Mt. Pinatubo Trek

Travel Blog by Jen
March 27, 2011

Mt. Pinatubo is an active volcano located in Zambales, north of Luzon.  Its last major eruption was in June 1991, severely damaging the surrounding areas with lava flows, lahar and volcanic ash; displacing a lot of Aetas that resided in the area.  Today, 10 years after its eruption, Mt. Pinatubo is continuously drawing many local and foreign tourists to its peak.  My friend and I belong to this group of people seeking a different of kind of adventure for the weekend!

Our day started with meeting the tour group in McDonald's EDSA corner Quezon Avenue at 3:00 am, March 26.  An ungodly hour, for sure, but it was set so because the travel from Manila to Zambales takes 3 hours.

our itinerary

We arrived in the base camp at Sta. Juliana at around 7:00 am.  The base camp is also where Mt. Pinatubo Spa Town is -- a place developed by the Pinatubo Development Corporation, that offers massage services that use hot volcanic sand.

Be literally buried here under hot volcanic sand.

Our guide registered for us while we waited for his signal to board the 4x4 vehicles.  Outside the base camp are several of these, just waiting for its passengers to board.  Some of the 4x4 vehicles have open tops while some are closed.  As there is a queue followed, passengers cannot choose their own vehicle.  Thankfully, we ended up with the closed one which provided sun protection.  Protection from dust and sand:  Zero!  Be ready to get dusty and dirty! 

4x4s raring to go!

The bumpy and very fast 4x4 ride to the jump-off point took about hour past vast terrain of sand and stone.  You have to admire the driving skills of these drivers for bringing us to our destination in one piece (albeit internal organs all jumbled up :)  It was actually an adventure in itself! 

rocky terrain

Do you see the 4x4 vehicles climbing up that steep road?

Aetas that inhabit the area

And so the much-awaited trek started as soon as we reached the jump off point.  There are 2 ways to get to the crater lake: (1) via the Skyway, which entails a 1 hour trek one-way, and (2) via the Old Way, which takes 2-3 hours of trekking, one-way.  Bloggers say that there are more photo opportunities in the Old Way but we figured 3 hours of trekking  is a tad too much our legs and feet could handle.  So we chose the Skyway... but not exactly an easy way!

Our supposedly 1 hour trek took 1 hour and half  because our pace was slow.  I would say that it was a fairly easy trek but there were a few cardiac climbs there that literally took our breath away!  The views though are just awesome.  We walked in between wide and deep canyons.  There were cold streams with red rocks with hints of yellow sulphur.  I've never seen so many rocks in my life!

trekking in the canyon

red rocks and yellow sulphur

Finally, we reached the crater lake and it was awesome.  I expected the lake water to be turquoise but it was brown instead.  The guide said that the water becomes turquoise during the cooler months.  Well, not withstanding that, I would still say that the views all around are amazing!

we've arrived!

Signboards say that swimming is not allowed in the crater lake as the depth is undetermined and no lifeguards are stationed here.  Local guides allowed visitors to swim but only near the shore.  If you don't like to swim, you can take a boat to cross to the other side of the lake.  On this side of the crater, the sand was hot and the water was warm.  It is said that you can cook a raw egg here if buried in the sand :)

hot rocks and sand from the other side of crater lake

We took our pre-ordered packed lunch in the caldera and relaxed for a bit before it was time to start trekking again.  We had to be back at the base camp by 4:00 pm, which means we had to leave the place by 1:00 pm.  The trek back seemed shorter but the last ascent back to where the 4x4s were parked were gruelling! 

We didn't have enough time for a massage when we arrived at the base camp.  We only had a couple of minutes to take a shower and it was convenient that they provided towels and a bar of soap :) 

I have always wanted to see Mt. Pinatubo and I'm glad that  I had the chance to do that this weekend.  It's a unique experience and totally satisfying.   Well worth the sore muscles the day after! :)

The best time to see Mt. Pinatubo is during the dry season from October to May.  There are organized group tours every weekend where a group of at least 10 people are pooled together.  Here are the basic costs of a Mt. Pinatubo Trek (2011 rates):

Basic Package:   P2,490.00 /person (Filipinos)
                             P3,250.00 /person (non-Filipinos)

Includes the following: 
- round trip air con van transfer from Manila-Mt. Pinatubo base camp-Manila
- 4x4 wheel drive to Mt. Pinatubo using the Old Way
- services of a local guide

Optional Items:
- 4x4 wheel drive using the Skyway: P500.00 per vehicle (max of 4 persons per 4x4)
- Boat ride across the crater lake:  P350.00 per person
- Massage:  P500.00 per person (depending on the spa service)
- Use of shower facilities:  P100.00 per person
- Pre-packed lunch:  P250.00 per person
  (Daing na bangus, chicken adobo with itlog na maalat and tomato, tortang  
   talong, a banana and a bottle of water. Must be ordered 48 hours in advance)

Rates as of March 2011 (subject to change)

*Photos are Skycab's own.