next stopover was Sta. Juliana for the registration at the local Philippine tourism office. in this area you can already see the natives and we call them Aetas, they are already educated and understands Tagalog*. we spent short time talking to them while waiting for our pass. we rented two 4x4 and hired two Aetas as our guide. hiring the Aetas is required by the tourism office for the purpose of direction and security. left Sta. Juliana at around 1:30pm and had a one hour of rough road trip in the deserted areas of lahar**. it was exciting because there were some areas where we have to cross deep holes and low flowing waters. along the way you’ll see small plateaus formed from lahar flows and grasses while from afar you can see mountains. you can feel the heat produced by sunlight and the effect of the absorption of the heat of the volcanic ash that also emits heat . there were no trees and so trekking this part of the trail can cause dehydration and the worst heat stroke. but we saw some Aetas kids playing and I can’t imagine how they survive this kind of temperature. we were getting closer and closer to the stop point and on both sides you see unusual forms of sands or as they call it pyroclastic sand formations that made us wonder what beauty nature can do.after an hour, we reached the area where the 4x4 cannot enter. this time we had our late lunch in a shade formed by rocks before we started trekking the caldera. trekking is something that I enjoy doing because even though we have big heavy bag packs, having funny people along with us lessens kilos of our baggage. the trek was not that steep but again the challenge was the heat. from here we can see walls of rocks on both sides with big rocks along the way. imagine how these rocks were thrown away from the impact of the eruption. after an hour we were already crossing running waters with rocks maroon and yellow in color due to the sulfuric content of the water.
view now was greener as trees are already growing in this area. the path was getting narrower leaving you no choice but to walk along running water. we stopped in some area to take a short rest then continued trekking. our Aeta guides shared their experience of the eruption which led them to evacuate to the nearby towns to survive from the ashes and flowing lahar. they were kids then but they said that they will never forget the experience.
after two hours of trekking we finally reached the crater and the view recharged our energy. here, i’ll let the pictures describe the view. it was stunning. took some pictures here and there and then we started setting up our tents for an overnight. there were other groups in the area where campers are allowed to stay. we also prepared our meal for the night and had our fellowship until midnight. temperature was cool, very different from our experience when we were crossing the deserted areas. our tents were fully closed as there were rumors about some wildcats roaming at night looking for food remnants.slept late but the next day, we woke up early to see the sunrise in top of this crater. the sun again little by little reveals the beauty of the lake of the crater. this time we had to go to the crater lake which is just about 50feet below the camp site. when we reached the lake the view was even better and out of curiosity i tried tasting the water from the lake and it tasted salty. sounds funny but yes i did it. then took some pictures then went back to the camp.
it was now time for us to trek back, so i took some final shots of the view of the lake from the camp site. fixed our tents and traveled back this time it took us one and a half hour since we were now going down. left the crater at around 10:00am and had lunch when we arrived at the base camp where the 4x4 was waiting for our ride back. since we still have enough time, we passed by another lake in one area where we rested for a while and enjoyed the view.
travelled back to Pampanga then to Manila. it was one of the best trekking experience because of the reward of seeing Mt. Pinatubo’s crater lake and the time together with the group. we can remember that when it exploded in the early 90s this mountain damaged many towns and even the nearby cities but looking at what it is now, I can only say that in every storm there comes an even brighter day. now Mt. Pinatubo is one of the best ecotourism spot of the Philippines that showcases nature’s way of displaying its wonders. some tips in case you decide to go to the Pinatubo crater:
1. it is best to avoid going to Pinatubo from April to May because it's the hottest time of the year.
2. also avoid the June - July months because of heavy rain which causes some of the sand walls to erode. but if you see it as a challenge, you can still go there just make sure you have expert climbers with you.
3. wear sandals when you trek because you'll be passing by low running waters.
4. bring enough water for the trek.
5. it is better if you trek in the morning around 8:00am to avoid the heat. the earlier the better.
and finally if you are more of the challenge, you can take the Delta 5 trail which is the alternate route going to the crater. trail starts at Porac and requires assistance from professional climbers.
*Tagalog - Philippine language
**lahar - a type of mudflow composed of pyroclastic material flowed along with water