The rice terraces were dug into the land over two thousand years ago using only basic, primitive tools, by the Ifuago tribe people who would refer to them as 'The stairway to heaven'.
Listed by UNESCO World Heritage, they are under threat of destruction, due to natural erosion and imperfect irrigation systems and I have to say, having survived the arduous trek, they are definitely a sight to be seen - close up - if you dare!
Walking along the rice terraces has certainly been one of the most physically challenging things I have done, having a good balance helps - or an excellent bamboo cane! And walking up hill in the heat really doesn't help, especially with a small back pack strapped firmly to your body as well t kind of throws the balance out even more - and helps insulate more heat! I reckon I sweated off at least half a stone in those three hours alone! And my face was probably as red as my hair! My heart was in my mouth for most of the trek, I was concentrating so much on trying not to fall in, that I couldn't keep stopping to take pictures. But suffice it to say, the exhilaration I felt at the end was indescribable.
I think it took us approximately three and a half hours plus a lunch break, to trek from Kinakin to our guesthouse in Cambulo, by which time my calves were tight and in complete agony, my quadriceps where screaming at being awoken from a long sleep of about twenty years, my knees were aching, my feet were still swollen, my blisters had blisters and I was losing a toe nail! But hey, I didn't fall into any of the rice terraces. Yes, I had slipped over once in the mud, but managed to bounce back up, (literally off my voluptuous back side) and I was in complete awe of the stunning sites before me! I am so pleased I did it!
On reaching the Guesthouse, we were all allocated our rooms, TC and I were on the bloody third floor! More steps - my knees were hating me! And not only that but there were only two bathrooms for us all to share (one had a cold scoop shower, though hot water was available on request for an extra 50 pesos and the kettle would be boiled). And these were back down on the first floor! My legs were in so much pain it was taking me twice as long as usual to climb a couple of flights of stairs and then I had to use both the bannister and wall for support!
But it wasn't time to sit back and relax yet, we still had a local waterfall to go visit and the option to go for a swim in the water. I was under the impression that it was a short walk through the tiny village to reach it and once there we could lay out our towels and just relax on the waters edge in the dwindling sunlight. Well it couldn't be further from my fantasy, there was an approximate ten minute walk through the village, part of which was through the school playground, then another load of steps down to the fountain found in the middle of all the flora and fauna with no waters edge, just huge rocks to scramble over and balance precariously on whilst admiring the view. And obviously in order to balance precariously on aforementioned huge rocks, one must engage a load of muscle groups and my muscle groups were screaming to be left alone and allowed to go back to sleep!
Luckily, there were massages on offer back at the Guest House, and as a lot of you already know, my experiences of massages over in Asia have not exactly been without pain, contortion (literally) or in any shape relaxing, but I was desperate!
Meanwhile TC was more concerned about the fact that there was only a thin blanket on the bed. She hadn't brought her sleeping sheet and was therefore concerned that there could be a chance she may catch something from the bed Linen! I didn't quite get an explanation as to what, but knowing her it was probably on the lines of leprosy?! Even so, she managed to pass out quite quickly on her bed whilst my masseuse (Ophelia) gave me a fantastic, relaxing and therapeutic massage. One which didn't didn't involve any digging of fingers, elbows or knees into my flesh, nor twisting my body into shapes no human should be forced into unless they are planning on joining the circus!
Dinner was welcomed by one and all that evening, as thanks to Bryan and our two local guides: J.R. and Johnson, we had all survived and were starving! I sat and chatted for a while with Karen - another of the Aussies in our group. Turns out she is a nurse and even though she works with diabetes sufferers, I thought it best to hold back on letting TC know that we had a 'medic' amongst us! (That was for Karen's benefit of course!)
After our lovely veggie meal, (the vegetable soup,had chicken in it and we kept being told, "it's ok, no meat, no meat". I'm not sure that The Filipinos have quite grasped the concept of 'vegetarianism' just yet), I dragged myself upstairs to the bedroom, rubbed some Ibuleve gel into my legs, hobbled all the way back downstairs to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, then crawled all the way back up the stairs and went to sleep. Though still feeling nervous about the next part of the trek the following day and what it had in store for us - even though we had been assured that we had completed the hardest part of the trail!?