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Sagada, Philippines

Spelunking time!

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It was another early start at Randy's Guesthouse and another well organised morning; he provided our tricycle ride to the jeepney and estimated costs for onward travel (with an aim of not being ripped off). Unfortunately we nearly got ripped off at the first hurdle...

Everyone was asked to pay for the jeepney ride up front, with a guarantee of taking us straight to Sagada rather than a transfer at Bontoc. For an easy life I suggested just paying the 300pesos to take us straight to the door of our next guesthouse...I could see Jason was sceptical and rightly so. At Bontoc the driver appeared insistent on waiting for something... we explained that we had paid more money for a direct transfer... to which he laughed and pretended to be on his phone... then exclaimed that the 300pesos hadn't been given directly to him... after much arguing he started the engine and drove us to Sagada. Then we found out that other people on our bus were paying less money than us for the same journey... that really annoyed Jason and I could tell he was thinking "I told you so". I really lost my temper though when he tried to drop us off at the far end of Sagada rather than at our guesthouse...I wasn't moving until he'd completed the task we'd paid him for. Finally we got to our guesthouse, as promised, with some arguing & negotiating, but in one piece and via an extremely scenic route through rice terraces.

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I'd got an instant good feeling about Sagada; it's a pretty town, dotted with multi- coloured houses, set amongst green mountains. The main street that runs through the town has some really cute restaurants and coffee houses; our particular favourites being the Lemon Pie shop (that only sells lemon pies) and Sagada Brew (delicious beef caldereta and chocolate brownies).

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We took it easy on our first afternoon in Sagada and went for a walk to a small waterfall with a natural plunge pool to soak in and escape the heat of the day. It was freezing so I only briefly went in, but Jason was in his element.

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On the walk back we found the perfect beer break; a lady selling ice cold beers, with a bench with a view over the rice fields and glorious sun...bliss!

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Our group of 6 from Banaue split in Sagada, each couple staying at different guesthouses, but we bumped into Amy and Joel and agreed to do the cave connection tour together the next day. We set off the next day with our Filipino guides, Adam and Jacob, for a 3-4 hour underground trek that takes spelunkers between the famous Lumiang and Sumaguing Caves. You enter the caves entrance past some ancient coffins, then descend into the black with the only light coming from a kerosene lamp, and put all of your trust in the guides and hope they know what they're doing. Luckily they did. At times Adam became a human ladder for Amy, the shortest of us 4, and she climbed onto his shoulders to enable her to reach tops of rock walls. At other points I wished I was as petite as Amy because the holes that we were climbing through were tiny (I don't think your claustrophobia, mum, would suit this expedition). We had to wade through waist deep water and ascend slippery rock faces... it was so exciting! There was the option to swim in an underground pool but the water was icy cold and we still had another 1-2 hours of being underground left...so we passed on that one. (Our cave shots aren't that great as they were taken from the GoPro with no light).

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The caving definitely worked up an appetite. Amy and Joel are vegan and recommended we went to a vegetarian restaurant they'd found. It was actually really nice, with tasty bean burgers and lentil soup.

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Keen to explore more of the countryside we went to Echo Valley to see the hanging coffins that Sagada is famous for the next day Some of the coffins are hundreds of years old and the newest one is from 2010. People are buried in a foetal position and hung in small coffins on cliff sides so that they are closer to their ancestral spirits. We only saw a small collection of them, but apparently there are lots of them off the beaten track.

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We had arranged to go for an afternoon hike with our guide from yesterday, Adam. The weather had turned in the afternoon and was actually quite cold and drizzly. Not to be put off, we went for a 3 hour trek over the mountains; at some points very muddy we were in need of our machete made walking sticks. Adam seemed disappointed with the cloud covered views, but we weren't... atmospheric clouds rolling through the mountain in front of us and beautiful pink sunset clouds at the end of our walk.

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Different berries were pointed out to us along the walk; there were some bright pink ones that Jason tried, they looked poisonous so I took a picture in case Adam had misinformed us... Jason is still alive and well!

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At a sunset viewing spot there were some Filipinos on holiday and I partook in some of their photoshoot... they were taking a lot of posed photographs and I'm sure they missed the actual sunset!

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I felt so relaxed in Sagada, despite the energetic itinerary; if we'd had more time, and more money, we'd have stayed here longer and probably gone on the Crystal Caving Tour...maybe next time...

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Posted by bloorsontour 03:27 Archived in Philippines

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Comments

Caving looks very energetic - you still look quite glam, though, Sophie! You're right, I'll have a go at most things, but not caving or pot-holing! Good idea to photograph the berries - glad it wasn't needed. Xxx

by Ma and Pa

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