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The villages and ricefields of Banaue and Batad

The villages and ricefields of Banaue and Batad

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Banaue

First post from the Philippines.
The village of Banaue is located in the north of the main island of Luzon, more than 350km north of Manila. About 1500m altitude and 10 to 12 hours bus are necessary to get there. Two companies provide transportation and it’s  better to travel night time.
Ohayami bus or Florida bus cost about 500 pesos (8 euro). Departure is at 10p.m.
Ohayami, taken to go, offers old narrow bus, with air conditioning “Winter in Alaska” style. Florida, taken back, has the most modern bus with much larger and comfortable seats, but oddly, they shake a lot more, so much so that nausea is guaranteed, never seen it, the air conditioning is also freezing and it is a must to have a polar jacket AND a blanket.
Arrival in Banaue in the morning is quiet, except for the guides, they never fail to  “jump on you”, when you only wish to sleep, but no panic, here they are, all good, and the tourist office is just behind them.
Hotels are overlooking the famous terraces abound, we can also arrange a trek with proficient staff.

Here is the view from one of these hotels.

 

banaue-landscape-batad-village

I am organizing a 4-day trek with a guide, a tantalizing journey going through the small village of Cambulo, isolated and with no electricity.
The only real obstacle, right now is ….  the rain ! Tomorrow is another day !!!
In the meantime, why not climb to the viewpoint, to see the famous terraces strata, the oldest and largest on earth, classified UNESCO heritage and regarded as the 8th wonder of the world ?

Their contruction dates back more than 2000 years, even 2500 years. It is the work of the Ifugao tribe, living exclusively here, isolated for a long time from other parts of the Philippines. These are stone walls up to 15 meters high, a total of more than 22 000 km of walls, half the earth’s circumference, colossal !!
The population is now adapted to tourism, and women do not fail to pose for a photo,in “traditional dress” at strategic locations, for a few pesos…

ifugao-women-tribe-banaue

The rain increases, back to the village, it’s the end of the afternoon. The kids get home from school, jeepneys, which are inspired by old Americain jeeps, they used to have some here, they are richly decorated, and the tricycles, kind of tuk tuk, simplified, are all about to insure transport, “rush hour” exists here too, in this small village, Asia oblige !!!!

The next day, the rain is even more intense, the landscape is embedded in a dense fog, i postpone the trek one day, i have time.
A clear patch … so i go walking along the road, and i found two kids splashing in a puddle, i shall stay with them for almost three quarters of an hour, the show reminds me of “Sunday, December 25 in Bangkok”.
The kids take risks, climbing on a concrete pole, from which the metal structure rips the surface, or dropping voluntarily in the puddle on the ground, brushing too close against the edge of the terrace which is suspended at a significant heigh, i decide to leave them, seeing their excitment going too far.

I continue my journey, one tells me the direction of a hamlet of 20 inhabitants, the muddy path climbs along a river, life here is timeless.

home-banaue-nature

A little break for lunch, and the rain keeps me company on the way back. I have to take  shelter near a shack in which 6 children shout HELLOOOOOOO for, at least 20mn.

enfants-philippines

Batad

The next day, still raining ….. i decide to leave Banaue and i take a jeepney to go to Batad, this is where the most spectacular ricefields dominate the plain, the highest in the region. The road is rotten, muddy and collapsed in places, some workers are struggling to repair it.

In the jeepney, i meet Jenefer, a Philippine girl from Davao, city in southern Mindanao, just my  next destination ! We decide to make the journey together, i need no guide. Once at the top, total fog !!!

A small coffee, two bananas, and we are off again to get down to Batad. I hire a carrier, my camera bag alone is quite heavy, 400 pesos for one hour, the time to get down the path bordered by a beautiful nature, no photo, still raining ….
In the village, Batad’s pension is run by a very friendly staff, 200 pesos (3 euros) to stay there, the view from the terrace embraces almost all the ricefields. A multitude of moths rests besides the lamps, diversity is amazing

The next day, hey … miracle :  the rain has stopped !!!!!!!! Hop, towards the top of the ricefields, the way out is superb, in the lush forest.

Jenefer is less prone to vertigo than me, she is lucky, i did not flame, we had to walk in places, on walls 20cm thick, with empty plain side.
Having no guide, the field is labyrinthine, we got stuck at times up to a place where we stayed glued at least 20 minutes. Jenefer got the solution, perilous, but it worked, i thought of staying there for a week waiting for a saving hand Ifugao. From the top of this enormous amphitheater, the views are breathtaking.

To get down, we must find the stairs, that’s where we wandered around  a good time, once the passage discovered, we have to go down the steps, sometimes narrow ant steep, not to mention often slippery because of the rain, it can be a bit tricky.
Arrived in the plain, a trail and many other steps lead to the cascade Tappiyah.

The way back has yet stairs, we might have gone up and down 3000 steps during the day. We walk accross the village in the ricefield, which is less photogenic to man up. And back again to the Batad’s Pension, high-pitched, phew !!!!!!!!!!!
In the evening, it’s Gin that is flowing, offered by the team of the guesthouse, and also absinthe brought by a Swiss man and his Brazilian wife, playing guitar and singing for several hours.
The word “Tagay” pronounced many times in this short video means “Cheers”.

 

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The villages and ricefields of Banaue and Batad

par Stéphane Bidouze time to read: 7 min
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