t experienced this elsewhere in the Philippines so we were making the most of it while we were here. We decided to eat in the restaurant we’d seen the day before near the entrance to the cave, called Gaia.

The food was well worth the effort of walking there (15 minutes isn’t exactly long anyway). Annemarie had pasta in a tomato sauce and I had a local dish of crushed beans, garlic, chili and peppers, served with rice. Both dishes were excellent. We walked back to Sagada by moonlight (the road is concrete so is easily light up in the moonlight).

Photos from Kiltepan Viewpoint can be seen here.
Photos from the Gaia Inn can be seen here.

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