Batad-Barlig traverse May 13-15th
This hike I just finished was awful and terrifying and great and breath taking. It’s made me seriously rethink the extent of the skills I need to develop for future, more difficult hikes. It was an experience of a life time where I hiked with a shitty injury, nearly feel off a ledge and got to hike through the UNESCO Heritage site of the Banaue rice terraces.
Warning this post contains some slightly graphic descriptions of my digestive process on the hike.
We hiked from 11am to 9pm. Three hours into the day, we are walking on endless rice partie ridges. Many sections are even concrete slabs of a decent width; requiring some balance and focus but not terrifying. Some sections are rocks lined up in mushy mud that won’t really hold up your foot roperly. We must have been on the patties for 5 hours total. Three hours in on the ridges, the girl right in front of me tripped and fell into the rice patty below at least ten meters down. At first, she got up and jsut shook it off and kept walking, but on the second day, it became apparent that she had incurred a more serious injury then she let on. Possibly even, a hair -line fracture.
After the fall I am feeling pretty shaken up but we just kept on walking on the damned patties and by then it’s raining. It’s beautiful but oh so treacherous. An hour into this slippery endeavour, I tripped. Half my body was now dangling off the patty wall, a 30 meter fall to the next rice patty below. I managed to hook my right foot into the muddy rice patty we were walking along, with my right hand also holding onto the ledge. So I was sort of lopped-siddedly “sitting” “around” the ledge. I actually remember laughing and thinking “ok, this isn’t so bad, i’m not slipping or anything and I totally caught myself, no harm no foul”, but ultimately that near death experience really messed with my mind.
We finish the rice patties and then hit the steep muddy hills that were now just slippery muddy small rivers due to the rain. It’s getting dark at that point and I literally started giving up after an hour of trying to climb a steep mud-bath like hill. I ask about pull out options: there are absolutely none on the Batad-Barlig traverse. By then my new shoes had begun etching deep circular blisters all around my ankles and some were in the process of bursting. I thought about Cheryl Strayed in Wild and her shoes and loosing battle against nail loss then.
So, this super agile guide takes my hand literally starts pulling me up when I can’t find my footing and just keeps me going. Total break down me by then is crying like a blubbering idiot with no shame. I had met my edge and really failed to regain control of my sense of mental and physical safety. It’s not a pretty picture but hey i’d rather be honest then aesthetic.
After a very eventful night hike, we finally arrived at the Ifugao (a filipino indigenous community) homestay. It is beautiful to arrive anywhere with a shelter and supper is ready:
I am too cranky to fully enjoy it all, but it’s like a balm on my crankiness to arrive at camp.
The next day, however, was magical. Physically, it was a demanding hike and by then day 2 I had developed Edema in my ankles and had huge blisters and so I was in a decent amount of pain, but the forest was straight out of a lord of the rings movie and of a type of terrain I am familiar with so I had a blast and I made friends with this american dr. who was hiking in a group with me for the second time, but with whom I hadn’t really connected previously.
But the best part was still to come: the summit. The hard work of a super steep incline revealed a peak right above the clouds with other mountains peering just above the white fluffy horizon. It was absolutely jaw dropping.
Because I had brought my light winter sleeping bag and the shelter was too warm, I slept outside under a tarp in 10 degree weather and it was great. Everyone thought I was nuts but I had my winter sleeping bag and I could see the starts and hear the surrounding sound. I was so happy
Except I woke up the next day feeling nauseous. Shortly thereafter started puking and had explosive diarrhea. I took Cypro but couldn’t keep it down, so I crushed it into powder (as instructed by the now absolutely adored doctor), took it in increments and it finally stayed down. However, it didn’t really resolve my digestive issues (I stopped puking but still couldn’t digest food or keep it down. So I hiked down to base camp with infected, seriously swollen ankles and no food in my system, stopping every hour, on the hour, urgently, for me the shit water. I arrived down at our finally destination with at least an hour’s delay from the rest of the group. One new friend and designated sweeper was incredibly nice and hiked with me the whole way down striking a gentle balance between chit-chatting to ease the mood and giving me a large berth at times so I could figure out what I needed the most. I would understand if he didn’t particularly want to hang out with me again, but I will forever be grateful to him for having been such an awesome presence on such a weird day for me.
I feel so much closer to Carrot Quinn now haha (we’re poop twins!): Carrot Quinn is my favourite blogger/hiker (https://carrotquinn.com) who had amoebas for most of her hike through the Continental Divide Trail. My best friend Dana upon hearing my poop story and that I probably had amoebas (turns out I don’t) cheered my up by saying: ” Hey, you and Carrot Quin are poop twins now!” I love my friends.
I learned a lot and it was beautiful.
I still have a lot to process from this hike.