A day trip to see Mt. Pinatubo’s turquoise waters had always been in my bucket list.
Who wouldn’t be enchanted by its deep green color, the stark beauty of its rolling hills, or the charming smiles of the locals living there?
I set off to Tarlac one summer day in April together with 20+ other Couchsurfing members, full of anticipation and excitement to finally see this famous crater.
Unfortunately, I was disappointed. Pinatubo had another face that I hadn’t known before.
When we arrived, the lake’s color was almost brown/black, and local guides said that it happens a lot especially when it rains. I had a hard time dealing with my disappointment; I woke up at 2am, trekked and did river crossings for almost two hours, and the lake’s color wasn’t green?
I felt cheated!
The trip, however, wasn’t totally a waste. I’d had a good time with CouchSurfing friends; in fact, to arrive on time at the meeting place, I had to surf the couch of MK, my first local host.
I met a lot of CS members there for the first time, too, and had fun with them talking about CS, photography, and our travels.
The way to Pinatubo was also breathtaking in a sense. Can you believe that these hills were all made of lahar—the mudflow from the Pinatubo eruption in 1991?
When Mt. Pinatubo erupted, it buried villages and people’s dreams, but it did replace them with something else—these unbelievable hills that became shaped by the winds and rains through the decades.
When we arrived at the Tourism office, we learned that the heavy rains the week before had rendered the “skyway” unpassable. Thus, after a 30-40 minute ride on these 4x4s, we had to hike for almost two hours on sharp stones, through the rolling hills and across rivers.
I had been wearing my New Balance at the start of the trek; when I saw that my feet would get wet, I changed into my Ipanema slippers. It turned out to be a very good decision!
All the way to Pinatubo and back, I had counted a total of seven (7) soles left on the trail. These had been casualties of the trek; the hikers’ shoes had fallen apart from all the sharp stones and uneven ground.
When we reached the crater, some of us swam while others took a nap. The lunch that came with the tour package was delicious; there was fish, salted eggs, vegetables, and water. If it wasn’t for my failed expectations, it would have been a perfect day.
Here are some of my tips if you are planning to trek to Pinatubo:
- Bring a pair of slippers. Should your shoes yield to the trail, at least you won’t walk barefoot (ouch!) the rest of the way as some hikers did.
- Bring an umbrella! It was so hot when we went there, and I was the only one who brought one. It kept me out of the sun while hiking and also made sure that those dreaded ultraviolet rays won’t wreck havoc on my skin.
- If you want to take photographs, take the 4×4 with an open top. The scenery along the way can be very beautiful, but you won’t stop just to take pictures, especially if there’s threat of rains.
- If it’s raining hard, don’t push through with your trek. Some hikers had died here a few years ago because they insisted on hiking despite warnings of an incoming storm.
- Most important of all, let go of any expectations you may have about what you’ll see in Mt. Pinatubo. You’ll appreciate it all the more!
Do I recommend visiting Mt. Pinatubo? Absolutely. The breathtaking landscape is not to be missed. Will I go there again? Nope. Once is more than enough for me!
How to go to Mt. Pinatubo:
If you are trekking with a group, it would be better to rent a van to take you there directly. If commuting, you can take the Victory Liner bus going to Baguio, Lingayen, or Dagupan and get off at Capas, Tarlac. There are Victory Liners in EDSA/East Avenue, Cubao, and Pasay.
From Capas, you’ll have to go to the base camp in Brgy. Sta. Juliana. You can coordinate hiring a a 4×4 at the Tourism office there. Travel by 4×4 takes around 30 to 40 minutes, and the trek will also be around that long. If the skyway is closed, the trek can take at least 1 hour 30 minutes. You will also be asked to hire a guide. Our contact there is Wendell, +63919-608-4313. Have him help you with the rental of the vehicle and other arrangements.
How about you? Have you had a trip that disappointed you? Do share!