Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The 8th Wonder of the World

I gotta be honest with you; the 10 hour bus ride from Manila to Benaue wasn't exactly luxury. I was wishing I'd brought some Xanax with because sleep didn't really happen. But upon our arrival we were treated with crisp, fresh morning air and beautiful mountain views. The 2 hour jeep ride was pretty interesting as it wound us around the edges of the tree-covered mountains with homes and villages sitting rather precariously on stilts alongside the road. The only hiccup was a rather large landslide that almost left the road impassable. Fortunately we just made it. We found out later that an empty jeep could not make it, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

We were dropped at a picturesque high point and started another 2 hour journey - this one on foot – and we finally arrived at Batad. It's known to some as the 8th wonder of the world and, indeed, the 2000 year-old rice terraces are a sight to behold!

Old habits die hard and I felt compelled to count the levels. I counted over 130 strong losing them behind trees down the mountain. That’s absolutely amazing. Apparently what makes these rice terraces so unique is that their walls are made completely of stone with mud cement, rather then just a rock fa├žade.

Our biggest day there began with a little hike up to the top of the terraces... 2hours later we reached the top. But what amazing views from there! Even in the middle of nowhere, prime realty comes with a price. Here the price is one heck of a climb every time you need to visit friends, family, or the village.

After some photo ops we hiked down the back of the mountain and around the side to even more breathtaking views as we headed down and followed the noise of a raging river.

It turned out the river wasn't raging nearly so much as the waterfall. Try as I might, there just wasn't any way to swim into the falls. It’s just as well, hindsight tells me it was a bad idea. But I did manage to scale the rock wall leading around & behind the falls. Now I've had some awesome showers in my life. I've even stood underneath a fire hose shower once. But this is something completely different! The icy drops of water bit into my skin and leeched my body heat so quickly that I had all I could do just to hang on to the wall after about a minute. Scaling slippery walls above sharp rocks lurking just beneath the water with ice-cold hands and bare feet, all the while shivering to keep warm is officially a bad idea. But I've never let that stop me before so why start now? We had a nice picnic and nap there by the waterfall before making our way back to the village. It was a big day so we finished with more naps and early sleeps!

The following day brought us sore legs and a 2-hour hike back out. Expecting to see our jeep transport at the top, we were all a little surprised to hear is wasn't coming. Doh! This was when I learned that empty jeeps don't handle landslides as well as laden jeeps. At least the 1km hike was downhill.
Just a short ride back to Benaue... Oh and another 8 hour ride back to Manila.

My utmost gratitude goes to Joyce Fong and her family for their hospitality and the use of their guest house for a lovely nap and HOT shower! It's the little things in life, really.
I'm glad to have met Jidesh, Junie, and Vicki on this trip. Joyce was a wonderful hostess and made the trip loads of fun. Muchas Danke Shein, Joyce!

If you want some photos - check out the Rice Terraces album on my Facebook

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