Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mt. Pinatubo Adventure

I've been on the far points of Luzon, some parts of Visayas and some parts of Mindanao but Mt. Pinatubo, which is from just a neighboring province, has somehow eluded me for quite some time already. I tried planning several times but circumstances made me cancel each and every time.

Until recently, on a friend's birthday, we had an idea of having an out of town trip. Since they all work with crazy schedules, this day tour seemed very viable. I just blurted out the idea and to my pleasure, they all agreed. Now it's time for my favorite part - planning!

Having planned this in the past, I just whipped out a number in my contacts and called a famous name in that area, Wendell Mercado. He is the president for the Pinatubo 4wd Tours. Having seen other travel packages from different agencies, I decided this is the best deal. Transaction was smooth, no deposit was even asked. He just got our names and texted me what we needed to bring that day. Check out the breakdown of the package for a group of 5:

P 3,000 - 4WD (5-person capacity)
P 2,500 - Tour guide (P500 per head)
   P 500 - Conservation fee and lunch
P 6,000 - Total (P 1,200 per head)

Since we are just roughly an hour and a half away from the Capas tourism office, my friend's dad kindly drove us there so we can save the hassle of having to rent a ride. By the way, there's no public transportation (bus or jeepney) going inside that area (as far as I know). 

We paid in their office then they immediately assigned a 4x4 ride with driver and a tour guide. Just like that, our adventure started.
This is how the trail started.

A quick photo op in the middle of nowhere.
From what I learned, prior to recent heavy rains and typhoons, the Pinatubo trail was very laid back and easy. It was mainly an exhilarating 4-wheel drive journey followed by a quick 20-minute forest hike to reach the crater. But mother nature had a naughty plan of making the quest a bit more challenging. The path for the vehicles were badly destroyed by the recent rains and floods making it impossibly passable. This is what we had to go through to reach the crater: 1-hour bumpy 4x4 ride and a 2- hour trek under the unforgiving sun on a shade-less rocky and sometimes watery path. Our bodies, having used to be sitting all day, were pushed to the limits.

Rocky terrain - there were even points where we had to cross a river.
Ours already started and hour and a half ago.
Foresty terrain for the final 20 minutes
Is this view worth all the exhaustion? Definitely.

We only had a quick photo session because the sun is scorching. But I was surprised that there's a cool breeze, I guess it never occurred to me that we were on a high altitude. The wind resembles the simple chill of Tagaytay. 

My husband and his two close friends
The trek took its toll on us and we found ourselves sitting on the ground under some shade, starving. Good thing the package included a decent amount of food so we digged in right away. 

Fried tilapia, chicken adobo, itlog na maalat, tomatoes, bagoong alamang, tortang talong, banana and water. Also comes with spoon, fork, tissues and toothpicks. Very complete!

While enjoying the cool wind and the fullness of our tummies, we took an hour of sleep nap. After of which, we still didn't have the energy to go on but the guide insisted we should head back early. It's dangerous to still be in the trail during dusk. We walked with heavy feet but we still managed to make the trek enjoyable.

Saw this huge rock with this writing - hell yeah we did conquer Pinatubo!
Seeing our 4x4 car was a relief. Our legs, not really designed even for a simple walkathon what more a 2-hour trekking, felt like jelly! I was so tired that I fell asleep on a very bumpy 4x4 ride while my husband holding me tightly making sure I don't topple over.

Upon reaching the tourism office, we fixed ourselves and ate whatever's available in the small sari-sari store. There's chips, softdrinks, halo-halo and my favorite, balut. While taking a rest, I had a realization. Damn, my comfort food is sisig! I can't stop thinking about it, I just wished a full platter were in front of me with hot rice. While others thought of cakes and chocolates, I thought of sisig. What's wrong with me?

We didn't have a ride home so we just hired our guide to take us to the main road with his tricycle. He's such a good person. He could have simply given us an overpriced rate seeing we didn't have much choice but he gave a fair price.

We took our dinner on a simple eatery for me to give in to my craving - sizzling sisig! It was the best one I ever tasted. How good? I had 2 1/2 rice. Yes, that good! 

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