|Well, we survived the bus marathon, but arriving in Banaue at 5:45 am after a frigidly cold bus ride was less than pleasant. (What is the deal with that??? There was subarctic winds blasting directly at us the whole 10 hours..., not to mention what appeared to be 4 hours of hairpin turns.) Suffice it to say that I am no longer able to remain chipper and coherent after 2 hours of sleep.
However, we are staying in Banaue today, with a great view of the rice terraces out of our window. We hiked with Irene (our guide for the next 3 days) at Hapao - site of the oldest rice terraces. The terraces were built somewhere between 2000 and 4000 years ago, (depending on who you ask) and are simply magnificent. They are just beginning to plant this years crop and it was fascinating to watch them inserting the new rice spouts into the water filled flats. Only slender shoots now, but apparently the green fields are blindingly chartreuse in a few weeks. Still beautiful now, though. Hopefully the photos will give some impression of what they are like. LOTs of up and down hill climbing, but we hiked back to a hot springs where we soaked for awhile. Now it is 4:30 pm and we are hoping to send this out, have dinner and fall asleep, hopefully that order.
Ok, never again I say. The 8 hour bus trip from Manila to Banuae was torture. The aircon was on high the whole way and we were wrapped in all of our scarves. At 5:45 am we arrived at the tourist office in Banaue and were met by a friendly moto driver, Don Don who brought us to the Green View Hotel where we are currently ensconced in a two bed room with facilities down the hall. We are the only guest under 30. Irene, our tour guide picked us up at 9am for a van tour of Banaue's rice terraces and out to Hapao to hike up, down and through the rice fields ending up in a hot springs. The hike was lovely, especially on level ground. We were balancing on the two foot wide walkway through the rice fields, having to stop when we wanted to look at something more closely because we are between the two of us so very balanced and graceful. Heading down from the road to the terrace we hiked along the hillside that was a damp garden of ferns and flowers, especially various colored Impatience. It smelled so nice to be out in the green with just a little wood smoke from a farmer burning. Irene pointed out the small fish and snails that live in the rice fields, the fish being tilapia and mud fish. She talked about the games that she and her siblings played while helping clean out or plant the family rice plots. The plots are handed down to the oldest child and some have been in the families for centuries. They are very tribal in this area and are former headhunters. According to Irene a head was only taken from a neighboring village when it was noticed that crops were failing or they were down on their luck. It's very animalistic combined with a dose of pragmatic Catholicism.
On our return we ran into Ulle and Ling (from our boat trip) having dinner at our hotel. They recommended the local museum and the hot and sour soup.
We've showered and completed this entry. Time for dinner (5:30!) and early to bed. Irene picks us up at nine am tomorrow for two days at Ramon's Homestay where we will live in traditional houses in the rice fields (meaning no running water or electricity). We'll fill you in when we return to the city and Wifi.