As I attempt to write this, the bus negotiates yet another knife edge, hairpin bend, my laptop almost squirming out of my grasp.
Night has fallen on a mesmeric journey, the fourth time in ten years that I have taken this particular route in the far north of the Philippines. Heading from Bagiuo across the nation’s Cordillera to the wonderful Alpine surroundings of Sagada is a treat and the little town of Sagada, perched 1,500 metres up in a wooded valley surrounded by mountains, is, as far as I am concerned, the perfect Xmas getaway.
Today, though we are heading back to Bagiuo. The weather had been fairly inclement to begin with as we whipped through the tight, muddy roads. Patches of low-lying cloud swathed many of the jagged peaks.
After around four hours or so, having just passed the highest part of the nation’s road system (7,400ft) we enter the most spectacular part of the journey where steep rice terraces compete with the forests for footholds on the cliff-like mountains – our driver nonchantly, one handed caressing his huge steering wheel around the tightest of turns, each sway left or right producing stunning panoramics.
The sun is going down. Violet hues vie with fiery oranges ahead of us, while a long, long way below a river wends its way through the steep terrain.
We’re high enough to be in amidst the clouds. And suddenly, whoosh, as we enter a new canyon, it’s almost as if our battered, ancient bus had ridden onto the stage of a rock concert. The dramatic sunset tinges the clouds purple, and like some gig by the artist formerly known as Prince we’re ploughing through shaded dry ice; the driver seems unpeturbed, he’s seen it all before. I’m blown away by the sight – my last shot in my roll of Kodak 100 unlikely to do justice to the moment. Baguio is now a couple of hours away.
I say it every time I am on this stupendous road: one day I really ought to bicycle this route. Who knows, one day I might just do that. Lord knows, I could do with the exercise.