Tarlac to Zambales: The “Mt. Pinatu-WOAH-bo” Feeling
Travel date: March 5, 2016
Mt. Pinatubo was not a big of a deal in the past until it erupted in 1991. It wasn’t seen as a volcano going to erupt, it was seen as a mountain with dense forests where a tribe called Aetas mostly live. Thousands of years before it has many explosive eruptions, and the 1991 eruption was one of the smallest but caused more damage since it happened in the 20th century. The modern eruption was considered as the second largest volcanic eruption in the world in this century, and by far has a successful evacuation possibly made because of the volcanologists’ studies and efforts. The eruption has its advantages, as it decreased the heat temporarily for three years globally. Up to this day, devastation could be seen around the mountain.
One of my friends made some reservations for this day trip with the travel agent, Mt. Pinatubo Adventure Phils. It already includes van transfers and environmental fees. Lunch and other foods are excluded.
We met up in McDonald’s Quezon Avenue around 3 o’clock in the morning and arrived at the jump off point in Bgy. Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac around 5 o’clock. We started the journey around 7 o’clock as we rode a 4×4.
From the jump off point, it took around an hour to arrive at the trekking site. Without further ado, all of us, along with our guide (which is also with us in the jeep) started walking through the rocky, gray road, while the sun is already shining bright and hot since it is around 8:30 in the morning. Half an hour later, I kind of regretted not bringing a mountain pole given by my Tita or rent a bamboo pole back in the jump off point that costs around 20php. It was not really a hard trek, it has more levels and little up trails, but the trek has so much rocks and small rivers that would really make your feet and calves hurt. You should also be careful not to trip. It took us about two hours to arrive at the jump off point going to the crater and another 30 minutes to the crater or the Pinatubo lake.
We also had a handful of Jelly Ace to ease our thirst as we almost finish our bottles of water. There are many locals who peddle food along the trek. You can find bottles of soft drinks and water (apparently, Mountain Dew seems to be the bestseller. I hope you see the pun in there), ice candy, and some chips. There are many choices, but since we are in the mountain, the prices of the goods are doubled than in the valley.
After two hours, we started trekking for the crater. The trail going to the crater seems to be teeming with vegetation and small rivers are free-flowing. Expect your feet to be submerged while crossing these rivers. Also, the trail gets narrower and you need to part some plants along the way. Our guide found some stray bamboo poles and gave them to us. We have might been showing our tiredness at this point, but very hopeful since we know we are near the lake.
Do you know the feeling when there seems to be a red curtain, and it was suddenly opened, and you see that beautiful picture behind that curtain? It was magical and exhilarating, to finally see the lake. It was around 10 o’clock in the morning.
The Pinatubo Lake was made because of rain falls and typhoons, so the caldera was filled with water and became a lake. It is prohibited to swim in since there are already accidents of drowning happened. Also, it is full of sulfur, and it stinks of it since the trek started. You can actually see streams of flowing sulfur during the trek and orange rocks. In the lake, you’ll see the edge that it is riddled with oranges and greens that makes the lake look kind of like a rainbow. Since it was drizzling in about half of the trek, the lake is not blue and it was cloudy. At that time, the day felt eerie and melancholic, but freeing and fulfilling. I still took it as a nice day.
We had lunch on the lakeside, took some picture while trying to avoid a lot of tourists. Since it is summer and it is the weekend, there are lots of trekkers at that time, and it was very noisy amidst the signage that says that people shouldn’t be shouting or making so much noise since vibrations from sounds could start erosions. I hope tourists and travelers would abide by the rules to maintain the place. There is also a cubicle in the area that serves as a comfort room.
We trekked back on our way to the jump off point around 12 noon and we still bumped into many tourists, Filipinos and foreigners alike, going to the crater. I also noticed during our ride back that there are small erosions happening around the small mountainous regions, and you can hear the rocks and boulders falling. The mountains are really fragile, since there are water flowing around and the place is teeming with lahar that is really unstable.After eating, we snoozed a little bit, brought out my “malong” and lay on it, with a log as our pillow. It was slightly drizzling but we just had our caps on and enjoyed the fresh sulfuric air to ease our tired bodies.
Later on, we had a little mishap when our 4×4 ride nearing the barangay stopped in the middle of the path. It seemed that something was damaged during our bumpy ride. After numerous jeeps came by, one of them came back to fetch us. As we returned to Sta. Juliana, we ate what we ordered before we trekked, washed up, and gone home with another experience of adventure with the nature.