Pinatubo Crater Lake hike was the top of my list from the first day I was in Manila. The photos online looked so tempting that the hefty price tag did not deter me.
The mountain range wherein the volcano is located is inhabited by the indigenous Aetas. An old Aeta legend tells of a lake that once existed in the site, most probably the latter of the two ancient crater lakes, and of a great explosion that destroyed it. (Wikipedia)
So when I had a free weekend, I grabbed the opportunity and my bag and took a bus to Tarlac from EDSA. From Vito Cruz, I took the LRT at 5am (this is wrong, the right time should be 3am, I’ll tell you later why) to EDSA and then walked a little more to the Victory Liner Station. The bus to Tarlac was 186 pesos one way. No early booking was required. The bus ride was good, with wifi (not strong but not bad). It took us about 3.5 hours to reach Tarlac.
The bus dropped me in front of street at about 9am and I was quite lost until I asked a few people and found that the jeepney to Sta.Juliana leaves from the market. So after a breakfast at McDonalds which is on the way, after that I head on towards the jeepney (just ask the way and ignore the tricycle drivers). The ride to Sta.Juliana was 30 peso each way. After that you need to take a tricycle to the 4 wheel drive office which is at 60 peso each, seats 3.
This is where it all went downhill. Remember how I told you I left Manila at 5am instead of 3am? Bad mistake. There is a cut off curfew for hikers – the last 4 wheel drive must leave at 8am. It was surprising because I’ve never read this anywhere before.
It’ll be perfect to come in a group of 5 so that a whole 4 wheel drive can be hired for 3000 peso (the new rate). If not, come on the weekends to increase chance of joining other travelers. Ask Alvin to look for someone for you. With luck, you might end up not paying the whole 3000 peso yourself!
The tricycle driver dropped us in Alvin’s Homestay (Bognot Homestay) and we did the Cupang Lawak trail for the first day which made it all up. A post will come up on that.
On the second day, we took a 4 wheel drive to the start of the trail. The drive itself was fun, with all the splashing and the endless grey volcano ashes.
There will be a place where all the jeepneys park, and that’s the start of the trail. The first thing you do is get your shoes and pants wet when crossing the river. Because I went during the rainy season, the current was surprisingly strong, the water cold and for the first time,I used the help of my guide.
After the river it will be a stunning trek with beautiful stone formations and the rock will hurt your feet after a while!
We hiked for about 2 hours and reached the lake at 10am. The hike was completely easy, with slight incline continuing for the whole 7km. It’s the rocks that makes it hard on your feet.
There will be yellow precipitates on the ground which is actually sulphur from the volcano which erupted 20 years ago at night.
Along the way, you will meet the aborigine kids, 150 peso from your fees paid goes to them.
The lake was unbelievable. When you first catch a sight of it I tell you..
So green and blue and the background of the mountains was so misty and distant but with such presence that I felt like they were painted. Like they weren’t real!
The thing that I hate most about guides are that they rush you. This time, it happened again. We were barely at the lake for 10 minutes when our guide rushed us back up again. Back to the 7km hike downhill, which was easier!
The sun can get quite harsh, so bring a sunblock or scarf/umbrella even. One of the other hikes from another group had a really bad reaction and nearly fainted from the heat.
If there’s one thing I recommend as a trip from Manila, it’s this. Plan with other people to bring the cost down and the entire thing can be done for less than 1500 peso.
I initially planned to camp near the lake but found out there that it’s not allowed during the rainy season which sounds reasonable (but this is from Alvin and not from the office itself, so I’m not too sure). Camping is usually 100 per tent, but I ended up paying 400peso per room at Alvin’s Homestay. Reviews coming up.
So how was that guys? Because I loved it!
Till my next stint,