Ricefields… I’ve heard so much of them in the Ifugao province and had to see them for myself. I read a lot about Batad, which is supposedly the best place to see them as they are stonewalled and set up like an amphitheater.
With 1 day left in Manila, Mark and I decided to do some last minute shopping. We forgot our camerastrap and found that it is something you cannot live without if you’re taking a lot of pictures. I felt like we visited every shop in Makati to find one, but we succeeded nevertheless 🙂 we also needed some mini-cosmetics, as we left our luggage with my uncle and were only bringing the necessities to Batad.
Getting to Batad isn’t easy: first you take a bus from Manila to Banaue, then you have to arrange for a jeep to bring you to the Saddle Point. From there it’s about a 25 minute hike to the guesthouses in Batad. We were able to buy our tickets 2 days before (at Ohayami Trans busstation in Sampaloc) taking the bus and I would highly reccomend doing this, since the buses get full easily in peak season. Also buy the return tickets right away! Be sure to be there early, since the bus leaves exactley on time. The bus leaves at 9 pm and the busride took about 9 hours and since it’s during the night, it’s best to try and sleep.
There are other reasons to try to sleep on the bus… I was awake for most of it and there were moments that I wasn’t sure we would get out of the busride without an accident. Driving in The Philippines in itself is an adventure, haha! I’ve seen our busdriver overtake a truck in a curve while a truck on the opposite side of the road was approaching. Also, our busdriver had to break abruptly a few times because there were people or things on the road that would not move. Yes, it really is better to close your eyes during the busride 😉
We arrived in Banaue around 6 am the next morning. After registering and paying an environmental fee of 20 pesos per person, a jeep brought us to the Halfway Inn free of charge and made sure that we got our bustickets for the way back going to Manila. When you buy your return ticket to Manila, you have to exchange the voucher for actual tickets at their ticketoffice. Of course it was a smart way of getting tourists to book their tours with them, since we would have to wait for him to get our tickets.
I read online that there is a public jeepney that goes to the Saddle Point for 150 pesos each, but it goes during the day. You could take a tricycle, but it doesn’t go as far as a hired jeepney. Normally, a hired jeepney costs 2800 pesos for a 1 hour journey to the Saddle Point and if you find people to join you, you can divide the costs among your fellow travelers. Unfortunately for us, we were the only ones going to Batad. One man at Halfway Inn offered to take us for 1000 pesos and also pick us up the next day for 1000 pesos. He also suggested that he would guide us there for 1000 pesos and that he would bring us to the riceterraces in Bangaan for 300 pesos before bringing us back to Banaue. All in all, this would be 3300 pesos which is very cheap, because a one way jeepney to Batad would already be 2800 pesos! We said yes right away and later found out that the agency this guy (who introduces himself as Judi) worked for was not happy with the deal he made… It was a good thing that we asked him to put down in writing which elements were included in our deal! Judi then told us that he would not guide us during our hike in the ricefields, but that there would be someone else to guide us.
Joel (our jeepneydriver) took us to the Saddle Point and arranged a guide there. Masquette guided us to our guesthouse, Hillside Inn. You could hike to Batad from the Saddle Point without a guide, but I personally think it’s 300 pesos well spent to let someone guide you to your guesthouse.
After we checked in, Masquette explained which hikes we could do. He was a little dissapointed when we told him that we made a deal regarding our day in Batad, since he mentioned that he wasn’t aware of the deal and thought that we still had to pay him seperately. Lucky for us, he guided us anyway. He suggested that we do the following hike: first hike to the Highest Viewpoint, then to Tappiya Falls and then back to the guesthouse via the Main Village. It would take about 4 hours. I would really reccomend hiking with a guide, since you can easily get lost in the rice terraces.
I’ve read on every blog that the hikes in Batad are physically demanding and I definately agree! We started slow and steady, but the road became steep quick and we had to climb some walls too. The trail in the ricefields are sometimes very narrow and you really have to mind your step. I had a moment where I shed a tear, because I was so afraid to fall. We had to climb down steps, which weren’t really steps that looked part of the trail and since I am afraid of heights, this part was really difficult. In the end, it was totally worth it!!! The view is simply spectacular.
The next part of our hike was going to Tappiya Falls. This was the hardest part of our hike. It’s about a 45 minute hike down, but the size of the steps are so huge! All I could think about was the way back up… First things first: hike to the falls and then we’ll see what happens. When we got to the falls, the air was cooler and there was a spot where we could rest. Masquette decided to let us rest there for a while before climbing back up.
After about 30 minutes, we walked back up. This was hands down the most difficult hike we have ever done. Masquette said that we should start without him since he would catch up (“I am faster than you, mam”) and yes, it took him less than 10 minutes to be on our level. Not a drop of sweat on his body and I surely lost 5 liters of water weight haha! I still have shaky legs just thinking about it.
When we finally got back to our inn, 4.5 hours later, Mark and I found out that towels, toiletpaper and hot water were included in our room. And we only paid 900 pesos for this room 😀 most of the rooms in the inns in Batad have a shared bathroom without hot water and guests have to rent towels. Going to Batad really is going back go basics. Mark and I hung our own klamboe, which gave it a romantic touch 😉 I couldn’t really sleep because I was afraid of bugs or rats, but I really enjoyed my stay at Hillside Inn though. Their staff are really nice and the food is pretty good. And, there were no rats, haha!
The next day, Mark and I had breakfast on the terrace and took a good look at the terraces one last time before hiking back to the Saddle Point. My legs were so sore from the hike that I couldn’t really walk anything downhill. Good thing the hike to the Saddle Point was uphill, haha. Joel was waiting for us and took us to Bangaan. There were some kids that jumped on the back of the jeepney and hitched a ride. Looked really dangerous but I guess it’s an every day thing here in The Philippines. I asked Joel why the riceterraces in Bangaan were so special and he said that they are green all year round.
It started to rain when we arrived in Banaue and Joel told us that it was actually raining the whole week, except the day we were hiking. Can’t believe how lucky we were…