After another early “simple breakfast” at Randy’s we took a trike he had arranged to the Batad Saddle. You can take a jeepney to the junction of the road, but based on the winding road up to the Saddle, we would have passed out before even making it to the proper trail into Batad. While the trike cost 1000P, it’s about 45 minutes to the Saddle and includes the driver sitting ALL DAY LONG waiting for you to return to take you home. Alternatively, some people choose to do the journey over two days and stay the night in Batad, but we decided to do it in one because a) we wanted to have time to go to Sagada, and b) our bags had pretty much exploded all over our room at Randy’s and we were way too lazy to pack them all up again just for a night.
From the Saddle we saw Batad off in the distance, and after being directed to a “shortcut” (>400 stairs down) we were off. We walked down another road, partially under construction. If you’ve been here in years past it used to all be a trail, but it’s now a partial road that ends halfway down and turns into a trail. In a few years, we were told, you will be able to drive to Batad and also potentially to the other villages in the area. While that might ruin the current atmosphere, I’m sure the locals will prefer not having to walk in all their supplies.
Again with Randy’s suggestion, after paying the required environmental fee, we headed to Rita’s Place once arriving. This seems to be a landmark in the village. Here we waited for Vincent (Randy’s suggested guide). We planned to head to Tappiya Waterfall, but based on our experiences from the day before, this time we were going to have a guide.
Vincent was 60 years old and clearly fitter than us. He showed us a tiny book with many positive reviews that other travellers had written. He also seemed to share Randy’s concern for our well-being, and once I had borrowed a large hat and walking stick from his house, we walked through the village up to the top of rice terraces where the best views are. This was easier than Banaue, as these terraces are made of stone, whereas the ones in Banaue are dirt. Even so it was not the easiest journey, mainly because of our accrued strains from the day before. We puffed along while Vincent walked like a monk, carrying an umbrella to protect himself from the sun. We were treated to some amazing views, but then, to get to the waterfall, we had to walk down another million stairs. This is apparently better than it used to be – Vincent showed us some crumbling stones which was apparently the path before the government had put in these new steps. However, the government seems to have decided to cut corners, because there was about a third less steps that we thought that there reasonably should be, meaning each step down was quite the drop.
Down and down we went, and as we neared the falls we passed some red faced hikers coming back up. That would be us soon.
At the falls, we bought more Royal Tru-Orange, another litre of water, and stood around posing for pictures. The falls are beautiful and the super cold water felt amazing after the long hike. Chris brought his tripod (for some godforsaken reason), so in order to justify its existence he used it to take some “flowing water” shots of the falls. After we had cooled our feet and taken a hundred pictures, we signalled to Vincent we were ready to head back. Even though Chris was wearing his toe shoes, he still managed to fall twice crossing the water back to the stairs.
Going back up was pretty much THE DEATH. Chris almost didn’t make it. Even Vincent paused every once in awhile and pushed his umbrella up and down to blow air on his head. We actually lucked out with amazing sunny weather while in Batad (considering it was wet season while we were there), however this also made for quite the sweaty journey. Once we made it back out of the waterfall valley, Vincent asked if we wanted to take the “easier way” back. We emphatically agreed. This still involved more stairs, but not the hundreds we had clambered down earlier. Once back at Rita’s Place, we decided to get some corned beef pizza to celebrate making it back. We overheard a cute conversation between Vincent and an older man – both recognized each other from years before, when Vincent had guided the man and his family on a several day journey to the outlying villages.
We said goodbye to Vincent (he had to go home to pound rice and tend to his vegetables he said) and then started back up the road to our waiting ride. Chris insisted we take a five minute stop every 20 or so minutes, but even with the pauses, we made it back in pretty good time. We decided to take the “shortcut” again, and after counting (which we were mainly doing because Chris wanted to rest every 25 steps), concluded that the 412 steps sign was a lie. It’s closer to 500. Clearly Peter our driver thought we looked tired, because he told us to rest for awhile before we departed. A forty or so minute ride back, and we were home again and feeling super accomplished. After purchasing a litre of Royal drink and litre of Coke to refuel (grand total – over 5 litres of liquid today) we felt a little bit better. Which was good, because the next day, we were off to Sagada.