“Yesterday didn’t feel touristy. Like we were just exploring as we went along.”
That was how one friend described our short Batad trip. Batad is a small town in the province of Ifugao. While the neighboring town of Banaue remains the most popular tourist destination, Batad has been gaining attention from travelers because of its majestic and unspoiled Amphitheater Terraces and Tappiya Falls. Located in the valley, the waterfall is about an hour away from the edge of the Batad ridge.
It was rainy when our group crossed the great terraces. The slippery paddies challenged my balance and core strength (which is nearly none existent!). Otherwise, it was either falling in a mud bath with freshly planted rice stalks or a bone breaking 10-foot drop on the other.
After the strenuous and stressful hike jumping from one unstable rock to the next, we finally reached the edge of the terraces. We took a much-needed rest at a small store to revive our energy. A few steps from the store is a narrow stone stairway that serves as start-off point of the trail.
We started the trek down the slippery steps, which was surprisingly easy to navigate. However, I would hold back on underestimating the trail – and any other trail for that matter. As a personal mantra, I always follow the ABC of travelling: Always Be Careful. While the way to Tappiya Falls is well established, it IS narrow and steep. Just one wrong step can cause you to fall off the ravine.
If walking through Batad Rice Terraces gives one the option of falling over a muddy pool or dropping on a rocky 10-foot plunge on the other, going down the route to Tappiya Falls gave us only one scary option: falling off a deep watery gorge to our right. The rocky wall on the left became my best friend, holding on to it as I carefully trudged the slippery path.
On the plus side, the view, as always, was stunning. The gorge is truly spectacular, with the river snaking away from the waterfall and the lush green forest framing it.
Finally reaching Tappiya Falls, we marveled at its imposing and powerful beauty. From its apex, the water rushes down at about 70 meters high. Our guide told us to stay by the banks as the strong current might swallow us. I decided against taking a dip in the falls because of this (I am not a very good swimmer). But the water was inviting, especially after the sweat-inducing descent. I decided to just go for it, carefully balancing my way on the rocky floor of the riverbank.
The water is freezing cold, my body needed to acclimate a bit before I can actually relax and enjoy the water and the view. The 30 minutes we spent frolicking and enjoying the peace of the place was worth the one-hour hike we did to reach it.
We had no concrete plan for Batad. We even had to cut it down from an overnight stay to a daytrip because of the rainy weather. But that leg of our 7-day backpacking trip was definitely a highlight of our Cordillera tour.
It gave us everything we expected and more: from a challenging hike through heavily forested trail to crossing the 2,000 year-old world wonder; dipping in the cold waters of Tappiya Falls and the much needed isolation from the rest of the world, we indeed became “one with nature” in the truest sense. The short day spent here was enough for us to fall in love with Tappiya Falls and Batad.
Up next: Surviving Sagada