It’s been a week and a day since my friends and I hiked Mt. Pinatubo, marking my first adventure for 2012!
But before I begin…
I have missed out on writing for a while because I needed some time off to think about things, sort some things out, and make some necessary changes in my life—things that required me to get out off the boat and get my feet wet. But anyways, decisions have been made, and I am back to writing. I never ever want to miss out on the opportunity to do something that keeps me inspired and excited.
This trip was a spontaneous thing thanks to the beauty and convenience of groupons. The tickets were purchased in a heartbeat, giving us something to look forward to at the start of the year. And aptly enough, this was what I needed to get myself back on track; some getaway that made me appreciate nature and the beauty of my country even more.
Sadly, I used to believe in the beauty of Greener Pastures. I have been so brainwashed by colonial mentality that growing up, I always dreamed of going and living Elsewhere. Prior 2011, the farthest I’ve ever been within the Philippines was Baguio. Not really something I’m proud of, but I have been blessed to experience the breathtaking splendors of Ilocos Norte, Cagayan de Oro, and now, Mt. Pinatubo. How could I have been so blind to miss the wonders of le Philippines? I mean, come on!
I am not usually one who engages herself in physical activity as part of her daily routine. I cringe at the sound of exercise, preferring to jog (rather, walk), ALONE than with a Fitness Buddy. But the trek didn’t require any sort of training, which meant I could handle it. Which was good. The deal we got from the groupon website was by Access8 tours at Php 2,000 per head, minimum of 5 persons. It was an all-in trip, complete with Manila-Tarlac-Manila bus trips, local tour guides, lunch, and snacks. I was hardly keeping track of time, but this is pretty much how our trip rolled out.
The meet-up time at Ortigas was scheduled at 3 a.m., and the ETA at Tarlac was around 6 a.m. I have to commend the tour facilitators because we got there on time!
Meet Truff and Hanes. We’ve been in each other’s lives since second grade.
From here, you take a 4×4 and ride past various terrain and streams that have formed as a result from the lahar (landslide of various volcanic fragments).
According to our tour guide, it used to be a vast farming plain that was destroyed during the eruption. It’s now being used as an explosive-testing area by the military. The landscape of the mountains also change every week because of erosion and other weather-related factors. It was a pretty bumpy ride, and I got a bit dizzy, having my head constantly bob up and down. But it was such a beautiful morning, seeing the sunrise in between cliffs and getting splashed by water here and there. The air was so fresh that you could breathe in as much as you like without having to worry about your lungs getting all congested.
After a little more than an hour, we finally reached the foot of the volcano and started our trek from there. I had to keep switch from sandals to rubber shoes since my sandals’ soles were already falling out. Note: bring three pairs of footwear: Rubber Shoes, Extra Sturdy Sandals, and Slippers for the bus ride home.
As expected, the terrain was rocky and we had to cross rivers and streams, sort of reminiscent of our high school trip to Biak-na-Bato. It was really great to be around people whom you’ve grown up with and grown so close to. I am grateful to have been around such great company during this trip. There was never a dull moment, and it was just so much fun being able to strengthen friendships that have lasted more than a decade.
Because of our excessive photo-taking, we ended up trailing behind the pack. HEHEHE. But it was cool. How often do you get to Mt. Pinatubo, right? And our local guide was lovely enough to tolerate our tomfoolery.
Some few hours later, we reached an ascent where a rest house was waiting for us. We got excited, thinking that we were already somewhere near the crater only to be greeted by this.
The trek for this leg was steeper and more jungle-esque. Our peg was when Simba was running after Rafiki, racing through the heart of the jungle and getting tangled in the vines, when at the end, Rafiki halts him with a loud, “STOP”!
Well, it was grueling and I embarrassingly lost my balance for the most part, but it was all worth it because this awaited us at the peak.
I cannot even begin to express how this view took my breath away (!!!!!!!!!) The water was so clear that I just wanted to jump from where I was. But of course, it would be a stupid idea. So we just headed down the landing and ravaged our lunch. After that, I headed out to check the water. But alas, it was freezing. And with only one spare change of clothes, I wanted to take a dip, but decided otherwise.
Pardon ze Cheese ♥
But because I’d like to think that the universe was on our side, there were boat rentals that could take us to the other side of the crater. This side was were all the sulfur was and as a result, hot springs! We decided to hop on a boat and venture to the opposite side.
We headed out and explored the area. It was much rockier than the opposite side. While Enzo, Hanes, and Truff were skipping pebbles, I decided to play Dora the Explorer and carried on alone towards the near-end where I sat down on some rocks, took a moment alone, and I couldn’t believe the majestic view staring in front of me.
I have never felt this much peace in a long time. There was so much quiet around me and tranquility flooded my heart. I felt calm and composed, and clarity filled my mind. It was such a wonderful getaway that I couldn’t believe that this oasis was just a 6-hour trip away.
On my walk back, my sandals failed me. The straps freed themselves and soles peeled away. The four of us were also left on the island ALONE while waiting for the boat to pick us up. And being kids filled with crazy imagination, we pictured ourselves in Survivor or Lost. We even began to ration Enzo’s crackers and my Mars bar. Plus it started to drizzle.
The trek back was quieter; probably because we were dead tired already. It started to rain for a bit, but it eventually stopped. Another thing that also stopped was our photo-taking. HEHE. Everyone just wanted a nice, hot bath and a fresh change of clothes and shoes. Unfortunately for me, my sandals were broken. So my feet had to marinate in my wet socks the entire trip back. HAHA. Sorry for sounding gross, but I guess this can serve as a lesson for me to pack more smartly.
Whenever I recount the events of our Pinatubo trek, I can’t help but feel so much peace and stillness in my heart. It was probably the calm I needed during the storm. Probably the break I needed from life. It was also a trip that got me so excited, and definitely one that brought back my hunger for inspiration. It taught me to not lose sight of the things I love because for the past months, I have been drowning in my day-to-day life so much that I forget how fulfilling it is to do the things that keep me going. Writing is one of them, and the daily grind shouldn’t get in the way of that. Although the corporate jungle can be very consuming, I learned that I should always make time for the little things that keep me afloat.
Mt. Pinatubo was such a great escapade from the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila. The hike was quite challenging, but it was worth every blister, every wound, every sunburn, and of course, every squish of my soggy feet.