The Roughest Drive of My Life

Tarlac Travel Blog

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inside the 4x4

We arrived at our destination at exactly 7AM. The trip took less time than what we've originally anticipated. Since we took the bus going to Baguio, we were just dropped off at a Caltex gas station along the national road somewhere in Capas, Tarlac where we need to take a tricycle to get to Santa Juliana Spa Town. There were several tricycles there waiting for passengers, and one of them came to us and offered a ride for P300. What?!? No way, Jose! Or whatever his name was lol. So I called the center and asked them how much the normal tricycle fare would be to get there, and the lady said around P250 (still expensive to me).
rough 'road'
The driver, seeing that we're 'doing our homework' right on his face, lowered his offer to P220. So I hang up the phone and told him we'd go for P200. He agreed. Yaaay!!! I'm getting good at this!!! :D

So, we took off for Sta. Juliana. The ride was smooth most of the time. However, we noticed that in some areas, there were few-meter, un-paved gaps between the paved parts of the road. Weird. Then, as we began to notice that our butts were starting to ache, I looked at my watch and realized that we've been sitting/crouching in the tricycle for more than 30 minutes! Wow! Twenty minutes later, we got to our destination. No wonder the fare's expensive! So, being good people that we are (sometimes), we decided to pay the driver an extra P20. Hehehe :D

Sta. Juliana Spa Town is owned by Korean businessmen, and as far as I know, is the only place where you can organize a trek to the volcano.
apparently, grasses thrive on lahar...
Inside the center, there's a restaurant and a spa area that offers massages and other treatments using volcanic ashes (go figure). There's also what they call the Capas-Pinatubo 4-Wheelers Club, an association of 4x4 drivers/owners who, together with the center, basically monopolizes the entire thing. Bottom line: you can't go to Mt. Pinatubo on your own unless you have your own wheels and know where you're going. Smart huh.

The day-tour package costs P1,500 per person if there's 3 or more of you. But, in our case, since we're only 2, we had to pay P2,000. Boating across the crater lake costs an additional P250 per head, and since we wanted to do that as well, we asked them if there were other tourists going in 2's who's willing to share a 4x4 with us so we can save on money and go boating.
some in patches
They said there were 2 coming from Angeles City, Pampanga who booked their trip through a travel agency in that city. Good news for us! So we decided to wait for them.

At 9AM, the 2 tourists arrived. Since I heard them speak in French, I tried to practice my French with them. I failed miserably. Oh crap. Well, at least I tried hehehe. Anyway, it turned out that they, Laurent and Stephan, were from Switzerland, and it ws their first time here. They were really nice for letting us go with them. However, just when we're about to leave the center, some commotion happened. Apparently, the driver who took the Swiss guys from Angeles City to the center wasn't aware that we paid the center, and since the Swiss paid for a 4x4 for themselves, the driver insisted that we should get our own (despite assurances from the guys that it's okay for us to join them).
others close together
It was the straw that broke the camel's back. Like agitated porcupines, we told the driver to stop blabbering, get out of our faces, and ask the manager of the center for more info since it was her who told us it's okay to share the ride with the Swiss and that we paid for the trip so we don't give a shit what he thinks. That shut him up him. The manager also went out and told him what the deal was, and after that he was all smiles (we found out why later). Dumb-ass.

And so we left. Wooohoo! After several meters, the narrow, paved road gave way to an un-paved one that leads to what they call Crow Valley. It was a dramatic change of scenery, a picture of contrasts. The vast, open space looks all barren and lifeless save from a few grasses and shrubs growing here and there. From a distance, you see the green mountains standing like great barriers separating the lahar-covered area from the rest of the country.
where have all the cowboys gone?
As you move along, the scenery changes too. Now, there are more, taller grasses, and there are wild carabaos (local water buffaloes) grazing, local townspeople and the indigenous Aetas walking under the merciless sun, some streams criss-crossing the land, strange rocks everywhere, and mountainsides appearing to be curved or sliced by an invisible knife, creating strange, interesting forms. I was stupefied. I didn't think such landscape exists in the country. It was empty yet alive, ugly yet breathtaking, sad yet refreshing. It was... Mordor.

Whoa whoa whoa wait a minute: Mordor? Yes! That's it! I felt like we're hobbits traipsing the land of the enemy towards our own destruction. I loved it! I was discovering a whole new world. I was seeing things I've never seen before with my own eyes.
carabaos grazing
I love the combination of rugged mountains, desolate valleys, and clear blue skies patched by puffy clouds, all ruled by the sun. In a way, it seemed like paradise too, a different sort of paradise. Something different, something that gives variety to the landscape of the region. Of course, the scenery more than made up for the very rough ride we had. It was bumpy with a capital B. Very bumpy. And did I mention that it was very bumpy? I was surprised that I wasn't black and blue from all bumping we've been through. If you have a weak stomach, you'd puke every 10 minutes. That's how bad it was. Well, none of us puked, but you get my point.

Another bummer was that it was sooo difficult to take pics! We were driving too fast for such a rough 'road', plus it was hot and dusty. Damn! We all really wanted to capture those views.
the green green grass of home...
Well, we tried our best, but most pics came out blurry. I actually thought that we could ask our driver to stop so we can take pics, but it looked like he's in a hurry. Another toilet freak, maybe. Hehehe.... Imagine how much drama we can create from our pics had we gotten a chance to take decent ones! Crap.

So, after an hour of driving through the moon-like terrain, passing through some streams and creeks, and doing an almost-literal rollercoaster ride through the mountains (and I really mean almost-literal), we made it to the end of our drive, dusty, sweaty, but still feeling good and of course, excited for the actual trek!!!

JeAr says:
thanks John! glad u liked it :) i'm currently finishing the rest of the blog and posting all the pics, so i'm still far from finished. yeah, now that u've mentioned it, it was bumpy!!! hahaha :D
Posted on: Apr 15, 2008
johnyb66 says:
Well written blog. Funny and really got the feeling of the trip... by the way, you never mentioned if it was bumpy!!! :))
Posted on: Apr 15, 2008
JeAr says:
kuya, widh = wish :D
Posted on: Apr 15, 2008
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inside the 4x4
inside the 4x4
rough road
rough 'road'
apparently, grasses thrive on laha…
apparently, grasses thrive on lah…
some in patches
some in patches
others close together
others close together
where have all the cowboys gone?
where have all the cowboys gone?
carabaos grazing
carabaos grazing
the green green grass of home...
the green green grass of home...
the Sierra Madre from a distance
the Sierra Madre from a distance
lahar meets the mountains
lahar meets the mountains
crossing some creeks
crossing some creeks
crossing some creeks
crossing some creeks
crossing some creeks
crossing some creeks
one of the several creeks our 4x4 …
one of the several creeks our 4x4…
an Aeta boy (looks like Lauros of…
an Aeta boy (looks like Lauro's o…
his mother, maybe? hehehe...
his mother, maybe? hehehe...
looks sliced off
looks sliced off
a lava track?
a lava track?
were about to go up...
we're about to go up...
were about to go up...
we're about to go up...
view from the ravine...
view from the ravine...
view from the ravine...
view from the ravine...
view from the ravine...
view from the ravine...
view from the ravine...
view from the ravine...
the end of the ride
the end of the ride
the mists covering the mountains...
the mists covering the mountains...
some folks hanging at the 4x4 stop
some folks hanging at the 4x4 stop
high :D
high :D
exhausted :(
exhausted :(
Tarlac
photo by: ivyleague