I got up very early today as Gale and I were doing the Mount Pinatubo tour. She picked me up from my hotel in a taxi and we then rode to Ortigas where the meeting point for the tour was at a 24-hour McDonalds outlet (at the Shell gas station).
Gale made the booking with a tour company called TRIPinas Adventures. Once at the McDonalds outlet, we met our co-ordinator who assigned us a van and a number for the 4x4s we would be taking up to a certain point. I also paid whatever was the balance I needed to pay for the trek. There were quite a few people who had signed up for this tour, which was a positive sign considering how I struggled to even get a tour organized last year towards the end of May. I only hoped it wouldn’t rain.
Gale and I packed up some McDonalds burgers for lunch, which we would have after reaching the Mt. Pinatubo crater lake. Yes, you have to pack your own lunch as it’s not included in the tour. Once everyone had been assigned their respective tour groups, we made our way to the vans parked outside. From here it was an hour-long drive to the base camp in Tarlac.
But what you see above is what Mount Pinatubo looks like now. Believe it or not, the lake was formed after a volcanic eruption. Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, and that eruption was so big that it became the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century! The lake was formed after monsoon rains. The water was extremely unsafe for swimming soon after and many still don’t recommend getting in.
By the time we got back to the base camp it was 1:30pm. We were all tired, sleepy and dusty! I washed up and if you pay, you can even take a shower there. After an hour of waiting for everyone in our van to re-group, we finally left the base camp and headed back to Manila.
I slept through much of the journey and by the time I woke up around 4pm, we were already in Manila. Gale asked the van to drop us at Cubao, from where she could get to her place quick and I could just walk to my hotel room.
At ₱2090 (Rs. 2800/$47/€35), the Mount Pinatubo trek it is one of the more expensive tours I have done. That said, it’s hard to get anything cheaper than this as the few other companies offering such tours charge about the same or more. The only way you’ll get it cheaper is if you are a laaarge group making a group booking. Regardless, I highly recommend TRIPinas Adventures. As per the itinerary they sent, this is how it was supposed to go:
03:30 Meet up (McDonalds in Ortigas area)
· Make sure to have your breakfast and buy your packed lunch and water
· Meet the tour coordinator – Pay your balance – Orientation – Sign the waiver form
06:30 ETA Brgy. Sta. Juliana (base camp)
06:45 to 07:15 Board 4×4 vehicles.
08:30 Start trekking (around 2 hours walking using the old way)
10:30 ETA at the crater of Mt. Pinatubo.
· Relax, photos, lecture, lunch (at clients’ account)
12:00 Start return trek (around 2 hours walking using the old way)
14:00 Back to the 4x4s.
15:00 Back at base camp. Freshen up
16:00 Departure from the base camp to Manila.
18:00-19:00 (depending traffic) ETA Manila
But we reached the crater at 9:30am and it was a relief to get there before many others. Trust me, the heat gets progressively worse later in the day and I don’t know how those who were only beginning their trek by the time we came back managed to do it! Who knows if the lake turns bright blue when the sun is at its hottest, but if you are more concerned about enjoying the trek — then beginning very early is what you should do. It’s also a lot cooler early in the morning. And had we re-grouped earlier, our van would have left the base camp and arrived back in Manila much earlier than 4pm. Oh, and those who wish to do the trek, better do it before May 31. May 31st is the last tour of season for many tour operators as treks are not allowed during rainy season — and that’s from June to October!
Still… I did it! I finally did the Mount Pinatubo trek and I’m so glad I did! This was definitely one of the biggest highlights of this trip (the other is Oslob, next post) and I couldn’t have started this journey on a better note (minus the cold I still had).
I ended my day by meeting Gale in the evening and treating her to dinner at Maginhawa street. I just wanted to thank her for making calls and doing all the tour bookings.
If you enjoyed this post, then wait until you see the photos from my day swimming with whale sharks (butanding) in Oslob, Cebu! 🙂