The Slovenian couple we met in Banaue had originally planned to go directly to Batad, a neighboring Ifugao village with an amphitheater of terraces. However, once they discovered that the public jeepney to Batad left late in the afternoon and a chartered jeepney costs 2,500 pesos (or about $60), they decided to hike the Banaue Rice Terraces with us (so as to not waste the day).
After discussing the options for Sunday over beers that night, we agreed to charter the jeepney as a group the next day to halve the cost. From there Lolita would take us on a tour around Batad (for an additional 1,000 pesos). The Slovenian couple would stay the night in Batad, while we’d take the jeepney back to Banaue to catch the overnight bus to Manila. Overhearing our chatter, a solo traveler from Holland asked if she might join our merry jeepney band. But of course. So now we were five.
The next morning we piled into our very own jeepney for the trip to Batad. Getting there was an adventure in and of itself. The first hour was a curvy mountain road, most of it unpaved, interspersed with occasional sections of concrete. There was evidence of frequent landslides along the way as well as poignant scenes of rural life and surreal views of rice terraces.
After an hour on the mountain road, we reached the turnoff to Batad. It was more of a turn up. The terrain was so treacherous, it could only be traversed by jeepneys, the motorcycle-powered “trikes” had to stay behind. Here none of the track was improved with concrete—much of it was deep mud at a steep incline. I was continually amazed that the jeepney was able to make it at all. Once or twice I thought we were surely going to be stuck in the knee-deep mud, but the driver always managed to coax it onward. Update: Stephanie posted a cool video of our jeepney ride through the mud.
At long last we made it to the Batad trailhead. Or should I say, stairhead. Once again, we confronted an endless series of narrow concrete steps—“a shortcut” is what Lolita called it. Our legs were still aching from the stairs the day before. This would ensure that I’d be in pain for days to come. Eventually the steps gave way to a very rough road, which narrowed to a concrete path. After about an hour we reached the outskirts of Batad with tremendous views of its amphitheater of terraces.
Here we bid the Slovenian couple adieu as they went off in search of lodging for the night. It was only 10am at that point, but we went ahead and ordered lunch to be ready when we got back from our hike around Batad. Lolita was keen to take us to a waterfall just beyond the amphitheater, but that seemed needlessly masochistic, so instead we asked for a loop around the terraces and through the center of town.
We wound our way down to the bottom of the amphitheater bowl, through the original village, all the way to the opposite side and then back up and around the terraces. We were fully immersed. We made it back by noon, just in time for lunch. Garlicky chicken adobo all around. After a nice long break, we trudged back up and out of the village to our awaiting jeepney, took the entire harrowing ride in reverse, and had just enough time to change our clothes and get a quick snack before it was time to catch our bus back to Manila.
It departed at 6pm, which meant we arrived in Manila at 4 in the morning! We took a cab back to the same hotel, once again arriving too early for any rooms to be available. We parked in the lobby, exhausted out of our minds. We watched the comings and goings of an upscale business hotel in the early hours of the morning (lots of “pretty women”) until a room finally became available, and we were free to collapse.