Hiking is something that my best friend and I had been wanting to do as part of our #goals. I remember a few years ago, Joms and I both agreed to set aside a day or two for a mountain climbing activity. We never really got around to doing it though, mainly because we actually didn’t know how to arrange the trip (haha); we’d rather get a package tour. At that time though, package tours weren’t as readily available on Facebook or other sites. But we’re very much happy that just recently, we, Marco included, were finally able to go trekking. And it’s to the beautiful crater of Mt. Pinatubo!
A Not-So-Distant History
Mt. Pinatubo is remembered to be the volcano whose eruption in 1991 was so great, the effects weren’t just felt in the Philippines but worldwide too. It’s considered to be the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, causing extensive damage to the surrounding areas and causing global temperatures to drop by 0.5°C. A disastrous event indeed.
Today though, a far cry from its past, Mt. Pinatubo is a popular attraction not only for its famed crater lake but also for the adventure it brings to the people who travel to see it – Joms, Marco and I included.
An Absolute First Choice for a First-Timer
Choosing Mt. Pinatubo for our first trekking experience was a no-brainer. The volcano is located in Tarlac, which is only a 2-hour drive from Manila so we only needed to set aside a day for this adventure. It’s also a good body of land to trek for newbies like us since I read that to reach the volcano, visitors ride a 4×4 jeepney for the first leg of the tour then trek for 7 kilometers (equivalent to 2 hours of walking) up to the crater. A comparatively easy climb. And finally, who could resist its main attraction? Its crater lake! Once at the crater, people are treated with a magnificent view of its lake enclosed by equally magnificent mountains. And just like any new adventure, this day tour excited me!
Package Tour For This Trip
February is a really great month to go trekking since the weather around this time is cool and there’s a slim chance of typhoons passing over the country. So we chose the last weekend of the month for the outing. As for our itinerary, Joms’ friend arranges hiking activities and weekend tours so we didn’t need to look any further for an organizer. He scheduled the Mt. Pinatubo tour and we only had to wait for the slots to be filled. Here’s our itinerary:
1:00 AM – meetup at McDo Eton Centris
2:00 AM – depart from Eton Centris to Capas Tarlac
5:30 AM – ETA Capas Tarlac / registration/ secure guides and 4×4 ride
5:40 AM – tour orientation
5:50 AM – boarding and preparation for tour
6:00 AM – 4×4 ride to Mt. Pinatubo jump-off
7:30 AM – trek by foot to Mt. Pinatubo crater lake
9:00 AM – crater exploration (photo ops, lunch)
11:00 AM – trek back to 4×4 pick-up point
12:00 NN – 4×4 ride back to campsite
1:00 PM – back at the campsite; shower and preparation for return to Manila
2:30 PM – departure to Manila
In our original schedule, the expected time of departure to Manila was 5:00 PM but since on the day of our trek, we were only given the option to cover 1, 3, or 4 kms. of land by foot (we chose 4 kms.), we finished the tour early.
Our Mt. Pinatubo Trek
We arrived at Danny’s Tourist Campsite in Capas, Tarlac at 5 AM. The agency at this campsite assists visitors with the trek and provides 4×4 vehicles for the whole-day tour. While our names were getting listed on the registration forms and while the guides prepared for the tour, us trio fueled ourselves with some crunchy egg sandwiches (the egg version of the crunchy tuna sandwiches ) then prepared the essentials for the tour. By past 6 AM, our group and the tour guides were all set for the adventure and we all left the campsite. Mt. Pinatubo, here we come!
As we crossed through the vast land that was evidently affected by the eruption, Joms, our new friend Peter, Marco and I stood at the back of the 4×4 jeepney taking in the view. We could see miles of lahar-covered land and some mountains in the distance. I can’t really explain the vibe this brought me but the whole scene made me think of slow mo’s and feel-good music. Have you ever felt this vibe?
I have to mention at this point that bringing of a mask is a must because this part of the trip involves driving through a really dusty road. We didn’t feel the need to use our masks on our way to the volcano since the ground was still damp from its early-morning state. But it’s a different story on our way back when the sun was at its highest. Dust was literally all over the place! So again, mask (and something to cover your hair too) is a must!
30 minutes through the trip, we met with the other hikers and stopped by an area. I thought we would start trekking from here but we were actually just halfway to the jump-off point. So what was the stopover for? Photo op!
Some poses later, we went on with the journey.
We were now near the mountains and traveling among huge rocks. There were quite a number of streams that we passed by and even crossed over.
Half an hour later, we finally reached the jump-off point. This is it! We met with our group and started the 4-km. trek.
If you’re looking for a mountain to hike that’s challenging enough but not overly tiring, this is your mountain right here. The trek to the crater of Mt. Pinatubo is beginner-friendly mainly because you won’t be going against gravity too much here. The trail isn’t steep and it’s rather convenient. Also, we had the weather to thank for which was sunny but cool at the time.
And in case you feel the need to rehydrate, there are vendors at certain points of the hike that sell refreshments. Bringing your own thirst-quenching drinks is always best though since as you would expect, the ones sold here are quite pricey.
Even though it’s Joms’ and my first time to hike a mountain, it’s no surprise that she was always ahead of us during our trek (other times, she walked with us). My bff here runs and bikes 50 kms. on average a week and participates in marathons. And just recently, she placed first in a duathlon for the women category. Soo proud of this gal. Marco and I, on the other hand, each have our own exercise routines but they’re not something you’d call rigorous. So we’re having a normal, chill pace here.
As we neared the top, I could feel my excitement building. My pace slightly quickened as we got closer to the end of our trek. Just a few more steps!
And then finally, after days of thinking how it was like to be near the crater and after almost 7 hours from the time we left Manila up to this moment, we saw it. Mt. Pinatubo’s notable crater lake.
Oh, what a beauty. The sight of it just melts your tiredness away. The water’s color was an alluring shade of blue and what seemed like mountains enclosing the still lake were just as breathtaking. An impressive landscape.
To reach the edge of the lake, you would have to descend a flight of stairs.
I read that due to the volcano’s violent eruption more than 2 decades ago, its summit collapsed creating a 2.5-kilometer-wide caldera. Three months after that, lake started to form from rainfall and spring discharge. The overall result was this magnificent crater lake.
However enticing the water may be though, swimming – or any other water activities, for that matter – isn’t allowed as the lake contains high levels of sulfur and other acids. So we took the opportunity to take more pictures instead.
Overall, the trek to Mt. Pinatubo had been a fulfilling experience. I was happy about being able to travel and see the historic volcano while getting some exercise and experiencing nature in the process. I also love it that I got to spend time with two of my favorite people in the world, my best friend and my boyfriend, in a memorable and different activity. And Joms and I had certainly achieved our goal to go hiking. Yas! This sure won’t be the last of our hiking adventure. We’ll probably try climbing a mountain next time.