Manila to Sagada
We left Manila quite early on fairly nice bus. The open window was my air-con in the rising heat, as Lu sat on the other side of the window shivering. It was only open a crack, and still I sweated as I watched the hawkers outside.
I’d heard from other tourists about Filipino buses being terrible. But I didn’t see it myself. Okay, it didn’t have a TV, nor great suspension. But I also wasn’t being kicked out in a desert like in Pakistan, freezing sub zero temps in Morocco or crashing in Nigeria. So, for the Filipino bus I give thumbs in the middle. To the tourists that complain – get out more often.
Lu had stayed in a town called Baguio before, and had said it would be a nice place to break up the trip. Also, she’d heard of some famous strawberry fields there. What better to do than eat strawberries in the Philippines?
Unfortunately Lu never factored in that there were two hotels by the same name in Baguio. We arrived that evening and our wonderful taxi driver took as straight to Herman’s Hotel in the city center. I kinda guessed something was up by the dark dingy lane it was situated down. That and the oodles of tattered looking ladies hanging around outside.
“They look like prostitutes,” I whispered as we got out of the taxi. “Lets find another hotel …”
“Shhhh, they’ll hear you.”
“So? Let’s go.”
“No, it’s the place now.”
Strangely, Lu still insisted this was the place she’d been before. We entered. Were offered a room either at an hourly rate, or nightly. And then quickly left. The lady in charge of the … erm… other ladies, caught up with us on the stairs. She was all smiles explaining where the ‘other’ hotel was.
Again, strangely enough, this ‘other’ hotel was actually someone’s house. And no where near an eatery nor flushing toilet. It was also during this period we discovered no one had heard of any strawberry fields. Trekking bars for dinner. Lu was not a happy Filipino.
The next morning we agreed to head into town in search of either a strawberry field, or a bus straight to Sagada. It seemed Baguio also had a lack of early morning eateries. I settled on Chow King,
a Chinese export fast food place. With a mountain of food! Lu was not in such a good mood, as still no one had heard of the infamous strawberry fields. With 4 packs of giant potato chips and chocolate biscuits I soon perked up on the bus. Lu stayed silent.
We lurched, skidded and swerved around the gravel strewn roads with good speed. Two hours later and our bus came to a grinding halt. Landslide!
“Mudslide,” corrected Lu.
“Same thing.” I retorted.
Damn she was moody today.
A queue of buses, cars and jeeps all lined the road. I walked down a bit and left Lu to sulk over her lost strawberries as I checked out the land/mudslide. The road had indeed given away. To the right half of it had slid away, while to the left it was strewn with rocks from the high ravine above. A man shouted. Drivers looked at each other. And then they were running. They’d cleared the road and they were all desperate to make it into the one lane first. Our side won.
I made it back to the bus just in time to see a sign post with directions and tourist attactions. Including “Mount Clitoris.” Hmmm.
Outside I caught my first glimpse of the infamous rice terraces. Green hills, stone walls and rice padi’s rushed by. They were quite spectacular, and if this was only a taste of the famous Batad Terraces we were in for a treat in the coming days.
We arrived into Sagada just after lunch. It was a townpicturesque town. Mountains and hills were all around; the air a shade cooler. A single main road, and well kept houses. Lu had managed to acquire a Rough Guide to the Philippines book from a friend. I’d marked out a few hostels, and merged them with some internet results. The first step was to avoid the “visitors fee” the book mentioned. A 20 peso charge, just for being there.
“We have to go pay the tax now.”
“Because we’re meant to!”
“How about we check in first?”
Lu had a grown a bee in her bonnet. We headed to the first hotel.
??? No way. Next.
And so we continued on until we found a little blue house and a little old lady offering us a double for 500. Where upon Lu promptly locked herself away in the bathroom for 45 minutes.
I began to wonder if it had been such a good idea to go along with perfect stranger. Lu was a nice girl, but if the mood swing of the day continued tomorrow. Then I might just have contemplate leaving her in one of the hanging coffins!
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