When I think of home, it makes me think of Halsema Highway. With all its sharp curves and landslide tendencies, the long winding road has claimed a lot of lives. It is even considered as one of the most dangerous highways worldwide.
Despite these, hundreds of vehicles pass through it to get to the different municipalities of Benguet and to go to Mt. Province. Having a coverage of 150 km., it is given the title of the highest altitude highway in the Philippines with its highest point at 2300m above sea level.
Halsema Highway Road Trip
Driving around the highway is a real challenge, only the brave and skilled drivers can survive. Best time to go on a road trip here is during the dry seasons around December to May to avoid the landslides and slippery roads during the rainy season.
What to see and do
Passing through Halsema, you’ll be able to see the beauty of the Cordillera.
1. Get a view of the terraces of vegetable plantations that rival that of the famous Banaue Rice Terraces to the glorious mountains of the Cordillera.
2. Check out the half tunnel of Atok.
3. Experience the cold and foggy weather.
4. Drop by the highest point in the Philippines where you can get a glimpse of Mt. Pulag.
5. Check out the wildflowers and orchids growing by the side of the road. You’ll be able to also get a glimpse of the well-known pitcher plant and blueberries.
6. Experience the hospitability of the Igorots.
7. View the sunset and sunrise. What I love most when I travel at dawn is the sunrise when the first rays of the sun kiss the top of the mountains. If not the sunrise, the next thing I love about Halsema is the view of the stars when I travel at night. When the sky is clear, there are a lot of stars.
8. See clouds come down the mountains. Yup. Several times I’ve seen clouds on the distant mountains looking like they’re getting some water. Other times, a sea of clouds appear.
Halsema has so much to offer other than being just a highway.
It has many stops with turo-turos that are as hearty as its people. If you’re on a road trip, it’s better to steer clear of the pitstops of the vans and buses. Stop when you want, eat where you want. Trust me. Every eatery here is a gem of its own. On the highway, you’ll pass by meat, fruit and vegetable stalls, houses that sell home-cooked coffee beans with beef hanging by the side, and live chickens, piglets, rabbits and goats that you could take home to either eat or take care of. Whichever you fancy.
What to expect
The to do and to see list would go on but just like your wife, every beauty has a flaw.
Here are what you should expect during your travel.
1. Chicken dung
Benguet is a province where a majority of its people farm. That said, Halsema highway has the most traffic when it comes to the organic fertilizers, chicken dung. Getting a whiff of dried chicken poop would really turn you and your stomach off. Trucks who deliver a literal shit ton of these are rampant. No trip is safe.
2. Zigzag, up, down, left, right, bumpitty bump
Curves and turns, they will make you feel nauseous. You’d probably be worried about your breakfast, lunch and yesterday’s dinner rather than the sights. This is especially true when it’s your first time to pass through Halsema highway.
3. Not for the fainthearted
An old Nigerian woman was with me on a ride home once. Her palms were sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, there was vomit on her blouse already. Yesterday’s lunch. Haha just kidding. She almost had a heart attack, many times, from all the sharp curves and the cliff just a meter away from the car’s window.
4. Vegetable trucks
Being an agricultural province, you will meet trucks carrying loads of vegetables to sell in La Trinidad or Baguio City. These trucks run at the minimum speed so most often other cars overtake them. If you are driving and you choose to do so, be careful.
When there is a landslide, expect that you’ll be stuck on the road for hours. Once, I got stuck in Halsema. The supposed three-hour ride turned into eight hours.
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