With Lonely Planet’s glowing recommendation of the village of Batad, nestled within the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Banaue Rice Terraces, we knew that a visit here was guaranteed to find a place on our itinerary. Even the 9 hour bus ride through winding, pot-hole ridden roads wasn’t enough to dissuade us!
We arrived at the town of Banaue just past 6:30am, along with two other busloads of passengers. Our first order of business, despite the fact we had had enough of buses, was to purchase our return bus tickets back to Manila, as seats apparently sell out quickly. We gave ourselves two nights in the area, but if we had the time, we could easily enjoy two weeks, or even two months, here because it’s so amazing beautiful.
Although it was early, Banaue’s streets were bustling with a mix of exhausted, stumbling tourists just off the night bus and jeepney and tricycle drivers looking for passengers. Our destination was the Batad “saddle”, as we were hoping a 4WD vehicle would replace the 1-hour hike up the mountain road from Batad Junction. Randy, with his jeepney, took us the entire 12 kilimoters, along the partly paved, partly washed-out route.
Arriving at the saddle, we rented hiking sticks for 20 pesos ($0.50 USD) each, and started our descent to the village of Batad. Although we were told that this part of the journey was more beautiful than its counterpart to the saddle, the fog engulfing us severely limited our vistas.
Despite having gravity on our side, the descending hike was rather difficult, particularly on Mindy’s knees. Our bags were heavy on our backs, holding everything we brought with us on our 3-week trip, including a healthy quantity of vegan essentials while traveling: nuts, seeds and granola bars.
With our legs shaking, we finally arrived to the village of Batad. An information kiosk greeted us, where we paid a heritage fee of 50 pesos each and continued to find Ramon’s Homestay, as his place received good reviews online. Lodging options in Batad dot the hillside looking out onto the amphitheater of rice terraces with “downtown” situated in a valley of sorts below.
That whole first day in Batad, it was cloudy and rained non-stop, which turned out to be exactly what our weary bodies needed. We enjoyed a splendid 3-hour nap in the softest bed we’ve slept in since North America and did absolutely nothing.
Our second day started early with a cacophony of the village’s roosters acting a our alarm clock just before 6am. As the sun rose above the peaks of the Cordillera Mountains, the upper terraces to the west were the first to receive a golden splash of color. That was our cue to begin our hike.
Well-stocked with water and snacks we worked our way down to the center village, across terraces carpeted in the spring green of newly sprouted rice. Our goal for the day was to reach Tippiya Falls, a roaring 47-meter cascade behind the terraces. Even the early morning sun was hot and it didn’t take us long to regret that we forgot to apply sunscreen. We easily doubled the time we were told it would take, but the waterfall did not disappoint. The rainbow refracting in the mist, with the falling torrents hugged by thick jungle walls was a wonderful reward after a sweaty hike.
On our return, we detoured and went far out of the our way to Batad’s second viewpoint, located at the top of the western terraces that had been kissed by the sun’s first rays. We took our time to enjoy this vantage point before crossing the tops of the rice fields back to Ramon’s.
Our final night, we slept in a native Ifugao hut. Raised on stilts with a pyramid-shaped thatch roof, it’s a structure built without a single nail, using only bamboo twine and gravity to keep it structurally sound. With the twilight fading, we climbed the ladder inside and slid the heavy, wooden door closed. Snuggled in bed, reading by candle light, we quietly said goodnight to each other and the chickens roosting beneath us.
The next morning the roosters provided us our wake-up call, and we set out early for the hike back up to the Saddle. Our weary legs managed the ascent in 90 minutes, a feat we’re quite pleased with. We had our choice of jeepneys departing to Banaue, scheduled to leave between 9 and 9:30am, and without the fog we had upon our arrival, we were able to enjoy the breathtaking scenery (when the potholes didn’t jostle us too much!)