Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Central Luzon: Trek to Mount Pinatubo

Having grown up in the 1990's, my view of Mount Pinatubo in Central Luzon in the Philippines has always been that of volcanic disaster in monumental proportions. Its June 1991 eruption destroyed much of the region, ending a way of life for many of the nearby residents, impacting global environment in its aftermath. Now, almost two decades later, its 1991 caldera has formed a brilliant blue-green crater lake. Lake Pinatubo, they call it. Seeing it, how serene and peaceful it looks, you almost forget how much power it wields.

Pinatubo Caldera

The idea of seeing Mount Pinatubo and its serene crater lake for myself came about last year when it became a popular site for mountain hiking and trekking. Some research told me how easy it was to organize a trip. It became even easier when I saw that local travel groups offered to take people there. So we signed up and away we go.

The whole adventure begins in the Mount Pinatubo Tourism Office in Capas, Tarlac. From here, you take a 4x4 jeep. Indispensable, really, as only the 4x4 jeep can negotiate its way through the desert-like lahar wasteland you need to pass through to get to the jump-off point of the trek to the caldera of Mount Pinatubo.

Pinatubo Trek Jump-off

Rough Riding

Road to the Pinatubo Crater

Getting to the caldera of Mount Pinatubo is easier now. Just a few years back, the Mount Pinatubo trek would take one to two hours, as opposed to the 20 to 30 minutes it takes today. Back then, you spend more time on foot, than on the 4x4 jeep. What changed the whole game is this road they call the Pinatubo Skyway. The vast lahar wasteland ends at some point and all you have is this valley, this canyon, whose very rough terrain is only passable on foot. Thus, locals created an unpaved road on top of the mountain range, on the plateau—the Pinatubo Skyway—bringing the jump-off point of the trek to the caldera of Mount Pinatubo closer.

Rugged Central Luzon

Trail to Pinatubo

The trek to the caldera of Mount Pinatubo is easy enough. You can even follow the very clear trail to the crater by yourself. For those uninitiated in the ways of mountaineering though (such as myself), it will best to go with the guide the tourism office dispatches with the 4x4 jeep. The morning we hiked our way to the caldera of Mount Pinatubo, the weather was a little foreboding. The air was a bit cold and definitely wet. And there was this mist over the mountain peaks. Strangely enough, it heightened the whole experience. For me, at least.

Take Nothing

Mist

The short trek to the caldera of Mount Pinatubo was well worth the pay-off, excessively, if I may say so, especially when that which will welcome you is this grand scenery, this beautiful landscape you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the country. At this point, the best thing to do is to sit down and take all of it in.

Pinatubo Caldera

Pinatubo Caldera

Pinatubo Caldera


Have you gone trekking to the crater of a volcano? Where was it? How was it?


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