The Not-So-Easy Trek Up a Volcano
Ad colleague and fellow travel blogger Kiten of Miss Adventurista arranged a tour for eight of us through Philippine Adventures. We paid about P2,200 each to cover arrangements, the van, driver, and gas. It was an additional P350 per person for those who wanted lunch.
It was a well-organized trip. Pickup time from our office in Makati was 3:30am. Driver was early, van was roomy. We arrived at the Pinatubo Spa Town, our drop-off point in Tarlac, shortly after sunrise. There, we split into two groups and loaded ourselves into 4×4 jeeps.
You should know that cellphone signals are non-existent from here all the way up to the crater. Especially important to note if you have panicky boyfriends or moms who need to know where you are every so often.
The jeep ride was the part that made me immune to potholes in Manila, which I will probably be eternally grateful for. We plowed through the path lahar created during the June 1991 eruption.
True test of friendship? Check out how Shiela made sure I wouldn’t fall out while taking pictures:
It was a dusty trip (note: protect your eyes and your cameras) but every second of it was thrilling. I exaggerate. There was a point where the rough ride began to lull us to sleep. Maybe we’re weird that way.
One thing was for certain: none of us was keeping track of time. I’ll make a rough estimate that this jeep ride lasted about half an hour before we stopped for some photo ops. About 15 minutes later, we were back in our jeeps for another half hour or so.
The terrain was really something. And driving parallel to these formations? Amazing.
To give you a better idea of the kind of ride we had:
Then we reached the end of the 4x4s’ trail and went the rest of the way up on foot.
Our group had two guides. One led the way, and the other stayed at the back of our pack. And at a certain point, one of them insisted on carrying my things because he felt I was slowing everyone down. (I maintain this isn’t true!) He also said that at the pace we were walking, it could take us more than three hours to get to the crater.
Word of advice for newbie trekkers: invest in sturdy footwear. I got Techsun III sandals from Columbia in Greenbelt 5 and they got me through fast-moving streams, slippery rocks, steep slopes, EVERYTHING. Plus they were comfortable and scratch-free at the end of the day.
Most of the way up, the sun was bearing down on us, and crossing every stream was welcome for us because we got to cool our feet. There was one point we stopped completely to rest in the middle of the water.
This wasn’t even the halfway point. We had to trek another two hours across various surfaces.
The closer we got to the crater, the cloudier the skies became. By the third hour of our journey, we came across this marker:
Kiten was sure (as we all were) that we could make it to the crater in 15 minutes. But wait. Do you see how the sign says, “YOUR TREK BEGINS HERE”? After three hours of trekking? We had to laugh (and scream) a little.
Our guide told us that the jeeps originally made it up to that point, but Typhoon Ondoy wiped out the path in 2009.
However, with the knowledge that only 15 minutes remained till we could finally rest, have lunch, and swim in the lake for a bit, our energy was revived and we were eager to go.
Fifteen minutes, yay!
It took us over half an hour.
Maybe even close to an hour.
But it was worth every second because we saw this moments later:
Breathtaking. And it wasn’t even in its most pristine turquoise-blue state because the skies were cloudy.
From this point, we had to follow these steep steps down (and back up, which most of us believe was the most grueling part of the entire trek):
Those of you who know Shiela know how ironic this next photo is:
Boats were available for rent at P250.00. None of us took one out, but we heard the boats take you to another nice spot of the crater that’s even better to swim at.
The rain came a while later. We used the time to wade in the lake or take a nap in the nearby hut. The Korean lunch we ordered before ascending, we learned, would be served upon our return to town. Yup, that meant after trekking all the way back down!
Fortunately, the hike down wasn’t as difficult.
Soon, we were back in our 4x4s for the last leg of the trip.
We were back at the Pinatubo Spa Town just after 4:00pm. And our lunch was ready.
We all opted for the Korean meal, which was sam gae tang, stuffed chicken soup with ginseng, with a side of kim chi. We were given one chicken each! Everyone loved it. The chicken was tender, and the warm soup was perfect for the rainy afternoon.
In conclusion, I would say this trek, because of the heat and the length, was tougher than our Sumaguing Cave experience in Sagada. Just the same, it was another trek that reminded me of how to respect nature and not goof around or play hero amidst unfamiliar territory.
Initially, I called this one a trip of a lifetime in that I saw no need to return. But who knows? Maybe with the promise of turquoise water, I just might strap on my sandals and make the climb one more time.