October 31, 2011

Halloween Weekend Part 2: Hanging Coffins and Foggy Cemeteries at Night in Sagada

There were no other ‘unexplained’ instances throughout the night in the Haunted Mansion. So we decided that if we wanted to see a ghost, we would have to go find one!

We made the trip to Sagada, Mountain Province to see the hanging coffins and mummy caves. The drive is around 130 Kilometers (80 miles). Google said that it was 2 hours and 45 minutes. Locals told us anywhere from 5-8 hours.  It actually took us 5 hours and 15 minutes, traveling 10-30 mph the entire way. We packed Boeing with food and filled up the petrol and off we went. (We were glad we did fill up because once you leave Baguio there are really no petrol stations as we know them) It started to rain lightly as we went out and I hoped it was not like this the whole way because rain would only make the already treacherous road worse.

As we drove the rain was continuous, sometimes hard and sometimes just a sprinkle. It did not take long before we were into the mountain tops and Lady Hiva and I were both amazed at how there were houses and villages just hanging off the sides of the mountain! I mean, doesn’t it make them nervous when the neighbor’s house just disappears with the landslide? Or is it like, well we won’t have to deal with them anymore?

The two lane road snaked along the side of the steep mountain and all traffic going to and from Baguio to north had to travel on it. Literally there were times we could look directly down out the window and see 7000 kilometers straight down! With the steep mountain on the other side of the road, it did not make for a great ending if you got into an accident. In fact, we did see one accident and if it wasn’t for the two foot retaining wall the whole van would have gone over the edge…scary! You would have a LONG fall to pray before you hit.

The view was gorgeous! The steep mountains were many shades of green and terraces for farming of all kinds covered all possible space. We wondered what it would be like to live there, perched out on a steep mountaintop. There was a steady stream of small little villages of simple grey homes. We wondered how long their families had lived there in the mountains, farming during the day and getting together to sing karaoke at night. They are full of ingenuity though! They use cable carts systems to haul their things up and down the mountainside, their homes are built literally on a cliff, and their roads are forged out of limestone. It is Amazing! The road continued to wind around and not only did we see terraces and plants of all kinds; we also saw where mudslides had torn away sides of the mountain.

There were parts of the road completely missing, we all took turns skirting around the large holes on the remaining portion of the road by hugging the cliffs of the mountain. At one point we waited in a long line of cars and trucks for a muddy hill where a landslide had covered the road. Several large trucks had to try it several times because the mud made it hard to travel. Boeing did so well though, we were so proud of him! He even kept driving when a stupid chicken tried to play ‘chicken’ and race across the road as we went passed. It hit the grill and half flew, half bounced up the hood and windshield as we drove by!  We wondered if it was okay.  Oops...

We both liked seeing the wild flowers, and farmed flowers, on the sides of the road. Calla Lilies grew like weeds everywhere! We were tempted to stop and cut some of them, they are such an expensive flower in the States. The rest was other farms were vegetables, like lettuce. The chicken dung they use for fertilizer was so potent and rancid smelling that I thought it was going to singe my nose hairs! I told Hiva that it makes to realize how important it is to wash your vegetables before you eat them! 

The rain continued and intensified so at one point, after we had been driving for 4 hours, I thought we may need to go back before we too were stuck in a landslide.  We decided to turn around and go home, yet we were so close, so we decided to plow on to Sagada. Why not, we are not dead yet, right?

The road to Sagada itself was a really rocky dirt road, not paved AT ALL. We could see why there were NO cars, only trucks and SUVs. After several miles of brain rattling bumps and rocks, we made it to Sagada. It was a quaint town nestled in the mountain top valley. We were expecting just a small sparse town, but this was larger and more beautiful than we thought. There were inns, bed and breakfasts, restaurants and countless souvenir shops that lined the main road into town.  We wondered how the locals chose this remote location, nestled in the mountains, to build up this bustling town.  Either way, it felt like a small respite from the world. Other than the fact that is was SO cold. I think the thermometer in Boeing read 55 degrees most of the night until we got back down closer to Baguio.

We stopped and asked were the mummy caves were and how to find the hanging coffins. The coffins are hanging from the limestone walls for hundreds of years to protect them from the elements. Others were buried in the caves as mummies. To get there we had to walk passed the old rock cathedral and through the forest that opened into a cemetery. The hanging coffins were in a valley on the other side of the cemetery.  In order to see them, you have to hike down Echo Valley through tall grass and pine trees.  Hiva and I were trying to hurry because it was getting dark and the fog was settling in. (Sorry some of the photos of the coffins are blurry, we were in a hurry to get out and it was getting dark fast) As we walked we could hear people talking in the canyon below…we never did see the people.

We tried to take some photos…but again it was kind of dark. So we climbed farther down into the valley of the coffins. All we could hear then was a lowing of a nearby carabao. Not sure where the people we could hear went. The dusk brought in a heavy fog. I could not help thinking the Cullens and their vampire friends were going to come get us anytime soon!

Walking through the cemetery and the forest on the way back the fog got thicker. It could not have been any better if it was in the movies: a creepy old cemetery on a hill in the middle of the forest, completely deserted and quiet with thick fog shrouding everything. To make it even worse, the old church bell started to toll its dreary warning as we walked by! Like I said, it could not have been better planned in the movies.

We drove home in the dark. I must admit that with it being dark and not being able to see that there is a 7000 kilometer drop beside you makes you have some assurance—false assurance, yes, but it works still the same.

I think the creepiest thought I had all day though was, ‘What if all the rain caused a  mudslide and there is part of the road gone? With the fog and darkness before I saw the road was gone we would be off into the hole! The rest of the drive I made sure to note all the vehicles passing the other direction! I figured if they were still coming at me that meant they had not been cut off from passage yet. 

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