Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Sagada, Ban Yo, and Banaue

I decided on Saturday evening that I was going to hike out to the lookout at Kiltepan, which is a couple miles outside of Sagada. I did it without directions and ended up hiking through this alpine wasteland, where it rapidly got foggy and felt like I'd wandered into one of the grainy sequels to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, except not so much in Texas as in Appalachia. The funniest part was when I got near the top of the mountain, turned a corner, and found myself standing about twenty feet in front of a bull. I noticed that the bull wasn't tied or chained to anything, and was like, "just walk past it, and pretend it's a cow with horns." Reflecting on it, I realized that nature dishes out stuff like horns for a reason, and that would be like an insect being like, "ignore the predator's terrifying eyes, and pretend it's just a monarch butterfly." Then it grunted, and I did the awkward backwards retreat and decided to hike back to Sagada.

And then it poured rain. It sucked, but I had to change anyway, because there's this French ex-pat who does a buffet every Saturday in this cabin in Sagada using ingredients from the market that morning, and I wanted to show up not covered in mud, blood, and rain. It was hella good - the vegetable soup was the best I've ever had (and I take soup very, very seriously), and there was granary bread with spicy mole, beans with shavings of ham, pasta carbonara, chicken and sesame seeds in eggplant caviar and yogurt, and roast pork loin, then coffee-laced pastries and coffee. It easily made up for all my previous face-offs with nature.
The next morning, I hopped a jeepney for Bontoc, which I shared with about a dozen women and a bunch of bushels of peppers and cabbage wedged between our legs. When we got to Bontoc, I had to climb out a window. And then I caught a hollowed-out bus for Banaue from there, and as soon as we passed the viewpoint for the rice terraces, this helpful nun motioned for me to follow her off the bus. I took some pictures of the rice terraces before heading down to Banaue, and then we had a really pleasant walk together down to the village.

The only problem was that it wasn't Banaue, it was the viewpoint outside of Ban Yo, which is about a day away by foot. When I looked at her incredulously and was like, "no, I'm not going to Ban Yo, I'm going to BANAUE," she was like, "oh, you'll have a hard time catching another bus, because it's Sunday. Come to my church!" so I hiked all the way back up to the viewpoint and sat watching the mountainside for another bus, trimming my nails with a cuticle scissors to keep from hyperventilating. One finally rumbled along and I scrambled to put away my bathroom bag and get myself together, then flagged it down and hopped aboard.

It was a luxury bus, and it was empty except for the driver and navigator. They kept stopping and dropping off packages and picking stuff up. It may have been a drug run, but they let me ride along for two hours for only 100 pesos so I'm not complaining.
I have about 50 variations on this picture, taken from various altitudes along the hike from the viewpoint down to Banaue. It was 5km and I didn't have an iPod, so it was either that or run from the roosters that kept jumping out of the underbrush.
Okay, so this is a wedding in Bocos that I got dragged into as I was looking for a woodworking shop in Bocos Village. There was dancing and a helluva lot of food, and it was awesome.
And then I went to buy Christmas presents for David, Mike, Kelly, and my mom, and the woman I bought them from was like, "it's a shame you're leaving tonight, you should really explore the rice terraces" and her son, Claudius, offered to take me. The kid just turned 13, but he was like the best guide ever - he pointed out all the different types of rice and how you could tell when they were ready to harvest, and we spent almost two hours walking along the dirt walls of the rice terraces, climbing up to a bunch of Ifugao huts, and trekking up to the waterfall you can see from Banaue. It was maybe the highlight of my trip, even though the last twenty minutes was spent sprinting through the rice terraces trying to beat the downpour. I thought about writing a strongly worded letter to the manufacturers of Sketchers to complain about their traction in muddy rice terraces, but that might have to wait until I get back to the UK.

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