On the road to Sagada
After a successful trek in the mountains around Banaue and Batad, we headed to the town of Sagada. To get there we knew we needed a little patience because we were taking the cheapest route possible. First of all we had to take a jeepney from the main parking area in Banaue. Two hours of waiting until we had the minimum number he would leave with, When we finally got on the road, it was not in the best condition with rock falls on the road everywhere, however, the views were spectacular. The chauffeur was kind enough to stop at two viewpoints just so we could take some photos. With the sun out everything looked just that little bit more special.
Two hours later and a serious abdominal workout – the roads were pretty windy and trying to stay in our seat was a little strenuous – we arrived in the town of Bontoc. We decided to stay and visit the museum of Cordillera that we’d heard was worth a visit. Unfortunately we arrived smack bang at lunchtime and it was closed. We decided to return to the jeepney station and continue on to Sagada, not wait for the museum to open. Although we’re sure it’s good, it looked miniscule and to wait around for two hours was maybe not worth it.
We arrived at the jeepney station, direction Sagada, but again had to wait for the 10 passenger minimum rule before the 18km journey. Oh well, it is Asia after all! The route between Manila, Banaue, Batad and Sagada is a famous tourist route. It was on the jeepney from Bontoc to Sagada then we met two Israeli girls we had met on our trek the previous days. The same two girls who didn’t want to pay for a guide and instead kept asking our guide the way to go!! – The trek we would not recommend doing by yourself! They also seemed to hate travelling. They moaned when we met them along the trek, they moaned when we saw them in the evening in Cambulo and they were moaning in the Jeepney this time because they had been waiting over an hour for more people to arrive. Welcome to the travelling way of life girls! Unbelievable. If you are miserable and don’t like travelling just go home!
When we arrived in Sagada the jeepney was full and everyone got off at the same time in the bus station, it was carnage. Normally there are two people working the jeepney; the driver and someone who collects the money along the way: There was only the driver this time. We all got our bags and went round to pay him. Oh but not the Israelis. Nope both the two girls and the only other Israeli couple on the jeepney sneakily walked off without paying!! Noticing what they were doing JM and another girl told the driver to go after them and we’d wait. He only managed to get the two grumpy girls to pay (they didn’t seem the slightest bit sorry!) but the couple had picked up the pace and gone. Although this is a bit of a rant it is probably one of the only things that have really annoyed us this trip regarding people we’ve met. We spotted the couple later on spending the money they should have paid the jeepney driver whose livelihood depends on it, on coffee and cake. Disgraceful.
Everything happens for a reason and I’m am sure people who do things like that will have some serious bad Karma coming their way soon!! Rant over!
Shocked at the behaviour of some people! We went in search of a guesthouse to stay a few nights. After an hour and a half we found nothing. It was full everywhere. It was Friday night and three quarters of the Manila population had decided to make the same trip as us but reserved in advance. Crap! I finally found a place but pretty expensive for what it was. I managed to negotiate a price and we planned to move to a cheaper place once the weekend was over. The guesthouse owners seemed nice, the food was ok and everything was clean and worked well. Would we recommend this place? I don’t think so!
Two days later we moved to cheaper accommodation and were much happier, we were just enquiring about caving the next day when the husband and maybe the owner of our first, more expensive guesthouse and who we had no dealings with, only with his wife rudely accused us of not paying for the room. We told him we’d paid his wife and signed the standard tourist book when we arrived. He didn’t believe us. Pretty shocked at his behaviour and accusations we agreed to walk all the way back to his guesthouse. I asked if he’s spoken to his wife and he didn’t answer. In silence we walked back. He didn’t even come in when we spoke to his wife, he just sat outside. We asked her what the hell the problem was and why the hell her husband had accused us of not paying. All she replied was we hadn’t checked out? Not that we hadn’t paid, just not checked out? What???!!! She wanted us to physically hand her the room key, not to one of her employers like we did. She realised what an idiot they had both been and apologised but we were fuming. We went outside and told her husband exactly what we thought. He quietly apologised but showed no real remorse. Arse!
Now we will never pay up front unless it is necessary and/or you get a receipt! Lesson learned. And don’t let that put you off. The majority of the locals are incredibly friendly in Sagada.
Enough ranting, time for some more adventures in the fresh air!
