For a very long time, I had looked forward to visiting the rice paddies around Banaue, and when I boarded a night bus in Manila that was heading to Banaue, straight to rice paddy territory, I was excited. After arriving in the early morning, we leave our luggage behind, charter a jeepney and ride its roof on our way west. Landslides just two months before have closed down some roads and trails, and we plan to walk down the mountain, and stay overnight in Batad. Already along the road, we see rice terraces on the mountain slopes. The sun even breaks through the clouds, but when we get off, the sky is grey. Our indications are to find a turn-off for the trail down, and we walk several kilometres to find this spot. Meanwhile, we enjoy the views, and are incredibly lucky when we reach a watchtower from which we see Cambulo, just when the sun manages to pierce through the clouds again. Over many centuries (it is not sure yet when the first rice terraces were made) humans have carved out paddies on the steep mountain slopes here, adding a discerning element to the green landscape. A truly spectacular sight, and we take our time to enjoy.
We backtrack a little, and finally find a woman who points to the right direction. It turns out to be a steep, muddy trail running down into the valley, without the Detour sign as described by our information in Banaue. At the end of the trail, we are surprised to find a table with coconuts and other drinks, offered by a young woman with two kids. To our left, the trail is clearly closed, after the landslides. The woman tells us a sad story of a father and children killed by a landslide in the village of Batad, which is where we are heading. The hike through the valley is equally beautiful, with views over rice terraces, walking through tiny villages, climbing and going down, until we reach a viewpoint on a ridge, with sweeping views over Batad village. Just as we arrive, it starts to rain, and we just fit into a small shop where we enjoy the same views. When the rain stops, I decide to hike down to the Tappia Falls: a mighty thundering waterfall in the valley, and a great workout, especially to climb back to the rice terraces of Batad. Dusk is falling over the valley when I walk the walls and paths to the other side of town where we will spend the night.
The next morning, I am up early, and when I walk through the village, and sometimes through the houses of the village, I realize I will not see sunrise. A drizzle is falling from the sky, and I follow one of the trails back to the viewpoint. It makes me appreciate the work people have had to build these paddies: walls of stone and mud, irrigation systems, stepping stones to climb from one level to the next, but also ways for the rain to be emptied into paddies and sent down into the valley towards the river below. At one point, I get stuck: I just cannot get up to the next level, there is nothing to hold onto, and I am lucky to find a French couple passing by, who are willing to help me out. The view from the ridge is different: clouds are lifting from the valley below, floating behind the green-roofed houses of Batad, adding mystery to the spectacular sight of mirror-like pond in the countless rice paddies. It is not hard to see where landslides have altered the landscape: the steep mountain slopes combined with excessive waterfall are, of course, an invitation to disaster. Still, the proud people of Batad and neighbouring villages are determined to stay, and continue their rice-growing traditions on the delicate and irresistible landscapes of the rice terraces.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Ifugao rice terraces (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Ifugao rice terraces.
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