Mount Pinatubo Trekking Tour 28 Years After its Eruption
Just before the year 2019 ended, my cousins and I went, on a whim, for a Mount Pinatubo Trekking Tour.
It was some 28 Years after its worldwide attention getting Eruption. That’s the sleeping volcano which woke up after 400 years on June of 1991.
Mount Pinatubo Trekking Tour Revived Vivid Memories of its Eruption
I can remember vividly the time it erupted. We were college students. I was with the same cousins I went trekking with, in the movies. On the way home from the cinema, we were wondering what this powdery particles in the air which readily caked our hair, faces and hands.
It turned out that these are sulfur particles from the erupting volcano. The particles reached us in Manila from the provinces in the north where it is located. Later, in the news, we learned that the eruption was felt far and wide. In fact, it was felt worldwide.
This active stratovolcano is in the Zambales Mountains. It is in Central Luzon at the tripoint boundary of the provinces of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga in the Philippines. Mount Pinatubo is populated by the indigenous Aetas.
Our relatives narrated that prior to the eruption; they can find the Aetas walking the streets with their belongings, including animals. It turned out they went down from the mountains because the eruption is imminent.
Prior to the eruption, it being after four centuries, this volcano is practically unknown, covered with dense forests, and concealed from view.
After the 1912 eruption of Novarupta in Alaska, the Pinatubo eruption is considered the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century.
The lava flow from the volcano went on for 20 years which covered houses and rice fields along its path. The sad part is, even centuries old churches, from the Spanish era, were covered to oblivion by the lava it has stored for 400 years in its bowel.
We Started our Mount Pinatubo Trekking Tour
At the crack of dawn we went on our way to the jump off point of the trek In Sta. Juliana in Capas, Tarlac. There the local tourism staff did some briefing and checking for our suitability for the trek. The tour package includes a ride in a 4 x 4 open air jeep car which will take you to an hour ride in the lahar desert to where the hike will start.
We took the trek in December when the climate is cooler and the dust lesser. If taken during the summer months, expect to be covered with dust.
Still, it was dusty during the ride back in midafternoon so it is best to bring something to cover your face.
The bumpy and exhilarating jeep ride passed through gigantic lahar canyons. There through decades of lava flow, produced a unique, rugged landscape.
There is even a canyon called Toblerone, so named after the chocolate because of the triangular formation.
The jeep can only go up to a certain point. Thereafter, you have to start the trek. With appropriate footwear and the help of local guides we successfully navigated the streams and rocky trail. We passed by huge rocks and boulders.
Mount Pinatubo Trekking Tour now required Walking
I can imagine the fright when the volcano erupted. With lava and huge rocks coming toward you, survival is not possible. Stories from the guides are fascinating too. There was thunder and lightning so low during the eruption, it could hit you. It was also dark as night when in fact, the eruption happened during day time
After an hour of hiking, every so often we can hear the question to the guides; of “are we there yet?”
As we walk, it will rain then it will shine. It will rain again, and then the sun will shine again. The light jacket and umbrella came in handy.
The picturesque view of the jungle like tropical path somehow eased the fatigue of amateur hikers like us. There are sprinklings of smiling, cute Aetas, along the way, ready to be photographed.
There are small stores selling drinks, chips, and bananas which are common in the area. Patronizing them and the local guides is one way of helping the local economy which also relies on tourism.
After about two hours, we know we are about to reach the summit when we started climbing the prepared stair like path.
No worries, there are toilets for comfort room breaks. The water from the streams is plenty to wash up. Tourists are also reminded to bring back their trash and the guide made sure this is observed.
Reaching our Trekking Goal Rewarded us a Perfect View
Finally, the reward! The viewing platform with a perfect view of Mount Pinatubo’s crater lake. The color of the water was blue green when we were there. We were told that depending on the season, the color of the waters changes.
We immersed ourselves in the beauty of the surroundings. The clouds playing hide and seek just as the sun certainly did wonders to the pictures we took.
At some point, the water in the lake turned purple with the hide and seek game of the sun and the clouds..
Going down to Pinatubo’s crater lake is allowed, but swimming is not. The brave few in our group went down for a closer view. They said they can smell sulfur. The sad part is, they have to climb back up. But that’s part of the fun.
Lunch and Heavy Rain was a Welcome Relief
We heartily ate our adobo lunch which was being sniffed by straying dogs in the area. Well, they feasted on the bones afterwards, so all the dogs are happy.
It started raining heavily after our lunch. This was an opportunity to rest our tired bones and feet. It was cool and refreshing.
The trek back seems faster and shorter. When we checked, it’s the same though. The whole trip took two hours going to and two hours coming back.
A month later, it was in the news that Taal Volcano in the south of Luzon erupted and there are trekkers when it did. It made me wonder, what if Mount Pinatubo erupted again while we were doing the trek? Well, if that happened, I would no longer be around to tell this story.