On this fully-inclusive group expedition, you get whisked to Sagada via the old summer capital of Baguio in a comfortable van or mini-bus on an expressway from Manila built above vast deposits of volcanic lahar–a legacy of the 1991 eruption of Mt Pinatubo. The explosion was the twentieth century’s biggest. Some 13 cubic kilometres of the earth’s crust spewed into the air to settle on the ground, dramatically altering the topography.
After lunch at Baguio’s Cafe By The Ruins, it’s the Halsema Highway — the country’s highest thoroughfare –stopping occasionally to take in sights and sample the delicious produce en route to hill station, Sagada.
Sagada in Mountain Province is our base for day explorations by 4×4 and on foot: Accommodation is in a mountain chalet or cabin, and the piece de la resistance is a dinner prepared by a once Michellin-rated chef Philippe –Aklay is his native name–using a variety of local ingredients.
On Day 2 we stretch our legs hiking out of Sagada to observe the lives of the Kankanay people: We see the Dapay, a physical semi-circle of stones and the centre of local government; we walk through rock-clad rice terraces, past fast-flowing streams, to a waterfall: Pack your swimmers for a refreshing swim!
On Day 3 we drive and hike to Whang-Od, reputedly the oldest traditional tattooist in the world. A petite and pretty woman, this centenarian hails from a tribe in mountainous Kalinga province renowned in times past for taking heads, but now best known for dispensing tattoos to tourists. Yes, you can join the cue for a souvenir, but we’ll also take you deeper, hiking further into the picturesque hills and valleys beyond Buscalan village, through other ancient villages with their characteristic rice huts on stilts, a hot spring, fast rushing streams, magestic waterfalls. En route we have been known to be invited into rice huts. Two decades ago an old man, plied with strong native Robusta coffee, waxed lyrical about his headhunting exploits. Alas, the headhunters are gone but their descendants have entertaining tales to tell. Here and elsewhere in the Cordillera–the mountains famous for the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Ancient Banaue Rice Terraces–we’ll get to the soul of a vibrant and unique indigenous culture.
On Day 4, we drive through the clouds to Hapao to hike its ancient rice terraces, take a dip in a hot spring. The Ifugao of Hapao began cultivating rice on their magnificent terraces long before the Kalinga, and their spirituality — their reverence for their rice gods — is no less diluted with time. On the way out, at a lookout over the famed Banaue Rice Terraces, you can peruse an array of rice gods for sale. Indigenous culture engenders Pride and inevitably demands a Price.
On Day 5 we wander around Sagada, visiting Echo Valley where there are hanging coffins–the traditional form of burial of the native Sagadans. We can, with your concurrence, explore the Big Cave–a limestone cave with sensual formations, hike to Kiltepan with its panoramic view. On the list is also visiting weavers and potters–and yes — you can try your hand at pottery! That evening is the gastronomic feast a la Aklay.
On Day 6, it’s a free day or if you wish it’s your wishlist day for canyoning, mountain biking or whitewater rafting. Each activity has limited slots and one or more activity might not be available or might be substituted. (Rafting has a particularly short season and it is out of the question November to June). The cost of the wishlist activity is included in the cost of the expedition.
On Day 7, we drive out on a little-used but extremely picturesque road to Bessang Pass, a last stand of the Japanese in World War II. We take a break at the coast, on a beach with a popular surf break. (Feel free to take a dip before resuming the road trip in your roomy van or mini-bus to the Expressway). You should be back in Manila, punctuated by a break for dinner at Clark or Angeles, late that evening. (As Clark has an international airport, it’s even more convenient to start and/or finish the Northern Philippines Explorer there.)
The expedition is run for a minimum of five persons and a maximum of 14. When the number of participants on The Northern Philippines Explorer exceeds seven, the group is split in two for the purpose of Day 3 and Day 4 activities. This means when we have the full complement of Participants for Day 3 and Day 4, the activities for those not accommodated on Day 3 and Day 4 do the Kalinga and Hapao visits respectively on Day 5 and Day 6. Their Day 5 itinerary is moved to Day 3 and their Day 6 itinerary is moved to Day 4. The limits on numbers is imposed for better Participant engagement, utilisation of local guides and limiting social impact.
|DEPARTURE/RETURN LOCATION||Hotel in Manila or Clark/Angeles|
|DEPARTURE TIME||6am Manila; 8am Clark/Angeles|
Day 1 : timeline_title_here
Day 2 : timeline_title_here
|COST PER PERSON|
|2 PERSONS||PHP 104,015|
|1 PERSON||PHP 173,754|