Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Peek at Mt. P

A group of 50 PALers, ex-PALers, and a bunch of Plus Ones boarded a bus on the 29th of March 2009 and on the wee hour of 0315H was en route to the peak that caused a massive explosion on the year 1991...MT. PINATUBO. This was NOT a company-sponsored trip, mind you. It's just that Ai, the ultimate trip organizer, was able to gather 50 people to join the trip to Mt. P, that's why it looked like we were on a field trip (oh how I miss those days...Ü).

We only had a 20-minute stop over at Shell NLEX (where a bunch of us had a super early breakfast) for the entire trip going to Capas, Tarlac, which was our first drop-off point. This is where the Pinatubo Spa Town is located and where the 4x4 ride going to Pinatubo started. The 4x4 ride comfortably seats 5, but can fit up to 7 pax, which is what we did since there were 5 of us plus a driver and the guide. Our group chose the "open-air" 4x4 (as opposed to the "closed-type" Ü) because it matched our yellow outfit, and eventually found out that:
  1. None of the instrument panel in this specific 4x4 was working
  2. Our driver was probably the youngest among the bunch (there were 10 4x4s rented for this trip)
  3. There was something wrong with our 4x4 because we had to stop several times for the driver to tinker with something in the engine & tumirik kami at one point in the "skyway" (the guide had to go down, look for a rock and place it in one of the rear wheels just so that we wouldn't go downhill)

That last part was actually scary but we just made fun of the situation to make things light (although deep inside I was already worried that we might not make it since we couldn't even make a call because there was no signal in that part of the world). And since we didn't understand the dialect that the driver & guide was speaking, we just made our own interpretations of their conversation like: "Wala tayong preno. Pero tawa lang tayo para di nila mahalata." just to keep our mind off some major matters, like being WAY behind the other 4x4s (although I think our interpretations were even worse...hehe!).

Alas, after a little over an hour in the 4x4 (the 4x4 ride was supposed to take less than an hour but our trip took longer because of all our detours), we arrived at the second drop-off point, which is where the trekking started. Although we were the last to arrive at the 2nd drop-off point, we knew we were on the right track since we saw all the 4x4s of the other teams parked all over the place. Not really knowing what to expect, we started our trek as a team and surprisingly, the trail was not hard to traverse. It (the trail) was mostly rocky and all you really had to do was concentrate on what rock to step on. What made it more fun is that there were parts of the trail where water was flowing freely, which was a pleasant surprise for us all since the cold water on our feet (most of us were wearing trekking sandals) was a welcome relief from the summer heat (although it was not that hot when we were trekking up since it was only around 8AM and it rained the day before).

After a few minutes of trekking, we were able to catch up with the other teams because their picture taking extravaganza took as much time as the entire trek itself. This made the trek more fun because aside from the fact that, the more, the many-er...este, merrier...witty remarks were exchanged by those in the group and since there were more of us, meaning more cameras, all you really had to do was smile and pictures were being taken of you from every angle! Grabe, ang hirap maging celebrity! HAHAHA! Anyway, after almost an hour of trekking (which would've probably taken less time if we weren't taking pictures of each other every minute Ü), we reached the top of Mt. P! Or at least the topmost part of Mt. P where trekkers are allowed to set foot on. [Additional NOTE to those reading this: You know you're near the top once you see the portalets to the left of the trail...just try not to breath deep when you get to this part.Ü]

I was actually surprised to see a lot of people at the peak, a lot of them campers who probably spent the night at Mt. P. I later learned that you can actually camp overnight at Mt. P as long as you've asked for permission at the "base camp" (which was somewhere at the part where the Pinatubo Spa Town is located) since there has to be a military (??? not really sure) escort before you can stay there overnight. After the initial shock of the number of people at the place (I wasn't expecting the place to be that crowded) only did I notice the beautiful background which was Pinatubo. It was a breathtaking site...something that would let you forget the two hour trip you just made (mind you, that 1 hour 4X4 and 1 hour trek that we took was the SHORT CUT Ü). When you get there, it's like you've been transported to another place. An officemate of mine even mentioned: "Parang wala ka sa Pilipinas!"...which was actually true. I personally found the aqua blue waters the most amazing among the many wonders of nature to see at the place. Never in my life have I seen such aqua blue waters which I previously thought to be true only in paintings or digitally-enhanced movies, but not in real life.

After taking in the beauty of the place (and a lot of photo ops Ü), we headed down the cement staircase which leads to Mt. P's crater. I'm actually not sure if this is really the crater where lava and that mushroom-shaped pyroclastic flow came out from or if this is only "named" as the crater to make tourists believe that they've reached that part of Mt. P (if anyone reading this blog knows the truth behind this "crater", please do let me know Ü). Nonetheless, I'm just happy to let everyone know that I've reached that part of Mt. P! YEHEY!

