I'd been advised by many other travellers to skip Banaue and go straight to Batad, a remote village at the peak of these Cordilleras mountains. Wandering through the market, I attracted the attention of a local tricycle driver (basically a motorbike and side-car) who offered me a reasonable ride up to the junction. The jeepneys leave later in the afternoon, and you don't get much time to do anything but get to Batad itself.
Off we went, over the worst roads so far. Good job the ribs are fixed, I tell you. It would have been agonising. Ceasar gave me some tips on places to visit in Cebu island, where his missus hailed from. "You been there, Ceasar?" "Not much lately, I hate my mother-in-law" he cackled. Reaching Batad Junction, he dropped me at a small souvenir shop...well, hut. Four men crouched outside in the dirt, large machetes by thier sides. Buy souvenirs, Sir? Why, I was only just thinking on the way up here that I hoped there'd be a souvenir hut. How much for the lot? I bought one small wooden figurine, and nervously walked off. Men with machetes don't usually give money-back guarantees in the event I wasn't happy with my purchase. Won't see you withing 28 days, then. I headed up the steep track as one of them slowly laughed "Enjoy your walk in the sun, Sir..." Thanks.
A merciless sun beat me all the way to the top, a good hour's climb. I drank 2 litres of water and didn't need to pee once, I just sweated it out. Almost passing out (it's making me thirsty just writing this) I reached the summit; to be greeted by a girl in a small shop with the terrible words "Halfway to Batad, Sir." I drank a Coke (best one ever, I assure you) and chatted to a Danish couple going the other way. He assured me the walk was easy and downhill. A relief.
Indeed it was, and I made the village in another half hour. The view which greets your eyes as you stand on the edge of the valley is astounding. The hill drops away steeply to the floor, and the terraces cover just about everything you can see. I looked for a good ten minutes, viewing the people gathering rice in the fields, kids running from the local school far below as the bell pealed around the hills, smoke creeping up from small fires being set in thatched homes nestling in the valley's centre. Beautiful. I was distracted by a group of kids milling around me. One, of around 2 years old, and naked from the waist down, farted loudly and we all started laughing. Some jokes don't need words.
Charlie offered to guide me to the waterfalls the next day, and pointed out a good guesthouse below. I wandered down to find a spartan room, but with a nice restaurant and breathtaking view to make up for it. And at 3 quid a night, I wasn't complaining. Settling in, I had a couple of beers and watched the sun go down. The absense of any light pollution ensured it went dark quickly, and I anticipated a good night's sleep.