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22 January 2016

Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines

Our trek to Mt. Pinatubo started with waking up at 1.30am to get ready and pack up to be on time on our meeting place where our ride will pick us up. We had very nice 'kuyas' who picked us up and drove us all the way to Capas, Tarlac. I was actually planning to have a little more rest while we were on the van but it was impossible to do so. It was only a 2 hour drive from Manila, and we were all too excited and didn't stop talking. There was absolutely no time for sleep.  We grabbed some Mcdonalds breakfast along the way and almost did not make it on time to be in Tarlac (we had to be on site before 6.30 am), we all slightly panicked but thank God we made it. Miss Jho, the tour manager met up with us once we arrived. She briefed us with what to expect and let us sign some papers to give our consent and to confirm that we were on the premises that day. After all the formalities, our 4x4 trucks arrived and the adventure began. 

Before we could start trekking, we had to do a 2 hour ride in the 4x4 which led us through mountains and brought us closer to the volcano's crater. 5 people can fit in one truck so it was perfect since there were 10 of us. It was a very bumpy, hold-on-for-your-life ride in the 4x4. We were laughing the whole time. It was a good thing we asked for a roofless truck so we managed to stand up during the ride. 

We had the chance to stop and take in the amazing views for a while. And take pictures, of course. There were a lot of local children around who were running and playing in the midst of mountains which looked like just another day in their playground.

This was where our 4x4 ride stopped.

And the trek* began! We had a local guide who led us through streams and hills and forest. Who was kind enough to offer help when we couldn't cross the streams that easily and who carried all our lunch for us.
*I suggest you buy the sticks that the children sell. It makes the trek easier. It offers balance and support. All for only 20 pesos. *not a sponsored post*

After more than 2 hours of trekking, we made it!!!!!!! AND IT WAS ALL WORTH IT. The sign doesn't lie, it was majestic. I seriously couldn't believe my eyes at first. It looked like I was looking at a green screen. Too beautiful to be true. It was one of those moments I go: Wow God, you're amazing.

When we reached the top, we ate our meal that came with the 'tour package'. It was adobo and rice - classic. That humble meal was made so special as we ate with the volcano's crater in sight. After a good rest and some laughs, we went down the steps all the way to the bottom to get close to the crater's water. Sat by the shore and took it all in.

Cue group photos. 

The company

All smiles :)

This photo above basically sums up how I felt about the whole trip. I am so glad we pushed through with it and spent it with the best people. It turned out to be one of the best moments of the year and definitely one for the books.

We had almost 2 hours to hang around on the crater and eventually had to make our way down. We surely felt the tiredness on the way back. Some of us actually managed to sleep in the 4x4. Haha. When we arrived back to civilisation, a shower was much needed because of all the dirt and dust that seemed to be stuck on our skin and all over our hair. It was 50 pesos for a shower and we were feeling fresh after and ready to sleep on the ride back home. 

Wait. What? We just trekked a volcano?? A volcano?! 

If you want to trek Mt. Pinatubo too, here are the nitty gritty details:

Person of contact: Miss Jho Mallari, Tour Manager (09283410402 / 09156354895)
Cost: 2100 pesos per person in a group of 10
 - includes transport from Manila to Tarlac and back, 4x4, local guide and lunch (highly recommend this. Hassle free!!)

We left Manila at around 3.40 am and arrived at Tarlac at 6.30 am (with a stopover in between)
We started the 4x4 ride + trek at 7am and got back at around 5pm.
Arrived in Manila at 8pm (we stopped over for dinner on the way)

Conclusion: Definitely a day trip worth doing 

Some advice:
- although the guides are not professionals, I think they are perfectly fine and they know the area very well (plus, support the locals!!)
- bring a lot of water
- wear sunblock
- bring additional snacks (e.g energy bars)
- be ready for your shoes to get wet
- bring extra clothes (including underwear)
- alcohol / sanitizer for when you eat
- soap and shampoo if you want to shower
- bring masks or something to cover your nose/ face with. The 4x4 ride can get really dusty
- it can be tiring but the trek is not hard.

I hope the beauty of this place and Mt. Pinatubo convinced you to have a look for yourself too!!