Once we got to the crater part of Mt. P, we settled down by laying down our picnic mats and taking a lot more pictures. It was around 9AM when we got there and several of us dipped into Mt. P's crater while the rest played cards, listened to their iPods, took a lot more pictures of the place, or just simply rested under the shade of some of the trees there. Those who went swimming (or "dipping"...I personally didn't swim) had to brave the really cool sulphuric-filled-waters of the crater. It was really, really cold! And here were were expecting it to be warm, if not hot. I'm now regretting not asking the guides if the water there was really that cold or if it was only cold because it rained the day before. Oh well...I can probably ask next time.Ü

Anyway, come lunch time, we all gathered together like one big, happy family Ü and shared in enjoying the lunch prepared for us by some of our officemates (Thanks to Shiela, Megs, Janette, Jacky, and Dulce!!!Ü). Since it was already 12noon, the sun was now shining all over the place (it was actually not that sunny the rest of the morning). Good thing there were trees near the area where we laid our mats so we didn't have to eat lunch under the heat of the sun. After lunch, several groups went ahead and started their trek down so that they can avail of the massage & spa services at Pinatubo Spa Town. The rest of us stayed behind and spent the remaining time by chatting, playing cards, and taking more pictures (Hahaha! Hindi kasi kami camera shy!Ü).

A few minutes before 1PM, we all started to get ready for the trek down. The one and only portalet at the crater was emmitting a pungent smell by then but since there was no other choice, a bunch of us had to brave the smell (or not breathe for the whole duration you're inside the portalet) just so we can relieve ourselves knowing that the nearest decent washroom is two hours away (although you can always be one with nature and do your thing in the talahiban...hehe!Ü).

We finally started our trek back a little past 1PM and this took a good one hour of our time. It was already sunny then so we donned our hats to protect our heads from the heat of the sun. I was also a bit disappointed because some parts that we passed by before where there was water flowing was now dry. I don't know why but the trek back actually took longer than our trek going up. Anyway, after an hour of walking (and taking pictures...ulit!!! hehehe!), we finally reached the place where our 4x4s are parked and immediately climbed in so that we can finally begin our ride going back to base camp. Despite the super bumpy ride, all 5 of us in our 4x4 actually got to sleep the entire trip back. I was actually surprised with myself coz I don't usually fall asleep easily but I did, probably due to exhaustion and lack of sleep the night before.

When we finally got back at Capas, I was feeling "grainy"...literally. I felt like I was a vacuum cleaner and I sucked up all the dust in the world! My white hand towel, which I used to cover my nose for the entire trip back, was now gray in color upon arrival at Capas. And when I tried combing my hands through my hair, it wouldn't go through! As in! Hahaha! It was the dirtiest I felt my entire life! I've never looked forward to taking a bath as much as I did after that 4x4 ride back. Apparently, we were lucky because it was not maalikabok during our 4x4 ride going to Pinatubo because it rained the day before, so we were not "grainy" when we got to the peak (and we looked good in our pictures Ü). But since the sun has already dried up any remnants of rain in the area, we experienced the exact opposite on our ride back. We were so full of dirt to the point that, when I started showering and tried to comb my hand through my hair with water running through it, my hand still wouldn't go through! That was how dirty we all were! So NOT taking a shower was not even an option! I swore, from that point onward, that taking a shower will not be taken for granted anymore (you're talking to someone who would rather be placed inside the washing machine instead of taking a bath. hehehe!).

The shower we took at Pinatubo Spa Town costs P100 and it was the best 100 pesos i've ever spent. The P100 comes with a free soap, use of locker, and towel (which you should return back after use...hindi pwedeng iuwi...not that you would want's just an ordinary towel Ü). They also sell shampoo and conditioner in sachets just in case you forgot to bring your own. I'd give the shower room a grade of "OK" (if there's such a grade Ü) since it was clean and I didn't feel yucky (ano ba yan, so coño! hehe!) when I took a bath there (I actually felt more yucky with myself. Hehe!).

So that was our Pinatubo trip. We just went to Aling Lucing's for dinner (got lost in the process) and experienced the worst rain, flooding, and blackout one could ever imagine for a day trip but at the end of the day, we all got home in one piece, so in my standards, the trip was the best adventure one could have in a day. We got back at PNB at around 11PM, all tired but happy with the adventurous day that we had. My estimated total spending for this day trip is a little over P1,000 (a bit of a breakdown below Ü). And to end this blog, I just have a few notes to leave you with:

  1. If given a choice, choose the “closed” 4X4 (not the “open air” type...maybe there's a lesser chance of getting dirty with the "closed" type 4x4 Ü)
  2. Next time: try the “long cut” (trek time approximately 2 hours, one way)
  3. Next time: try the kayak/boat to the other side of the crater (which you will have to arrange at "base camp"/Capas...prior to all that riding and trekking)

I know this blog is kinda late but I hope it's worth the wait.Ü TTFN!

Money Out...

P15,000 - Bus, Driver, Gas (div by 50)
P 2,500 - 4X4 (div by 5)
P 500 - Skyway Fee (div by 5)
P 250 - Conservation Fee (div by 5)
P 500 - Tour Guide/Porter (div by 5)

"Thank You"s are in order...
Thanks to Ai for being the ultimate trip organizer...for conceptualizing the ala-Amazing Race theme of the trip...and for providing the colorful bandanas for each group! Ang galing mo Ai! Sa uulitin ha?Ü
Thanks to Sir Poch a.k.a. Kuya Kim for giving me an idea on the title of this blog Ü
Thanks again to those who made our lunch! Super sarap! Yum yum!Ü
Thanks to those who took the photos posted here (I can't remember whose cameras these were taken from sa sobrang dami!)