Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday, March 23, 2014
Batad Village is down there at the back of the mountain on the left side, and that's where we're heading.

[Foreword:  This post will be long, but keep reading, this is a detailed account of my hike to the spectacular amphitheater-shaped Batad rice terraces.  So for anyone planning to go there, here is the story and some photos along the way to get a clear picture of what you’re planning into.]
A trip to Batad may be the highlight of everyone’s visit to Banaue.  Not sure why, the terraces in Banaue viewpoint is equally - if not - more stunning?  I guess it has something to do with the effort and difficulty in getting to the place.
The village of Batad is a secluded mountain village and motorized vehicle road is non-existent.  The only way to get thereand get around when you get there is by walking.  Though it doesn’t mean, one have to walk all the way to Batad from Banaue.  From the town center (Poblacion) of Banaue, there are jeepneys that ply the Banaue – Saddle Point route, not regular though, most of the time leaving in the afternoon.  Ask around the public market.  And from saddle point, the 45-minute to an hour hike to the village commences along a well defined trail.  The hike is descending so it’s not that much strenuous.  The tougher hike is if one continued from Batad to Tappiyah waterfalls which is about another 45 minutes.
I was hesitant to do it and it wasn’t in my plan even before I arrive in Banaue, moreover I find the cost of a single person transport as too much, one guy told me it will be a thousand pesos for a whole day tricycle ride back and forth.  Until, the owner of the place I was staying at asked me if I want to join a group.  That way, I’ll be only paying a fraction of the total cost.
I did a lot of hiking in my several travels already and gone tired of it.  Besides, my lungs may no longer handle too much exhaustion, I’m smoking more than a pack of Marlboro a day.

I’m here for anybody would consider a long time already, a week is too much, when most people just stay for a couple of days, so nothing left to do but to try the hike to Batad, it may not be that tough after all, well, after the reassurance of the lady in the house that the road to there is paved, not the rough jungle walkways I have in mind.  I did twice hiking to the last viewpoint to see Banaue rice terraces during the past few days and I thought it was already a good warm up for my weak legs.

Our van got stuck, push!

Woke up early in the morning, the van will leave at 8:30am, 6 of us, 2 germans, 3 Italians.   We drove off a winding road along some beautiful views of the mountains and occasional rice terraces down below, we stopped twice to take some pictures, when suddenly, the van got stuck on a rough rocky road, boulders I would say, just before the construction or paving of a concrete road.  The van did not move and we had to get off.  There are two jeepneys behind us, luckily, that became our hitch for the rest of the way, on top of the jeepney, climbing the railing at the back to get to the open top – hanging on to our lives – while the tough vehicle with the sign “Trans Asia Airways” in English and Chinese characters emblazoned on its forehead, traverse the rough terrain all the way to what they call the saddle point, the start of the trek down to Batad.  In the end, we all enjoyed the cool breezy ride.

We ended up hitching a ride at the jeepney behind us - on topload!

We reached the saddle point, and in the middle of two mini stores, there lies the stairs.  The hike starts from a steep stairs going down 412 steps, along the way there’s a traffic of hikers going up.  There’s a group of about 4 older foreign tourists, the likes of those regular Royal Caribbean cruisers.  I whispered to our guide, his name was Eddie, that these people are retirees, a bit overweight and luxurious-looking, if they were able to handle the trek, I could better well be.  I’m not yet 50!

Traffic on the way down, with people hiking up.

And so our hike began, easy walk going down the winding path, some concrete, some lose gravels and some stone stairs here and there.  I started to sweat after about 2 kilometers maybe that was mid along the way, there’s a mini store that looked like it appeared out of nowhere, there’s also a nice view of a smaller cascading rice terraces.  Our guide moves a bit faster that I have to keep my cool trying hard to pretend that it was easy to keep up.  It’s a forest down there, verdant with tall grasses, bushes, trees, clinging crawling plants.  There are narrow paths, careful not to stumble on the edge or you’ll be falling off the cliff down below for who knows if it will leave you alive.

Anyhoo, the path is a combination of different elevation, some are steep, some are just easy walk.  Some paved, some gravel.  And then, there's the heat of the sun, so bring sunblock and a bottle of water to avoid getting dehydrated.

We left the saddle point at 10:09am and we reached the breath-taking view of the cascading rice terraces at some minutes before 11:00am.

Rice terraces near and before reaching Batad Village.

The view of the huge amphitheater-shaped rice terraces immediately will - at no warning at all - astound any visitor to the place, it’s truly spectacular.  A small flight of stairs will lead to the first cluster of houses – a small restaurant, then beside it, a mini store that sells a small bottle of Gatorade for 60 pesos, and cold soda, some snacks too, and then the legendary grand Rita and her Rita’s Inn if you decide to stay overnight in Batad, the stairs right before Rita’s leads to the more “plush” Hillside Inn and a small stairs at the back of Rita’s is another accommodation, Simon’s Viewpoint Inn.  So after all, you can really stay in Batad for a night or two which I highly recommend just to be really in close proximity to nature’s wonder.
Batad Rice Terraces
Exciting, right? Let me hold that for a moment... now, proceed to the continuation, so up next - Batad Hike [Part 2].


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