The Road to El Hemp-O: The Banaue to Sagada Leg
From the Tourist Police Station in Banaue, I waited for the bus going to Bontoc. I had to sit there for almost two hours till a van arrived going to the same destination. The trip took 2 hours on the roughest road you can imagine. One thing is for sure, I won’t be able to explore Bontoc. It was a good thing we had a stop over to take some pictures of Bontoc’s version of rice terraces. Instead of mud used in Banaue, this part of the province used stones.
Bontoc Rice Terraces
The trip from Bontoc to Banaue took one hour. The fare was at 200php. Upon arriving at Bontoc, we took another 45-minute jeepney ride to Sagada which costs 45php.
It was raining and I still had to register at the municipal hall for 20php. The backpacking couple I was with went on with their way and Vitaly, another backpacker I met going to Sagada, and I went off to hunt for my hostel, Residential Lodge.
Hostels in Sagada are very affordable. I got mine for 200php per night, one room with a bunk bed, shared-bath. Vitaly’s hostel cost 350php, single room with own bath.
After check in, I just had to have my late lunch. I have been craving butter chicken for the longest time and according to my research, Alfredo’s Cafe serves them. It was good but it wasn’t all I was hoping for. They cook it with ketchup and of course, lots of loathsome butter. Still, it was better than any fried chicken I would normally have in Manila.
According to my trusty map, Sagada is a cute little place you can walk around in… My schedule for the day is to go to some village but I decided to change it since Echo Valley seemed closer to where I was standing, which was outside Alfredo’s, so I decided to get myself lost.
And lost I was… I found myself standing on a vast expanse of greenness with a water buffalo eating away for like 20 minutes, had the wrong choice of footwear so my slippers got sucked by mud and so I had to walk barefoot, and totally freaked out by the possibility of death by snakes. I went back and spent the entire afternoon sitting in front of the church trying hard to get artistic shots with my blasted point-and-shoot camera.
St. Mary’s Church, Sagada
Because Sagada enjoys an 8:30 pm to 4 am curfew, I had to quickly drag myself back to the hostel to freshen up and go out again to have dinner and drink beer, alone… On my way home, I saw Vitaly who was just about to have his dinner. I got myself dragged to a quaint bar and had more beer. This time, I had someone to talk to.
Caution: Since the title suggested it, Sagada is reputed to produce marijuana… lot’s of them. According to Vitaly, locals don’t really approach Filipinos. But if you are a foreigner, they’d swarm you after being outside for five minutes. Our guide said that this is not true. He says bulk of the janes are grown in Kalinga Apayao. I met a nice lady who grows them and she says they are for her own consumption and not for sale. I guess it’s for the travelers to find out.
The next day was fortunate since I was able to finally get to Echo Valley. But before that, Vitaly and I enjoyed a hearty breakfast at Yogurt House. After 15 minutes of hiking, we got to the view point. We took pictures and spied on the hanging coffins. It was said by our tour guide that they have been doing this tradition for more than 2,000 years. They arrange the bodies in fetal position to fit the small coffin so that they are brought back to mother earth the way they came here. The cave is the earth’s womb and should should face east where the sun rises.
According to Lonely Planet, Log Cabin is one of the best restaurants in Sagada. You have to go there early in the morning to reserve your seat for the buffet. The meal costs 350php.
By nighttime, we were ready for the buffet. We purposefully did not eat anything after sharing one order of buttered chicken for lunch. The French chef who owns the cabin totally reinvented Filipino food… The meal was very gooood! Every peso was worth it.
Vitaly and I enjoying Log Cabin’s famed dinner buffet
According to Wikepedia, caving — also known as spelunking, when referring to amateurs without the proper knowledge, or training — is the recreational sport of exploring caves.
The next morning, Vitaly and I wasted no time. We got ourselves a tour guide whom we paid 500php to take us to Sumaging Cave, also known as the Big Cave.
The descent wasn’t as scary as what others say, although I was told that I’d be reeking of bat piss and shit. But then again, what do we expect of caves right? As we went farther and deeper into the cave, we saw the magnificent display of stalactites and stalagmites.
Getting out was harder. Again, my choice of footwear was not good and I kept on slipping on the sides of everything I step on to. I enjoyed the short ride halfway back to the town though. I rode on top of the jeep, which was pretty daredevilish of me…
Next, we headed out to Bokong Falls. It was a 30-minute trek across rice fields. I wasn’t supposed to take a dip but I’m such a gullible person and was talked into it after 2 minutes of convincing.
At Bokong Falls with the local kids
Back at the town, I thought I tire easily of things but I found out that buttered chicken is good the 4th… er, 5th time around. We had late lunch at Bana’s and had lemon pie I bought from the Lemon Pie House. It was pretty good (memo to self: must take picture of everything to be an effective blogger or something). The rest of the afternoon was practically for slacking off and reading a book, and the final night for more beer.