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Mt. Pinatubo (3rd time’s a charm) – January 29, 2011

This is my third time to trek up Mt. Pinatubo. The first two times were two years ago, the first being January 3, 2009 and the second was a month later on February 8, 2009… each trip with different sets of friends. Actually I have a fourth trip from the air via the Pinatubo Sky Tour last year.

Despite this being my 3rd trek to Pinatubo… a lot has changed in the 2 years since I was there last. More on this later. I will devote a lot of commentary in the changes.

During our trip Kalibo for the Ati-Atihan Festival, my nieces were talking about going to Mt. Pinatubo. I then volunteered to take them there this weekend. So with me on this trip were my two lakwatsera nieces Leia and Kitkat and my grandson Ziggy (ok, fine I’m not that old… my sister’s grandson).

Our trip starts at 4:30am to be able to get to the “Pinatubo Spa Town” by 6:00. (Take note, my timing was off, travelling at the posted speed limits, it still took me 2 hours from Quezon City). I had called two days earlier to make my booking (which is always a good thing). Cost per pax… P1,500. This for a group of at least 3pax… even if we had a 9 year old with us.

Getting there earlier has its advantages. First, it isn’t hot. When you consider that the whole trip takes you 5 hours back and forth, you want to be avoid the noon day sun. Second, it gets traffic on the path… people in front of you, people behind you. Third, when you get to the crater, unahan sa tambayan.

When we got to Pinatubo Spa town, there was a lot of ople already there. But they were still waiting for their groups to be complete before starting off. So we were able to be the 4th jeep to get started.

Mt. Pinatubo
View Mt. Pinatubo in a larger map

En route to the crater via the lahar fields at around 6:45am. This part of the trip takes pretty much 1 hour. En route I was a little concerned as it started to drizzle very lightly.

Mt. Pinatubo

This is the start to the “Skyway”

Mt. Pinatubo

Here’s me, my two lakwatsera nieces, and little lakwatsero Ziggy.

Mt. Pinatubo

We reached the “Parking lot” where all the jeeps would wait for us. From here we started our trek. We were the 4th jeep on the lot at the time.

Mt. Pinatubo

The first 30 minutes of the trek is pretty cold. This is due to the wind circulating in area.

Mt. Pinatubo

To tell you the truth, I was concerned about taking a nine-year-old with us, but to my surprise Ziggy held out pretty well. He did get tiered as well as we all did, but I guess youth does have its advantages.

Pinatubo20110129 017

Changes

Since being here two years ago, there were a lot of changes to the landscape. Storms and other natural occurrences would cause some landslides. For safety reasons some areas had to be leveled down as well.

One change is halfway there, there are now these rest huts even with a restroom with a water tank. It’s a little odd, but I guess for tourism purposes, much needed.

Mt. Pinatubo

AT this point, it is now safe to take off your jacket.

From here there is a sign which tells people how much further off the crater is. Not sure if this meant for ego purposes. It reads…

“Welcome to Mt. Pinatubo. Your trek starts here… For Young age… 15 minutes, Middle age… 18 minutes, Senior Citizens… 20 minutes”.

Not sure if they used actual people to time this.

Mt. Pinatubo

Walking up from this point, the landscape also changed. The narrow path is much wider with less foliage.

You know you are almost there when you encounter stairs. Yes! Stairs.

And 15 minutes later (I guess that put us in the young age category) we are at theto[ of the stairs greeted by a sign “Welcome to the Crater of Mount Pinatubo.”

Mt. Pinatubo

For first timers, the scene is breath taking!

Now on to some differences… this is the scene two years ago for me (2009)

Mt. Pinatubo

Today it looks like this (2011)…

Mt. Pinatubo

Progress is progress I guess. And I guess from a tourism stand point the development does “help.” But from my point of view, it takes away from the nature experience. For me, it looks ugly. I would rather they made things out of wood rather than cement. But I guess from a safety standpoint, it is “safer now”

Here’s another comparison shot.

Two years ago (2009)

Mt. Pinatubo

The same spot today (2011)

Mt. Pinatubo

Oh well.

Regardless… That does take away from the majesty of Mt. Pinatubo. Hmmm… from the picture below, I notice another change, but this one natural… the water level has gone up.

