The Cordilleros

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July 4th 2007
Published: July 4th 2007
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Vigan to Bontoc

I was on the 9am bus to Baguio the first 3 or 4 hours were back the same way I came but after San Fernando (La Union) the bus headed up into the foothills of the Cordilleros, the bus rides seem to take forever, the roads are concrete slabs and are not very wide, the buses seem to stop every 5 minutes as well.

Eventually we arrived in Baguio which is an impressive sight in itself with buildings clinging off the sides of mountains everywhere. Even large public buildings like schools and hospitals. I met my first touts today haven't seen any so far, one of them was quite good natured though and showed me to the place I wanted to stay at, so I gave him 50 pesos ($1.50) he seemed satisfied with that.

The Red Lion is a hotel with a 24 hour bar, this was alright initially because I was keen to have a drink or two, started talking to a table full of oldish ex pats from the US, Canada and the UK and in doing so had a few beers too many. I then went for a walk with a few of the staff, to checkout where they lived one guy was as gay as, and was amusing to say the least. Their families were living in corrugated iron shacks which were pretty rough, they don't have much but are sweet people.

Filipinos are generally very friendly and nice people, after an hour or so chatting and drinking Milo I caught a cab back to the bar, they have a 50's cafe next door so I had a chicken cordon bleu then headed for my room to crash. A few hours later I was woken up by a lot of noise, Baguio is a University city, and it seems a large party of Japanese students were partying right above me, so not much sleep that night.

In the morning I went to the SM Department store and changed some cash before packing up my stuff and taking off further into the mountains, I had heard the roads were like those dodgy mountain roads in South America, so I was a little worried initially. It was cool for the first 4 hours but then the road became rock and dirt and a few times we got frighteningly close to the edge, the highest point on the highway is 2225 meters.

About 20 kilometers from Bontoc we were held up for some time by a crane loading a trashed truck onto another truck, it was a worry and I am glad I saw this late in the trip. There was an old tribal woman on the bus with tattooed arms and a snake vertebrae hair band, she was my first introduction to the mountain people and I expect to see more in the days to come.

The hotel I am in is the best yet and I splurged for a room with hot water as I am keen to get rid of this red beard that I am sporting at the moment, the weather is cooler and more pleasant here as well. I had a pretty good chicken dinner although it didn't look much like chicken they tend to give you bits you never see in Oz.

Got up early as I always seem to when I travel, had a good breakfast and visited the Bontoc Museum it was very interesting, they have a display of traditional houses and some pretty gory pictures of headless bodies as well as head hunters holding their trophies, apparently there are still a few old head hunters wandering around up here. They also had a very interesting display on funeral rights. One of the descriptions under one photo's was quite funny if macabre as it talked of the shame to your family if you lose your head, they don't give you a decent burial if that happens.

I just returned from the Malagcong rice terraces it was a 45 minute bumpy as hell trip around the mountain, they put me in the front on the way there which was good, but there was no heat shielding from the engine and I started to melt, by the time we got to the village I was dying.

There was no one to ask directions of and the driver just pointed at the path, so I started walking up this path, and walking and walking, up up up, eventually I came to a houses and I thought I must have gone too far up, so I started walking down again slipping and sliding. There was no one around so I never found the path to the top, later I was chatting with a bloke who told me that if I had walked passed the house, the path hooked around and continued to the top of the terraces. Shit.

When I got back down I set off into the terraces looking for a good photo opportunity, I wasn't high enough up to get the sort off shots I was looking for, perhaps at Banuae tomorrow or the next day.

On the ride back I jumped in the back, boy was that a mistake my arse will be paying for that piece of wisdom for days, not so hot but dusty and bumpy.

Just had the best donuts I have ever had anywhere in the world, and only 25c each I went back for seconds.

Tonight is decision time do I stay one more day and go to Sagarda or Head straight to Banuae.

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5th July 2007

Great photos mate
Great photos mate
5th July 2007

enjoying your funny blog. so, where to next. i heard sagada is heavenly.

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