Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My First Solo Backpacking Journey: En Route Manila to Banaue

For the past few years that I indulged in traveling, I've never really experienced going on a real solo trip. Most of the time, I traveled far and away with my wife, Malou, while a few hiking and mountain climbing adventures were done with some friends. I enjoy traveling with companions. Long hikes and bus rides are not so boring when you have someone to chat with and awesome sights are more beautiful when you share the view.

The opportunity to travel solo, however, presented itself during my recent work-related training in Manila which lasted for almost a month. Our classes are held from Monday to Friday and weekends are usually free. My first weekend was spent wandering in Baguio with my high school classmate Pastor Mike. While I loved Baguio’s (really) cold weather and lovely parks, I found it too overcrowded and urbanized for my taste. It made me yearn for a more closer-to-nature experience. So on my second free weekend, I decided to go on a solo backpacking trip to the far flung town of Banaue in the Province of Ifugao.

It was a Friday night when I hailed a cab from Intramuros (where I stayed for the duration of my training) to Ohayami Bus Terminal in Sampaloc, Manila. I arrived a few minutes before 9 PM, with the first trip bound for Banaue just about to leave. I’m scheduled to board the second trip at 10 PM and it was a good thing that I asked Pastor Mike, who lives near Sampaloc area, to purchase my ticket a day before. There were lots of passengers in the terminal and many of those who purchased their ticket only that night have to settle for the uncomfortable center aisle seats.

We were allowed to board the bus after the first trip left. Seat number is indicated on the ticket and my seat was at the window side, second row from the driver. Not much leg room but still comfortable enough for the long ride. And contrary to what I have read that the airconditioning is too cold, I found it tolerable as long as you wear a jacket or long sleeves.  At 10 PM, the bus promptly departed from the terminal. 

 Ohayami Bus Terminal at the corner of Fajardo St. and Lacson Ave. in Sampaloc, Manila

Inside Ohayami Bus bound for Banaue

For more than an hour, the bus slowly crawled along the streets of Manila due to heavy traffic. It then zoomed off upon reaching the traffic-free NLEX. The bus ride from Manila to Banaue took about 9 hours. We have two stop-overs somewhere in Bulacan (at about 12 AM) and Nueva Vizcaya (at 3 or 4 AM, I guess). I slept on-and-off throughout the ride.

 First stop over: Jograd Kainan in Bulacan

Second stop over: Save Oil Gas and Restaurant in Aritao, Nueva Vizcaya

We arrived in the town of Banaue at 7 AM. The bus stopped near the Banaue Tourist Information Center where there are plenty of guides waiting for tourists to avail of their services. I already contacted my guide, Raffy Addug, a day before making this trip and we meet up moments after I disembarked from the bus.

People's Lodge and Restaurant in Banaue

Old photographs of Ifugao people displayed inside the restaurant

Raffy guided me down a concrete stairs leading to the town proper. Since Banaue is perched on a high elevation, the weather is distinctively cold. I was then brought to People’s Lodge and Restaurant so I can eat my breakfast. I observed that there are plenty of tourists, mostly foreigners, inside the restaurant. The terrace offers a nice view of nearby mountains, small rice terraces and a long hanging bridge. It was a lovely morning in Banaue and the green scenery was a very refreshing treat for my eyes.

Early morning view of Banaue 

Tourists enjoying the view

Sink with a view

My 125-peso breakfast at People's Lodge and Restaurant

After soaking in the scenery, I ordered “longsilog” with brewed coffee for breakfast. It was pretty expensive at P125.00. But then I needed it so I will have enough energy to sustain me for a day-long adventure that lies ahead.

This is the first part of my Solo Backpacking in Banaue series. Click the links below to read the other parts of this series.
Part 2: Tricycle Ride to Batad Saddle Point 
Part 3: The Hike to Batad
Part 4Reasons Why You Should Visit Batad Rice Terraces TODAY
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  1. Earl, ok lang kaya na ipurchase ganang ticket on the same date of your travel?

    1. Pwede naman pero much better if you purchase early, lalo na pag Friday, kasi madami talaga pasahero.

  2. Is it advisable to buy tickets at least a week at the bus station to have guaranteed seats?


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