Mt. Pinatubo

As we went down the stairs, I noticed the shoreline was several meters inland. Not that its bad. It just shows that certain destinations do change with nature, the seasons, and with time.

Mt. Pinatubo

Now to take advantages of the “what’s new.” As we were walking up, our guide Joel mentioned that they now have boats. Two years ago, I remember there was an option for a canoe but that you needed to make preparations in advance. This time, they have “Burnham Park”-style boats. Since my last two times were just limited to the shoreline pictured above, I guess a trip to the other side would be worthwhile.

Fee per person… P350. Yes, even for our 9-year-old.

Mt. Pinatubo

Our destination was to a warmer side of Pinatubo with actual hot springs.

Mt. Pinatubo

En route…

Mt. Pinatubo

Getting to the other side… we saw two other boats before us. And a huge “virgin” area….

Mt. Pinatubo

Getting to the other side. Ziggy was all too excited to get swimming. Getting him into the water was a challenge because at the shoreline itself was hot water. A little hotter than “warm” but not too hot. But a meter from the shoreline the water cooled off.

Mt. Pinatubo

Mt. Pinatubo

I wandered off and explored that vast volcanic plain behind us.

Mt. Pinatubo

After a few minutes, the clouds were moving fast… and the sky became simply beautiful!

Mt. Pinatubo

Two great shots below from my iPhone below

Mt. Pinatubo

Mt. Pinatubo

After swimming, Señorito Ziggy just enjoyed himself eating up some Pringles.

Mt. Pinatubo

Mt. Pinatubo

After around 45 min in the area we went back.

As we landed… here is an example of what I mean by the area getting crowded.

Mt. Pinatubo

Just as we were leaving the area, I saw this rather amusing sigh. I wonder if there is a scientific explanation to back this up… “No shouting please… noise can cause soil erosion.”

Mt. Pinatubo

All set for the long trek down…

Mt. Pinatubo

We took the long trip down and something like 40 minutes later we were back at the parking lot. Note the worst moment is the walk up a steep area of rocks just before the parking area.

But when you get up! It is so great to be up there. Note the number of jeeps by this time…

Mt. Pinatubo

Roughly counting, I saw at least 30 jeeps. Made me wonder about the industry in that little town that Pinatubo provides for townsfolk.

Mt. Pinatubo

An hour later, we were back at Pinatubo Spa Town for late lunch at around 2:00pm (Lunch and showers are part of the package)

Mt. Pinatubo

Mt. Pinatubo

It was great to go back. It was also great being with my nieces and grand nephew. The new boat ride gave me a great new experience.

The changes or development to the area are a little disappointing, but from a tourism standpoint I think is seen by some as necessary. It makes the place safer, and at least the infrastructure provides convenience for others.

In the end, the experience itself is still awesome!!!

Since I seem to be going back to Pinatubo every Jan-Feb… I guess I’ll be back here in 2012!

END

Mt. Pinatubo

How to get to Pinatubo Spa Town

  1. From Quezon CIty take NLEX until the DAU Tollway.
  2. Take SCTEX, exit Concepcion
  3. After you exit SCTEX, take a LEFT headed towards Capas, Tarlac
  4. Follow the road until you see a McDonald’s then an intersection. Turn LEFT and head South on McArthur Highway (turning right will lead you to Baguio)
  5. Watch out for a Mercury Drug on your right and/or a Jolibee at your left. Once you see a Mercury Drug, try making a right. (Some roads are one way). Last resort turn right after you see the Jolibee on your left.
  6. Turn RIGHT on the next major road.
  7. Follow this road and stay on the MAIN ROAD. There will be a point where the road will become a small minor road, the main road will be to your LEFT. Landmark is an Iglesia ni Cristo at your left.
  8. Follow this road until the end. There will be two checkpoints along the way.
  9. Just stay on the road till you get to Pinatubo Sky Town in Barangay Sta. Juliana in Capas Tarlac. If you are early, your land mark will be all of the jeeps and 4x4s on the road.

Fees vary based on number of people… if you are 3-4 pax the fee is P1,500/pax. P4000 if you are 1 person. Inclusive of lunch (Filipino or Korean) and showers after.

Be sure to make arrangements before hand: My contact is Bea Ramos at 09297025058