This morning we had to wake up very early for the next part of our great rice terraced based adventure. Our legs were somewhat weary and we were, to be quite frank, knackered but more beautiful scenery was up for grabs, so we put our woes away and shuffled off down the stairs from our bedroom. We had a nice bit of brekky and the little girl Cindy was still up for playing hide and seek and, as yesterday she was still very good too … lol. It never ceases to amaze both me and Liz how happy the children are that we had met along the way in Asia, even without them having two h’pennies to rub together, they seem to find joy in the smallest of things and have the biggest smiles to go with it.
We grabbed our sticks from by the door and clung on to them for grim death as we forged our way forward on the track our little guide ahead of us grinning with his red stained teeth. He had spent last night celebrating the rice harvest with the men – so God only knows what his head felt like but his legs appeared to be fine and he simply kept moving. The route was to take us from here, Batad to another small village called Banaan over yet more rice terraces and through high jungle paths and we had to keep up with his relentless pace so that we could get to our ride on time which would be waiting on the main road at Banaan.
The way was quite difficult but there were parts of the track on which the scenery was frankly breathtaking. We seemed at some points to be miles above the valley, higher than the low level clouds even and much of the hillsides below were covered in rice terraces. Our guide by this time seemed to be getting used to our way of walking and had accordingly slowed down to our pace. He was quite a card and during a stop for a drink at a hut in the hills which doubled as a shop he explained a bit more about the cockfighting and how the betting worked and how he liked to have a flutter.
The way was very hard in places but we were getting used to our own aches and pains and our sticks were doing their utmost to give us a bit of support. Most people appeared to be overtaking us but this was going to make no difference to our pace … we’re slow and we know we are (repeat ad finitum)! It took us quite a while of going uphill into the jungly looking areas then through bamboo cultivations and finally a small village-let which had a few betel nut trees growing in it before we finally came back to yet more rice terraces and very finally the main road and our lift back into Banaue. The guide did say that there was the possibility of us being able to see a cock fight today if we were lucky he would come back to the hotel and we could go.
The drive back to town was nice enough, if a little cramped in the trike and the guide broke the trip up with a couple of photo opportunities so all was not so bad. Back to Dodge we arrived and here we had no idea what to do so after a quick scan of the Lonely Planet book we decided to go and try and find the Banaue museum – home to all sorts of weird stuff. Along the way there was yet another basketball game going on in the main open sports hall in the centre of town. It must have been a big one as the seats were all full but it looked to be nearly over so we just carried on with our museum hunting.
We finally found the museum and it would have been good to take photos there, if I had been allowed, as some of the black and white photos were priceless, this was hardcore headhuntery stuff. Many of the faces on show being not too dissimilar from our guide and the staff at the hotel – gulp! You do not want any of them having an ancestral flashback and decide to wonder what the old folks saw in eating man flesh!!
After this, back to the hotel where we readied ourselves and our packs for the journey back to Manila. This journey was even worse than the one coming and even less memorable but it had been worth it for the village of Batad and the one horse town of Banaue – how will the area and the rice terraces themselves survive if all the youngsters leave for jobs in the cities I wondered – have we seen a technology in serious decline?
We got to Manila very late at night or very early in the morning depending upon your viewpoint and the usual flurry of taxi drivers was at the bus stop all shouting for you to become their fare. We teamed up with another English couple and the taxi driver started by taking us in the wrong direction then righted his mistake, then came to the Manila early morning marathon something or other, when he actually ran out of petrol. At this point, we just lost it and all simply vacated his car and I gave him half the amount agreed with him and he would have to whistle for the rest. After we negotiated our way past the race we then flagged down another taxi and finally arrived at our hotel, the couple we travelled with decided they would see if it had any rooms they could have rather than finding somewhere else. It had been a hard night but we made it and the hotel did not look too shabby, so a bit of a result at least.