412 steps and counting

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First, let it be noted that row 2 seat 8 is not a good seat. Sure, it reclines, and it’s next to the window, and it’s far enough forward to see out the front a bit, but it has one major problem. It’s over the wheel well. As in, the seat is mounted on the wheel well, and what should be legroom and a place to put your feet under the seat in front is also…wheel well. Knees even with shoulders kind of stuff. Before the bus left, I went back to the ticket office to see if I could change my seat and was told no, and that people would be “sitting in the middle” as well. As in, they brought in some plastic chairs and placed them in the aisle to fit in a few more people. All that, plus the a/c and music blasting throughout plus the jerky bus movements through switchbacks should have done me in, but I was somehow able to sleep a decent amount. Didn’t even use my earplugs!

Got to Banaue more or less on time (maybe an hour late? We were stopped at a complete standstill due to “traffic” at one point for many minutes).

After we arrived, I overheard some people talking about going to Batad and I talked my way in to sharing a jeepney up there — cheaper for everyone to split it 6 ways instead of 4 (Norwegian girls) or 5 (+ a guy from Seattle living in Japan). None of them wanted to come back via the jeepney, but the guide said it was the same cost for round trip as one way, so it worked out. 1.5 hours jeepney ride (up a pretty legit jeep road) to the “saddle” and I think we were all ready to stop sitting for awhile. We hiked about an hour down, down, down to the town of Batad and the girls picked a guesthouse to stay in. Their 200 peso/night each rooms made my 1600 peso a night place seem extravagant. That said, I got a private bath w/ hot shower and view, and still came out paying just $40 US. I had lunch at the guesthouse in Batad with the girls. The guy had expressed interest in maybe hiking back to Banaue (a 7 hour hike per the book) and was last seen talking to a guide.

After lunch, we hiked farther downhill and toward a waterfall. I was concerned with getting back up the mountain by 3 (when I was supposed to meet the driver) so I only went as far as the rice terraces themselves. It was pretty neat being in a town of 1000 people not on the road system, set in spectacular mountains with lush vegetation.

While hiking back up the mountain on my own, I stopped to chat with a lady selling souvenirs along the trail. It was only as I was leaving that she even suggested I might buy something — the rest of the time she was just friendly and wanted to talk a bit and seemed happy to let me sit on her bench. When I said I didn’t want to carry anything more up the hill, she didn’t push. In retrospect, that’s exactly where I should have bought something.

As I neared the “saddle” I opted to take the “shortcut” of 412 steep steps instead of the “longcut” we’d taken on the way down. At the top, out of breath and drenched in a lovely mix of sweat, sunscreen, and insect repellent, I was happy to see that the driver had waited for me. He let me rest for a few minutes before we headed back into Banaue.

Since it was just me, I asked if I could sit in front with him and he was fine with that. Much softer seat than the bench in the back! I also got to chat with him a little. Yes, they do sometimes get stuck. And apparently every day, the schoolboys at one part of the road hop onto the back and then climb up to the top of the jeepney to get a free lift home. Seems horribly unsafe (especially when other little boys flung pebbles at the boys on the roof as we drive by), but apparently many of the kids have to walk 1-1.5 hours to school in the mornings, so I can’t say that I blame them!

After I got back to the hotel, I enjoyed a hot shower (nifty hot water heater knob thing — had to decrease the amount of cold water going in to get really hot water, tho). Dinner at the hotel on the veranda followed by an early night to bed.

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