Fast forward to present day and you'll see a lot of people going to the volcano. Many mountaineers and travellers have been there. The main attraction was the volcano's crater. A few weeks ago, I found myself face to face with the "silent killer". My brother and I joined the travel group, Travel Factor to "Conquer Pinatubo". There were 30 of us during the Pinatubo trip. Meeting time was 2am. I wasn't able to sleep well the night before because I was afraid that I won't be able to wake up that early. I think I only had 2 hrs of sleep. :-(
|My Travel Factor ID|
We arrived in the Tourism Office at around 5:30 in the morning. It was still dark but I was surprised to see that there were a lot of people who would trek that day. There were also other travel groups and a lot of foreigners. We registered at the Tourism Office and was excited to board the 4x4 truck. I asked some drivers and found out that the rate for the 4x4 truck is Php3500 round trip for 5 people. You would also need to have a tour guide, ours was Kuya Billy.
|The 4x4 truck traversing into the terrain|
|Ashes and sand covering the area|
The 4x4 truck ride took about an hour. I met two lovely people from our group - Net and Rissa. We passed through barren but beautiful landscapes - roads covered with hardened ashes as far as your eyes can see. The ride was an experience in itself. We hit our heads several times because of the very rough road. We held our breaths as the truck struggled its way through the rivers and rocks.
|Aetas we met along the way|
|The 4x4 truck making its way through the river|
|Photo shoot before the trek|
After an hour, we started the trek. They say that on average, it takes 2.5 hrs to reach the crater. There was an easier way before through the "Skyway". You only have to trek around 15 minutes because the Skyway leads you through the main Pinatubo area. But the typhoon Ondoy has destroyed the Skyway so hikers need to endure a longer trek. And since most of us in the group were amateur climbers, we reached the crater at almost noon (more than 3 hrs trek time)! We had to stop at almost every shade, sit and rest our tired feet.
|All geared up for the trek|
|Passing through a river|
|Resting place for weary travelers|
|Sign leading to the crater|
We were rewarded with a magnificent view when we saw the crater. Truly, every drop of sweat and every step was worth it. The crater was so beautiful. It has a turquoise color that blended well with the surrounding. The cool wind blowing in our faces was refreshing. It was our perfect reward.
|My first glimpse of the crater|
|The magnificent view of the crater|
After a lot of picture taking, we went down to the main crater. We decided to hire a boat and swim in the crater. Yes, you can swim in the crater. At first, I was hesitant but I know that I have to maximize the experience and try everything. The journey to the other side of the crater took about 15 minutes. The boat ride is Php350 per person. Before taking a plunge, we first sat in the sand. After a few minutes of sitting in the sand, we felt as if our bottoms were burning! The sand is hot but ironically, the water is cold. Swimming in the crater has refreshed our bodies from the long and tiring trek.
|Fellow conquerors enjoying the view|
|Crater lake boat ride|
We made our way back down at around 3pm. I thought that the trek downwards would be a lot easier but it's not. After around 1.5 hrs of trekking, I asked our guide:
Me: Manong, malayo pa ba tayo? (Sir, are we still far?)
Guide: Medyo malapit na po. Isa't kalahating bundok na lang! (No, we're quite near. It's only one and a half mountain to cross)
|One and a half more mountain to cross|
By the way, I forgot to mention that we crossed four mountains before we got to the crater! Haha.
|Making our way down|