I was supposed to go diving that day, but I guess the cosmos had other plans for me, because the dive trip got cancelled due to lack of participants. I had already filed a vacation day from work for that day and I really didn’t want to waste it, so I went hunting for something to replace the dive trip that didn’t happen. I quickly scanned the Travel Factor (TF) webpage and found a Conquer Pinatubo trip on the same day as the dive.
I’ve had my eye on Pinatubo for a while. I’ve wanted to see that beautiful jade colored crater lake so close to home that I have only seen in blogs and on magazines. I had originally planned on going to Pinatubo in March, but here it was presenting itself as an option and I just had to take the bait. So I booked the trip.
I arrived in the Victory Liner bus station in Cubao a quarter past two in the morning on the day of the trek. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was the first time I would be joining a group tour where I didn’t know anybody else and I wasn’t sure what to look for. Will there be a sign? A banner, maybe? There was nothing of the sort; however, I did see a set of travelers sitting by the gutter seemingly waiting for something. I just assumed this was the TF group, so I approached. I turned out to be correct, and quickly registered.
Moments after, I met some Pinoy Travel Bloggers, who were there to write about the event. It’s really nice meeting these people in person, who I usually only read about online.
The trip to Tarlac was smooth. I slept on parts of the trip and woke up when we reached Capas, Tarlac. We waited for a few minutes while the TF facilitators coordinated everything. Then we were asked to sign waivers and they announced our groups. There are a total of 31 participants and we will be separated into seven 4x4s. I was part of Group 1, along with RJ, one of the bloggers.
One of the clear highlights of this trip is the 4×4 ride. We set off at 6AM. It was still dark out. I rode shot gun. The bumpy but very scenic ride occupied a good hour and a half of the trip. I remember trying to capture the landscapes at the start of our trip but shortly gave up. I hadn’t mastered setting the shutter speeds and apertures as I’ve only started using my camera in manual mode, so I ended up getting blurry shots. I decided to focus on the view and ride. Both are clearly experiences unto themselves.
We reached the drop off at around 8AM. From here, there was an hour hike. Our guide said that the hike used to be much longer, around 2.5 to 3 hours long, but since a good portion of the way has been cleared up, the 4x4s can now be parked closer. It was starting to get colder. I wasn’t expecting that. I didn’t even bring a jacket. The weather in Manila has been quite hot for the past few days and I was expecting a sunny day. Since I was wearing a sleeveless top, I started feeling the chill creep up my arms and neck so I put on my scarf and hoped for the best.
The hike wasn’t as challenging as I thought it was going to be. The terrain, though rocky, is not on a steep incline. Usually, I’d be scared of tripping over those rocks, but I managed pretty well. That says a lot for a klutz like me.
At around the 1km mark from the crater, we stopped for a break. There was a sign posted that gave estimates on how long the trek is supposed to take based on a person’s age. My companions and I started laughing about this, but were also gunning to meet 15 minutes they prescribed for the “young age.” Fat chance, said the mountain.
After around twenty minutes, we reached the top. I wasn’t quite expecting this. The place has been developed. There were paved paths and cottages. I was expecting something raw and unkempt. Oh, well, it is what it is, I guess. It’s well maintained, though, which is a good thing.
Then, I saw the lake. It wasn’t quite the brilliant jade waters I have seen in pictures, but it’s still pretty spectacular. Grey, ominous clouds shrouded half of the mouth of the crater surrounding the lake. It made the water seem to have a very dark green color—very sinister.
After hydrating and eating some snacks, we headed down to the beach (is that the right word?) Oh goodness! If it was cold up at the top, it was even colder down at the beach. Why did I not bring that hoodie? Despite the cold, though, we still had a lot of fun.
Part of what makes a good trip is the people you are with. I’ve never met any of these people before today, but I can honestly say that I was glad I ended up in Group 1. Everyone in the group was friendly and open and we definitely had our share of laughs. They made this trip very memorable. I hope I get to meet them on the road again soon.
We stayed on that beach for about an hour then decided to pack up and go back up to the top of the crater because of the cold. It was only 11 am. We’ve only been at the crater for two hours, but almost everyone was freezing. It didn’t help that it started to rain. It was a hurried hike back to our 4×4. We were all wet from the rain and freezing. One of my companions had brought trashbags with him and we modified them to use as rain coats.
Since our vehicle was open air, we had to deal with more rain and wind on our way back to the town of Capas. It’s odd. When we were first heading out to go to Pinatubo, everything I saw looked absolutely picturesque, but on our way back to Capas, the same view took on an eerie desolation. End of the world stuff.
It was almost 3PM when we got back to the town. We showered off and had some food and joked around while we waited for the bus to arrive and pick us up.
The cancelled dive trip ended up quite fortuitous. I ended up crossing something off my bucket list, but more importantly, I ended up making some new friends and having a truly great time.