Banana Leaf to the Batad Valley Floor
Visiting the Philippines had been on my list for ages, and I really was excited by two sights. Getting out of Manila, we planned to tick off Palawan and the Underground River as well as the amazing rice terraces of Banaue, both world heritage sites. When we woke up to find transportation to Banaue, boy was I ready!
The Banaue Rice terraces of Ifuago in the Philippines are some of the most difficult areas we’ve traveled to. We’re not big trekkers, so I’m sure some of our readers may disagree, but for us the hike into and up and around these amazing 2,000 year old terraced fields was daunting. Of course, the high temperature and staggering humidity did nothing to ease the journey.
We had planned for a single day to visit the terraces in Batad, opting to stay overnight in Banaue instead of a guest house in the village. The views from our hotel were simply breathtaking, but there was far better awaiting us. We woke in the morning, had an early breakfast and climbed into the Jeepney that would take us to the end of the road, 6 or 7 km from the Batad terraces. The hike was mostly downhill through the jungle but the heat and humidity were still slowing us down. Every now and then we’d catch a glimpse of rice terraces across the valley through a break in the jungle and that would spur us on. When we finally broke out of the forest at the top of the terraces we were stunned. To imagine people had carved this entire system by hand from the side of these precipitous mountains was unbelievable, yet the proof was laid out before us in a panorama of lush, vibrant green.
We inquired at a guest house and hired a guide to lead us for a three hour hike around and through the terraces and rice fields. Shortly after starting the descent toward the valley floor, we encountered these two young children playing on the mountainside. It had rained recently and the vegetation was still wet and slippery. They had pulled down a large banana leaf and fashioned it into a sled of sorts which they then took turns sliding down a toboggan run they had trampled through the dense undergrowth. It looked like pure fun, but I could barely handle the hike on the trail, I couldn’t imagine the climb back up after the slide down. But they were merrily sliding and running back up to take turns on the leaf, again and again. It reminded me of the fun my brothers and sisters and I would have in the dry grassy hills in California. We would drag our cardboard boxes to the top of the tallest hill and slide down at precarious speeds, only to roll off at the bottom, jump up and run back to the top (all of this in 90+ degrees).
Of course, the hike down was awe-inspiring, and the trek back to the top nearly killed us; but the memory of those joyful boys will stay with us forever.
Banaue Hotel and Hostel was a comfortable, larger hotel with all amenities. They have excursion options, but we just had them arrange a Jeepney to take us to the trailhead.