After landing just the night before in Manila, Philippines, Mandeep and I made a brutal 12 hour transit to the small northern town of Banaue. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The sun is out and the sky is clear. We’re well rested (finally), and ready to strike out for a day of hiking adventure in the clean mountain air. Most visitors to Banaue head to the more remote village of Batad as well, where there is another series of rice terraces. This involves a ride up the mountain and a one hour hike, returning on a different route which takes 3 hours. We decided to do it the other way around. We get dropped off by our tuk tuk at the end of a seemingly random road, which supposedly is the start to our backwards journey. Our driver informs us that he will be waiting at the bottom of the hill for us tomorrow at 9am to pick us up. Cool. Sounds easy enough (in reality the hike back was much harder and longer than we and we anticipated were freaking out that our driver would leave without us).
We start our 3 hour hike in a small footpath. Its not a path so much as the space between terraces where farmers will walk to get from one level to another. This was incredible! Instead of just looking at the terraces from afar, we got to walk along them. The hike is leisurely and it took us through mountains, cliff side walkways, small villages and more than our share of incredible views. This was the most green I have seen in a while. And don’t let the elevation fool you, it was very, very hot even before midday.
Because the path is not marked at all, we were following instinct. We hike for the better part of 3 hours but there is no end in sight. With the sun shining directly on us, and our water supply running low, we reach a small bridge which leads to a fork. One continues on the right, while the other leads up a dirt path (path is a generous description) cutting up a steep series of terraces. We honestly have no idea where we’re going so we’re stuck. We arbitrarily decide to just go up the hill. At the top, we finally see a sign the says “Batad Village” with an arrow pointing left. We follow a few youngsters carrying trays of water bottles down another path. On either side of us is foliage but when we emerge from the other side, we are greeted by the valley that holds the village of Batad.
Batad is one of the oldest communities in the Philippines and its native peoples have understandably evaded the influence of colonialism most likely due to the harsh, remote terrain. We check into our guesthouse and have some lunch. Our room is very modest, literally 4 walls, a roof with 2 windows and basic bedding. No shelves, no table no nothing. Washrooms are basic indeed but at least they have toilets! No mirror however, so putting on my contacts was interesting. However, it boasts an amazing view of the whole village so we stay at the restaurant for most of the time here. The main inhabited part of the village sits quite high on the hillside. Terraces as far as the eye can see form a staircase from the first entry point (where we came in) down to the base of the mountain.
Mandeep says there is a waterfall about 45 minutes from here that’s supposed to be quite off the tourist trail, although this was already not too touristy. We saw few westerners here but a number of local tourists. The hike was through dirt roads that cut through the terraces, with the final 25 minutes or so going down a steep set of stone stairs. At this point you get an amazing view of the adjacent mountains, which are completely carpeted in dense forest, and the distant rumble of water around the corner. One the way down the stairs we walk past a family trying to make their way down and I can’t help but notice the poor granny having so much trouble with each step. I hope they plan to carry her back up because there is no way she’s going to be able to climb these steep steps haha.
The waterfall itself is amazing. Tappia waterfall sits in the middle of a horseshoe shaped indent into the mountain and the walls surrounding are covered in moss and shrubs. The whole area around is misty and we are lucky since we only have to share it with about 20 other people. Sweet! The water is indescribably refreshing after the hike. With the humidity and the heat, we are drenched in sweat. I could have wrung out my T shirt! To anyone making the trip, this extra bit is well worth the effort. Our struggles and strain to make it all the way here are worth every drop of sweat and missed hour of sleep. This was definitely a travel high moment.
The rest of the day is spent cleaning up and avoiding those pesky mountain mosquitoes. Sunsets are really early here so we just chilled by the restaurant relishing the view and knocking back a few San Miguels. The gratifying feeling of accomplishment was fresh in our minds and our very sore legs but there’s really noting a few beers and a quiet night cant fix no?
- The adventurous can do what we did and go about the Batad route backwards, but a word of warning, it is a grueling, steep hike back. This short hike is about 1 hour going downhill but it is brutally steep at some points (the final stretch of stone stairs fak!) when attempting it the other way around. I recommend starting early in the morning (we left around 730am) to give yourself plenty of time since the heat picks up well before 10am. At the end of the hill, you will be drenched in sweat but there is a small stand selling refreshments and snacks. Make sure to pack lots of water
- We made an overnight trip to Batad with Banaue sas our base. We left our big packs with our guesthouse in Banaue and took a day pack to Batad. No way you can do this with luggage.
- Make sure you’re in decently good shape for this. Your legs will hate you for doing this hike no doubt, but stretch in the evening if possible. Mandeep ended up hurting his ankle from overexertion
- This leg can be done without a guide so don’t sweat it. At the top of the hill on the return trip, you might be able to arrange a ride down he mountain
- Electricity is at a premium here. Charge all your devices and bring an extra battery or battery pack if possible because to charge our device, you need to pay, then leave it at the bar unattended.