Friday, March 7, 2014

A Bittersweet Moment: Trekking Mt. Pinatubo

After more than 20 years, I've been able to set foot on the crater of the historical Mt. Pinatubo. Honestly, I was reluctant to trek at the said volcano for 2 major reasons: Health and a remarkable Past. I was diagnosed with respiratory asthma when I was a kid, and it's also a fact that you never outgrow asthma. I feared that I might have an attack during the trek due to lahar dust. 

Second, Mt. Pinatubo made a huge impact in my life during my childhood years that made me question myself if I am ready. It became historical because of it's massive eruption last June 1991, which is also considered the second-largest volcanic eruption during the 20th century. Our family was one of those greatly hit and affected by the lahar, a debris flow with a mixture rocks and water. Our whole house and town got buried in lahar 
which forced us to relocate and start all over again. 
Until now, I can still vividly recall the catastrophe that happened. We were awaken by the loud sound of the Town church bell and sirens. Everyone was rushing while I stood on our balcony waiting and wondering what's going on. Suddenly, my jaw started to move involuntarily and uncontrollably. It was the first time I felt so much fear. 
Our whole family stayed on the roof of our Ancestral House during the lahar flow. We were praying so hard while watching other houses get washed away by lahar, which was like a "boiling cement mixture". Our house was spared during the first eruption, only the first floor got affected. However, the second eruption totally buried everything in our hometown. But I was still thankful that my whole family was safe during the calamity. So how's are town now? You can read my blog, click here-->Bacolor: Town Down under your Feet.

One day one of my closest friends, Resy texted me that she'll pay me a visit one weekend. She requested that we visit nearby places aside from my province, Pampanga. She showed great interest to go trekking at Mt. Pinatubo. "OK! This is the sign.", I said to myself. Time to meet the volcano that changed my life. So, I researched and asked some friends about Mt. Pinatubo tour. I tried to email some tour coordinators and checked on the most convenient one for us. I narrowed down my choices and grabbed a good friend's referral. I booked a tour under Poch Jorolan (via 09999948634 or 09175108961) of Outer Eater Tours and Events, also the owner of Everybody's Cafe, a famous restaurant in Pampanga serving Authentic Kapampangan Dishes. This made me excited and giddy for our Lunch. 
Poch was very accommodating considering there were changes on our booking details. We were supposed to book a group tour however some friends had backed out. I requested if we can still push through considering we were only two and if he can just include us in another group. He was able to grant my request, provided a tour on our preferred date, February 16 (Sunday) and even gave us a discount because of a common friend. Thanks again Poch! 
We chose the Tarlac starting point Tour because it's cheaper and we're from Pampanga. On the day of the tour, he met us around 5:30am at Lakeshore, North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) first and had a convoy going to Capas, Tarlac since we're not familiar with the place. We also met other travelers in our group tour, a solo American guy and a Family. So how did the tour go?

What to expect?
The trek to Mt. Pinatubo involved riding a 4x4 and a long walk. The 4x4 ride was a grueling hour and a half. We passed on rivers, lahar formations, big rocks and bumpy roads. You need to tighten your grip to survive the adventure and also expect too much lahar dust. We passed on the Old route because the New road got severely damaged during the Typhoon Yolanda. Therefore, the 20 minutes walk or trek to the crater became another hour and a half. It involved crossing rivers with huge rocks, steep and slippery roads. The tour duration is usually from 8am until 2pm, which includes the 4x4 ride from Brgy. Sta Juliana in Capas (jump off point), trek and lunch at the crater. There are also available shower rooms at the base camp. 

NOT Mountains sign must be placed here. Yes, these are Lahar Formations! Huge lahar formations out there, no wonder it almost erased a whole town in the Map.
Stop-over for some Picture taking. Our group together with the natives, the Aetas. "Kuya" (Tagalog term used to refer to an older man or Guide) warned us to prepare for the topsy turvy ride. 
Manong Driver checking engine for safety. This ride surely looks old and rusty but still rocked the off road adventure. If it can talk, it'll probably say I am still BAD Boy on the road. You almost scared us to death! 
This will be your view during most of the trek. Hello Biggie-O rocks! 
And also some of this view. Oh Mother Nature, you truly are amazing. Depicting the "Ferngully: the Last Rainforest" aura, if you are familiar with the movie you'll definitely agree with me. 
The sulfur coming from the volcano turned some parts of the river and the rocks yellow orange in color.
Are we there yet? This question kept running in my mind during the trek. Oh well, 20 more minutes. Getting there in a jiffy! 
Group Picture!
No we're not yet there! 100 plus steps going down the crater. Can you just imagine the way up? Aaaaaaaaaaaah, I almost fainted. 
Of course MUST not miss a SOLO with Tshoes. 
The crater of the Volcano. Isn't it Amazing? There's always Beauty in everything.
My first and forever travel buddy, Resy!
 We did it twin! Looking forward for more Crazy Adventures with you. 
DITTO! Travel shoes and I are definitely leaving some "shoeprints" everywhere. Off to more adventures and beyond!
Lunch, Oh lunch! 
Because I am a Girl Scout, ready for some picnic at the crater!
The food was HEAVENLY! It satisfied our rumbling tummies and our tastebuds. 

I almost forgot to take a quick picture of the food served, so you'll have an idea what to eat in case you book a tour with Outereater Tours.
Almost empty containers! We ate Adobong Puti (Chicken dish), Paco Salad (Fern), Chicharon (Pork skin) and some atchara (pickled unripe papaya) as side dish. And we partnered it with Cold Coca-Cola sold at the crater at 100 bucks. I won't complain on this knowing the effort they exerted going to the crater.  

Travel Shoes leaving shoeprints at the beautiful crater. Finally Mt. Pinatubo, we met.
Swimming and boating are no longer allowed at the crater due to a past incident. How I wished I was able to see the other side and the Hot Spring. Oh well. 
We want you!
A good looking buddy sporting my favorite color. You SHOULD be our ride. (Loud Chuckle!)

The weeks of physical conditioning paid off, thanks to Yoga and my scarf. Another destination conquered and survived!  
Don't we just look good together?
Oh the shades of Blue. 

MUST Bring:
1. Water- you might get dehydrated and too exhausted during the trek.
2. Big Scarf- it will protect you from dust and too much heat. 
3. Sarong- same use as the scarf, plus you can use it for picnic purposes. Just like what we did at the crater. I always bring a scarf or sarong during all my travels because they are so helpful and I can use them in so many ways. You just need to be creative.
4. Snacks- the trek made me so hungry even after lunch. We munched on some cookies and chips on our way to the crater and back. 
5. Sunblock- you'll be exposed from the heat and there's rarely a shade. 
6. Long sleeves or Jacket- these will help you avoid having unwanted or uneven tan lines. During our trek it helped provide warmth because it was so windy and cold. 
7. Sturdy and Reliable foot wear- My travel shoes did a great job during my trek. I suggest you wear shoes rather than slippers. You can avoid getting wet but you can't avoid rocks and sharp objects you can encounter during the trail. Safety always!