Hiking Mt. Pinatubo
The possibility of seeing endless expanse of ash unfolding in your line of vision is 100% guaranteed. If you’re looking for some hiking action coupled with the thrill of perhaps getting buried under tons of lahar, welcome to Mt Pinatubo.
Situated in the 15.1300° N, 120.3500° E coordinates just off the center of Tarlac, Mt Pinatubo has been a popular hiking spot of the country. It’s friendly to the weak knees and kind to the non-hikers. It promises the beautiful and peaceful Pinatubo lake at the end of the 2-hour hike.
WHERE TO START
You first have to register in the Municipal Tourism Satellite Office to make sure you sign the waiver that you completely understand what you’re doing. You then pay the sum of P1,000 to make sure you make the most of the experience and not forget that you paid for this. The payment includes the environmental fee (Php 300/person), tour guide fee (Php500/group of 1-5 people), and the rental of the 4×4 (Php3,000/vehicle) which will save you the pain of walking a 45-minute drive on foot.
You must also be warned that your equipment must be fully protected. The dust is unforgiving and can ruin your gears if you’re not careful.
Arriving at the entrance of the trek will remind you of the words Mordor, Gollum and Hobbit. It’s like an entrance to another world altogether. The excitement escalates of course.
And your trek will start.
If at the first few moments, you feel like taking photos, don’t hesitate to do so. Every mountainous formation of the ash fall has its own signature. Don’t ever miss the vandals representing different countries on the big boulders strewn around the trek to add to your sightseeing.
Professions of everlasting love are best done in Mt Pinatubo. These can be seen anywhere to the point of annoyance. Be reminded, however, that everything you see in your trek is to be respected. So in thinking of ways to immortalize your name, more so your loved one, you must skip doing it here because it’s a sin against nature.
The heat will take the best of you so better be ready. Bring enough water. There is no reliable water source from which you can refill. Unlike other mountains, Mt Pinatubo is free from enough vegetation to keep you from entering a coma due to sun stroke. There are sprouts every now and then but a shrub can’t provide you with enough protection from the sun.
Streams will be crossed over every now and then. Feel free to rest in some areas, but be mindful that when your guide screams “Run!” you really have to run, because the trek as a whole is moving. Melai even told me that years from now, the very trek we’re trudging on will be gone. It’s constantly evolving with landslides perennially haunting your every step.
Alas, after two hours of traipsing, you will finally arrive at a hut with two bathrooms 5 yards away. Here is a place of refuge, after soaking in the heat of the unforgiving sun.
Don’t forget to have fun. After two hours of what seemed to be forever you will be greeted by this: a sign half-mocking the non-adventurous. You will enter the trail that leads to the crater. If you’re “young enough”, you’d get there in 15 minutes. That is if you’re young and have absolutely no regard for boulders blocking the trail, slippery stones, mountain trek traffic and you simply can fly over plants.
As you reach the crater, you will be greeted by steps that seem to be out of place in the area. How in the world did they manage to import cement to glue together this stone pavement? Ask the aliens. But for me, the steps that stretched perpetually will always jam into your head that you are, after all, nearing the crater.
A few more steps and the images of the wallpapers from way back in college will greet you. There is no word apt for this moment. I won’t even describe it for you except that you should go and leave your computer/mobile phone and hike to Mt Pinatubo because it’s really something.
You can eat lunch – Pinoy style or whatever style suits you as long as you keep your garbage to yourself. There’s a bar there that has drinks. Feel free to order anything you like. Just make sure you know you’re paying for the sweat of the people who took those goods up there for you. And have them refrigerated.
Once you decide to go down to the lake, an activity I doubt you can pass on, you may opt to swim. Be warned though that the depths vary extremely so you may be walking with the water to your knee one second and falling into the pitfall of death the second. I’m not exaggerating. They are warnings everywhere.
You may choose to stay longer or head back. Depending on your stamina, I suggest if you don’t have the right gear, head back before if gets dark.
All in all, Mt Pinatubo is fun for all ages. It doesn’t necessitate preparedness of a pro, but it requires rumination to the dreamy. It makes you wonder that more than a decade ago, this place was a landmark of hell and witnessing just how still it has become will leave you a feeling of being awed.