Thursday, May 8, 2014

Solo Backpacking in Banaue: The Hidden Beauty of Tappiya Falls

Though I indulged in traveling for only the past few years, I came to realize that some of the most awesome places I have ever been to are not that easy to reach.  So far, I’ve survived long bus rides, treacherous mountain climbs, long hikes, dirt cheap accommodations (!) and a scary boat ride just to set foot on some of the places you can read in this blog. Luxury travel may be pleasurable if you simply want to relax but if you want to discover more than the usual, you need to exert extra effort, sweat it out and step out of your comfort zone.

Such was the case of my recent trek to Tappiya Falls in Batad, Banaue, Ifugao. In getting there, I have to go through a 9-hour bus ride which started from Manila at 10 o’ clock in the evening. The bus is airconditioned but it was definitely not a luxurious ride as I only managed a few hours of eyeshut during the entire trip. 

After arriving in Banaue town proper at around 7 in the morning, I took a 45-minute bumpy tricycle ride to Batad Saddle Point where my guided trek commenced. From the saddle, it was about 30 minutes walk to Batad Village which was really not a problem since I am used to hiking and running. From the village, it will take another 45 minutes to 1 hour walk before reaching Tappiya Falls.

Those who live a not so active lifestyle will definitely find the hike to Tappiya a challenge. While the path  going from Saddle Point to Batad has many shaded portions, the trail going to the falls is mostly exposed to the sun. The good news, however, is that this trail includes passing through Batad Rice Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Aside from enjoying the view of the vast amphitheater of rice terraces in various angles, there are also at least three small stores where you can rest and buy refreshments. Of course, the items sold here come at a higher price. But is also understandable considering the distance and accessibility of this place from the town proper.

After passing by the terraces, a descent through a long and steep concrete stairway followed next. From the top, the river that flows from the falls and the landslide on the slope of the opposite gorge can be seen. After the concrete steps was another narrow footpath along a deep ravine. As we get nearer I could already hear the booming sound of the cascades.  Until finally we reached the makeshift hut which offered me my first glimpse of Tappiya.

At first glance, I knew that the hike and sweat were all worth it. The stunning view of raging waters cascading in-between mossy rock walls and falling 70 meters down into an emerald pool swept away the fatigue, sweat and muscle pains. I said to myself “I am finally here!”. 

But simply gazing at her gorgeous beauty is not enough. I need to feel and soak in her glory. So we went further down to its basin and I wasted no time and took a dip on its cold and emerald water. Tappiya did not only cool down my body, she also soothed my soul.

Tappiya Falls is definitely a marvelous creation of unparalleled beauty and its remoteness even adds more charm to its already majestic appeal. Getting in and out of here may be a challenge but it is well worth your time, sweat and effort. Truly, nature has her own way of rewarding those who dare to take her off-the-beaten trails.

Travel Tips:

1.Appropriate hiking attire, head cover, sunblock, trail food or snacks and plenty of drinking water are a necessity when hiking to Tappiya Falls.

2.Beware of falling rocks when you reach the narrow path along the gorge. Your guide would usually ask you to walk faster in this portion which stretches for about 200 meters.

3.It is best to visit the falls during dry season to avoid the risk of landslide.

4.Expect the hike to be doubly hard once you make your ascent from the falls back to Batad Village. Take some rest and rehydrate often.

5.Stay tuned for my One Day Travel Guide to Banaue and Batad for more details in getting there and contact numbers of persons you can hire as your guide.

This is the fifth part of my Solo Backpacking in Banaue series. Click the links below to read the other parts of this series.

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