Friday, 27 March 2009

The "Road" To Banaue

An early start saw me jumping a jeepney to Bontoc, hoping to catch a connecting transport to Banaue, home of the famous rice terraces. These are reputed to have been hewn from the earth 2000 years ago, but the locals estimate it at more like 3000. Like someone kept a record?

Bontoc's nothing to write home about, despite me wasting a few sentences on it. It's little more than a dusty stop on the way to and from the terraces. I managed to book the last bus to Banaue, and walked around looking for something to eat. I bought what was advertised as a Vegetable Curry in a nearby cafe, where 6 staff were lazing around watching a karaoke channel (what else?). I say advertised, because what I actually got was a bowl of cabbage with curry sace drizzled over it, decorated with some diced carrots. The food is that bad in the Philippines that you learn to give up and just eat it. It's barely better than dying, I suppose?

I passed up the offer of one ride in a small minibus before I'd booked my ticket on the larger one. Two likely lads in front, and room for just one tourist? If in doubt, just don't. We actually caught these lads up when we reached a massive landslide which had blocked the mountain pass. Two earth-movers were busy shifting the mass of rubble, and I had a chat to the two lads in the van. One of them offered to be a guide around the terraces, so they were genuine after all. The earth moved, we re-boarded the bus to continue the journey. Myself and three French backpackers insisted on crossing the site of the slide on foot first...we didn't fancy chancing the weight of the bus on the perilous-looking track. Can't be too careful.

Banaue was reached by night. It's a tiny little market town, with not much going for it besides the terraces. Someone had some foresight 3000 years back, or the place wouldn't be here any longer; there's nothing to do besides the treks. I'd been accosted by a local straight off the bus who was trying to get me to go to his establishment for the night. His name was Ray, and he had one of those squiffy eyes which has you looking back and forth from one eye to the other, as if uncomfortably watching a tennis match. And thinking they don't notice. But they do. Anyhow, I told him I had a place in mind and started walking up the hill towards it. He followed, and when a local passed and muttered a few words, Ray went into Blag Overdive.

"My friend says all these places are full, Sir."
"Well I'll take a look, anyway...I have some friends staying here." I lied.
"Sorry. I did not address you properly from the bus, Sir. Good evening Sir, how are you? I trust your journey was good. I can guide you on mountains."
"Well I just need a bed now, Ray...maybe tomorrow."

Needless to say, the hotel wasn't full at all. Ray's just a liar. He asked me again about the tour the next day, but I said I wasn't sure. We then went into a comedy sketch of him asking which room I was booking, and that he would come see me at fending him off and trying to hand his mobile phone back to him while he insisted he have my number. Next time Ray calls me, he may well be able to book tickets to watch Preston North End at Deepdale.

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