Intrepid Travel trip Philippines
Mar 17, 2016
|We have got a bit behind on the travel journal because we have been on the go with the Intrepid trip and WI-FI is not as wide spread here in the Philippines. Even when places say yes, we have WI-FI, it is often very slow. To upload photos would be asking too much of it! So we will add the photos when we are back in "civilisation". We are island hopping at present in between WOOFing jobs.
Just before the Intrepid trip left, we had a day or two to explore bustling Manila. It is a city of 10 million people, consisting of suburb cities and ranges from huge shopping malls to people living on the streets. The traffic is chaotic and footpath stalls sell all kinds of things. We explored the Intramuros area, where a stone wall was built back in 1600's around the old city. We also wandered through Rizal Park, a popular place for locals with food stalls and dancing fountains.
Our Intrepid group had a good mix of people - America, Canadian, Irish, Australian, British and Polish. The ages were mid thirties up to us "senior citizens". En route north, we visited a Church buried by the Mount Pinatubo 1991 eruption and lahar. It has been partially excavated, with the original floor 6 metres below the present level.
We reached Banaue, up in the mountains, after a long drive. The temperatures were cooler here and comfortable to sleep at night without AC or fan. The buildings are dotted on the ridges and steep hillsides of the mountains. The lodge where we stayed was built on a steep hill, 3 stories above from road level and 3 stories below perched on a steep cliff.
The roads are all made out of concrete, are quite narrow, and wind steeply up to the top of the mountain range, just to plunge back down the other side. There were some rockfalls and slips. Just before arriving in Banaue, we had to walk across a bridge that had been demolished in a slip and be met at the other side by another vehicle to continue our journey.
It is a picturesque area with incredible rice terraces built on steep hillsides. Rice here has just been planted and will be harvested after the rainy season ends in June/July.
We left our large backpacks in the lodge and hiked out to a small village for a homestay. Here there was an ampitheater of rice terraces which have been there for 2000 years. The terraces are made out of rock (rather than just the normal packed earth). We could walk along the edges and watch the people at work.
The mountain area grows lots of other cooler weather vegetables like cabbage, carrots, brocolli, cauliflower, potatoes, strawberries.
Sagada was our next destination, a town small enough to walk around easily and once again built along the ridge of a mountain. This was an area that had hanging coffins on rocky hill sides and in caves. There were rules about who could be buried in a cave - must be married and have children and not have met an accidental death.
If children die prior to 7 years old, they are buried beside the back door of the family home. Women dying in child birth had their own burial area as did people who were murdered or had died in an accident. Deceased people are first sat in a "death chair" and kept a few days in the family home before being placed in a coffin in a fetal position.
Our next destination was Mt Pinatubo, which last erupted in 1991. A typhoon arrived simultaneously and added a deluge to the ash, which caused a lahar that travelled 50 kms away. Most people in the surrounding area had been evacuated after the earthquakes started and the ash began spewing out. They were relocated at that time and some of them are only just returning now but it is still a rather bleak landscape.
Before heading to the mountain area, we needed to stop and register. Anybody on the trip who was over 40 years old had to have their blood pressure taken prior to being granted permission! We had to take a paramedic on the trip with us because some of us were over 60! We drove in 4 x 4 jeeps 20 km up the river valley, where the lahar had once flowed, fording numerous rivers and driving between steep side walls of ash that hadn't been washed away by the river.
We only had to hike the last 5 km of a relatively easy climb, crossing the river on stepping stones lots of times. Porters carried our tents and food for the night. The crater lake was quite an impressive sight, to think how much ash had been flung out and how far the ensuing lahar had travelled. We camped that night by the crater lake and lit a bonfire where we toasted marshmallows. The stars looked bright away from any city lights.
On the last day of the trip as we headed back to Manila, Sven and I jumped off at the outskirts of Manila and took a taxi to a shopping centre where we were met by our woofing contact's mother and brother. More about this in the next journal!