Monday, February 2, 2015

To Banaue and Its Rice Terraces--Feb. 3, 2015

After watching the Seahawks throw away their SuperBowl win, even this guy says when you are near your goal you should rush your opponent and not pass. What were they thinking???

I left the Angeles City bar filled with 16 large screen TVs, hordes of depressed Seahawks fans wearing their Seahawks jerseys to catch a moto-trike to the Dau Bus Station where I was hoping to catch the next bus to Baguio. As my luck would have it -----and not the Seahawks----I immediately boarded a Victory Liner bus with movies and WiFi to Baguio. Most of the journey was fairly fast and level until we began to climb the Cordillera Mountains.

Once we were in the mountains, the road was very twisty with steep drop offs at each corner. It was amazing how our bus could pass the ever present moto-trikes around these blind corners.

I ended up taking the KMS night bus leaving at 7:30 pm. Since it was only about 4 pm, I had enough time to check out the festival area with all of the food and vendor stalls and the downtown park. After dinner, I went back to the bus station, but they had no waiting area and a sign that said that "No drunks allowed on the buses". I quickly found out because next to the bus station was a country western bar. For two hours, I was entertained while sipping a San Miguel.

The KMS bus was quite a let down after the Victory Liner. Many of the windows were sharded or patched with duct tape. They over sold the trip so a number of passengers had to spend the night sitting on small plastic chairs in the aisle ways.

Again the drive was a twisty one with several stomping of the brakes and honking of the horn on this night ride through mostly wooded areas. I wore my bandana over my head and I think I must have slept a bit and was glad to final arrive at about 5am in Banaue. Fortunately one of the restaurants was open so I had a couple cups of coffee before the Sanafe Hotel opened up. I booked two nights there and had a good breakfast of an omlet and coffee and was able to get in my room right away.
After buying my return ticket on the Ohayami night bus for the 5th of Feb., I continued walking up to the viewpoint where I was planning hike down through the rice terraces to Banaue.

I was almost near the Viewpoint when an Australian fellow invited me into his place overhanging the rice terraces invited me in for coffee. His name was John, from Australia, and his partner was Maylee. They lived in Manila most of the time but got this cabin that they were fixing up as a getaway from the heat of the summers. They also traveled occasionally back to Australia. The view from here was spectacular. They were very gracious hosts and told me about one of the Ifugao natives who posed for pictures at one of the viewpoints had his picture in the Manila newspaper.

I continued up to the Viewpoint where there were a cluster of "my best friends"---Ifugao native women---who would pose for a donation of 20 to 50 pesos. They were a happy lot despite their bent over condition from toiling in the rice fields all their lives and their mouths were a mess from chewing moma--betel leaves--that gave their mouths a reddish appearance and apparently rotted out their teeth. People seem to chew this mild narcotic all over the place. In town they have fines for spitting the reddish juice on the pavement. It is pretty disgusting.

With great confidence I headed down what Lonely Planet showed as a single trail only to end up dead ended several times in peoples home compounds filled with growling dogs, or snorting pigs. It was also very slippery from the recent rains. The final straw was when a little kid started throwing rocks at me. I had to admit that I was truly lost. I backtracked back to the Viewpoint and returned to Banaue.

That night, I went to the Vegas Restaurant where I had something called a hildago--slivers of beef, onions and other vegetables with rice. While eating, the owner sang several Elvis songs and as it turned out he was well known in town as their Elvis impersonator.

When I left the restaurant it was raining hard. I just hoped that it would rain during the night and clear for the following day since I was planning to visit the Batad Rice Terraces---a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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