World Heritage Ifugao Rice Terraces

28 May
This is as green as green gets

This is as green as green gets

It was not easy getting there, but 2 nightbuses, one daybus, a rough motorbike ride and 2 hours walk later I was walking in one of the miracles of this earth – a mountain full of rice terraces carved in its flank. No wonder Unesco declared this World Heritage. There’s so many colours of green, and the Tippaya waterfall nearby to go for a swim – even though in the freshness of the mountains, you don’t need any cooling down (I even used my cardigan for the 1st time since in 5 months).

The way back to (modern) civilization from this olden time idyll up in the mountains, was just as crazy as getting there: a 2 hours hike to the nearest junction and then a rodeo ride on a landslide ridden (excuse for a) road on top of an overcrowded jeepney, dodging sweeping branches and electricity cables.

Oh no, not a night bus AGAIN

Oh no, not a night bus AGAIN

I can’t say it was ‘a nightmare’ getting there, because I hardly slept in the buses on the way there. I had already taken a night bus from Manila to Vigan (to visit this historical town – more here). But as there was no direct connection from Vigan to Banaue (where the famous rice terraces are) I first had to take an 8 hour bus to Baguio, and then to take another nightbus (9 hours) to get to Banaue the next morning. That’s 2 night buses and 24 hours on a bus to see this site.

But Banaue, even though in the middle of rice terrace area, does not have the most spectacular views. That would take another 16km over a questionable rocky road. I negotiated with one of the local guys to bring me up to the ‘Batad saddle’ (the top of the hill behind which the Batad rice fields are located) on the back of his motorbike. We only skidded twice, which is surprisingly little seen the condition of the road (track). And from the saddle there’s 1 hour hike going down to the actual village. And then I checked in a guesthouse, and it wasn’t even 8am yet !! So far for having a normal biorhythm.

But first a nap in my room with a view

But first a nap in my room with a view

So I hope I can be forgiven for taking a nap first for a few hours in my wooden box room (but with a gorgeous view of the terraces), instead of indulging in the lush green rice terraces. By noon I had recharged some energy (in the guesthouse where there was only one plug to recharge electrical appliances) and set out for a walk over the rice terraces.

And of course should have a dip

And of course should have a dip

About every person you meet from the age 6 and up would offer their tour guide services, but I just wandered about on my own. And I even found my way to the Tappiya waterfall – basically just following the trail of (few) tourists that had been talked into taking a guide with them. Anyway, there aren’t much trails in the rice fields besides those leading somewhere – and with a little bit of orientation you could easily find your way to this enormous waterfall.

I crossed an Israeli on my way there, so we socialized a bit. I’m not sure it was because of social pressure, because of the picture opportunity or because the urge to swim – but we convinced each other to take a dip into the cold water. Picture attached ;-)

Going to the waterfall was one thing, but coming back another, especially because it started raining pigs and dogs (haven’t seen any cats here…). The rocks and paths became quite slippery and I slid off the path into a paddyfield once, resulting in a generous mud bath for my foot. I decided to shelter for a while but couldn’t stay under someone’s tin roof forever, so continued swimming my way up the mountain to my guesthouse – to get a nice cold bucket shower and a quiet evening of writing (with a view), connected to the only plug in the house.

What goes up must come down…

It could have been me going down

It could have been me going down

I would have loved to stay another few days in this green oasis and fresh mountain air (no cars, no motors, no electricity in much of the village – like Muang Ngoi in Laos) but if I want to see more of the country, I had to move on. Easier said than done. Going back to Banaue involved again another decent hike – first back up to the saddle, and then down to the junction, because no car could reach the saddle (and even motorbikes are only for the adventurous).

View from the top of a jeepney

View from the top of a jeepney

At the ‘junction’ (which I never saw, or I didn’t realize it was one, because there was only one road) there would be one or maybe 2 jeepneys (Philippino style all terrain hybrids between bus and truck) passing by (from where?? The road was impracticable further on because of landslides as a result of the heavy rain) between 9 and 10 am. There are many conditionals in the information I got, so I started off my walk over the saddle at 6h30am (so forget about sleep… again).

And then indeed a jeepney arrived, with 20 people inside, and another 20 on the roof. Seems that the women and elderly went inside the jeepney and everyone under 18 or with a penis between the legs went on the roof (they like to segregate here – see also Metro). So I crawled on the roof (and on some kids and old men in the process) and came to the conclusion that wearing a G-string is not proper attire to be curved forward in baggy shorts… Well, it gave the locals some entertainment…

And off we went down the land-slide ridden road (rainy season), dodging the sweeping overhanging bamboos and other branches, ducking under the electricity cables and improvised water hoses that are spanned across the road. At some stages, the jeepney was waggling through puddles along walls of rock, with our dangling feet and legs getting dangerously close to amputation. But we survived – my ass maybe less so

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One Response to “World Heritage Ifugao Rice Terraces”

  1. Ifugaonetboi 10 June 2009 at 11:09 #

    I loved your comments on our place. Funny and realistic. Haha. Tnx for posting dis and i would ask you to return. A feature of the terraces is its being dynamic what you see now may be different from what you may see next time. Since you were able to see countless shades of green on this visit, let me ask you if you know how many shades of gold and yellow are there.

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