The road distance between Batad and Baler is, according to Google Maps, about 270km, with an estimated driving time of just under 8 hours. Sounds a lot? I don't know how they do it but after doing this tour I can say it's a pretty exact estimate.
Roads are about 50% gravel or mud, with construction works going on in some places. At the time of this writing I wouldn't advise to try that route with anything less than a capable 4x4, unless you are very sure there hasn't been rain for a month or so.
When I went that route for the first time a year ago I planned for an overnight stop in Santiago, located approximately half way between Batad and Baler. This time we would try it in one day, since Santiago in itself isn't worth visiting (and I didn't have the family including a toddler in the car this time…).
Instead, this time my Copilot in the Pajero was Peter, with whom I had already climbed Mt. Pulag a couple days before.
The day starts with some hiking, because the road to batad ends a couple Kilometers outside the village. The car with most of our luggage is parked at the end of that road, we just brought day packs into the village.
The Batad Top Viewpoint Homestay where we stayed is conveniently located, not too far away from the road. With our day packs the walk to and from the car took us about 20 minutes. The place is really simple (even for the Philippines) but the view from their terrace is truly amazing:
7:20am - Departure from Batad
The Pajero survived the night, all wheels still attached and our luggage still inside. Locals in Batad tell everybody that it's dangerous to leave the car there on the road unguarded over night. My theory is that they just tell stories to encourage tourists to spend hundred pesos or so for guarded parking. Since a member of the family running the place where we stayed owns a store near the end of the road we just asked him to stay there over night (for a tip of course ;) and parked in front of it.
The engine starts up fine but sounds like it's complaining over the unusually cold night here in the mountains. Going up the really steep road to the Saddle, as the highest point of the mountain which separates Batad from the bigger road is called, brings it up to working temperature quickly. The saddle is also the point where cell phone reception returns. We go down on the other side and turn left going to Mayoyao.
It is a good idea to ask around in the village if the road to Mayoyao is actually passable, especially in rainy season this isn't always the case. When traveling in the mountains one can always see remainders of land slides, especially not too long after big rains.
There are also regular Jeepneys between Banaue - Mayoyao and Mayoyao - Santiago. If you spend the night in Mayoyao you can do this trip without your own car.
With roads in good condition and little to no traffic we reach Mayoyao after roughly one and a half hours.
From Mayoyao onwards the road gets better, there are less roadworks (the heavy machinery often turns the road into a mud bath) and more simple gravel roads.
At noon we arrive in Santiago. So far we are perfectly on time and get some lunch at Max's in the centre of the city. When we continue our trip eastwards, the road leads through flat land at first but not too long until we reach some mountains again.
The new road is not even completed in some places, and in others already covered with land slides again. All places however are cleaned at least as much as necessary to allow passing without problems.
Some kilometers are still 'pristine' rough road and includes an interesting river crossing.
First we help pushing the stuck Toyota to get out of the water. Next comes the Jeepney, which also wouldn't have made it on it's own.
Now it's our turn, and quite an audience has accumulated on the other side to see if the two white guys manage to get through. Proper tires, four wheel drive and differential lock make it almost too easy :)
4:30pm - Baler
After passing the mountain range that separates us from the Pacific Ocean we finally see the sea again. We turn south and tackle the last kilometers through coconut plantations to Baler.
Just in time for an hour of surfing we arrive in the late afternoon in Baler. It was quite an amazing ride and I'm pretty happy that the Pajero did so well.