Sandy Wastes and Jagged Peaks
In July 1991, a volcano in the middle of the Central Luzon plains that has been dormant for the past several hundred years suddenly rumbled to life. Mt. Pinatubo, which sits smack dab in the middle of the province of Zambales, erupted unexpectedly.
For days the entire Luzon was covered in a fine dusting of volcanic ash that turned the sky into a murky gray. Acres upon acres of what used to be rich farmlands were ravaged by flash floods or lahar coming down from the mountains. The fertile brown earth was covered with several meters of lahar, and to this day parts of Pampanga, Zambales, and Tarlac are still buried underneath the white volcanic sand from Mt. Pinatubo….
The lahar scorched scores of farm lands in its surrounding area, but elsewhere, it provided rich nourishment for the soil.
The landscape around Mt. Pinatubo is now a beautiful geological masterpiece, filled with canyons and gorges carved by lava and interesting rock formations.
The drab, gray landscape is a stark contrast to the lush greenery of the rest of Central Luzon and the blue sky that looks like an endless upended bowl over your head.
Very little vegetation has survived in the area, so there is almost nothing to break the sheer harshness of the after-effects of the eruption. To get to Mt. Pinatubo, you’ll have to rent a vehicle or hop on a bus to Pampanga. You can also book with package tour dealers who offer regular trips there. Due to the rocky and uneven terrain, you’ll need to transfer to a 4×4 open jeepney to take you to the trekking point.
From that point forward, it’s a hot but enjoyable 2 hour trek through the Crow Valley Canyon and to the top of the Crater Lake. Another option you might want to consider is using mountain bikes. There are organized tours for hardcore bikers who want to reach Mt. Pinatubo on their own bikes instead of hoofing it to the top.
Ready For A Mountain Trek
Mid-October to May is usually the best time to go there because you don’t have to worry about the weather ruining your travel plans.
During the rainy season and during instances of increased seismic activity, all trails to Mt. Pinatubo are closed to the public. There are also cut-off times for arrival at the base camp and departure from the crater to ensure the traveler’s safety.
At the same time, you don’t want to be sweating and climbing the mountain in the tropical sun at 12NN, so the trekking teams usually leave the camp at 8AM for the ascent. You want to have plenty of time for taking pictures, breathing in the exceptional mountain air, resting, and simply immersing yourself in the weird but beautiful landscape.
At the very top of the mountain, you’ll find the pristine Crater Lake, a welcome respite from the long voyage up. Here you can swim, boat or just relax.
Things to Remember
– Getting to Mt. Pinatubo is no piece of cake, but it’s not too difficult as to be impossible for the average Joe on vacation to the Philippines.
– Be sure to pack all your essentials into a sturdy, light bag so you won’t get bogged down by the weight as you navigate across the canyons and mountain trails.
– Slap on a lot of sunscreen, put on a cap or sun visor, and use sunglasses to protect yourself from the harsh sun.
– Finally, bring enough food and water to keep you going until you get to the top of Mt. Pinatubo and back to the base camp.
– For more info check out http://mountpinatubotours.wordpress.com