Saturday, 24 March 2012

Rocky Mountain Way - Joe Walsh

The 08:30 GL Trans Line Bus from Baguio to morning for the 240 mile run to the village of Sagada in Mountain Province. For the most part this journey was on unmade roads, punctuated by several serious looking landslides, but if we were to fall to one of these at least I hadn't had to pay to keep my bag with me this time.

Following a decent breakfast at the vastly over-priced Microtel it was a taxi across town to the other bus station where I met Laucan. A much younger fellow traveller we met in the ticket queue discovering we were on the same path, so off for a pre-departure coffee together.

Apart from a tantalisingly close view of a PHILIPPINES HAWK-EAGLE (E) (not to be confused with Philippines Eagle which is 'rare' and a colossal grit thing) en-route there was little to report until we reached just past the halfway stage. The part obscured sign reads Welcome to Sabangan

where we were met by the usual crowd of Hawkers and Peddlers, but I was off to see what I could find during this 20 minute break.

No birds, but a chance to take a first close look at one of the many small hamlets seemingly clutching the hillside,

plus some of the LOCALS.

More stalls and more vegetables and we were once again on our way.

The first views of SAGADA looked no different from the rest, and having now hooked-up with a young Swiss lady, the 3 of us set about finding lodgings. They didn't share the same priority as myself, not really bothered if there were Internet access or not, but regular readers will know the importance of that!
Now alone, and having viewed a couple of unsuitable rooms I opted for The George but soon found myself being ushered to the Annex, ready to demand a lift back if the 'connection' was not in place.

Young Civil Engineering Student SHERWIN seemed to have things pretty much in hand and offered to drive me in his uncles JEEPNEY

to the GEORGE ANNEX which for £5 per night would do.

On holiday from his college in Baguio, Sherwin helps out, along with a few of his mates, with the domestics and seemed very keen to give me the 'Cook's Tour'. First showing me a couple of vantage points

on top of unfinished buildings, we went on to discuss the birding prospects, of which he knew nothing. However, wandering around the fringes it was 'young eyes' that first found

a couple of CHESTNUT-CHEEKED STARLING

followed by one species that had been hoped for,

MOUNTAIN SHRIKE (E)

before asking what sounded like "would you like to see the hanging carvings"? Well, of course who wouldn't, and he led me to this cliff face

and pointed out what could have been anything on the rocks.

On closer (binocular) inspection they, or it were seen to be 'boxes', and indeed that is just what they were.

Boxes containing the remains of his Grandfather who had died in 1981 plus other members of his family. Of course what he had said in the first place was, "do you want to see the Hanging Coffins"? He went on to tell me that The Philippines, China and Malaysia are the only 3 countries in the world using this practice to 'bury' their dead.

It was also most interesting to see the only remaining original Sagadan BAHAY KUBO literally translated to House of Grass.

As the light faded, the sky was filled with another 'Lifer & endemic'

PHILIPPINES SWIFTLET
feeding before heading for their roost site in the local caves.

It was probably time for my pre-roost feed as well and decided on the local traditional dish,

PINIK PIKAN
of smoked pork, boiled chicken and 2 cabbage leafs in a savory soup. Not bad but I won't be hounding Kim at The Swan to get it on her menu! Bon App├ętit.

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