Mt Pinatubo: Now and Then
Zambales Travel Blog› entry 5 of 14 › view all entries
December 27th, 2008 – by: planisphere
Hiking Mt Pinatubo is nothing new to me. I hiked this volcano for two days 7 years ago as part of an eco-challenge. Even if I was quite fit then, I remember coming last on that race of 100 where only half of the teams completed the race due to weather. We were the last team to be able to descend to the lake and took few minutes to enjoy the sulfur rich water of the lake before we have to be evacuated due to the heavy rain and everybody feared the LAHAR flow.
My first hike was exactly a decade after the violent eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Prior to the eruption, this volcano was nothing but a normal looking mountain common across the archipelago of the Philippines. It was virtually unknown even to us Filipinos. It was during the Independence Day of 1991 when the first major eruption of this volcano took place. It shocked everyone even the scholars because this volcano was long known to be dormant, with no volcanic activities for the thousands of years. The eruption was so violent that the shockwaves had been felt even in the Visayas. It was estimated to have blasted 20 million tonnes of Sulfur Dioxide into the atmosphere, creating a red sky for several months.
I lived quite far from this place but I remembered waking up in a peculiar morning in Mindoro where everything was gray and silver. Everything was covered with ash, an inch or two thick of ash! At first I thought it was a snow, how naive could I be that time but since having an ash fall in our place where there's no known volcano was really next to impossible. But it did happen. The dust particles even reached the US. And several months after, Mt Pinatubo was declared the culprit why the global temperature drop during that time, its dust blocking the rays of the sun to reach the atmosphere.
The whole Central Luzon particularly Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga were hit the hardest by the eruption of this mighty volcano. Massive death and lost of properties was the result of this eruption. See my previous blogs about Pampanga, the extent of the damage was so huge that the people just recovered and went back to normal life recently after 18 years of the eruption. And for some lives, it would never be the same again.
Pinatubo is once again sleeping, except for tourist activities. The first time I hiked there, everything was gray or silver or black. Now, the vegetation has started to grow, few birds are starting to permanently reside in the slopes of the volcano again.
Pinatubo is located in the province of Zambales but the jump off point of the 4x4 ride was in Santa Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. It was a nice ride especially during very early morning to start the ride to the Cuadra. The sight was just surreal, very different to any landscape I have seen the the Philippines so far or even in South East Asia. We asked from time to time for the driver to stop to take some pictures of the scenery.
The supposed 45 minutes hike started with a long descend passing through narrow passages and tip toeing from one rock to another. Then it was a long winding path of rocks, water crossing, from pebble inside my shoes to boulders as huge as my room, the hike albeit short was intense enough to make my body ache the following days. While walking, all my memories of my first hike came back to me. I remember the rocks and ash formations that used to be more gray. It is greener now.
Then the crater, it was one of the most amazing places I have seen so far in my life.
And then it was our turn to do the boat ride. It was a 30 minutes boating from our origin to the other side of the lake. It was a very serene experience. Ironically, it felt so peaceful yet we knew that underneath the surface was the crater of a very violent volcano. Once on the other side of the lake, I accidentally stepped on a soft sand, the layer beneath the surface was still hot that it burned my foot, the burn didn't cause any injuries at all but enough warning for me not to swim on that side of the lake, it could have been devastating, it could have meant "boiled eggs" for me. Hihihi
After the boat ride, we had our lunch (packed by the tour organizers). It was a decent one - meatballs and some buttered veggies. I am not sure if the food was really good or I was too hungry that any food would taste so good.
I reached Cuadra tired and wanting nothing but to smoke. Abu and Ville were already there, they overtook me on the last ascend. Coffeefairy and Barbs reached Cuadra 30 minutes later. We rode on to the same 4x4 back to San Juliana. It was a dry bumpy dusty ride back. The ride was rocking us as if we were having a rough sex but without reaching an orgasm. Once we reached the flat plains, we all went to sleep. We woke up when we are already in the town. We headed to the Korean spa not for a massage but just to have a decent bath. After freshening up, we headed to the store across the street for some street food. Our tour organizer gave us a small certificate saying that we conquered the Pinatubo, actually it was Pinatubo which conquered me.
The rest of the trip was the uneventful ride back to Manila with one stop over because our Finnish friend was craving for Jollibee.
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