8th Wonder of the World

Trip Start Aug 20, 2004
Trip End Aug 28, 2005

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Sunday, February 13, 2005

The bus from Manila was an overnight ride combining a bump-filled winding road and thwe worlds greatest AC, as we all practically froze throughout the 9 hour journey. I sat next to a Balgian girl named Karolyn and we talked and suffered and bumped sleepy heads with one another all night long. Arriving early in Banaue, 6:45 am, we went to a guesthouse and were luckily informed that there was no room right now b/c of the time but that after 10 it wouldnt be a problem. We sit and have some breakfast and talked with a few people and decided to not stay in Banaue, but to hike up into the hills to the village of Batad, which has the really impressive rice terraces and is nestled far away in the mountains. We end up going with a guide, Gene, and two British med students, Jenny and Hannah, who were just finishing up some kind of work program in a Philippine hospital in the south. We then hired a jeepney to take us to the hiking junction, where we began our hike, tightroping down the winding stone rice terrace paths like some mice in a maze seeking out the cheese, except that our cheese was a trailhead, but Gene eventually led us there and we found ourselves on a mountainside path with spectacular views of mountain valleys and peaks and small rice terraces. After a while, I get bored and take over the lead and hike out in front of everyone and am alone and cutting the path and rounding the corners at a quick pace. We came to a nice resting place, an open air hut sitting of a hillside ledge with thick waist-high grass swaying with the slight and cool breeze. The breeze feels so good b/c I've built up a nice sweat, so sitting down and cooling off with an excellent view was great. We take a break and have a small lunch, finding out that my ham and cheese sandwich is really spam and cheese - man I havent had that in like 15 years - and then walk again and after a while we come around a corner and are greeted with our first view of the towering terraces, which are about 2000 years old. The walls reach to over 8 feet high and are made of either stone or clay and provide a striking contrast with the green colors of the rice and the irrigated and relecting pools of water. The layout and desigh is really amazing and considering that its 2000 years old, it seems almost impossible. Everything makes sense and is laid out in a precise fashion with practically invisible stairs built into the terraces...you really have to go there to understand it.

Anyway, the terraces are great, but honestly, I expected a bit more. Oh well, we wind up the trail and have a good overview of the area and then walk into the village...on the otherside of the hill, its breathtaking and all my expectations are met as the valley and mountainside are filled with huge rice terraces forming a gigantic maze of contours - seemingly thousands of white lines swirling around and dividing the green rice fields into sections. We quickly check in and then head off to a 40 meter waterfall with an unexpected guest and new guide. As we're traveling down the path, a dog comes out all barking and everything, but he's very friendly actually and his favorite thing to do is guide visitors from the village to the waterfall! Anyone who knows me and how much I like dogs knows that I am one happy camper with our new friend, so Abu took us down the stairs and through the maze of the rice fields and guided us to the falls, only occasionally faltering when some scraps of food were found or another dog decided to get in our way. I had a great time following Abu around and it was like Ginger and I were back in Colorado tearing up the mountains and horsing around with one another! Anyway, the waterfall was beautiful and rather large, but the water was soooo cold...Karolyn and Hannah got in and it was painful just to watch them, really. Deciding to leave and after torturing our calves and thighs hiking up the steep hills, we chilled at the guesthouse and met an American teaching couple and Stefen from Switzerland and all hung out and chatted and ate and had a few laughs - a very nice day.
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