Pinatubo Expedition

by Danny Tariman

It was an experience of a lifetime.

The trip was rough, in fact very rough. Riding a 4×4 wheel Toyota, we had a one-and-a-half hour cruise through vast fields of volcanic debris – rocks, sand, lahar – on an almost dry riverbed.

It was worth the trip, the view is awesome and fantastic!

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My family joined a group of backpackers who were to explore the crater of Mt Pinatubo – the volcano which erupted in the mid-90’s. It was actually my son who organized this backpackers’ trip.

We all prepared for the trip. We searched blogs in the internet to know the dos-and-the-donts. We read all the groups’ announcements. And so we were ready – we made sure we have light baggage, enough water, long-sleeved tees to cover our skin and caps to cover our heads from sun and dusts.

With about 50 persons in the tourist bus, we left left Makati at about 2 o’clock in the morning. We had a brief stop-over at a fast-food shop in gas station along North Luzon Expressway where we had quick breakfast. We arrived at the drop-off point in Capas, Tarlac at about 630am. This is the starting point of our expedition.

My son, as the lead-coordinator for this trip, stepped out of the bus to register the group with the local tourism office which was managing all groups going to Mt Pinatubo. After the registration procedures, we hopped into our 4×4 Toyota which took us to the jump-off point to the crater of Mt Pinatubo.

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The ride was exciting. It was my first time to see the lahar-covered
valleys of Tarlac. We passed though winding ways – not roads really! It was very dusty, and bumpy; with rocks and lahar, it couldn’t be better. But the view was awesome! The used-to-be mountains that are now very steep gorges. It was like the earth was scooped out of the big mountains!

We zigzagged to avoid big boulders and rocks. We passed shallow streams of water. I wonder if a 2×4 will be able to cross that rough and rugged ways. And after 1 ½ hours, we reached the jump-off point to the crater.

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It was another 30-minute trek to the crater of the volcano. We passed through trails and at some point crossed shallow streams of water. The big part of the trek was uphill. For people my age (early 50’s), it was a bit of a challenge. But it was worth the walk. Upon reaching the crater we were greeted by this awesome lake created when the volcano erupted. It was really an experience that will linger in my mind.

The lake was awesome and very enticing to get near. The still and quiet, emerald green water is enclosed by ravines left behind by the most recent volcanic eruption. We went down to the lake shore. How I wish we could have took a short swim but it was prohibited! While enjoying the scenery and the cool breeze, we took out our lunch packs and had picnic on the grounds of the crater. About half-an-hour later, we packed up and prepared for our return trip.

The decent from the Mt Pinatubo was a bit easy. We reached the base camp is no time. Once again, we jumped into our 4×4, and drove back to Capas, Tarlac. Because these was really no “road”, our driver took us on a different route. I can see other off-roaders doing the same. We can over-take without the limitations of a narrow road as we can use any trail as long as it is hard enough to carry our car. At times, our driver had to engage the 4 wheels especially when we are crossing or passing along a river.

Things to bring during this trip: plenty of water, bottles of Gatorade or Powerade (whichever brand you prefer) to provide better body hydration, disposable mask which you should wear during the lahar off-road trip – because it is very dusty, and sun block lotion. Wear light-material shirt –preferably cotton. You can also bring cap or shawl to cover your head during the dusty drive. Oh, don’t forget your packed food. In our case, we bought home-made big sandwiches – big for more energy.

By the way, I didnt’ tell you yet about my expedition team – my family. I was with my wife (about 50 years old), and our 2 children, in their early 20’s. Why am I telling you about our age? Because even at 50, you can still enjoy trips like this.

Shouldn’t you try this awesome, one-of-a-kind experience?

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