When my blogger friend Dom sent an invite to trek to Mt. Pinatubo, I didn't think twice to accept it. I had been planning for the longest to trek up there - to the iconic crater lake whose cyan colored water has enthralled so many.
Our trip started early. We took a bus bound for Dau (Pampanga) at 5AM. When we arrived several 4x4 trucks were already waiting for us in front of the bus terminal. There was a time when one would travel to Capas (Tarlac) to get to the 4x4 trucks, but nowadays they can fetch you at Dau bus terminal - an arrangement that is very convenient to trekkers who commute.
From Dau its about an hour more to Sta. Juliana in Capas. The Pinatubo Spa Town in Sta. Juliana is the official registration (and jump-off point) area for trekkers. I was amazed at the long line of trucks already there, seems like Mt. Pinatubo is a hot destination nowadays (pardon the pun).
The fun begins when you cross the check point gate and enter a huge valley filled with volcanic ash (technically its not lahar anymore). The huge nearby mountains towers like green walls. I could imagine how these mountains looked like just after the 1991 eruption - gray and lifeless.
We bounce our way through the now lush valley. These stripped down trucks are not the most comfortable of rides, but that's part of riding experience. Part of the riding experience also are the occasional gusts of volcanic dust - so its best to wear glasses and some scarf like Keffiyeh (Arab scarf).
Everyone didn't seem to mind the searing hot midday sun. The vastness of the landscape is enough to tantalize the senses.
After the requisite group shot, we continued on to the edge of the valley.
our Pinatubo adventure team
In the days before the "Skyway" (a road passing through the nearby mountains, Dom has more photos here), trekkers would hike from the edge to the valley to the crater through a dry river system. The 4-5 hour hike will take you through surreal landscape. The gray colored cliff walls look alien - lunar-like almost. (The Delta-5 trail via Porac is a completely different story). Now the hike takes only about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
The parking area at the trail head was already packed with trucks when we got there. From the number of the trucks there, one can imagine how busy the narrow trails to the crater will be (story soon). As our 4x4 ride ended, another adventure unfolds.