You know when they say that sometimes, the journey is better than the destination? This was true, until we finally reached the crater. I trekked Mount Pinatubo with colleagues, my best friend, and some friends last May. It didn't matter if we were fit or unfit - we were going to walk up a volcano and that was it.
We arranged a tour via Philippine Adventures. The base rate per person (for a group of 9) was P2,200 (which was inclusive of pick-up and drop-off, expenses for toll/gas, driver, entrance and tour guide fees). We paid an additional P350 each for a Korean lunch. You could opt for a Filipino lunch at P250.
We were fetched from the office at 3:30 a.m. by a well-maintained, Ford van. Our point of entry was Capas, Tarlac and we arrived at approximately 7:00 a.m. The driver assisted us in filling up a few forms, and brought us to our assigned 4x4 jeeps. The hour and a half drive had begun. I’ve always wanted to stand up inside a 4x4, you know, like they do in those safari movies. In the first 30 minutes, we drove through flat terrain.
All we could see were hundreds of meters of lahar (volcanic ash) and grass. There were cows and carabaos grazing, trying to feed on greens struggling their way through what was left of tilled soil. Locals walked in families of four or five. I was certain they've been walking for hours just to reach town.
We reached the narrower and bumpier path. Boulders and rocks embraced tiny streams of water. There wasn't a choice but to brave it. Boy, was it fun! Despite mud splashing on our backpacks, shorts, and shoes, each jerk and bump sent us laughing. We couldn't get a video of ourselves - it meant seeing faces, necks, shoulders, shoes, mountains, seats, water jugs, and an eyebrow on camera all in 20 seconds!
(L-R: Patti, Shiela, Mia, Denice)
After an outrageously rough yet fun ride, we reached the area where the real trek begun. A few photos here, there, and well... mid-air!
We found ourselves walking past mountains (all 20 feet of them) of lahar and cold streams. I recommend sturdy and comfortable trekking shoes or sandals for this trip. Rubber slippers might get caught in the current (and you don't want the tour guides running after your precious slippers all the time), and regular rubber shoes might give way.
It was a bit breezy but the sun was high up. After all, it was 10 a.m. and we were barely a quarter into the trek. When I stood still, it felt as if the mountains were going to cave in on me. While walking, I imagined scenes from Star Wars, Land of the Lost, and Lord of the Rings happening right before my very eyes. It's as if my water cooler shot out sabers and arrows or something...
We sat near a stream for a morning snack. Sandwiches we each prepared at home were on the menu. From there, the trek started to gain altitude as we climbed huge rocks and crossed several streams on the way up. The clouds grew gray and heavy, too. We reached the point where a sign said "Your Trek Starts Here." It was for the shorter and easier trek for when the Pinatubo Skyway was still passable. The guides told us that the Skyway got eroded on during the Ondoy calamity a few years back.
The last few meters up the volcano was entertaining. The trek was steeper and narrower, but were surrounded by trees and had to cross more streams. It looked like it was going to rain.
When we reached the crater, I felt nothing but relief. Finally. We were inside the crater of a volcano! It wasn't turquoise as we expected since it was starting to rain. But it was really, really beautiful.
Once the rain poured, we settled ourselves inside the cement and nipa structure. It wasn't advisable to trek down on such a slippery path, so we were in the shade for an hour or so. We took advantage of the down time to have a catnap.
© Patti Mallari of www.lifesmytrip.com
© Bob Guerrero
At around 1 p.m., we started trekking back down. The skies were still overcast, and it was cooler. We trekked another 3 hours until we got to where the 4x4 jeeps were parked. Our faces could have been made into a 9gag.com meme right there and then! We were so happy (and extremely hungry) that on the ride back to town, most of us were asleep. So much so that I almost fell off the 4x4 when it suddenly jerked upwards at some point! I remember shrieking like a pig in slow motion while I used my (lack of) upper body strength to keep myself from falling.
When we arrived the town proper, we changed into cleaner clothes and were brought to the lunch area (it was already 4 p.m.), and served a bowl of Ginseng Chicken each. They served us kimchi and the chicken portion was a huge half for each of us. The soup was comforting, and the food was filling but not too satiating.
After rubbing our bellies in happiness, we were ready to head home.