Camping and trekking to Mt. Pinatubo crater

Tarlac Travel Blog

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Mt. Pinatubo Weekend

For more photos of this trip, you can visit this site.

"My tolerance for camping is only overnight.", that's my usual comment when people invite me to go camping. Pitching a tent, the lack of bathrooms in the campsite and sleeping with only a sheet between me and the ground turns me off. But when Grace asked me if I want to reach the crater of Mt. Pinatubo, I didn't hesitate. Well, I also did not realize that there was camping involved. hehehe!

After this weekend though, it has changed the way I see the camping experience. Mike, our guide for this trip, made everything as relaxed and as convenient as possible. The campsite is fantastic, the food is extra-ordinaire and he's well experienced that you are safe while you trek.

Dau, Pampanga is about 2-3 hours away from Manila. We left Makati around 10 am on a Saturday and got to Dau at around 11:45 pm. We met with everyone at 2 pm and then started moving towards Sta. Juliana, Tarlac. It took about 1.5 hours to get to the Barangay hall where every visitor is asked to register for monitoring. You park your car inside a school compound so its safe.
As soon as we loaded our trailer with all our stuff, we headed to the campsite riding our 4x4 truck for the weekend. After going through lahar for 10 minutes, we got to Tambo lake. I was so happy that our campsite is by a lake. It was so relaxing just being in that place. Mountains all around you and then a very still and calm body of water with two small huts in the middle... that's our home for the night. After stretching and raving about the place, we started pitching our tent. BOY! I didn't think that pitching tents were a lot easier now compared to when I was in
5th grade. I got a kick out of putting up the small red tent I will be sharing with my brother. It's like playing bahay-bahayan all over again! hahaha!
Since this is not a resort, the bathroom is an outback type. No flush but there's a water pump outside so you can gather some water on a pail and bring it with you inside the rest room. No showers in this place so bring alcohol and Wet-Ones. Once the campsite is set, we were just lounging around waiting for the sun to set. One of the things that I really enjoyed is interacting with the local aetas. Since this place has not been infiltrated with a lot of tourists, the aetas are still friendly and would not expect money from you everytime you talk to them or take their photos. They let me talk to their kids and join them fishing in the lake. They even let our friends ride their boat to go around the lake. It's very refreshing to see locals still untouched by commercial tourism.

The ecopark is only open from March to early June. It is closed during the rainy season. My suggestion is that you go towards the end of May and the start of June. The trek to the crater is excruciatingly hot since there's a big portion of the trek with no vegetation in site. The drizzle and the cloudy skies will actually be helpful while you trek.
Mike's schedule is ideal since we started trekking early in the morning so we can be back at the trail head a bit after lunch. We started the trek at 10 am and was back for lunch at 2.

Rise and shine is at 530 am to give enough time to enjoy the morning view of the lake, breakfast, getting ready and cleaning the campsite. Once all tents and bags are loaded in the trailer, we were off to the volcano.

After about an hour of a fun 4x4 ride through rocks, sand, lahar and water, we reached the trail head. For the hike, you might want to bring a day bag different from your backpack. Your backpacks and tents will be left in the trailer so you really don't have to worry about any of your stuff. You can bring a smaller back pack with 4 liters of water, trail food, sun block, camera, slippers (if you want) and extra shirt if you are swimming. Don't bring any other things that you don't need. Its harder to walk if your bag is heavy.

Be ready to get your shoes wet so use old rubber shoes or trekking shoes. The trail is very rocky so make sure to stretch before starting the hike. Most important stretches are your legs and your ankles. You'll be off balance at some point so your ankles should be prepared. Its also very hot so wear a cap and shades. Put sun block on to make sure that you don't burn from the heat.
The trail goes from wide expanse of rocky and lahar, it become narrower and narrower while seeing bigger rocks and more trees leading towards the crater.
According to our guide, this place used to be like a silver desert but now, life forms are coming back to this place. Life rules! :-)
There's a water source about 5 minutes away from the crater but don't drink this if you have a sensitive tummy. No one sells water or food along the way so bring your own.

Once you reach the area with the view of the crater, enjoy it! Remember that this calm waters used to be hell hot magma. After resting and taking photos at this area, you might want to go down and be in the crater. You can swim in the water!!!

I suggest that you swim. When do you get to swim on a crater of one of the most destructive volcanos?!?! Go ahead and enjoy it. :-) The water is sulfuric so wear old bikinis or swim suit since the color might fade. The water is cold and refreshing. Just don't drink it. Stay on the sides if you don't know how to swim. It drops from 3 ft to a we-can't-figure-out deep.

There are no decent bathrooms or rest rooms in the area. The whole mountain is your bathroom. :-) You can let yourself dry on the trek back. Believe me! With the heat, your clothes will be dry in no time. :-)
Oh, I should mention that if you don't want to climb STEEP stairs, don't go down the crater. The local government built a semblance of stair steps going up and down the crater. Going down is easy but going back is harder than the trek.
After another 2 hour trek back, the 4x4 will now bring you back to the Barangay hall. Here, you can take a shower for P20 each person. Be careful though since its not clean at all. Wear slippers. The water is cold but the cubicles are dirty. When we went there, there was only one cube working.
Now that you are all cleaned up and ready to go home, finish up your trip with a meal in the original sisig place, Aling Lucing's sisg. It's on Angeles City. Once you hit Dau again, ask people there where the RILES is and they will give you directions. That area comes to life at night with its bars and grill place. With the whole day of walking, a cup of rice, one order of sisig, one order of lechon manok and coke... that's the perfect ending! :-)

Estimated expenses:
a. Toll fee on NLEX - P360 -- two way
b. Gasoline - P1000
c. Saturday Lunch - 150
d. Tips for local guide and driver - 200
e. Shower cost - P20/ person
f. Sunday night Dinner - 200
g. Package cost - P2770/ person (for 4 people)
h. Meals (dinner, breakfast, lunch) prepared by guide - P300
Total expenses: P5000.00 (USD100)
This can be lower if you divide the gas and toll fee cost amongst yourselves.

Things to remember:
a. No signal for Globe and Sun Cellular subscribers starting from Barangay Hall
b. Put your clothes, camera, etc in plastic bag inside your bag. This is protection for your things just in case it rains.
c. Bring rubbing alcohol. Since there will be no decent showers up until you get back to the barangay hall, this will be your body disinfectant for two days. You can also bring Wet Ones to wash your face with.
d. 4 liters of water to bring while trekking is just enough if the sun is really high and you consume a lot of water.
e. If you are going to swim, you can wear your tank top underneath your shirt for the trek. Use an old tank top coz it might fade due to the sulfur content of the water.
f. Stop for a few minutes and sit on the cold and clean running water from the mountains.
g. Make some GORP as trail food if you have time. Goold Old Raisins and Peanuts (c/o Ginger).
If you want to experience this adventure, get in touch with Mike Soriano at +63 9279251415. He can prepare a package for you and your friends.
reikunboy says:
this trek sounds cool
Posted on: Nov 27, 2007
Aopaq says:
Superb overview and great suggestions....I hope I can do the trek one day!
Posted on: Oct 07, 2007
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photo by: ivyleague