Trip to Pinatubo Crater Lake
This weekend, our wandering feet brought us to Mt. Pinatubo. Mt. Pinatubo is an active volcano (almost dormant now) that erupted sometime in 1990s and whose ashes circled the world. It spewed out mostly water and rocks (lahar) and devastated several surrounding towns. The eruption was enormous that its crater collapsed and formed a lake. Now, it is largely inactive (with periodic mild activity).
Our itinerary is supposed to start at 2am Saturday for us to be able to leave on a bus at 230am. Several things forced us to leave at a later hour of 330am, which is a blessing in disguise as I’ll tell why later.
Access to the crater lake of Mt. Pinatubo is through Capas, Tarlac. Capas is not very far from Manila (around 2 to 2.5 hours) and we arrived there at 530am. Buying packed lunch (at McDo) and a tricycle trip later (Php300 per tricycle), we arrived at the satellite tourism office where we’ll be riding a 4×4 jeep towards the crater.
The 4×4 trip takes about 45 minutes to an hour until the start of the trek. The road passes through a military camp (Camp O’Donell) that is being used by the military for Balikatan Exercises (a military exercise of the Philippine and US military). The Balikatan exercise forced us to delay this trip by about two weeks.
The path travelled by the 4×4 is very very wide, with most areas full of small rocks and sand, other areas by grasslands (where cows and goats graze) and there are small streams of water that becomes fast-current rivers when the heavy rains pour.
We arrived at a place where a marker indicates a 7km trek going to the crater. We alighted and started to trek, getting our shoes wet in some stream crossing. After a few minutes trekking, the 4×4 vehicles started coming on and told us that we could ride all the way to the foot of the summit-crater. Since we arrived later (than most other visitors), we were able to ride first and pass several trekkers already halfway or almost near the foot of the summit. (Had we arrived earlier, we would have trekked the full 7km. A benefit of arriving later than usual).
One tourist (who trekked all the way to the crater) was furious since they had to trek all the way and most of us rode the jeeps. He was telling one of the vehicle drivers to radio the other drivers and complain about this. The drivers said that they did not enter earlier as they thought that the vehicle would not be able to pass some of the streams.
The crater is beautiful but it did not show its full beauty to us. Clouds occupy the farther side of the crater and several drops of rain fell (good thing it did not rain while we were there). Swimming is not permitted as (the warnings say) the depth of the lake is not determined and there is already a foreign visitor who died (though people say this is because he swam towards the center of the lake then had a heart attack).
The crater itself is probably only half of the thrill or reason for this adventure. The bigger part is on the 4×4 ride and the trek. The area itself is mostly grey (rocks and sand) which lends itself well to black and white pictures but not so much for color pictures.
There were 9 of us for this trip: Tiny, Oyet, Eman, Dahlia, Jem, Badz, Ellidel, Felix and I. After the Pinatubo adventure (where we initially thought that we’d be burning calories through trekking), we went to Gerona, Tarlac to eat at Isdaan Floating Restaurant.