Sagada. February 2 – 7, 2017
The night bus stopped a lot more than the once they claimed it would so there wasn’t much sleep happening. We arrived at Bontoc around 6:30 am and waited close to an hour for a shuttle to take us the rest of the way. The bus couldn’t go as the bridge and roads are still not up to par after the last typhoon. Here’s where we got to experience the jeepney, apparently so named because it’s a jeep and you ride in the back and your knees knock. It’s actually a nice way to travel as it’s an opportunity to converse with strangers and fellow travellers, which we did.
After finding the tourist office, paying our eco tax, we found our hostel. The room wasn’t ready so we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. We settled in and discovered much of Sue’s clothes and some of mine were pretty wet (apparently the bus was NOT waterproof) so we strung up a line and hung them all over the place.
We set off to wander and stumbled on a festival, then off to the hanging coffins which involved a good hike over some interesting paths.
Our guide had mentioned a few good walks so we decided to try Kiltepan. We’d gone a fair bit up the dirt road part when a car pulled up, asked if we were going to Kiltepan and offered us a ride. My first thought was how many times I’d told my kids not to get in a car with strangers but said yes anyway and we climbed in. After enjoying the fantastic view we drove back to town with Anusha and Vivek and all went out for coffee. Sometimes getting a ride with strangers is a great idea!
Sue and I decided after all that hiking on no sleep, we deserved a good dinner so treated ourselves to the Yogurt House. I even had a mango lassi which was amazingly delicious!
A lot of the paths in the area have been damaged by the typhoon in November. There are still landslides on some of the roads too. The walk to the Bokong waterfall was treacherous in spots but really pretty. We continued across a bridge and down a questionable ladder and along some rice fields. The path led up so we followed it and passed some local homes, men cutting wood, and ended up pretty close to town.
The sun came out so we headed out in the other direction to Danum lake. That was a good 3 km straight up hill. The lake is more like a pond but the view was pretty and lots of views along the way.
Dinner at the Strawberry hut was pork adobo. We gobbled it down as by that time, we were starving and it was good.
Another day we headed to the caves. The Sumaging cave is the biggest so we walked down into it until it got small and scary. Spelunking is not our thing and we’ve decided we’ve been in plenty of caves and don’t HAVE to go in all of them. 😉 At our age, we have nothing to prove.
When the sun was out, it was ridiculously hot, especially for the steep, uphill walk back from trying to find waterfalls. There were lots of rice terraces, beautiful views and more hanging coffins but no waterfall. Lunch at the Gaia was really nice. We shared a veggie tray and each had the most delicious carrot juice. On the way back we split a chocolate crepe which Paul made for us while we chatted.
The locals here in Sagada are very friendly. One lady asked where we were from and when we told her she said “oh, you like Sagada because it is mountainous like your country!” Yep 😀
One day we hired a driver and a guide to take us to the Pongas waterfalls. We’d tried walking there but decided it was too far, even for us. 5 km is not bad but it is Uphill all the way back and I mean UP hill. There ended up being enough climbing and walking even after getting a ride there. We crossed a hanging bridge, passed through the village.of Brgy Suyo, walked along cemented rice terraces and up about a thousand steps. Russel told us all about the local agriculture, how he guides on weekends and goes to college in Bontoc during the week and helped us over the scary parts. The twin waterfalls are magnificent and I wandered about taking pictures for a while. A group of young men came up carrying buckets and a live chicken. Apparently they were clearing some of the irrigation troughs and stopping for a picnic lunch. Hence the chicken. At least they know it’s fresh. They ran up and down the rocks like it was nothing. This wimpy Canadian found it pretty scary.
If Sagada is on your list of places to see, I’d go soon. There’s a LOT of building going on. I saw one luxury type place almost finished. However, the road to get there is still pretty sketchy. I can’t see that kind of client walking across the swing bridge and along a terrace wall. Soon enough though, it won’t be so unique.
The last day was spent visiting St Mary’s church which is one of the most unique churches I’ve ever seen. Jesus is carved out of wood from the area in great detail and surrounded by local rocks. The church is simple with beautiful wooden pews, plain stone floors and plain wood trusses and ceiling. There’s just one simple stained glass and the doors are metal. To me it really represents the essence of Segada.
The rest of the day we spent wandering the back streets, getting chased out by dogs, chatting with locals and we even found a waterfall that was apparently not pretty enough to be a location on the tourist map.