Getting from Buscalan to Batad is a three jeepney effort with Francis, our Buscalan guide, getting us to Turning Point in time for the 8.30am public jeepney. The walk out is mercifully less traumatic than the walk in and was completed with minimum crying. We immediately scrambled to the roof of the jeepney to top-load because tourists gonna be tourists which is great for some stunning views but fuck me, it’ll numb your arse something chronic and not much shifting can be done when you’re crammed shoulder to shoulder on the roof of a moving vehicle veering terrifyingly close to sheer cliff edges on a winding mountain road. You do question your life choices in between the obligatory oohing and aahing at the scenery. Top tip, if you do want to top-load then sit on the left and face outwards for maximum drooling. Or pant shitting. Whatever.
Once we were delivered back to Bontoc minus a couple of shattered nerves and the ₱100 fare each, and my poor, numb arse had regained some feeling we fetched our bags from Tourist Information and located a mini van to Banaue. We were actually approached by a guy as we walked along the main road, I think they’re roughly hourly but they’ll only leave when full anyway. They take about 2.5 hours and cost ₱150 each. No top-loading option on a mini van unless you fancied spending the trip clinging onto a roof for dear life.
We were dropped at tourist information where we registered but weren’t asked to pay an environmental fee, possibly because we weren’t staying overnight? No idea. I really need to learn how to pronounce it too. Ban-ah-weh. It doesn’t matter how much I chant this like I’ve got mountain town tourettes or some shit, when it actually comes to it I blurt out Ban-ooh-ay. It’s not even spelt like that. I don’t know why my brain insists on it. Probably because it hates me and wants to see me fail.
Anyway, we wanted to dump our big packs again on account of the fact getting to Batad involves another little walk. The lady at Tourist Information told us there wasn’t really anywhere to leave our bags but it was okay because these days the road was paved a little bit further so it was only a 20 minute walk in as opposed to the one hour hike of years gone by. And anyway, she assured us it’s mostly flat then downhill into the village. Cool. Nice one. We headed down to the public market to catch the public jeepney that’ll leave anywhere between 2pm and 3pm depending on how many humans, ducks, chickens and inanimate cargo it can cram in in that time scale.
The jeepney has “Batad Saddle” written on a sign in the window but it’ll take you to the end of the paved road, way beyond the Saddle these days, and it costs ₱150 each. Beware of tricycle drivers trying to overcharge you and take payment, refuse to pay anyone but the actual conductor of the jeepney. If you miss the jeepney you can easily charter a tricycle to take you to the Saddle but I’ve no idea how much that’ll cost and it’ll probably depend a lot on your own haggling skills.
I think it’s meant to take an hour, I’m not sure because the bastard thing broke down and we waited around that long for them to fix it. But fix it they did and once we reached the end of the paved road we loaded our worldly possessions onto our backs and located the start of this allegedly flat walk. It’s not. It’s not fucking flat. By no stretch of any bastard imagination could it be considered any manner of flat. It’s downhill all the bloody way, a gradual downhill for the most part but downhill nonetheless which, of course, meant that the return journey would be a very definite slog back up again. We hoped that porters were a thing in Batad.
Once you’re in Batad there are plenty of places to stay and we got a room at our first choice as recommended by Amy who we went to Buscalan with, Rita’s Mount View Inn & Restaurant, run by the fabulous Germaine. If you’ve still got any breath left by the time you slump at a table clutching a nice, cold San Miguel it’ll be taken away by the view. Shit. A beautiful, uninterrupted view of the rice terraces that make Batad famous. The very reason we came here, just laid out in front of us. We didn’t move for the rest of the evening, citing a long travel day as our excuse to just sit there chucking beer and food into our chops until we crawled into bed.
Aside from UNESCO rice terraces for days there’s a waterfall to be gawped at in Batad provided you can find your way through the rice fields without getting lost or falling off the narrow walkways. Germaine said we didn’t need a guide and pointed out where we needed to get to over yonder. Okay, no problem, if we can see it we can get there, right? We made our way down through the village and when I say down I mean it. It’s a steep path to the bottom. Stupid steep. Terrifyingly steep. The kind of steep which has you searching through your travel insurance small print for clauses on knee replacements. Once we were at the rice we thought it’d be easy but it wasn’t and we managed to get lost. How the fuck can you get lost in a bloody rice field? That’s a skill right there, kids. Not one you could market but a skill nonetheless. We got back onto the right track and found ourselves at the bottom of a set of steep stone steps.
Really steep. Batad, it turns out, consists entirely of steep. They’re kind of steps you have to claw your way up, some of them were knee high, until you finally collapse at the top in front of a conveniently located stall selling drinks and snacks. You ain’t there yet, sunshine. You’ve still got a ten to twenty minute (terror level dependant) scramble down a hill to the waterfall itself. Some parts are concrete, some parts are having a concrete makeover, most parts are loose and terrifying and you have to try not to dwell too much on the return journey.
But guys, it’s worth it. Once you’re there you can have a paddle or a swim. Some people say it’s dangerous but it seemed okay to me and I shuffled straight in to cool off. You can just hang around the edge of the plunge pool or you can do that awkward arm falling walk over the rocks lining the bottom of the pool as you try not to stack it in front of fifty tourists, both domestic and foreign. Not that anyone would care but I’d be looking around for the nearest hole in the ground to swallow me up because I’m British and “mortaly embarrassed” is my default setting.
It’s chilly too, we’re talking involuntory monkey noises as you ease yourself in and I can’t be sure I didn’t blind anyone with a nipple. Guys, I could have spent days here and not least because having your pubic hair plucked with rusty tweezers would be more pleasant than the slog back up that bastard hill. Hills. Plural. The hill up to the kiosk then the hill back up to Rita’s from Batad proper. It took us about one and a half hours to get there and about two hours to get back, not including a pit stop to shovel a cup noodle into our faceholes in between gasping for breath. Possibly because we had to stop a lot on the way back and complain about how much everything hurt.
This is pretty much the only thing you’ll do in a day unless you’re super fit or are fitted with bionic limbs. The thing about staying at the top of the village with the best damn views is the fact that if you want to go anywhere it will involve hauling yourself up and down hills which can legally be defined as vertical. Your calf muscles will probably try to have you killed. By the time we finally got back to Rita’s we had exactly zero desire to move ever again. Ever. Fuck it. We live here now. We’ll have to get jobs.
Batad, Ifugao Province, Luzon, Philippines
Stayed at: Rita’s Mount View Inn