For our first full day we went to see the well-advertised waterfall just north of the town centre: Pathetic – nothing more to say about it. We then continued on to the viewpoint at Kiltepan. This spot is often sold as a sunrise tour at 4:30am. We’d spoken to a few people in the town who had done and paid for it but they’d seen nothing because of the cloud cover. When we eventually found it after trekking through random woods with no paths; we arrived to a stunning view of the valley below, bathed in complete sunshine! Definitely worth going in the afternoon and we didn’t cross a single person!
Hanging coffins = tourist trap
To finish the day we decided to go see the famous hanging coffins, one of the main attractions in Sagada. We’d already paid our tourist environmental fee on arrival which allows you access to most things but apparently we needed to pay extra for the hanging coffins. They wanted to charge us £4 to walked 200m to see them.
Apparently we needed a guide. We had read a lot of blogs and guide books and nowhere did anyone say we needed to pay. In fact everyone said how easy and quick it was to get to and that it’s really disappointing. We decided because no one recommended it, we wouldn’t go. We found out later the fee had been introduced in November 2015! Our fun day of exploring was topped off by visiting Bana cafe. They specialise in sharing meals for two. It was soooooooo good, the best food we’d eaten in the whole of the Philippines – apart from Christmas day with our friends! We ended up going back to the restaurant on our last night in Sagada.
The famous Lemon Pie
Another culinary delight was the speciality of Sagada: Lemon pie! It was sooooooooo good. We could find it anywhere in town but it was fun to stop off at the well named Lemon Pie House: 20p a slice. We ended up sharing a slice a day. It’s made of lemon right? One of your 5 a day – so it must be good for you!!!
On our second day after another naughty slice of lemon pie, we went for another walk, this time to the sunset spot near a lake. The walk was along the main road, but it’s not exactly a main road. We came across a couple of scooters and that was it. Excited about seeing a lake that we imagined to be beautiful at sunset we were a little disappointed with what we found. At first we thought there must be another lake, but no. According to the map and our GPS the Fanta/dehydrated urine coloured water in front of us was actually the lake!! It was still a nice walk and the lake a weird surprise. I’ve never seen an orange/yellowish lake like that before. Only in the Philippines!
The hanging coffins our way!
We decided to continue our walking further and returned to Sagada and following the local map. In showed another walking route to an underground river, echo valley and the hanging coffins. A different way to where we were stopped the day before and ordered to pay to visit only the hanging coffins. We had already decided if there was an entrance fee this way we would pay. We’d never seen or heard about hanging coffins before so we should really take look. As usual we ended up following Maps.me rather than the local map.
The start of the path was hidden next to the petrol station, from then on it was as easy as eating lemon pie. The path was very well trodden. It was a mud path so if it was raining or had rained the day before we imagined it would be rather difficult and slippery. Lucky for us it was fine. The underwater river was tiny and located in a small cave, it was still nice to see and it was here we started to see groups of Filipino tourists from Manila with their guides.
No questions were asked by the guides why we were on our own, just the tourists worried we were lost. When we said the path was obvious it really was! You’d need to be doing something very stupid if you ended up getting lost! After passing more groups and taking lots of photos of the countryside and beautiful limestone rock formations we arrived at the hanging coffins. They were really odd 10 or so in total just nailed to the cliff side.
Time to go underground
We couldn’t leave Sagada without going on a tour in Sumaguing cave. A huge cave very famous in Luzon. The day before we’d signed up and left our names at the tourist information for the 3 hour caving tour. In the end no one else signed up and it was just the two of us and our guide.
After a 20 minute walk south of the town we arrived at the entrance of the cave. We were given head torches and our guide carried a large lamp. Inside was nothing but darkness. We were lucky, it wasn’t the weekend when we’d heard it was like the M25 inside, instead we had the humongous cave all to ourselves except 4 hilarious older Filipino women laughing away because they were sliding everywhere.
After 3 hours of fun climbing up and down ropes, scrambling over the stunning rock formations and trying to take some half decent photos in difficult lighting, we returned to the real world almost 100m above. Voila, a fantastic way to finish our stay in the mountainous region of northern Luzon.
Another island in paradise, another adventure!
A few hours later, we were waiting for our bus which was going to take us to Baguio. We planned on spending a night there before taking the night bus the following day to Manila and the airport – direction Palawan, the last of our island hopping.
The road between Sagada and Baguio was truly spectacular: Long, curvy and high high high! The highest road in the Philippines in fact at 2600m. We spent 6 hours almost up in the clouds with the most incredible panoramic views of the beautiful valleys and mountain sides bellow. If anyone has the chance it’s definitely worth taking the day time bus rather than the normal tourist route bus at night, but…… if you’re scared of heights or prone to travel sickness…. don’t!