There are several ways to get from Banaue to Sagada – Jeepney the whole way is cheap but wouldn’t be the most comfortable way to travel, there are also coaches which went from someone in town a more expensive option but not that frequent. We found a minibus which was only slightly more expensive than a Jeepney and they leave often enough as soon as the bus is full.
The journey was bumpy and the windy, great fun and a bit hairy at times as the driver hurtled his way through the mountain roads, past landslides and over waterfalls which had made their path on the road. It seems like a constant job to rebuild sections of the road. It was a beautiful journey, we thought the rice terraces of Batad and Banaue were impressive but the views just didn’t stop.
We stopped off to drop some people off in the town of Bontoc and whilst crossing the bridge we saw a house that had literally fallen into the river! No one in the bus found this even remotely strange!
We arrived in Sagada in really good time (a little too good 🤪) first impressions were good but we were starving so we went straight to the tourist office to pay our fee for being there then grabbed some lunch.
Due to the lack of Internet in Batad we hadn’t managed to book anywhere to stay so we started making our way down the High Street asking for prices and looking for rooms. I hate doing this, its such a pain to lug all of your bags up and down. Eventually we settled on somewhere which in hindsight was actually really good, but at the time we were just too tired to go to anymore.
That afternoon we had good weather so wanted to get on with exploring the area. The only way to do things in Sagada is through the tourist office in town, it is price regulated and there is a menu of tours you can pick from. We started with a trek which would take us to see the famous hanging coffins.
Its a pagan religious tradition to place the coffins on the side of mountains or in caves. Before you die you can choose your spot and your family have to honor your wish and somehow engineer a solution to get you there. Really interesting to see and our guide was really knowledgeable about it all.
The tour also took us through some agricultural fields a lot of which are no longer being farmed as tourism brings in more money than farming. We ended our walk at a rather meek waterfall and then called it a day.
Day two in Sagada and we wanted to go and see the caves which we had heard were brilliant. We booked the Combined Cave tour which starts at one Cave and then ends up in another. The tourism office give you the option of walking to the caves or paying more and being driven, we didn’t want to pay but our guide didn’t want to walk so we got the ride for free.
On the way we stopped off at another coffin spot.
We arrived at the Cave entrance also full of coffins, our guide was having some trouble with his lanteen.
After running off to get another lantern which also didn’t work he had to give up and call a different guide, the whole time we were just chilling out next to the dead, spotting more bones the longer we were there.
Eventually our new guide Patrick arrived and we were on our way. Now I am not the biggest fan of confined spaces and caves have never been favourite places to spend time but you have to try these things.
I am the first to admit that health and safety can go too far sometimes but here I would have really appreciated it to have even been a consideration. Our guide did ask us at the beginning if we wanted helmets, this was a joke as he was referring to the pile of skulls at the entrance…there were no helmets.
The caving was tough, the spaces we had to squeeze through were really tight and some of the sections we had to climb up could have ended really badly if we had slipped. Anyone who knows me well will know I can be a bit clumsy, when we finally made it out of the caves I had a fair few bruised ribs and a couple of cuts as souviners, luckily nothing serious, but that was all down to luck.
After the first hour the cave did open up and became a lot more fun, lots of rock formations which apparently resemble the female form. There were lots of places to slide around and climb, it also got a lot easier to navigate.
When we got out of the cave after about 2. 5 hours I was happy to see daylight. We took a nice stroll back into town and treated ourselves to lunch. We had managed to get hold of some Wi-Fi in our room so spent some time booking the next couple of days of our trip and sorting our bus tickets out the next morning.
We had also planned to join a sunrise walk the next morning but there weren’t enough other people wanting to join to make the price worthwhile so we cancelled, it was a good job we did because the rain really set in that morning. Up early we enjoyed a good breakfast before our bus, God knows we would need it as it was 12 hours back to Manila.