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Mt.Pinatubo

In 1991, Mt. Pinatubo awakened from its 500-yearlong snooze and blanketed the country, as well as some neighboring Southeast Asian countries, with lahar.  At the time, the calamity also flooded most of the world’s headlines. Its eruption placed the country in the map once more in an ironic kind of way by burying major parts of nearby provinces. Nearly two decades later, the location epitomizes the resilience of the Filipino tribes living near the volcano.

Visiting the Mt. Pinatubo crater promises a fusion of landscape for travelers.  This dormant volcano of quite a space occupies three provinces of central Luzon: Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga. 

Starting off the trek in Sta. Juliana, Capas Tarlac, it is usually best to leave at around 2:30am if one travels from Manila.  The drive takes around four hours to get to Capas, Tarlac.  

As an added energy booster, mountaineers or hikers bring power packs such as chocolates, energy bars, bananas, or cookies. Bringing in packed lunch is also advised as there are no cooking facilities available at the summit, unless the hikers bring cook sets with them. It may get hot or humid on the way to the crater, the hiker has to ensure he or she brings enough water supplies. 

Clothing must be light and comfortable that can cover as much skin from the sun, dust, twigs and sharp plants. Jeans are discouraged; they are uncomfortable and heavy on the legs. Trekking shorts or pants will do, some even take advantage of bottoms with many pockets. Bringing jacket and/or raincoat is an option to prepare for rain, but always remember to travel light as the hiker’s load will affect the speed and quality of the trip.

There is no defined advantage of traveling with shoes than with sandals. Any footwear will do as long as the hiker won’t slip and is prepared to dip into rivers. Other items in the To-Bring List may include: Sun block, hat or cap, sunglasses, hand towel and garbage bags. All trash brought into the site shall have to be carried down and will be disposed in the proper garbage bins at the registration area.

Registration


Upon arrival at Capas, Tarlac; travelers  may meet with the people of the to register at the Tourism Office and Capas 4Wheelers Club to identify assigned 4x4’s and tour guides for the trekkers.  No registered trekker shall be left to hike without a guide, as a practice of safety.

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Transportation (4x4)


Rental for a 4x4 jeep is approximated around Php 500-700 and can accommodate 4-5 people plus the driver and the guide. Usually, the drivers brief the travelers about what to expect and the timeline for the ride, and the hike afterwards.  The ride onboard the 4x4 takes about 60-80 mins, depending on the texture of the road at the time of travel. The trail usually gets rougher after rainy days.

Hikers will be taken to a drop off point where the tour guide conduct a quick briefing as the trek begins. 

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The trail


There are two ways to get to the crater (and back); the first route is by what they call as the “Skyway” as the travelers shall be taken to the higher roads, the shortcut to the crater. If the hiker intends to go by this route, he or she pays an extra fee.

The other option is to traverse the mountain the longer way.  This route is a more popular selection when the hikers trail down after the day tour, as it is easier to step down than to climb up. Trekking through this walk-and-climb route takes 2-3 hours.

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Rocky Terrain
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Mountain

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As the travelers approach the crater, the greens become more apparent, some lahar mountains are coated with trees and grass as life begins to resume after years of doom and dullness.

Uphill


Downhill


Getting to the top, a splendid sight welcomes the trekkers. The blending of rainbow colors across the mist of clouds and emerald waters down below are way too awesome to be captured in photos. One descends an approximate 200 steps to the jump off site where travelers may camp for the day and unload the food and drinks. Like most nature trips, no facilities are available on site.  The Crater Lake is cold and deep with a little sulfuric scent but nevertheless swimmable. 

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Picturesque Mt Pinatubo Crater


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Crater water


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Some groups of hikers prepare games and exploration activities while some would prefer to swim, kayak or rest. Hikers may rent a boat for an approximate cost of Php250 per head that can accommodate up to three persons. 



Tour guide


If day tour is preferred, a hiker may break camp around 2pm and start trekking back to the jump-off point. It will take around 2 or 3 hours again to get back to the 4x4 drop off point. Along the way, one can notice some Aetas roaming around. After the calamity in 1991, they were able to rebuild their habitats into a tourist’s spot that it is now. The same 4x4 jeep ride that lasts 60-80 minutes will take the travelers back to the registration area where the trip all began.

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Spa Town


Upon reaching the registration area, the hikers may freshen up at the Pinatubo Spa Town. The post climb shower may cost around Php100- 150 (approx only) per head. Shower essentials are available for sale at the site. The Spa Town has available massage services so one can relax after the day’s rigid trip. Refreshments and snacks are also available in nearby stores.

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