I decided to take a little breather form the sun, sand and sea. And that's how I found myself trekking the grand canyons of Mount Pinatubo, crossing the seemingly endless number of streams with some evil-looking sulfur formation on its sides and to be finally treated to the blue-green waters of the Pinatubo crater.
* Before the Mt Pinatubo tour *
I had to meet other solo climbers and group of trekkers at 3am(!) somewhere in Quezon City as was written in the itinerary of Tripinas tours. On a regular day, that'd be just the time that I'd go to bed. Geez! Why so early, I thought to myself. But I realized that its better to start early to avoid traffic, the horrible sun, etc. Anyway I was really excited to travel to the Pinatubo since it was the first volcano trekking I had. We were 7 in the private van antd I had the opportunity to meet several nice people. It took us around 2 hours to reach Capas, Tarlac where we had our breakfast. A good meal is very important to start a Pinatubo tour. Then the van took us to Brgy. Santa Juliana - which was an
hour away from Capas, Tarlac - to finalize our registration. We parked our van at the Pinatubo Spa town where the 4X4s were waiting for climbers.
* The Pinatubo tour *
It was 7:30 AM when the 4X4 left the Pinatubo Spa Town and drove us through the amazing canyons of Mount Pinatubo. Was it dusty? Yes, Was it comfortable? No. Bu was it fun? YES! The skill of the driver was amazing! He managed to cross the rivers without any problem. I think that a private vehicle shouldn't try to do it lest you want to be stranded and get stuck on the rugged terrain. One hour later it was time to hike up to the Pinatubo crater. Our tour guide said that the trek will take around 2-3 hrs depending on our level of fitness. I don't know about MY fitness level but it was FAR! She said that the distance from the jump-off point to the crater is 17km. Well, it might as well be 50km. It sure felt that way. On the way, there were a lot of water rivulets to cross and evil looking sulfur streams that I tried so hard to avoid. The
tobelerone-like lahar formations were very impressive. The terrain was flat but that doesn't make it any easier as there were tons of sharp rocks. Good thing I was advised to wear some trekking sandals. My groupmates were wearing rubber shoes which they complained about because of the noise it makes when ever they walk. After what seemed like eternity, we finally hit the rainforest where a noticable change in temperature was felt. The local guide said that we're not very far now. Hmm. He have been saying that line for hours. Hm. While I was having an internal debate as to whether to believe the guide or just to ignore him, I saw him motion to a flight of man-made stairs. It was high! And it was steep! Uh-oh...No one mentioned about these stairs. I really don't know how I was able to go up the flight of stairs but I did. And then I saw it - the Pinatubo crater. The photos didn't lie. I was literally speechless. The scenery was breathtaking. All the blisters on my feet were forgotten the moment I dipped on the cold crater water. Good thing I was a good swimmer. The crater was deep - not for the faint of heart. Some of my groupmates took the boat to explore the crater. I, on the other hand, contented myself with mindless swimming, admiring the washed out area of the mountain as well as the contrast of the sky, the water and the white boulders surrounding the caldera. It was very peaceful. I kinda felt bad when we had to go back.
* Post- pinatubo tour *
I'm a sucker for novelty. When my tour guide mentioned that there was a volcanic ash spa that was being offered at the Pinatubo Spa town, I was sold. It was relaxing and a good way to soothen my sore muscles after that long trip to Mount Pinatubo. To sum it up, Mount Pinatubo is a must see. I'm just glad that I was able to share the tour with good natured people. Thanks to my new friends - John, Barry, Lea, Rhea, Susie, Jason and of course to Tripinas for a very organized Pinatubo tour.
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