I must have been crazy when I agreed to hike all the way up to Mt. Pinatubo. First there was the physical aspect of it, I hadn’t done any form of hiking since Sagada back in 2013 and whatever 3-5km walking I have been doing wouldn’t necessarily prepare me for the intense walking needed. I know it’s not Mt. Pulag or Mt. Apo but yeah I was crazy. The second was more of nature, I know the volcano hadn’t erupted since the 90’s but who would want to hike up an active volcano, apparently many people do. Despite my apprehensions that leaned more on the physical, I said yes and after finalizing everything we decided to go up north and climb this mountain.
Since we got the tour from a Metro Deal package everything was already set for us. Meeting place, transport to and back, the only things we needed to prepare for were food and money: money for the 4×4 trip (Php. 4000/5 people) and the park conservation fee (Php. 550). We left Manila at 2am and arrived in Tarlac around 6am, from there it was all sign up for this and that waiver and prepare for the aforementioned fees.
With the sun barely up we set off to Mt. Pinatubo on a 4×4. The weather was absolutely cold and my shirt didn’t insulate me from its bite, even after the ride my fingers were still numb from the biting cold of the metal. Along the way, Tarlac showered us with her beauty, the path to the volcano was vast, extremely desolate and prehistoric. Mountains surrounded us from all sides, craggy, sheer cliff faces was all I saw. It was a bit terrifying when I started thinking about getting lost in this plain. After about an hour of crossing river beds, lahar flow, and rocky passes, we finally reached the start of the trail leading up to the crater.
Since I rarely climb or hike this was the part I absolutely dreaded. I felt my lack of physical training would reduce me to a sweating complaining boy. The hike was easy, not a lot of steep climbs but a lot of rocky paths and “river” crossings. The landscape provided entertainment and lighthearted moments. were moments I felt like a character from Lord of the Rings or Final Fantasy, the cliffs and mountains excited ones imagination. I was also thankful the sun didn’t come out too much and burn us all to death.
Towards the end of the trek we finally encountered a rest stop and the best sign in the whole world: 20 minutes to the crater. I was relieved and happy that this fitness boot camp was nearing its halfway point. Unfortunately I would have to walk another 20-30 minutes before I reach the crater…ughhh! After that sign the scenery changed from rocky steps to lush greens, according to our guide, this is a sign that we were nearing the crater.
After walking for more than hour we finally reached the crater and was it wonderful and beautiful. In the middle of the crater was a beautiful blue-green lake, all quiet, peaceful and serene. We took the steep steps down to the shore of the crater like, rocky sand awaited us and the cool shade of a cliff face. A few years ago people were allowed to swim in the lake but for reasons unknown large signs dot the shore telling people not to even think about it.
There are three ways to enjoy the crater lake’s beauty: take numerous selfies and groufies is one way, have a picnic and enjoy the view, or just do both while relaxing to the steady sound of shores and wind. I enjoyed my view with a simple lunch of spicy adobo, ham, and spam sandwich. It was during those moments everything was all worth it, the sweat, the aching legs and back, it was all good. Our time in the crater lake was long enough to recharge our body, rest under the shade of the cliffs while enjoying the frozen shore, before making our way back to where the trucks were.
The trek going back wasn’t as bad as when we were going up, it was somewhat faster given that we were going down. Besides the relatively fast pace we took going down, I was happy the sun was covered with clouds. In the 4×4 we jostled about violently and this time covered with dust from the lahar flow but the views were just as stunning. Aeta children running and waving at us, the beautiful rock formations in a different light, perfectly capped off the trip.
Apart from enjoying the beautiful crater and its lake there was also the stunning landscape going to the crater itself. At some point I felt I was in a set of some fantasy/sci-fi movie, the expanse was desolate and dusty with craggy mountains and sheer cliff faces. I was awestruck with the rock formations and seeing it for the first time made the trip very exhilarating.